New Feature: All Wowcart storefronts are now fully responsive

Customer Update:

We have converted all Wowcart storefronts to be fully responsive.  Every store that you create, including ones that are previously launched, are now fully responsive. You do not need to do anything on your dashboard or account – the changes are automatic.

In short, this means that users accessing your online store through their smartphones will be be able to view it and the product pages optimally, for every smartphone model and screen width or length.  Hopefully, this will result in a more pleasant customer experience and result in more purchases to your store.

The change has been applied to all Wowcart stores. Here’s more about why we chose to apply responsive design concepts for our Wowcart customers.

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Responsively yours: a simple what, how and why of responsive design

What is responsive design?

According to Wikipedia, responsive design is “a Web design approach aimed at crafting sites to provide an optimal viewing experience—easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling—across a wide range of devices (from mobile phones to desktop computer monitors).”

To put it as simply as possible, a web site that uses responsive web design concepts aims to adapt its site layout to the screen widths and heights of all devices used to view the site.  To achieve a responsive viewing experience, web designers use a number of techniques that include using fluid, proportion-based grids, images proportion manipulation and CSS3 media queries.

The end result is a web site that is, as one writer puts it,  “great to use on every device & browser.

What did we do before responsive design?

Until very recently, a common practice for many web site designers was to build a seperate web site for mobile users, either with the protocol of using the subdomain “m.mainwebsite.com” or with a .mobi domain name. There were also web apps developed for site owners to automatically generate their own mobile version of their web site.  But this was when one smartphone model – namely Apple’s iPhone –  dominated the mobile device market (Ah the late 2000s, good times!).  Building a web site to cater for mobile device users meant adapting to the dimensions of one or two smartphones that rules the market.  When users accessed your web site, the site would detect usage was coming through a mobile device and re-route them to the mobile version of the web site. A “mobile” version of a web site was truly the way to go, using something like Gomobi, Mobify, or others.  This method is by no means outdated, and is still an important activity.

But in the last few years, with the introduction of reasonably successful Android and Windows smartphones, and a growing take-up rate, the number of handsets and tablet models has soared, and it is soon becoming clear that seperate mobile web sites are not a feasible practice for addressing the growing legions of mobile users that are consuming web site content.  There are just too many screen displays to adapt web sites to.

Responsive design is a forward-thinking because it advocates a framework where web sites work not only with today’s devices, but all future devices as well.  It is also the most efficient and cost-effective way to address mobile commerce and to some degree, will mimimize the need to build an app for every application for mobile access. Finally, for web designers, it’s no longer possible to test your website on every one of these new devices. For example, developers looking for a full list of internet devices alone can check out this popular web resource GSM Arena and would probably be dismayed to see there are eleven pages for just the Samsung brand alone.

Should you jump on the responsive design bandwagon?

The debate between stand-alone mobile web sites vs responsive design has been strong until recently, but it is our opinion that that responsive design has more or less won this war. And while a mobile app is still important for membership-based services, many major publications with online presences such as the New York Times have joined the parade in converting to responsive design.

What about your web presence? Using a responsive web design framework gives business site owners a jumpstart as they no longer have to worry about mobile versions of their site, simply have a version intended for all smartphones, now and in the future. The website is flexible and respond to the exact size of the screen viewing it. When a new device comes out that’s a little larger or smaller than your target, it’s going to work well on it too.

Responsive design and ecommerce

Responsive design is particularly important to ecommerce web sites because of the rapidly increasing growth of smartphone devices on the ecommerce market.

According to cmo.com, Mobile commerce sales reached $4.7b in he second quarer of 2013, an increase of 24% from the previous year.  Mobile commerce transactions will reach $3.2 trillion in 2017, up from $1.5 trillion in 2013. Fifty-eight percent of U.S. department store Web sites are optimized for mobile devices. As an increasing number of users conduct ecommerce online, they will bring the same expectations as desktop consumers to their mobile shopping experience.  This will include the very basic ability to access all visual and textual content without off-screen scrolling.

How to tell if a web site is responsive?

How do you know if a web site is “responsive”? The simplest way is to look at the web site on your smartphone.  Text should not run past the borders of your screen, and  you should not have scroll to the left or right to process any important page information.  Or you can enter your website address here.  This beautiful site also provides great examples of responsive web sites.

ScreenHunter_1283 Jan. 14 15.50

Our web site wowcart.com, seen through this responsive design checking app http://ami.responsivedesign.is/

We’re in the camp that believes that a responsive ecommerce storefront is an important tool for any merchant’s ecommerce strategy because it is the only way to adapt to the growing population of users that will access your web site through smartphone devices.

For Wowcart users, the storefront, checkout process and checkout box has been fully converted responsive framework. Shoppers of Wowcart stores will enjoy the same experience accessing your Wowcart store on their desktop as on any internet device.  The conversion has been applied to all Wowcart stores and there is nothing for Wowcart merchants to do.

Do you run a web site or a web site application?  What are your thoughts on how to adapt to mobile users?

Beautiful Changes at Your Wowcart Store

We’ve been busy

Here’s a round up of a number of awesome updates to the Wowcart Beta application today.  For most Wowcart users, these changes have been gradually introduced over the last week and we have been monitoring for issues.  Please drop us a support ticket if you’ve experienced any problems or have any feedback about the changes.  We would love to hear from you.

As always, our philosophy is to adapt ecommerce trends and features for the busy online merchant.  This, after all, is the reason why you can create multiple different stores from one Wowcart dashboard to sell in many networks, tracking your orders as you go along.   Think of Wowcart as a tool for your ecommerce strategy instead of a comprehensive online store solution that you have to learn, upgrade, and adapt your needs to.

Here’s a summary of some of the changes.

A. A new template – Modern

The Modern is a template system with a number of customisable areas that when used to their full potential, will all you to launch and run a web storefront that is very much on trend with current design movements in the market.

1) Cleaner banner space and Menu
2) Full-screen high-resolution image
3) Promotional Feature Bar
4) Start Store on Page or Off

Please read more about the Modern here.

B. The Best of Both Worlds: Using Classic and Modern Together

The current template system has been renamed the Classic, and its clean, square grid product display system is ideal for store publishing spaces where you want to only present your products to their maximum advnatage. The It is recommended if you embed your store in Facebook or your blog or web site.  The Classic has the option to feature the Feature Bar, and you will also be able to feature full-page promotions and coupon codes in the Classic template.

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Using the Classic in Facebook Stores

Using the Modern as a stand-alone store

Using the Modern as a stand-alone store

A good way to put the flexibility of our template system to use is if you want to run multiple stores will be able to create subsets of products and customize stores for whatever networks they want to sell in.  For example, create a special Facebook promotion for 1 product using the Classic to create a quick checkout for customers; at the same time, run a full storefront using the Modern under a different advertising campaign.

Because each store can have a Modern or Classic template, you cna create multiple stores with different looks for different networks.  More about this later.

C. Sales or Promotions

You can now set Sales of your products, categories, or both.  Sales can be scheduled up to the minute, allow you to create Flash Sales. You can create unlimited Sales, even for the free-for-life Lite account. Please read more about Sales in detail here.

D. Promocodes (Coupons)

You can now set Sales of your products, categories, or both.  Sales can be scheduled up to the minute, allow you to create Flash Sales. You can create unlimited Sales, even for the free-for-life Lite account.     Read about Promocodes here.

E. Bundles

Bundles are a promotional object that allows you set a group discount for a group of selected products.  When all products in the set bundle are purchased by the shopper, the discount will apply.  You can set bundles by going to Promotions -> Bundles

F. Social Sharing

The ability for shoppers to share your products to their networks multiplies the exposure for your product and your store.

To Enable:
For Stores: Choose the networks that you want to reach out to and add them at Stores -> YOURSTORE ->  Promote Store. If the social network icon is selected, the sharing icon will be displayed on the first page of the Store

For Products: Choose the networks that you want to reach out to and add them at Products -> SELECT PRODUCT -> Social Media. If the social network icon is selected, the sharing icon will be displayed on the Product Page.

Forget Cyber Monday, China’s Singles Day is the biggest shopping day in the world.

On the mountain top, a small shop sells these locks. Lovers write their name on it and look it on the fence. (Original PIcture Caption from Source: Wikipedia Commons )

On the mountain top, a small shop sells these locks. Lovers write their name on it and look it on the fence. (A “lovelock,” with a mountain in China in the background.  Original pIcture caption & image from Wikipedia Commons )

Have you heard of Singles Day? It is a popular day in some countries for celebrating the status of being unmarried. In China, Singles Day, or Guanggun Jie, falls on November 11th and is probably the single most profitable day for ecommerce in the world.

Although Singles Day, or a variation of it, is honoured differently in a few countries, China’s Singles Day is globally significant in terms of its revenue generation capacity.  November 11th’s online sales last year in China blew that of the US’ Cyber Monday out of the water; with a sales value of more  than $4 billion, Singles Day  almost tripled Cyber Monday’s takings of $1.5 billion.

Singles Day evolved as a university past-time in the early 1990s, beginning as a casual day for unattached, young adults to go out to dinner and exchange gifts as consolation or encouragement.  The date November 11 was chosen because  its numerical representation – “11.11” – signifies four “singles. ”  The exercise become an entrenched ritual for celebrating “singledom and independence,”  becoming increasingly popular over the years, especially among urban singles.

But Singles’ Day truly catapulted into a major ecommerce phenomenon in 2009 when online store giant Taobao launched what is described as the first “Single’s Day” holiday promotion sales in 2009.  Thousands of online retailers soon jumped on the bandwagon, and then the craziness began. By 2012, Singles’ Day was a massive retail triumph. Over 10 million swarmed the site of Tmall.com, the C2C sister of Taobao, in the first 60 seconds of their Singles Day sale going live last year.  Sales went on to hit $40 million in the first 10 minutes, $160 million by the first half hour, and surged to $800 million in the first 8 hours.

The immense scale of this one-day event was anticipated in the intense advance preparation Alibaba, the parent company of both Tmall.com and Taobao, took last year – at its Hangzhou headquarters, it laid out 200 lounge chairs for its workers to rest, paid for 180 hotel rooms for rest breaks, and hired an additional 65,000 temporary workers for the day itself.

This year, Alibaba, is upping the ante in a number of ways, including the exploring of omni-channel e-commerce, a relatively new trend in the West.  It has invited about 30,000 offline stores to participate in the nation’s largest online shopping spree.  Shoppers will be encouraged to check out the real items in physical stores, put their favorites into online shopping carts by scanning two-dimensional bar codes, and making the purchase only on November 11th, when huge discounts will be offered.

Online shoppers will also be incentivized to use social commerce in a big way – those who share their cash vouchers with friends on social network sites such as Sina Weibo – a Twitter-like micro-blogging service – will see their bonuses doubled.

For any online merchant getting ready for the Cyber Monday rush in November, don’t ignore your global customers.   Given China’s ravenous appetite for overseas shopping or Hai Tao, if your merchandise is not localized, perhaps you should consider starting your preparation a few weeks earlier in order to also target online shoppers from China.

Or do you think Singles Day has already reached its peak?

5 Ways to Transition To Online Retail Painlessly

The advent of e-commerce has made shopping more convenient and more people are now going online. As traditional brick and mortar stores struggle to maintain their competitive edge by going online, many often wonder how to go about doing it. Here are five tips to make your transition easier.

1. Make it convenient

Since most consumers shop online mostly because it is convenient, you would want to propagate this in your store. You have to ensure your customers can pay easily by offering various payment providers (perhaps include third parties such as PayPal. This also applies to shipping – include a variety of shipping options such as a faster, same-day option, and a slower one.

Many online shoppers look for product details, so make sure important information like shipping and merchandise descriptions are clear and easy to understand.  Needless to say, your store should also be easily navigatable.

2. Consider your new costs

If you were to start an e-commerce business, you would have to consider shipping costs (include your packaging costs). Often, the addition of shipping costs can be quite significant. Different regions also have different regulations and tax requirements. These will also add to your shipping costs. Conduct your research and consider how shipping will affect your pricing. Also, consider whether you want to deliver the items yourself or outsource them to courier companies.

3. Test out the market

If you are not sure if your e-commerce business will take off, test out the market by choosing a limited selection of products. Choose popular products which can be managed and shipped easily. You can also start small by first selling on major online marketplaces such as Amazon, eBay or Etsy.

4. Dedicated and responsive customer service

The advent of social media means that user reviews can be circulated very rapidly so you will not want a shopper’s bad experience to ruin your reputation. Therefore, you must not forget about customer service. In general, speed is of the essence. Customers would want to resolve their issue as soon as possible and guaranteeing that will more likely ensure consumer loyalty.  In addition, ensure that you cater to your customers’ concerns directly instead of giving generic responses. That way, an issue can be resolved quickly without having multiple exchanges between your customers and you.

5. Build your brand presence

Lastly, have a marketing plan in place before you launch your online presence. Do some research and consider many multiple marketing options. You may even want to start with building your brand on major online marketplaces first before branching out. Otherwise, look into a plan that encompasses social media, affiliate marketing, organic traffic and pay-per-click advertising, just to name a few.

Patience, Grasshopper

Above all, remember that once your online store presence is up, it will require effort to maintain and grow.  Although it won’t carry the same set of responsibilities as a physical shopfront, an online store will still demand discipline in areas such as marketing, packing, customer service, promotion management and general maintenance.

If you have taken care of the above, you should be equipped to move into your new e-commerce venture with great ease.

 

 

 

China’s Online Luxury Retail Scene is Lagging Behind Its Global Counterparts

Although consumers in China are largely responsible for the high growth in the global e-commerce luxury goods market, online luxury retail in China itself is experiencing poor results.

A report from nasdaq.com says that luxury brands are still at the “toe-dipping” stage when it comes to e-commerce and few have direct e-commerce sites. In addition, online sales in China forms only 3% of total sales in China, compared to 12% in the U.S.

While there have been efforts to profit from China’s potential e-commerce boom, most have had mixed results.  Nasdaq.com refers to the recent closure of Coach’s first online flagship store on Tmall, one of the most well-known retail web sites in China, within a month of its launch, as an example of a possible failure.

Reasons cited for the lack of progress in this area include the higher prices of luxury goods in China compared to elsewhere, counterfeiting and the consumer perception that online sites offer mostly marked down items.

Read more at Why aren’t luxury goods selling online in China?

Want to do E-commerce “The Chinese Way?” Here are 3 Things You Need to Know

Photo by Peter Griffin, courtesy of publicdomianpictures.net

Photo by Peter Griffin, courtesy of publicdomianpictures.net

Are all online shoppers equal? Not according to Business Insider, who argues in an intriguing article that there are at least three fundamental differences in the way online shoppers in China shop compared to their Western counterparts.  Understanding these disparities and addressing them is key to a delivering a successful customer e-commerce experience.

1) Chinese shoppers want online value and more choices

Firstly, unlike Western shoppers, who make online purchases out for convenience, Chinese consumers see internet shopping as a good way to find better value, as well as a variety of choices that are not available in stores.  According to Juliet Zhu, the founder of Observer Solutions, 60% of China’s online consumers have stated that “better prices” motivate them to purchase items online.

2) When it comes to website details, less is not more

Chinese shoppers also prefer a “much more comprehensive, even overwhelming, online presentation [ web site ] style” instead of the clean, and simpler presentations of Western e-commerce sites.  Zhu states that detailed photos and descriptions are viewed as a way to reduce concerns about product quality and vendor trustworthiness. In an interesting comparison, Zhu highlights the English and Chinese version of the same product on the Gap’s web sites, pointing out that the version for shoppers in China had 10 times more pictures than the English one, including a picture of the label.

3) No plastic, please, we’re Chinese

Unlike the standard e-commerce model in the West, which primarily depends on credit card payments, the most used payment options in China are third-party payment providers and cash-on-delivery.

Read more about 3 Habits That Set Chinese Online Shoppers Apart From Westerners at Business Insider.

Attention, global merchants: if you build it, China’s online shoppers will come (in millions)

Go2Market from Wowcart

A Chinese traffic jam Credit: Wikipedia Commons

Until recently, the Chinese e-commerce market growth has been mainly self-contained, fueled and satiated by domestic supply and demand. Non-China retail ecommerce has not typically attracted much attention for a number of reasons.  Access to overseas web sites from within China can be slow, and limited, as a result of the Great Firewall of China.  Credit cards that can be used globally are not commonly issued yet, and deliveries from overseas merchants can result in waits for up to a month, high import tariffs and shipping fees. (Source: China Daily)

Global brands wanting to capitalize on China’s lucrative population of over 274 million online shoppers have always done so in three main ways: tying up with e-commerce marketplaces like Taobao.com or Tmall.com, joint investments in major e-commerce players, or in the case of Walmart and Zara, launching their own major e-commerce web presences in the local marketplace.

Now it seems that online stores may no longer need to navigate the difficulties of China’s business and internet environment in order to capture a piece of the Chinese e-commerce pie – because China is starting to come to them.

Chinese online shoppers are no longer strangers to overseas shopping, and are enthusiastically searching beyond their borders for better brands and products. “Hai tao,” loosely translated as “ocean search” and referring to the act of shopping at foreign web sites, is fast gaining popularity. The China Internet Information Center (CNNIC) only recently began tracking overseas purchases from the Chinese internet population, reporting that in the second half of 2012, 12 million shoppers bought products from overseas web sites. 34% of these said they did so because the brand they purchased was unavailable locally, while 30% cited better product quality guarantees. Chinese shoppers already shop regularly at web sites in Europe, Japan and the U.S. for tech deals.

This figure is less than 5% of China’s current online shopping population, but the growth potential is clearly enormous. “Haitao-ers” have already spawned their own sub-industry, worth an impressive $7.7 billion. Online shopping agents, and in some cases, shopping aggregators, are domestic companies or parties that purchase overseas goods on behalf of Chinese shoppers, taking care of payments currency conversions, translations, and some times shipping logistics. In 2012, transactions by such shopping agents rose 82% from the previous year, and are estimated to climb more than 50% to $12 billion by the end of this year.

The hurdle of making direct payments at overseas retailers is also likely to be worn away very soon, as domestic payment provider giants Alipay, and the lesser used Tenpay, are already expanding overseas to support mainland consumer shopping abroad.

Some entrepreneurs such as Keri Loreenz have decided not to wait that long. Lorenz, an Australian business owner, has set up her own Sina Weibo page, the equivalent of a Facebook store in China, with the hope of yielding 10 times her current sales. Her product, bio-dynamic wheatbag scarves also sold online at her site myoki.com; she has been quoted as hoping to send a thousand of them to China in the next six months.

And this is being replicated on a large scale, with companies custom tailoring their web presences to the Chinese market.  Australian travel company Experience Oz has launched an ecommerce web site just for the Chinese tourist market. The web site was developed in consultation with 2 Chinese language experts over 18 months, and prioritises tour plans that appeal to the younger, solo Chinese traveller. It comes complete with Chinese payment provider options, Chinese language phone support for booking and international web site caching services to boost browsing speeds for international browsers.

Experience Oz’s GM of Experience, Clint Gudenswager, says that Chinese users already outnumber their German, French and Japanese visitors combined, making their Chinese launch “integral to our future growth plans.”

For many, the sheer size of China’s market and the lowering of traditional barriers to entry will make these new business opportunities too rosy to miss out on.  “Because of the size of e-commerce in China, it’s just something that you have to go to. It’s so incredibly exciting, it’s fast moving,” Ms Lorenz said.

Add the Wowcart shopping cart to your Facebook page for quick direct sales

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Credit: byrev, Pixabay

There certainly isn’t a shortage of guides on the importance of creating and maintaining a strong corporate Facebook page.  Depending on the type of service or product you provide, a Facebook business page can certainly be an important part of your business’ marketing strategy.

Also see:  Is your business on Facebook yet? If not, start here.

But what about your sales strategy? How can your Facebook page boost direct sales?

Can my Facebook page make me money?

Since their introduction, Facebook Pages has evolved to allow third-party app functionality, including the embedding of applications like store engines on your Page.  If you sell a service or merchandise that can be bought online and actively use Facebook to attract followers in a meaningful way, this is something to explore.

Stores on Facebook, however, do not have a great reputation for success.   Facebook stores first made waves when large retail brands such as The Gap and Nordstrom opened theirs in 2011, then closed them, a very short time thereafter.  This killed the buzz around F-commerce, or Facebook Commerce, almost immediately.  But much of the talk of the “failure” of F-commerce has always centered around large retail stores that have set up brand-driven store presences in Facebook.   As things come full circle now, observers are saying that small businesses do better in Facebook sales than larger organizations.

Also see: The business of being social: what B2Bs and B2Cs expect from their social media

Wait.. is my Facebook page actually making me lose money?

In fact, a Facebook business page is pretty much an ideal way to corral and convert into direct sales the potential leads that have arrived at your page through social means. The call to action can be comfortably met in a closed loop, reducing the danger of losing the customer in the redirection to your ecommerce store outside of Facebook.  Although your web store may be a single click away, there is something to be said about the psychological distance of stepping outside of the comfort of the social network environment in order to buy something.  A simple check-out option on your business page could make the difference between the lost interest of a fickle customer and a sale.

Adding buy capability to your Facebook page in an appropriate manner can be the perfect way to create a simple extension of the social relationship between your business and your customers, and also enhance customer service because of the shopping convenience.  If you use Facebook advertising to drive more users to your Facebook page, the one-click shopping cart also closes the sales cycle by allowing Page visitors the immediate option to purchase immediately.

Also See: Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Promoting Your Facebook Post – But Were Too Irritated With Facebook’s Help Center To Ask

If you have an active, highly interactive Facebook page, it may be time to consider taking the next step towards direct monetization of your social goodwill.

But we don’t have a budget for Facebook-commerce! We only have a Facebook page because it’s free.

We understand the importance of Facebook commerce but also know that it can be draining on small businesses to focus resources on what should still be just one aspect of an overall sales strategy.  Whether Facebook is at the center of your business communication, or just a small piece of it, Wowcart’s shopping cart engine is a key business tool that can be used effectively. Why? Because it’s actually free (for the first plan), or extremely affordable, and works in many publishing spaces, not just Facebook.

The Wowcart store has a plain vanilla background suited to be embedded directly into the Facebook app page, working with the Facebook branding.  At the same time, you can create multiple stores with your Wowcart account, perhaps one for specific products for your Facebook page, and another for your web site or on its own (see Wowcart plans for plans with multiple stores).  Alternatively, you can create one ecommerce store for all your Internet presences, while managing your orders, products and storefront centrally from your Wowcart dashboard.   If you use the Wowcart Lite plan for this, it’s 100% free.

One advantage Wowcart has over other Facebook store applications is that it naturally works as a store on its own, but also fits easily into Facebook, and also blogs and other web sites.  Publishing on all fronts comes for the same fee.

For more information, a free 30-day trial, or the 100% free-for-life Lite plan, visit wowcart.com

3 Ways the Wowcart Free Web Shopping Cart Works For Businesses

The Wowcart web store is designed to be used in a number of ways that makes it ideal for various stages of a business’ ecommerce strategy. Wowcart was designed to “fit into” the ecommerce requirements of businesses needing shopping carts for different purposes.

Stick it in your blog or Facebook page

The fresh, clean, background and responsive layout was designed deliberately so that your Store can fit easily with any third-party branding without clashing. The Store adapts to the layouts of your Facebook page, or your blog template without intruding on it, so that your Products can be seen to their best advantage.

Add it to your web site

What if you already have a web presence with your own domain name?  Maybe you don’t want to re-direct your website visitors to a seperate store (although that’s no problem if you do, of course).  Want to just add a quick e-commerce function so that your visitors can buy something without exiting your web site?  Don’t worry, you can embed your Wowcart store into any web site page in less than a minute.

Use it on its own.

What if, for whatever reason, you don’t a business web site at hand, but already have merchandise to sell? You can do it just by creating your Wowcart web store. Every Wowcart online store works like any web address and comes with a free domain name. Your customers can go straight to chooseyourname.wowcart.com and start shopping the moment you publish your web store.

One Store – Many Uses

In this way, Wowcart works for the following stages:

  1. If you only have a Facebook page
  2. If you only want a “blogshop” or want to add checkout and product displays to your blogshops.
  3. If you have a web site and want to integrate an ecommerce store
  4. If you do not have any web site and want a fully hosted store All these options are included with every Wowcart plan and do not cost extra.

Wowcart has a free-for-life plan – the Lite – that allows you 1 store and up to 25 products.  You can also sign up for the 30-day free trial, which will give you 30 full days to use the fully functional Professional, which has up to 500 products and 2 stores.

When selling online globally, consider these 3 things about your e-commerce markets

If you intend to start an international e-commerce business, this new survey result  from AVG might be helpful in planning your global sales strategy. “Online Markets by Country” is a set of infographic maps that break down the the results of AVG’s global survey of world markets,  sorted by each country’s online population, search engine market share, most popular social media channel usage, ratio of desktop to mobile usage, average download speed and potential online market size, measured by GDP per head multiplied by the number of online users.

Notably, not all major countries are covered by this survey. Middle Eastern countries and North Africa, Southeast Asia, with the exception of Indonesia, and a few major European countries do not figure in the survey at all.

There are still a number of interesting takeaways from the report, however, that should guide your global e-commerce strategy. Some points may even surprise you.

1) Facebook is not the be all and end all of social networking

It turns out that Facebook is not the leading social network in a number of key markets.  China, Russia, Japan, and South Korea have their own thriving social media networks.  The leading network in China, QQ or Qzone, has 190 million users, 40 million more than the U.S.’ Facebook population.

What should you do with this information? It’s more than likely that social media will be a factor in building your sales lead funnel, and if so, you should take time to research and plan for a presence on the social media network that is most used by your key market.  If social commerce is something you intend to look into, then the e-commerce options on these networks might be a possible consideration as well.

See also: The business of being social, What is Social Commerce and Does it Work?, and When it comes to social commerce, Asia is the Leader

2) Google is the leading search engine for most countries.

Google has achieved near domination in almost every market covered, including the larger, non-English speaking ones like Russia (55), Brazil (97%) and Indonesia (97%).  China is perhaps the only stand-out exception, where Baidu is the clear leader.

What should you do with this information?  Remember that search engines are important for users to find your e-commerce site, so consider the search engine traffic you use.

3) Internet download speeds are not fast in some parts of the world.

The average download speed in Indonesia is 2.5mbps, compared to 17.6 mbps in the U.S., or 31.5mbps in South Korea.  If you are hosting your web site outside of the target country, be mindful of the time it takes your overseas viewer to load critical pages such as checkout, order form summary and product pages. Don’t overload your site with too many high-resolution graphics because the larger the graphic, the longer the page will load.  Longer waiting times might lead to web page abandonment.

You could also consider adding a Content Delivery Network (CDN) service to speed up loading times; major web sites such as Amazon, Google and Facebook already do this around the world.

For the full statistics by country, check out the survey report by AVG, and a short summary of this survey from Forbes.

How Twitter can benefit your business

How Twitter can Benefit your Business

Social media has become a huge marketing tool over the last few years, with many small and large companies using it to connect with their customers. One of the most popular platforms for social media marketing is Twitter, a website in which you share your updates with the world, in 140 characters or less. Does it work though? Connecting with potential customers? Let’s take a look at Twitter and how it can really benefit your business.

Connecting with Customers

The most important part of Twitter, and any social media marketing, is that you form a bond with your customers. This unique form of marketing is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before, as you can actually talk one on one with a previous, potential or current customer. Everybody loves the personal touches that make a business special, which is why platforms such as Twitter have become so popular.

How you connect with customers can make a big difference in how effective your social media marketing actually is. Make sure you put together a plan of how you are going to do this, including any kind of ‘voice’ or ‘personality’ that will be part of your Twitter persona. Will you sign off each Tweet with a name? Will you say “me” or “us”? Make sure there is some continuity in the way you speak to each and every follower.

“Word of Mouth”

Word of mouth marketing is one of the oldest, and most effective, methods available for a business. If people like what you have to offer then they will likely recommend you to a friend or family member. The same goes if they are unhappy with a product or service they have received from you. With the growth of social media, word of mouth marketing has become even bigger and more global, than ever.

Keep an eye on what people are saying about your company, by searching for your name, product or service on Twitter. Interact with those customers; thank them for their recommendation if they’re happy, and try to deal with any problems of those that are unhappy. Ask your customers to shout about you on Twitter, or other social media websites, if they’re happy. Perhaps even provide them with an incentive for doing so?

Getting Your Name Out There

One of the best things about social media marketing is that you can get your business name out there, pretty much for free. Unless you’re employing a digital marketer or social media expert, all your Twitter updates are going to cost is a few minutes of your time. By communicating with customers and getting involved with conversations, your name is instantly there for people to see.

Make sure you make the most out of these opportunities by utilising the following tools:

  • Hashtags – Research hashtags that are relevant to your business or industry. Follow the people who talk about these things the most, or have them listed as an interest. Also, get involved in people’s conversations that involve relevant keywords. It’s Twitter, so no one minds you butting in.
  • Trends – Keep an eye on the daily trends, as well as conversational trends such as #CharityTuesday, #BiziTalk and more. This is another great avenue to get involved with topics that are relevant to your business.
  • Follow me/follow you – If somebody follows you, follow them back. It’s polite and will also reduce the number of people that unfollow for any reason. Give a shout out or thank you to some of your most recent followers, as it’s likely they will mention you or retweet your thanks.
  • Retweeting – If you don’t ask, you don’t get. Ask people to share or “RT” your tweets and they will! This is a great way of spreading the business name even further.

Twitter can benefit your business in a big way, as long as you’re using it right. Make sure you communicate with your customers and encourage word of mouth advertising. Use the tips above to make the most out of Twitter and you’ll soon see the new customers flooding in.

Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Promoting Your Facebook Post – But Were Too Irritated With Facebook’s Help Center To Ask

Stop!

Before you click that promote button, Jay Baer, founder of convinceandconvert.com, shares with us four things to consider before shelling out cash for that status, photo, or video you wish to promote. Just remember the word “STIR.”

  • Shelf-life – Will the post still be relevant four days from publication? According to Baer, it takes time before Facebook shows your promoted posts.
  • Time – Has it been at least six hours since publication? Baer explains that businesses might want to see how well the post is faring before promoting it. “On big pages, it could be as short as one
  • Impact – Does the post include a link or other call-to-action that creates desirable customer behaviors (beyond a simple “like”)?
  • Results – Has the post exceeded a 1% engagement rate (likes + comments + shares, divided by total fans)?

While you don’t have to strictly follow point per point, bottom line is: think before you promote. Promoting a Facebook status entails cost; therefore, it’s vital to consider the kind of posts you wish to spend money on—posts that are worthy of your customer’s attention (such as contests, promos, or even your latest line), posts that would bring in more likes and clients; posts that would get people talking about your business; posts that would draw traffic to your website; posts that will help generate profits.

Now, if you’re ready to hit that PROMOTE button, here are some basics to guide you:

  • If you are promoting a post from your personal account, you will get a pop-up box informing you of the fixed price, which is based on several factors including geographical location and number of people reached, and your choice of payment.
image2

Promoting a personal account has a fixed price based on several factors, including your geographic location and how many people you’re reaching (http://www.flickr.com/photos/7516466@N08/9259065819/)

  • If you are promoting a post from your Facebook Page, it will let you set a budget depending on the number of people you wish to reach. You can also choose your audience and duration. Take note that you’ll only be able to promote a post if your Page has at least 400 likes.

Post from a Facebook Page.

  • Once you have completed the payment option, your post will now appear with the word “Sponsored” for a post from your personal account and the word “Promoted” if it’s from a page.
stevensoderberghdhe

A sponsored post appears higher on your friends’ news feeds. (http://www.flickr.com/photos/7516466@N08/9261843598/)

It takes at least a day before you can start viewing the statistics of your post. For posts promoted under your Facebook Page, you’ll be able to see the raw number of views; however, for posts under personal accounts, you are given a percentage of views.

For your personal account, you get to see the Regular Views which show the percentage of times someone saw your post, either by viewing your timeline directly or by news feed stories generated from the actions taken by your friends (i.e. your friend likes your post and it shows on their news feed that they like your post). The Paid Views show the percentage of times someone saw your post because you promoted it.

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The statistics after 24 hours of promoting the post.
(http://www.flickr.com/photos/7516466@N08/9261843662/)

For your Facebook Page, you can view the Organic Reach, which is the number of people who saw your post directly from your timeline or in the news feed stories generated from the actions taken by people on your Facebook Page or Page posts; the Viral reach, which is the number of people who saw your promoted post from a friend; and the Paid Reach, which is the number of people who saw your post in an ad or sponsored story.

Statistics from a Facebook Page provides more information.
(https://fbcdn-dragon-a.akamaihd.net/cfs-ak-prn1/676413/463/299873430094007_1703458111.pngs)

For more details in promoting a post, just check out Facebook’s help page.

Yes, promoting a post in Facebook is an easy way to advertise your company, products, or services. However, always keep in mind that the posts you promote should get people to act on it rather than just view it. Remember, you’re building your fanbase and creating opportunities to generate sales for your business.

Source:

How to Know When to Promote a Facebook Post by Jay Baer

Wowcart – A Shopping Cart for Businesses

Note from Wowcart team: We are launching Wowcart, a cloud-based shopping cart that works with blogs, Facebook, websites and more, very soon. We wanted to take a few minutes to let you know a bit more about what the Wowcart shopping cart can do.

What are Shopping Carts? – An Introduction

If you want to sell your products online, you need a shopping cart engine or application. Webopedia describes a shopping cart as “a piece of software that acts as an online store’s catalog and ordering process. Typically, a shopping cart is the interface between a company’s Web site and its deeper infrastructure, allowing consumers to select merchandise; review what they have selected; make necessary modifications or additions; and purchase the merchandise.

A shopping cart is different from email or a web site, but some shopping cart applications incorporate elements of a web site such as a business description, contact information and your store and business policies.

Types of Shopping Carts

There are many types of shopping carts in the market today. Here’s a bit about the different categories of carts, and where Wowcart fits in.

1) “Out-of-the-box,” Licensed or Server-based Shopping Carts
This is probably still the most popular type of shopping cart in use today. Licensed shopping carts refer to a shopping cart application that you download and install on your web server.  This means that you should already have a web host or a web site, and the shopping cart software or application would have to either be installed on it, with or without a paid license from the vendor, or integrated from the shopping cart server with your web site.  Web development or system integration skills are probably required for this kind of shopping cart application, and the cart might require some configuration might be required.  This kind of shopping cart software will usually come with a one-time out-of-the box fee, and may come with support-based contract fees, or charge fees for major upgrades.

To manage this kind of shopping cart, there is usually a web-based interface that varies in ease of use from being fairly user-friendly to being more for developers only.

The main concern with this kind of shopping cart is the back-end management.  Costs and resources must be invested in maintaining the server, overseeing patches, upgrades and potential compatibility issues, taking care of backups for data integrity, security updates and other technical issues.

2) Hosted Shopping Carts
A relatively new trend beginning about 5 or 6 years ago is the hosted shopping cart solution.  Hosted shopping carts do away with the need for the customer to worry about the technical concerns of managing the server and maintaining the shopping cart software.  In addition to maintaining the shopping cart application, the vendors now effectively cover the server management and support that comes with hosting your shopping cart.

This kind of shopping cart is usually with a web-based interface geared towards the end-user.  Typically, you would be able to log in and upload products, customize your store settings, connect a payment provider, manage your inventory, and other functions easily and quickly. Costs for hosted shopping carts vary according to a number of variables that are usually based on usage.  Charges can apply for storage space for the account, storage space for the images uploaded, the number of products allowed on the cart.  Additional charges are sometimes applied to the value of the transactions.  Some carts also charge a set up fee and a monthly fee.

3) Social Commerce Shopping Cart options

More: see What is social commerce and does it work? and E-commerce on Social Networks? Asia is the leader

Social commerce is a fairly new and interesting “paradigm” introduced in the last few years. The term “social commerce” refers to many things, including trends that are not really directly related to e-commerce. For example, referrals or recommendations in social networks has been described as social commerce. For the purpose of brevity, we will just keep to examples of e-commerce applications within social media that facilitate direct purchasing.

In any social network that allows the embedding of html code,  allow business owners to mount stores there.  These apps allow businesses to set up stores in the social media network. This sometimes includes but also excludes reference to other applications that take advantage of the social media networks social aspect, such as referring links, promotions, discounts and contests.  Much of social commerce also refers to the offering of various promotions through social media – fan-gating, coupons, games, photo contests, sweepstakes, polls, quizzes, to drive user engagement and build a valid customer base to their products.

4) Shopping Mall in a Portal – Ebay, Amazon, Etsy, and more
A tried-and-true tested method is to open a store in a large, branded “virtual marketplace” like Ebay or Amazon.  In Asia, Qoo10 and Zalora offer similar set-ups for merchant, but with variation. In this scenario, your customers come to the marketplace, e.g. Ebay, and accesses your store or brand section inside the online marketplace.

So – what about Wowcart?

trywowcart

Wowcart is a hosted shopping cart that also integrates with social media networks and web sites.  In other words, it combines all the main aspects of item 1 (Out-of-the-box or Licensed Shopping Cart Software), 2 (Hosted Shopping Carts) and 3 (Social Media Commerce) above.

Users of Wowcart will only need a login and a Paypal account to start selling their products.  Our shopping cart engine is fully hosted for you so you only have to log in and click to manage your store.  As a Wowcart user, you will not need to worry about servers, software, licenses, upgrades, security, back-ups, maintenance or storage space.

Wowcart stores also come with full, customizable domain address.

At the same time, you can connect your store to blogs, Facebook, or a separate web site. This way, you can build a single store and manage it centrally from one account at Wowcart, yet take advantage of the networking and customer engagement of any social network that your business is a part of without worrying about installing or buying a second or third e-commerce solution in a new social network space.

Social sharing is also built into Wowcart.  Sharing products or the store by Twitter, Facebook or Google is an available feature.

Our Philosophy

We believe that e-commerce is one the essential building blocks of a business’ online strategy and small business owners or small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs).  SMEs need a platform that empowers them to use social media beneficially rather than be overwhelmed by the many options in a crowded space. This is why we have built a solution that allows businesses to easily build a store, and then choose to add it to their own web site, to use it on its own, or to integrate with with their social media strategy.

Or – all of the above.

As a business ourselves, this is what we want, rather than being forced to choose a social media to build our e-commerce strategy on. The social media space is huge, and new options and trends for reaching out to consumers are being introduced every day.  For the busy small business owner, learning and committing to every new e-commerce niche is exhausting.  If another social media network suddenly becomes the next important networking space for businesses, Wowcart customers will simply just be able to select this new option and plug their store in.

What does Private Beta mean?

Our Private Beta launch means that a fully tested application is available for a limited number of users.  In this period, the application is stable, fully usable and will transact with the payment provider which is currently Paypal. All plans listed on our web site are available.

While in Beta, we will continue to develop and release newer add-on modules.  We will also add more functionality, work out any reported bugs and work with our users to gather feedback in order to do so.

When will Wowcart Private Beta be available?

Very soon, within the next few weeks.  You can be the first to be notified when it becomes available.

The business of being social: what B2Bs and B2Cs expect from their social media

ScreenHunter_712 Jul. 10 01.04

Have you been stuck with managing your company’s social media accounts because you are the only one who knows how to use Facebook and have hundreds of followers? Does your boss hope that your personal social media knowledge is the secret weapon to bringing in hundreds of followers for your company account, leading to great piles of new sales enquiries at no extra cost?

Does this stress you out because you work in accounting?

In all seriousness, is social media actually a viable marketing strategy to increase sales? In a recent US survey, 60% of small business owners say they have not seen any return on investment for their social media marketing efforts. But in the same survey, more than 50% also said they have increased the amount of time spent on social media this year, compared to before, indicating a continued commitment to this form of marketing.  In terms of network choice, 82% are on Facebook, 29% on Linkedin, 25% on Twitter, and just 15% are on Youtube.  (Source: What Today’s Social Landscape can offer small businesses tomorrow)

More: see What is social commerce and does it work? and E-commerce on Social Networks? Asia is the leader

B2B (business-to-business) companies seem to share the same perspective towards social media where strategy is concerned. More than 61% of B2B businesses interviewed in a recent survey described their social media strategy as ad hoc. But the top objectives listed in their social media campaigns were to drive traffic to web site, build brand and positioning, and strengthen thought leadership.  (Source: B2B Marketing Infographic)Noticeably absent in this list is the expectation of immediate sales. What Facebook isn’t, after all, cautions Forbes’ Meghan Casserly, is “a portal to millions in instant revenue.”

One way to get sales leads through social media, she notes, is fairly time-consuming.  Ted Rubin, an expert interviewed, suggests directing a “low-level staffer” to spend a lot of time on social networks “listening” for complaints about competitor services. This is unlikely to occur if more than half of small businesses owners continue to spend less than 3 hrs a week online, as the same article indicates.

Amongst B2C businesses, as well, there is consensus about a zero to minimal causal link between social media application and direct sales. “Facebook Commerce,” in particular, has taken a lot of flak for being only “good for sharing, poor for purchases.” 1-800-flowers, known widely as the first vendor to set up a Facebook store, has observed that in the first six months, 90% of the “shopping activity” on Facebook was sharing items, not making purchases (Source: Shift to Social Commerce – Hubspot Infographic). Many major retail brands such as Nordstrom’s and the Gap have since opened and closed their Facebook stores in a short time period.

But if social media doesn’t lead to immediate sales, a case can be made for the theory that it increases the likelihood of sales. Like, a lot.  One-third of shoppers have indicated they would make a purchase on Twitter or FB, while nearly 51% of ecommerce sites happen when shoppers are logged into Facebook.(Source: Shift to Social Commerce – Hubspot Infographic). Some small businesses do, in fact, consider social media a crucial sales aid.  Featured recently in the New York Times business blog article about small businesses using social media effectively, Rich Foreman, leader of Dynamite Pest Control, believes that Facebook activity is the source of 75% of their new business.  He uses Facebook actively, and somewhat dramatically. For example, every Valentine’s Day, he posts a picture of the words “I ♥ U” spelt out in dead cockroaches. Foreman also Instagram and Linkedin to build relationships with real estate developers and property managers, who form 10% of his clients.

All things considered, then, at the end of the day, social media for businesses is most probably “a patience game,” as Forbes’ Casserly says, and those that are in it for the long haul should use it to build trust and loyalty with their audience.  “Facebook is a great place to extend your personality online so that customers existing and new feel connected,” says Rubin. “If people trust you they’re going to be loyal. If they’re loyal, their average order will be higher, the frequency of their purchases will be higher and the life expectancy of them as a customer will be longer.”


All infographic references above are found at our Pinterest board: F-commerce, Social Commerce, E-commerce

A handy social media checklist for businesses from the Whole Brain Group.

WBG Sensible SocialMediaChecklist v2.0 Sensible Social Media Checklist for Business v.2.0 [INFOGRAPHIC]

Why Instagram Is Good for Your Business


instagram

They say that a picture paints a thousand words. But in this day and age, it can get you a thousand customers.

Instagram, the multi-billion dollar photo-sharing site first started by photographers Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, has over 100 million users to date. As a matter of fact, Instagram has 10 times more user engagement than Facebook and Twitter!

Why is Instagram so popular? And for that matter, why are brands like Starbucks, Top Shop, Time Magazine, and even homegrown talents and local entrepreneurs setting up their own Instagram accounts?

Simple. These brands understand the power of visually compelling images—and what it can do to a customer. Social Media scientist Dan Zarrella points out that photographs yield more likes, shares, and comments compared to texts, videos, and links. Likes don’t necessarily guarantee sales, but they can increase visibility among your followers and their networks. The more people know you, the more people will be talking about you; the higher the awareness, the greater the chances to profit.

Here are more benefits to Instagram:

(1)  You don’t need to be a professional photographer

 And neither do you need an expensive camera. Just use Instagram’s filters to add more drama and life to ordinary images.

(2)  You can get creative

Promoting your signature cupcake? Use Instagram to tease your customer’s senses! Make your shots enticing—so enticing that your followers are driven to visit your online store in the middle of the night, drop by your bakery first thing tomorrow morning, or share these images with their friends. Who knows, your pictures might even go viral! You can also create a buzz among your followers by giving them a sneak peek on your upcoming offers. Better yet, why not involve them in a guess game as to what the picture is all about?

A dollop of butter cream seals the deal. Cupcakes by Sonja, a local cupcakery in the Philippines, was started in 2006 by passionate baker Ms. Sonja. Photo grabbed from @cupcakesbysonja/ http://instagram.com/cupcakesbysonja


 

Singapore-based WLC SHOP showcases their DIY arm candies through Instagram. (Photo grabbed from @wlcshop)

More colored denim inspo for #21DaysOfStyle! Can't wait to see yours! Tag @Forever21 and #21DaysOfStyle

A post shared by forever21 (@forever21) on

 

Trendy clothing retailer Forever21 gives a splash of color on their Instagram account. (Photo grabbed from @forever21).

(3)  You can present your brand in a different light

You don’t have to limit yourself to product shots when promoting your brand. How about giving your followers an insider’s look? Snap photos of your offices or your employees hard at work, or have candid and behind-the-scene shots. Why not share quotes or other images that represent your brand? If you love joining bazaars or fairs, share your experiences, too. Instagram presents you new ways to share your brand and to interact with your followers.

STRGHT HANDMADE CO. #strght

A post shared by STRGHT (@strght) on

Left: Hot off the oven! BreadTalk started off in Singapore and is now all over the world. Here, the chef is caught in the act with one of the bakery’s delightful treat. (Photo grabbed from @breadtalk)

 Right: Gabe Willis from Oklahoma just wanted to make his own skateboard. But people saw the pictures and wanted one, too. Now, Gabe has four full-time employees and sells in stores and web retailers.  (Photo grabbed from @strght)

 

 

Our booth @ #UPFair2013 is right up the entrance so you won't miss it. In case you do though, just look for this! 🙂

A post shared by Fofo Lifestyle Co. (@fofo_lifestyle) on

It's day one! New week. New month. And yup! New collection. #dropsafter12 don't miss it! #popupseriesnumber2

A post shared by Fofo Lifestyle Co. (@fofo_lifestyle) on

Filipino entrepreneur Francis Galura makes sure his booth and his new collection, FoFo Lifestyle, which sells silly stuffies, clothes, shoes, and what not, will stand out among the crowd. (Photo grabbed from @fofo_lifestyle)

(4)  You get free advertising

Let’s take Starbucks as an example. Using the hashtag #Starbucks, they encouraged their followers to take photos of them with the brand’s coffee. This resulted to 2.1 million photos…and counting! With little to no effort at all, Starbucks was able to generate publicity for their brand.

You can do the same, too. Have your followers tag you while wearing your brand, have them post their favorite products or services, come up with contests and promos, give goodies to lucky followers who shared your images, reward the best photo, launch a campaign…the possibilities are endless! Remember, your customers are your best advertisers.


Left, Middle: Brand in action! Starbucks followers post their drinks. (Photo grabbed from @newyorkjunkies and @chiarapoma)                                 

Right: A fashionista blogger shows off the latest collection of Top Shop. (Photo grabbed from @topshop)


Singaporean company Y3SG celebrates their 10th year generously with their followers. (Photo grabbed from @y3sg)
 

(5)  You can extend your reach

Linking Instagram to your other social media accounts allows you to do more with your brand (since these accounts have their own strengths as well), and to establish stronger connections. Your followers can like you on Facebook, Tweet you on Twitter, or pin you on Pinterest. You’re everywhere—making it easier for people to find you anywhere.

So snap and click away! Instagram is a creative way to get in touch with your customers and gain new clients—all through the power of a single picture.

 

Many Online Retailers in Asia Now Offer Physical Pick-up Services

freeimage-1790694-webAs convenient as online shopping can be, sometimes coordinating the receipt of purchases can be a hassle, especially for shoppers who are not at home during standard delivery hours in the day.

In Asia, online-only retailers have started introduced services similar to UK e-tailer ASDA’s “click and collect” by tying up with bricks-and-mortar chains to give their customers the option to pick up their purchases from the stores of their choice.

Amazon China, who started pick-up services at FamilyMart, a chain of major convenience stores, in Shanghai earlier this year, expects that this will “ensure the timely delivery of products and allow customers to collect their purchases on their own schedule.”

The e-commerce site also plans to launch 100 pick-up sites to cover the major city areas as part of its first wave of expansion. It has also introduced this service in Japan, where FamilyMart is a major chain as well.

In Hong Kong last September, QQ Buy also began offering pickup services, partnering with over 1,200 participating retailers in Hong Kong, as does Tmall, a major China online marketplace.  The service has been reported to be available in 580 convenience stores across five major cities – Shanghai, Beijing, Jiaxing, Hangzhou, and Wuhan.- as of October last year.

Singapore is a recent entrant to this space but it has done it in a big way. In May this year, Qoo10, a fast-growing online marketplace, made news with a new 7-Eleven partnership that allows customers to pay and collect their online purchases. Although essentially a collection service feature, Qoo10’s primary aim is to offer cash payment option for its customers.  It noted that this move would increase the proportion of Qoo10 shoppers who use their non-credit card options, which includes PayPal, by 10%. With the introduction of this service, Qoo10’s Southeast Asia business division head, Asil Turk, also hopes that Qoo10 “will hit the one million member milestone.”

Zalora, a large online fashion e-commerce site run by the world-famous Samwar brothers, is another new 7-Eleven partner in Singapore.  They have citing logistics and customer issues with third-party delivery services as one of the reasons for their new cash-on-collection offering for their customers.

22% rise in multichannel sales is saving grace for Marks and Spencer in Q4 report

Image courtesy of Marks and Spencer

M&S turns its focus to online retail sector; Image courtesy of Marks and Spencer

British retailer Marks and Spencer has announced generally weak financial results, with the exception of high multi-channel sales growth of 22% for the last quarter of its financial year.

The growth of multi-channel sales, comprising purchases made through e-commerce, mobile commerce and click and collect, can be attributed to the 70% growth in mobile purchases and the click and collect initiative, “Shop Your Way,” which has driven increased traffic to the online website. “Shop Your Way” is Marks and Spencer’s online shopping site built around users’ social network for them to quickly find relevant product information and reviews.

In comparison, general merchandise dropped off by 3.8%, like-for-like, though international sales grew by 7% with improvements to the European, Middle East, India and China performance.

Marks and Spencer also has plans to develop a new web platform next year.

You can read more at Marks and Spencer reports multichannel sales up by a fifth; Halfords shows ecommerce growth of 13.4%.

Selling pet chickens online has made these owners millions

Mail-order chicken site proves that clucky e-commerce ideas can make millions.  (Image taken from mypetchicken.com)

Mail-order chicken site proves that clucky e-commerce ideas can make millions. (Image taken from mypetchicken.com)

Looking for a product to start an online business?  You may be inspired by the owners of mypetchicken.com, who have turned a very unlikely e-commerce product –  live poultry and poultry care products – into a thriving business.

Entrepreneur.com has published an interesting, in-depth story about two entrepreneurs who started selling mail-order chickens and related supplies online, and ended up building a multi-million dollar e-commerce venture.

Mypetchicken.com began in 2004 when Derek Saski and Traci Torres launched an extensive ecommerce site to sell chicken feed, hen-houses, and live chicks that were shipped 24 hours of their being hatched.  They experienced 800% growth in the first two years, and the site now has a vast product range, including 90 varieties of chickens, various types of coops, chicken health products, incubators, cleaning tools and diapers.

Read more about it here.

Global E-commerce Smashed $1 Trillion Mark For First Time in 2012

According to an 2013 eMarketer study, B2C e-commerce sales grew 21.1% to exceed $1 Trillion for the first time in 2012.

The study also states that North America’s traditional status as the no. 1 e-commerce market in the world is all but over. This year, the Asia-Pacific market will be worth $433 billion, more than a third of global B2C commerce, and will make the Asia-Pacific region the biggest market in the world.  Other study highlights include the fact that the US will remain the single largest country in terms of worldwide commerce for the next four years, but China, a distant no. 2 in this aspect , already has the highest number of online digital buyers per country.

The study, based on more than 1,000 data sets from over 130 research sources in more than 22 markets.  Read the full study here – Ecommerce Sales Topped $1 Trillion for First Time in 2012 (eMarketer, 2013).

E-commerce on social networks? Asia is the leader

Whether social medial commerce will be a viable revenue channel is still being debated, but in Asia, social media networks are a clear leader in terms of online shopping.  Image courtesy of [KROMKRATHOG] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Whether social medial commerce will be a viable revenue channel is still being debated, but in Asia, social media networks are a clear leader in terms of online shopping. Image courtesy of [KROMKRATHOG] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

While the verdict is apparently out on the potential success of e-commerce through social media networks, in Asia, at least, social commerce is a thriving revenue channel.

More: What is social commerce and does it work?

There are already over 10,000 Facebook pages in Thailand selling online products, with some clearing as much as $100,000 monthly.  According to Techinasia, this “informal e-commerce wave” is a phenomenon occurring also in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.  One obvious reason is the lower barrier to entry presented by e-commerce on Facebook; the enterprise requires less capital than traditional e-commerce web sites, and stores are fairly easy to set up and maintain, removing the need for third parties such as web design agencies.

E-commerce is finding its legs in Indonesia in a different way, led by homegrown social networks other than Facebook.  One market studies group in Indonesia has suggested that in Indonesia, Facebook is developing an image as “already an old man,” with a growing reputation as a network of users who spam their contacts with promotional information.  Other, more popular, social networks in Indonesia, such as kaskus.com, with over 4.5 million users, and mig33.com, with over 40 million users, have integrated e-commerce platforms that adapt to the fact that a significant their users’ lack of credit cards.

In Singapore, a particular form of social commerce that has a longer heritage is still going strong. Blogshops, perhaps considered the precursor of Facebook shops or F-commerce, are defined by Wikipedia as a consumer based retail business using blogging platforms such as Blogger, WordPress, or Livejournal. In “The Blogshop Phenomenon in Singapore,” blogshops are “traced” back to their origins in 2006. In terms of volume, the blogshop directory, blogshopasia.com, alone, claims to list more than 10,000 blogshops in their directory.

Whatever form social commerce takes in Asia, there is no arguing with the fact that e-commerce growth in the Asia-Pacific region will be a leading factor in the growth of global e-commerce to its $1.2 trillion value in 2014.  Considering that Alibaba alone, an Internet retail giant from China, is predicted to transact more online in 2013 than the whole of the United States,the growth potential is enormous.

Given the significant numbers of potential consumers for online commerce, Western brands are not moving to optimize their online presence to Asian consumers. According to an e-commerce infographic from SP e-commerce, while Western retailers are fast pursing this sector, they are not achieving optimal customer satisfaction. For example, more than 50% of online brands still do not offer their online products in local currency.  97% do not have free returns and 91% do not have exchange currencies.

More:  Is your business on Facebook yet? If not, start here.

If the above is true, it is encouraging to small businesses who are considering e-commerce as a new revenue channel. If larger, Western brands are still behind in terms of optimising the potential of e-commerce on social media networks, this is a true window of opportunity for any online retailer who wants to enter this space.

More: Infographic – Rise of the new eCommerce Powerhouse (Asia-Pacific)

What is “Social Commerce” and does it work?

Attribution Image courtesy of [KROMKRATHOG] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of [KROMKRATHOG] / Freedigitalphotos.net

Does selling products and services through social media work?

It is a deceptively simple question, but the answer is much more complex than you might think.   There is a new, burgeoning industry known as “social commerce” that is attempting to do just that.   Still in its infancy, no one really knows for sure whether it is a passing fad or the wave of the future, but one thing is clear.  While attempting to sell through social media may be filled with dangerous pitfalls, there will be immense profit for any company that comes up with a winning formula.

As defined by its Wikipedia entry, social commerce is “a subset of electronic commerce that involves using social media, online media that supports social interaction, and user contributions to assist in the online buying and selling of products and services.”  That’s quite a mouthful, but basically it is just “trying to sell stuff on social networks.  According to Wikipedia, the term was first coined by Yahoo! in 2005 to describe a set of online shopping tools as well as the user sharing of product information and recommendations.   In terms of technology, social commerce generally means either adding social features to e-commerce sites, or adding e-commerce features to social sites.

Many advertising media companies consider social commerce to be the “holy grail” of online marketing.  This is because it has the potential to link “social Identity” with “purchasing intent”.  In other words, to “know in advance what someone wants to buy.”   That has is the dream of almost every marketing and sales professional in the world – to be able to “read their customer’s mind.”   Incredibly, search engines and social networks are able to do just that.

Have you ever searched for some product on Google and suddenly started seeing ads for similar products?   They know what you want from records of what you have been searching for.   Facebook gets similar information from their “like” button, and this is probably the inspiration for the “want” button they have been testing.  For the companies that make social media platforms, this is what they really want.  They are not building and maintaining these expensive platforms and giving them away for free because they are nice guys.  They want you to buy stuff on their platforms, and they want you to do it in such a way so that they profit from it.

“Social is not short term, social is not transactional, and social is not the same as direct response.” – VentureBeat

It should be noted that some people believe social commerce barely exists at all.  An article in VentureBeat titled “Social commerce is like a unicorn: beautiful, alluring, and almost totally imaginary” cited a Monetate e-commerce report that said social media referrals represents just 1.55 percent of all traffic to major e-commerce destinations, and only a miniscule .71 percent of it actually results in a sale.   They concluded that “social is not short term, social is not transactional, and social is not the same as direct response.”

Less than 1% of social media transactions result in sales. Image credit © Fotum | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

Less than 1% of social media transactions result in sales.
Image credit © Fotum | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

Still, the industry is very much in its infancy and there are tantalizing clues that some companies are close to hitting on a winning formula.   One such company might be Tesco, the world’s third largest retailer. They just recently launched a new social commerce site for wine called “Tesco Wine Co-buys” where consumers can join together to buy wine in bulk at discounted prices.  Members can choose the wines they want to buy together and the more people that sign up, the better the discount.  The member who recruits the highest number of co-buyers gets a free case of wine.  They have integrated social incentives into their selling process.

For the major brands, anyway, this kind of “business model innovation” probably is the key to success.  It is unlikely, however, that they will make much headway with “one on one” customer engagement and relationship building.   This could turn out to be the real competitive advantage for small companies entering this arena.   A recent article in the New York Times about small retailers opening storefronts on their Facebook pages drove home this point.  They quoted one industry analyst as saying that “unlike larger businesses, small businesses can build on their personal relationships to end users.”

This article told the story of “Got What It Cakes” – a small company owned by  Mandie Miller of Charlotte, N.C. that started with her simply baking cakes for her friends.  It grew rapidly after she started a Facebook page to the point where she now must turn away business.  This was part of a new trend in online selling called “F-commerce.”  The term was coined to describe the growing number of businesses that sell through a Facebook page.  “Small businesses seem to be having more success on Facebook than large companies,” according to retail analyst at Forrester quoted in the article.  .

Incredibly, this seems to have caught Facebook by surprise and they have not started or are promoting this trend widely.  We can speculate that Facebook executives were blinded by their desire to support their large corporate accounts, but in doing so they may have missed the “800 pound gorilla” in the room    There are countless millions of entrepreneurs and small businesses who have things to sell also.  They are extremely well connected on social networks and they want “a piece of the action.”

That may be the real future of Social Commerce.

Online groceries bag big time investments in 2013

Image courtesy of Shopping Bargain Blog

Image courtesy of Shopping Bargain Blog

If recent announcements are anything to go by, the e-commerce industry expects big growth in the global online grocery sector this year.

From start-ups to large-scale supermarket chains, the online retailing of groceries has won substantial investments for infrastructure and international expansion over the next few years.

In the US, Farmigo, an online grocery channel founded by Benzi Ronen in 2009, received $10 million in Series B funding led by Sherbrooke Capital, RSF Social Finance and Series A lead investor Benchmark Capital last year. The funding will be directed towards improving their online ordering system (Source: Upstart). Consumers can soon expect searching and buying meat and produce from local farms via the system to be easier.

Last April, Relay Foods, a direct competitor to Farmigo, raised $8.25 million to invest in advertising its service and creating new mobile applications. Relay Foods primarily sources its groceries from a select number of local small-scale grocery stores and subsequently delivering products to a few strategically placed drive-through pick up locations (Source: Wall Street Journal).

But the real proof that the supermarket industry endorses this direction is found in the long-term commitment of established grocery chains. UK supermarket giant Tesco recently launched its Bangkok online shopping service in April, and has announced that this service will expand to China this month, and to Turkey by early 2014. Tesco’s Chief Executive Officer, Philip Clarke, has also said that Tesco is committing $750 million this year to develop its online platforms and services as it caters to more tech-savvy consumers (Source: Bloomberg Businessweek).

As traditional sales channels weaken, more retailers are considering boosting e-commerce to improve their bottom line. Morrison, a major UK food retailer, has recently entered a discussion with Ocado, a British internet retailer specializing in groceries, to establish its online food business. The deal would involve Morrison capitalizing on the online retailer’s warehouse capacity and technology expertise.

Perhaps the biggest affirmation of all comes from British grocer ASDA, who announced a $1.07 billion investment for major e-commerce initiatives to improve its supply chain and roll out “click and collect,” to its 568 stores this year. “Click and collect” is an offering that allows customers to purchase items online and collect them at the stores.

ASDA, a subsidiary of Wal-Mart, is estimated to have generated $1.52 billion worth of web sales in 2012. As part of its e-commerce expansion, it will build a 120,000-square-foot fulfillment center in central England to further facilitate “click and collect.”

London-based trade group Institute for Grocery Distribution estimates that annual online UK grocery sales will increase by 108.4% to $17.86 billion in 2017, from $8.57 in 2012 (Source: Internetretailer).

Use Facebook to promote your business. Image credit © Vladstar | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

Is your business on Facebook yet? If not, start here.

Use Facebook to promote your business.  Image credit  © Vladstar | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

Gone are the days when business owners relied purely on television, print ads, and even billboards to reach out to majority of their customers. Now, it’s as easy as logging on to your social media account. Image credit
© Vladstar | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

The rise of social media has enabled people to get connected, anytime, anywhere. Because social media is now—and will continue to be—an integral part of the newer generation, businesses, whether big or small, have taken to creating online accounts to reach out to more clients.

Facebook is perhaps one of the most popular, with over 1 billion users to date.

Here is how you can get started.

There are three types of account that can be created on Facebook.

(1) Personal Account

If you want to stay connected with, say, your long-lost relative, your best friend from high school, or even your ex-boyfriend, creating a personal account enables you to add these people and receive updates from them and vice versa. Updates can be in the form of statuses (absolutely anything you wish to say or share), photos, and videos.

(2) Groups

This is great for people who share the same interests but do not necessarily have to be friends with each other. If you’re passionate about baking, love playing soccer, or hail from the same university, there are groups that you can join. Groups can be set to Open, that is, anyone can see the group, the list of members, and the updates. It can be set to Closed, meaning anyone can see the group and the members, but only those included in the group can see the updates.  It can also be set to Secret, where nobody but the members is privy to the contents of the group.

(3) Facebook Page

This is the best choice for business owners.  Once people like your page, they will see your latest updates without the need to add you as their friend.

However, when you post a status, a photo or a video, it can sometimes get lost under the statuses, photos, and videos of other people. By clicking the “Promote” link under your post, your updates will appear higher on the feed and won’t always get pushed down by new updates.  When a post is promoted, it will have a “Sponsored” label to inform people that the post has been promoted.  Only posts from personal and page accounts can be promoted.  The cost of promoting a post depends on your location and the number of people you wish to reach.  Just follow this link to know more about promoting a post.

Aside from promoting a post, you can also create an ad or a sponsored story to reach a wider audience.  You can choose to pay a certain amount for every click from a user; this is the Cost-Per-Click (CPC) option.  You can also specify an amount per 1,000 impressions or views for your ad; this is the Cost-Per-Impression (CPM) option which means you’ll pay only when people see your ad. Click this link for more information.

Social media is here to stay, and is slowly becoming a part of businesses as a way to market their products and services.  It’s one of the best ways to stay connected to your customers.

In 2013, Asia-Pacific will become the world’s no. 1 e-commerce market

Image courtesy of Nielsen

Image courtesy of Nielsen

According to eMarketer, the Asia-Pacific region will overtake North America to become the number one market for e-commerce sales in 2013.

In 2012, B2C e-commerce sales in the Asia-Pacific region grew more than 33% to $332.46 billion in 2012, more than doubling North America’s growth rate of 13.9%. In China alone, sales nearly doubled from $55.37 billion in 2011 to $107.48 billion in 2012. Singapore, although a considerably smaller market, registered high growth as well, with consumers spending $1.4 billion in 2012, 33% more than in 2010, according to online payment firm Paypal and research company Nielsen.

One reason for this could be the improving perceptions of online security throughout Asia. A 2012 survey by Visa, for example, showed that in Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore, 7 out of 10 respondents felt more secure shopping online in compared to the year before.  Other reasons contributing to more secure online transactions include availability of payment security features and increased security around personal and financial information upheld by online merchants.

While non-consumer-packaged goods such as fashion apparels, books, travel and consumer electronics formed the majority of online transactions, the level of non-consumer-packaged related goods transacted is growing. A 2012 Nielsen Global Survey of Digital’s influence had found out that more than 60% of respondents in the Asia-Pacific region actually purchased groceries online.

The Nielsen survey also found that most of the grocery shoppers who conduct research, compare prices and provide feedback through the social media were found in the Asia-Pacific countries. This suggests that when it comes to grocery shopping, Asia has an edge. This will most probably last as such internet usage continues to go on an upward trend.

A hazy social media experiment – or how we Storified the Singapore smog

The Wowcart team started a Storify project to chronicle news coverage about the Singapore haze situation, described as the worst in the country’s history.Then they wrote about how and why they did it. Read the Singapore Haze storify pages here

The view from up high on Day #3: when the PSI was 401

The view up high on Day #3,when the PSI was 401

We started our social media experiment on the third and worst day of the “Singapore haze crisis.” We decided that we would start collecting and uploading news posts and images from online newspapers and other sources about the haze as the events unfolded, creating a curated selection of media that others could refer to. While this was an attempt to organize the reportage that was flying furiously through the internet, it also represented a way of creating order out of what was, at that moment, a raw and intense moment in our local zeitgeist. It would also serve as a central resource for multiple sources of information and media.

More about the motivation behind this project: Why we Storified the Singapore haze

The idea was simple – start “pinning” stories to some kind of board, so people could see all the news in one place as the event unfolded.  The newsfeeds were shooting out articles by the minute, each one more intense then the previous one.  It would also allow us to curate global news coverage, which was important because the source of our haze problems was actually international. Finally, we wanted to collect live images of haze, aerial maps and Pollutant Standard Index (PSI) readings for those who wanted the latest updates in this area.

After some discussion, we chose Storify over two other potential applications Paper.li and Rebelmouse. Unlike Rebelmouse, which allows you to categorize your stories with tags and tabs, Storify allowed you to create story “collections.”  Paper.li, which operates more like a publishing mechanism, wasn’t suited to our situation; we wanted to continuously update a page quickly and without termination points.

Wowcart's Storify page
Wowcart’s Storify page

We set up three story categories:one for updated local news, one for air quality readings and live pictures and one for international coverage and analysis.  With Storify, all you have to do is drag a button called a bookmarklet from your collection page to your browser bar to “install” it.  Once that is done, select an article in your browser to add to your collection, and click on the browser bookmarklet to post it to your Storify Collection.  Choose your collection from a pull-down menu, or create a new Collection on the spot. After Storify confirms that the article is saved, you can view the Collection page or continue browsing the web. Total time to save a story to your collection: approximately 5 seconds.

Storify is not new in terms of its technology, or even as a type of service. Other than Paper.li and Rebelmouse, who both use the same “bookmarklet”-style to allow its users to collect material and save it somewhere, the note-taking application Springpad, and even Pinterest, allows you to collect content in this way, and display it in various formats. Both Rebelmouse and Springpad have advanced offerings that are also free.  For example, Rebelmouse allows you to “freeze” and pin an article so it stays on top of your page, or in whatever position you place it, and pin an article to multiple collections at once. Both Rebelmouse and Springpad also allow you to comment on your collection as you are bookmarking it, rather than after, like Storify.

Publicizing our Storify account – Limitations

With about 20 links in our collection, it became a question of how we would get anyone to read our collection.  Yes, this was a noble and important exercise, but nobody knew about it.  We had to get marketing.

Because a portion of our Twitter and Facebook subscribers are international, we knew this topic would not interest everyone and wanted to be careful not to “overpost.” And although our web site is live, we had not launched our services yet; a private beta launch was actually imminent.  Apart from limited resources, we didn’t really have anything to promote or sell. Logically, we wondered if there was any real connection between our company and this activity.

Finally, we chose to use Twitter predominantly, since the format of Twitter encourages multiple announcements, and other than this, we would have to ask our friends to forward our links. If possible, we would look for relevant discussion forums as a secondary marketing activity.  All in all, now, this had become a valid exercise in content marketing, building white hat back-links, and the execution of Twitter and Facebook strategy.

Updating multiple accounts, and scheduling

We used a free Hootsuite account to schedule and prepare our posts. Because Hootsuite still limits posts for all social media to about 400 characters, we had to use Facebook for the direct Facebook posts that were longer.  This also meant that Hootsuite would not have a record of them for tracking purposes.

The Results?

The results were definitely mixed. We posted only twice on our Facebook page, getting about 10 likes each time. With Twitter, we used individual news items to draw clicks to our collection pages. Beyond this, we told our friends about the Storify pages, and hoped that they would inform others.

Nobody’s reading? Ridiculous!

Hootsuite allows you to create reports that show you how well your Twitter posts do.  Given that we had only just started out, we chose to only set up the one that shows you how many URL clicks each post gets. Our initial Hootsuite report seemed to indicate that no one was reading or clicking on the link to our Storify page. We naturally wondered how this could be when our content was so riveting.  Compared to the National Environment Agency’s twitter releases, at least, we were practically Oscar Wilde. What were their 60,000 Twitter followers getting from tweets like these?

Each tweet garners more than 30 re-tweets within the first 10 minutes.

Some Lessons Learned

Some advice we can offer now is to first research and include the relevant Twitter hashtags that reflects the topics you want your posts to be included in. reflects. We used #sghaze, which we found was used not only by many, but newspapers.  When the haze started to blow upwards towards Malaysia, we added #malaysia and #haze, as well.  When referring readers to an external web site, shortening your URL is another important thing to do because it allows you to say more within your 140-character limit, and Hootsuite does this for you with their automatic URL shrinker. Other than that, dropping prepositions and using “&” can also help.

Even then, the witty and engimatic Twitter calls to action we thought did not always have the impact we thought it would. For example, a post about what president Susilo Bambang Sudhoryono, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib and Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong were saying about the haze on their Twitter and Facebook pages was not as popular as a post that linked to an article comparing Facebook and Google+ for businesses. The latter was a pre-scheduled post that was part of our normal tweet programming, which we did not stop during this period.

Chugging On

Despite this depressing information, we continued on. As our free Storify account doesn’t have much in terms of analytics, we measured success simply by the number of reloads the pages received. There was an approximately 20% increase in views on the second day, and 50%-60% increase on the third and fourth day.  These jumps coincided with our friends posting this link to their own thousand-friend Twitter feeds. We realized that getting as much mention of the project out there as we could would be important.

Growth was clearly an exponential, as long as you kept tweeting. By the second day, our Hootsuite reports showed a couple of clicks per post, and by the third, this number had increased by about 40%. We also realized only on the fourth day that we had some followers who were re-tweeting us. We did not notice this initially because we used Hootsuite to monitor our accounts, and followers aren’t shown there.  It seems Hootsuite also doesn’t show you when someone favourites your Tweet, so check your direct Twitter feed if that’s important to you. As an added advantage, our Storify page showed up on a second page search for “global singapore haze coverage” even though we had not registered it.  It also takes some time to reflect re-tweets, so remember to keep checking after the tweet appears in your stream We started looking into drop-posting in Linkedin and a few, relevant travel forums. The haze was a critical topic of interest there.

However, by this time, we were experiencing serious fatigue. Keeping up with the news cycles about haze was difficult and adding substantially to our workload.  The haze had abated to an extent in Singapore, but now was creeping upwards to Malaysia.  Meanwhile, in Indonesia, Riau, the town nearest to the deforestation activity, had reached a critical point in terms of smog suffocation, and had started evacuation procedures. To draw readers, posting in Twitter was key, but formulating Twitter posts to include both our shortened URL, the relevant hashtags, and a witty and succinct call to action, had to be one of the most difficult things a person can do.

Then, it started to rain.

Even as the news cycle started to wane, the first burst of rain came after almost 10 dry days.  The abruptness of it, and lack of any real-time coverage, led us to search Twitter for real-time updates and pictures.  To add to this new event, rumours and sightings of hail during this rainstorm, an extremely rare, and practically impossible event here in Singapore made it a highly newsworthy occurrence. For the first time, we Storified tweeted images and video, and then tweeted about it, asking for more recommendations.  Our storify page reloads jumped again.

An example of one of the funnier, obviously doctored images that were circulated after the rainstorm. We didn’t add this to our Storify project.

Final Thoughts

We had compressed quite a lot into just the first day. Although Hootsuite and Storify are easy to use, they still presented a bit of a learning curve. And using social media for your business is not just about posting updates; using it effectively means marrying the learning of the application with technical know-how, content production, and overall planning and coordination.

If we can conclude anything at this mid-way point, it is that using social media effectively for your business is a process, a strategy, and most of all, a journey.  It is a process because you need to establish a system of usage, tracking and reporting.  With the results gathered, you can analyse, interpret and improve your next effort.  It is a strategy because you need a plan of execution that depends in part on the system you establish.  And finally, it is a journey because it is an iterative procedure, and every time you repeat, results get better.

A Special Seasonal Offer

christmasmoose2

Upgrade to any Wowcart plan at 30% Off!

Period: 17 – 26 December(SGT)

More about how Wowcart works and plans:  wowcart.com

No Wowcart account? Sign up for the free trial or the free-for-life Lite plan, and then upgrade – every plan you upgrade to will be 30% off during this period.

Existing user? Any plan you upgrade to will be 30% off during this period. The plan you select to upgrade to must be a bigger plan than your current one.

Your Savings:

MONTHLY PLANS (USD)

Lite: 25 Products, 1 store – Free for Life
Professional: 500 Products, 2 stores – (USD$19.99 – now $13.99)
Enterprise: 4000 Products, unlimited stores – (USD$39.99 – now $27.99)
Ultimate: Unlimited Products, unlimited stores – (USD$99.99 – now $67.99)

Try out the 30-day Professional 100% free for 30-days without obligation NOW. 

To Order: Log into your account, and go to My Account (top right) -> My Plan , and select the plan to upgrade to.  For new users, sign up for the Trial, and then login and do the same.

Terms and Conditions

  1. Offer starts 17 December and ends 26 December SGT. The 30%-off prices will be automatically reflected on the order form.
  2. This offer applies to accounts that are upgrading only. As long as the new plan you change to is a higher plan, it will be 30% off if you upgrade within this time.
  3. The new prices will apply forever – until you cancel your plan.
  4. All other conditions for plan usage apply, according to our standard agreement.
  5. Please drop us a line at support@wowcart.com if you need any assistance.

Beautiful, Flexible Ecommerce: Many Possibilities with the Modern

Introducing the Modern

We’re happy to introduce a new template system for your store. The Modern template is a modular system allowing you to customize a few sections of the storefront according to your requirements.

With Modern, a number of easily customisable spaces are provided to you that allow you to enhance your storefront’s visual appeal substantially. At the same time, if you do not want to use these spaces, you can toggle them off.  The Modern is flexible enough in this way that you can use it in the best way that suites your business and online store strategy.

The increased capability for full-screen graphical presentation means that you will be able to better highlight your products, while also keeping your store up-to-date with the latest design aspects of many modern web sites.  The Modern is in keeping with Wowcart’s key concepts, which is to always put easy customisation and management of the store squarely in the hands of the Wowcart customer.

Here’s a breakdown of the main elements of Modern: a top banner, a fullscreen storefront image, a menu, a customisable feature bar and the footer.

Here’s a sample of what you can create using the Modern.

Wowcart - using the Modern template

Wowcart – using the Modern template

Create a Store

Get started by creating a store or going to your existing store.

  1. Stores -> Add New Store or Dashboard -> Add New Store
  2. Select Design & Logo -> Modern

For existing account owners, your store template is the previous one, which has been named Classic.  To use Modern, just click on the Modern template and save the page after customising the Storefront image and Feature Bar.

What’s the difference between Classic and Modern?  The main features that have been updated for both Classic and Modern are: the top banner, the menu, breadcrumbs, the product grid, and the footer.  Other than breadcrumbs, which is a new feature to enhance navigation, these elements have been given minor appearance enhancements.

3. Logo and Storefront Image

Logo

You can upload your own logo by clicking on Upload, then Browse to select a logo to upload , then Upload.  After the logo is uploaded, remember to click on the Save button (at the top right of the page) to save the settings on this page.

If you select No Logo, the banner will load without any logo.  This option is great for if you intend to embed your store into a third-party web site, or a blog.

The last option is Store Name as Logo.  This means that only your Store Name will appear in the banner.

Menu & Navigational Breadcrumbs

Both the Classic and Modern have improved navigation with a fixed menu and breadcrumbs.  Menus and breadcrumbs appear automatically in your storefront.

Storefront Image

Upload your own storefront image or choose from default options. You can also choose not to show this section of the page entirely

Upload your own storefront image or choose from default options. You can also choose not to show this section of the page entirely

The Storefront Image is a full-screen 960 px by 461 px image occurring after the menu as the main feature of the front page.  A text message and link can be configured as a jump-off point.  This is a great way to feature high-resolution images of your merchandise, your own banner statement, or a promotional graphic. However, remember that the fixed dimension of 960 by 461 in order for this section of your store to look its best. If an image is below 960 by 461, an error message will display when you try to upload it.

To upload your own image, select Upload, then Browse to select the image to upload from your computer, then Upload, to upload it.  To preview the Storefront, make sure you click on Save (top right of pge) first.

If you do not have images on hand, you can select from a number of great options we have provided for you, founder under Default Images.

Finally, select No Image if you do not want the Storefront Image section to show.  If this is selected, the Storefront Image section will not appear at al, and the Feature Bar will show immediately below the menu.

The option Show Storefront Image allows you to select an image, but disable showing it for any reason by selecting No.  If you need to see the Storefront image again, you can just enable it by selecting Yes.

Important: always remember that you have to save this page in order for your selected storefront image to be displayed. To save, scroll up to the top right of the page and click Save.

4. Feature Box Row

modern-3

The Feature Bar is a row of 3 jump-off image boxes with descriptive text that can be a Product, Category or type of Promotion, such as a Sale or Promocode.  When users click on a box, they will be directed to that Product, Promotion, Sale, Promocode, or Category in your Store.  The image and text for this section is taken directly from the Product, Promotion, Sale, Promocode or Category and should be configured from there.

You can select your three Feature Boxes by going to the Type pull-down menu at the right of each Feature Box. Once the Type is selected, all available items of that Type will appear in the Feature Box menu and you can select the item to appear in the Feature Box. The image and text for each Feature Box is configured at the object itself, and you can configure the images and text by accessing the object directly. For example, if you select  Category -> Dark Chocolate, the image and description of Dark Chocolate is taken from Products -> Categories -> Dark Chocolate.

For example, configure the Product to be featured by going to Products , locating the Product, and editing it.  Configure Promocodes by going to Promotions -> Promocodes and editing the Promocode Landing Page.  You can configure Categories by going to Producs -> Categories and editing the Category image, text and description there. You can configure Promocodes and Sales at Promotions .

This is a close-up of the Feature bar.

modern-chocbox-featured

Store Pages

The Store Pages refer to the following 5 individual content pages – Contact Us, Support, Billing, About Us, Terms & Conditions.  Each page will appear as a link in the footer if content is created for the page. If no content is created, the page link will not appear in the footer.

To create your content pages, go to Stores -> Yourstorename -> Store Pages

5. Publish & Miscellaneous

After your storefront page is configured, Publish your store.  To do this, make sure you have the minimum Store Settings completed.

Settings: Shipping & Payment

You must set your Store and Product Shipping, and the Payment Options for your Store

First, configure your Payment Methods at Settings -> Payment Method.  For more about Payment Methods, please read our knowledge base article on Payment Methods

Then, set the Payment Method for your Store by going to Store Settings -> Payment

Optional Tax settings can also be set at the same place: Store -> Settings

After Shipping and Payment are set, you may Publish your Store.  Go to Store -> Yourstorename -> Store Details and click Publish Store

Every time you click on Preview Store, if your Store is already published, you will be able to see it

New at Wowcart: Promocodes

Promocodes or coupons let you offer special discounts of your online store merchandise when your shoppers input a code string. Promocodes are basically coupons.

With Promocodes, you can configure a word or text string (e.g. PROMO) to trigger a percentage or value discount off any product, combination of products, categories, or combination of products and categories in your Store when the user inputs the code into the Promocode box prior to checking

All Wowcarts accounts can create unlimited Promocodes.  To create a Promocode, go to Dashboard -> Promotions -> Promocodes. Then click Add New Promocode

screenshot201312-promocode-setup1

Every plan, including the free-for-life Lite plan, is entitled to create unlimited Promocodes. Products that are in Sales can also be allocated to Promocodes, so you should be careful when you create Sales and Promocodes that are set to run at the same time.  Like Sales, Promocodes are scheduled by the day and time, allowing for extreme flexibility.

screenshot201312-promocode-setup2

Promocodes are input by your Store’s customers in the final step before submitting the Order. Promocodes can be set to activate and expire by date and time, and every account can create unlimited Promocodes.

Every Promocode will have a graphic presentation area on the landing page titled “Promocodes.” Like Sales, you can configure a large image and styled text description for each Promocode.

If a promocode is within the active date range, and its status is set to Active, Promocode descriptions will appear on their own menu page titled Promocodes. Promocodes will still apply if you choose for the landing page not to appear on the menu.

Note: Promocodes will not show once activation date is over.

Here is a sample Promocode landing page.  If there is more than one Promocode running at the same time, they will appear consecutively on the same page titled “Promocodes.”

screenshot201312-promocode

New at Wowcart: Sales

Use Sale to Set Discounts

The ability to set promotions is an important feature of any online store.  It allows you to reach out to your customers, set stronger call to actions, and invigorate your user base with marketing offers and attractive discounts that will keep them coming back to your Store.

Your Wowcart Sale is a new feature – a preset percentage or numerical value discount off a product, set of products, category or categories, or combination of products and categories in your store.  Sales are scheduled by date and time, and once created, can have their own customisable description box on a landing page at the Special Offers menu of your Store. Because Because the start and end of Sales can be scheduled up to the minute, you can use Sales to automate “Flash Sales” or “Deals of the Day” for your Stores.

In keeping with our focus on allowing as much customisation as possible, you can opt out of this by choosing not to show your Sales description on the menu.

To create a Sale, go to Dashboard -> Promotions -> Sales, then click Add New Sale

To create a Sale, go to Dashboard -> Promotions -> Sales

To create a Sale, go to Dashboard -> Promotions -> Sales

Every Wowcart account user can create unlimited Sales. Sales can be scheduled up to the minute, giving users the ability to create Flash Sales, starting at one hour in the day, and ending at another hour on the next.  Multiple Sales can be created simultaneously, but a product can only feature in one active Sale at a time.

A Sale is activated in two ways: by ensuring its end date is current (i.e. greater than today), or by configuring the status Active.

screenshot201312-sale-setup2

If you select Active under status, and your Sale is within the active date range, a Sale box will appear on the Special Offers page of your menu.  This will serve as the landing page for your Sale, and is the area for you to upload a key image for your Sale, as well as styled text.  Sales and Bundles will appear on this page, Promocodes will appear on another menu called Promocodes.

If multiple Sales are active, they will appear in chronological order on the Special Orders page.

Sales can have their own styled text description and high-resolution image

Sales can have their own styled text description and high-resolution image