A few tips to boost your sales for the holidays

Posted by: Curtis Stevens on December 2nd, 2009

Many merchants contact GrooveCommerce during November but are afraid to touch their store until after the holidays.  They don’t want to make any changes and hurt their potential holiday sales.  This may be true, but it also works the other way around.  If they do not make any changes, then they could be giving up a lot of extra sales as well.  Site load time – us consumers are more impatient when looking online than ever before.  With most users on high speed Internet, we expect everything to happen instantaneously.  Studies show that you only have a few seconds for your site to load or many of your visitors may leave.  So it is very important to have a fast loading web site, which all comes down to your web host.  Shipping schedule – it doesn’t matter if you are solely an ecommerce store or not, you need to prominently display your holiday shipping schedule so shoppers know when they should expect their package and if it will arrive in time.  Lastly, check your site for errors.  Go through your site like a shopper and see if you can find any errors that may present issues for your customers.  Such as add an item to your cart, check out and leave some information blank like email, phone, address, etc.  What kind of error message does it give you and is it descriptive?  This also includes your shopping cart and credit card processing integration.

Is evaluated too high

Posted by: Curtis Stevens on December 1st, 2009

A new site called Square, has been valued at 40 million and it hasn’t even launched yet. One of its creators is the founder of Twitter.  This may be a big part in their success in funding an evaluation, but my response to that is this.  You have a guy that was lucky and founded a site like Twitter that took off. He hasn’t done anything in my opinion to demonstrate that he is a great entrepreneur.   Twitter has yet to make any money!  The concept of the site is to a be a credit card payment service similar to Paypal.  They promote that anyone can accept a credit card.  Whether it is for some t-shirt sales nor a one-time event.  All you need is a phone that has an audio input jack.  They also claim you can accept credit cards within minutes.

Being in the credit card processing business, I was a little concerned about this once I started reading the article. After reading all of it, I received the impression that this service will be targeted to merchants on the street that have their customers in front of them. There will not be any online sales like Paypal, so no worries in that area. I also don’t see much of a concern with regards to merchants wanting to take payments in-person. I only see very small merchants that would be attracted to this type of service, ones that process so little or infrequently, that they are not profitable merchants. The article also gave the impression it would focus on consumers that simply need to take a payment or two, not merchants with real businesses. The big concerns would be security and it being embraced by consumers. I don’t think many consumers will be comfortable with the setup but time will tell. Either this will turn into a profit or it will sink fast. I give them a year before we see the final fate of this company.

Are you buying stolen goods?

Posted by: Curtis Stevens on December 1st, 2009

Is that particular bargain product you are considering buying from an online merchant stolen merchandise?  There are many online stores that sell products that have been stolen or counterfeited, such as pain relievers and diabetic testing strips.  If the bargain you are looking at seems a little too good to be true, then it very well may be.  Many of these fraudsters still products from retailers and then try to sell them online for a quick buck.   Online auctions are a popular choice for many to sell their stolen goods quickly.

Another issues is many merchants are selling replicas of other brands.  Such as selling a bag from Coach that really wasn’t made bythem, but someone else in China or some other place.  This is called replica goods.  It is not legal and I have heard of a lawsuit of a big fashion brand going after a few credit card processing companies for they allowed those merchants to process credit cards on their system. The suit mentioned they should not have even allowed them to setup an account with them. I assume the brands expect our industry to do some policing which it is not our job. It is illegal and most processors will not touch it. If anything, the idea that the products are not legal to sell should convince them enough.

Which entity should your business be

Posted by: Curtis Stevens on December 1st, 2009

We receive a lot of applications from merchants for our credit card processing service that have various entity types, such as sole proprietor, corporation, LLC and non-profit. Which one is right for your company? I will explain them all and give my recommendation based on some information from a public accountant. You have three choices, sole, a corporation or an LLC. By default, all businesses are a sole proprietor if they do nothing. Sole proprietor is the easier one to create. All income is transferred to your personal tax return. In short, the IRS do not recognize a distinction between you and the business. There is no personal legal protection if someone were to sue you. If you were to go this route, you simply need to file a DBA with your local courthouse which costs around $10.

A corporation whether it is an S or C, is a separate entity from the owners. If you go with S, the corporation does not pay income taxes. Everything is passed down to the owners. C corp on the other hand does and the owners are treated like employees where income is passed down by salary or pay. The corporation then itself pays income taxes on anything that isn’t paid to the owners or employees. You however have the personal protection if someone were to sue the company, as long as there isn’t any fraud or negligence. There is some cost associated when becoming a corporation. Filing your taxes can be a little ticker. The last entity, LLC is best for most businesses. The cost is very minimum, around $300 for many states. You can also become an LLC in any state no matter where you are located. That way you can benefit from the most favorable state in regards to legal protection. An LLC isn’t a corporation so there is less paperwork, but it is a separate entity so the owners are personally protected. The great news about an LLC is you can file your taxes however you wish. You can file them as a sole, s corporation, etc. When you are an LLC, everything is separate when it comes to filing your taxes. My recommendation is to form an LLC for most businesses. There isn’t much cost to it, fairly easy to do and gives you legal protection. Simply go to the state’s web site that you want to form it at and fill out the paperwork.

2009 Cyber Monday – sales are up

Posted by: Curtis Stevens on December 1st, 2009

CNN reports that Cyber Monday sales for 2009 are up 14% compared to last year.  This is great news for the economy and retail industry.  The report mentioned that consumers were more excited about shopping online than compared to retail stores on Friday.  The report also mentioned that the average order was up 30% as well.  This is great momentum for ecommerce businesses.  This will also have a direct impact on credit card processing providers. They will see their merchant’s volume up for November & December, which will mean more revenue for them. We can’t wait to see how it turns out. Electronics seem to be a big seller this year, like the Kindle from Amazon. Amazon mentioned last month was the biggest sales ever for the Kindle in its two year history. Another merchant mentioned selling out of the iPhone fairly quickly. The price was about $40 less than 200. There was also over 4 million shoppers a minute according to the report. It peaked at over 5 million around 8:30 CST. This makes complete sense to me as I noticed the grocery store was abnormally empty. I was wondering where everyone was and had the thought that Cyber Monday was playing a role, but this confirms it. I thought most people shopped during the day at work! :)

Go online to boot your business’ revenue

Posted by: Curtis Stevens on November 30th, 2009

Many business owners are successfully going online to increase their company.  One may reach out a specific customer nice, another showcase her work.  Almost all forms of business are taking advantage of the Internet and if not, they are really missing out.  Giving your bottom line a boost requires a focused strategy.  That’s exactly what Terra from The Ribbon Rack did exactly.   She took an idea from a fellow Air Force supervisor, learned the technique and went out and created a web site to sell it.    She did her research on ecommerce web design, including shopping cart integrations and credit card processing service. She used FrontPage to create the site. She didn’t know SEO, so she used Google’s PPC service. She has several full and part-time employees. She didn’t make very much in the beginning, but the business seems to be taking off for her. She did note that the great thing about working from home, is she was able to move the business when her husband had to move to another base. She also stated that getting the web site designed from someone else can be expensive if you do not do enough research. She has known some people to spending $20K for a web site design.

Use exercise to make your ecommerce business successful

Posted by: Curtis Stevens on November 24th, 2009

I was reading an article the other day about the owner of Smooth Fitness, a fitness equipment company and totally agreed with their CEO’s point of view.  The article mentioned he is 51 yrs old, but his body would make a lot of 20 year olds envy of his physique.   He mentioned that he believes fitness is important in creating a successful company.  Being active as a human being has a lot of advantages.  It keeps you focus, mentally alert, in great health and just overall a happier person.  I couldn’t agree more.   I have been running a successful credit card processing company for years and being physically active myself isn’t the main reason for my success, but I do believe it plays a part. I think the biggest impact it has is on your personal life, which will then branch off into your business and how your run your company.  I have been a runner for years and I think it is hard to put in words the feelings and affect you receive from it.  Other people that exercise will know exactly what I’m talking about, it can be addictive.   Similar to how you run your company, you should also run your personal life and health the same way.  Of course, if you have a fitness company, then should obviously be even more important!  If you want your employees to do good, then you must set an example as the CEO or owner of your company.  I can think of a lot of CEO’s of successful companies that actively ex cerise and that should tell you something.

5 ways to increase traffic to your local business

Posted by: Curtis Stevens on November 24th, 2009

Do you have a local retail store and need more business? With the Internet becoming so big and crowded, how do you generate more business for your retail store from the Internet? Here are some things you can do to help. 1. Create a Google local listing. Find your place of business in their map, create a listing and tie your listing to your location on their maps. That way when people do a search on Google for relevant information that pertains to local businesses, yours will show up. 2. Work on your SEO strategy so you do show up when people search for your company or your products/services. You would be surprised how much business you can drive to your local store from the Internet. If you are not able to get much success from SEO, then try pay per click. However, you will need to have credit card processing capabilities on your site. Send out monthly online press releases to get the word out about your online web site. Lastly, create some social media interaction, like a facebook or twitter account. Twitter has been known to be used by a lot of local food carts that only give out their current location for the day by twitter, which is creating a lot of commotion among twitter fans. They are eating it up!

Ecommerce: web design – tables or CSS

Posted by: Curtis Stevens on November 23rd, 2009

Many ecommerce merchants have the dilemma of deciding if they should use tables or CSS to build their web site.  Just like a merchant’s credit card processing system, the web site must be fast and robust as well. Html tables have been used for over a decade now. They are great and easy to understand and build. But they do have their limitations. CSS is something that was born several years back and is a great way to manipulate your website however you wish. Instead of using tables to divide up your web site, you can use CSS to create the site. CSS is basically a style sheet that you reference to within your website. This particular style sheet specifies everything. Color, font, style and even the location of all of your content. So if you wanted a navigation bar on the left hand side, so many pixels wide and so many pixels to the right of the left hand side of the screen, you can do that. Basically everything floats around and CSS tells where everything should be placed, down to the exact pixel. Just like html tables, you can integrate your website with your shopping cart as well, it will not be any harder than html tables.

Ecommerce web sites: keep the loading time to lightning fast

Posted by: Curtis Stevens on November 23rd, 2009

Did you know you have about two seconds to get your web site loaded before a shopper will generally get frustrated before leaving your site?  Granted, this applies to shoppers on a high speed connection, which is most of the population these days.  In 3 seconds, almost half of all shoppers will abandon the site completely according to a recent survey.   The study was based on over 1,000 shoppers and was conducted in July of this year to aim at measuring how customer’s experience have changed during the past few years.  I think you can blame a lot of this on Google.  Google’s site is so fast and quick to load (granted there isn’t much to load) that it has created those expectations among society.

How do you make this happen?  For starters, you need a web hosting company that providers very fast hosting services.  Two, you need a well designed site that isn’t extremely large in size.  Third, you need a shopping cart system that is robust, reliable and operates really fast.  Fourth, you will need a credit card processing gateway that is just as fast as everything else, like the service.  Finally, you will need a high speed connection yourself to test everything out.  If you do not already have one, you should as I can’t see how any business could operate today on a slow dial up connection.   With satellite services, everyone can have high speed Internet.

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