Ecommerce business & gift cards, is it a good match
Posted by: Curtis Stevens on November 24th, 2009

Every business should be offering gift cards, even if you are an ecommerce store.  Take for example, they are offering gift cards.  Gift cards is big business today.  About 70% of consumers purchase gift cards.  It allows them to give money to the recipient in a way that is perceived better by society, in the form of gift cards.  Also, consumers seem to really like to give and receive gift cards.  What would you rather receive, cold hard cash or a gift card to your favorite retailer?  Ecommerce merchants shouldn’t over look this opportunity.  Just because you do not have a store to walk into, doesn’t mean you can’t offer gift cards.

Your customer base is a great place to start to market the product.  This includes all current and previous customers that have ordered from you.  Most consumers like to spread the word about companies they really like and enjoy their products.  Gift cards is one way to do that.  If you are an ecommerce merchant, then you can get setup with gift card processing generally through your credit card processing company as many also provide this service to their merchants as they have partnered with a gift card company.  It may be too late to consider this for this holiday season, but definitely look into it for next year.

Salvation Army going electronic
Posted by: Curtis Stevens on November 24th, 2009

Some of the Salvation Army donation locations have gone electronic and added credit card processing capabilities to their offerings.  Consumers can now donate with their credit card.  I’m not sure if I agree with this logic.  I think many consumers would give more than they can really afford as they can simply charge it.  I understand many consumers do not carry around a lot of cash these days, but I know many consumers do not have self control when it comes to plastic as it can feel like a magic card at times.  Also, your money will simply not go as far as the Salvation Army has to pay to process the credit cards.  So instead of giving around 97% of your money to the organization, why not give cash and be able to give 100%?  You are giving a percentage or two of your money to the banks when you use a credit card.  My other concern would be theft.  What would stop a volunteer from setting up a merchant account and replacing the current machine with their own that would deposit the funds into their own checking account?  I know this wouldn’t be very likely, but it does raise the question.  Where there is a will, scamsters find a way.

Ecommerce merchants & their questionable marketing tactics
Posted by: Curtis Stevens on November 24th, 2009

There has been a recent report released that says the US government has been investigating a few ecommerce merchants and their affiliate with a few marketing companies.  Companies such as Priceline, FT & Orbitz have been mentioned in the report.  These companies and many others have partnered with some marketing firms that are misleading the customers according to the report.   There are supposedly thousands of complaints over the years about consumers finding mysterious charges appearing on their credit card.  What is happening is this.  After a consumer makes a purchase and enters their credit card processing information, they are taken to a page thanking them for the order. On this page, there is a button that says save $10 on this very purchase. When the customer clicks that button and fills out the appropriate forms, they are unknowingly signing up for a membership service from the marketing company. There is some information, but it is generally in fine print at the bottom.

I have personally made purchases from some online merchants that have used this very tactic. I quickly found out what it was all about by looking at the entire offer and seeing what the fine print says and that you are signing up for someone else’s services. But I can see how a lot of consumers do not read it, sign up thinking they will simply save $10 and that’s it. But then find out there are other charges on their credit card until they cancel the service. My advice: read before you sign!

Ecommerce & cyber Monday
Posted by: Curtis Stevens on November 24th, 2009

If you have an ecommerce business, then the Monday following thanksgiving is your black Friday, also known as Cyber Monday.  Black Friday is mostly for retail stores as consumers flock to buy exceptionally low priced deals.  As the weekend dies down, many shoppers go onto the web to make purchases on company time that following Monday, which is generally the biggest day for ecommerce businesses.  So what should you do?  For one, make sure your web site and everything is safe!  Getting hacked can place a lot of damage onto your company.  Make sure your passwords to your server that hosts your website is a long, very complex password that is very difficult to breach.  Next, make sure your shopping cart and credit card processing system is up to date with the latest patches. Lastly, check to make sure your own personal computer is update to date. That means any software updates for your operating system, anti-virus and firewall. If you do not have either one of those, go get one now! Lastly, keep an eye on your web site during the day on Monday so you can catch any glitches relatively quickly and resolve them asap.

GAO releases report on Interchange fee report
Posted by: Curtis Stevens on November 23rd, 2009

I see that the GAO released a report saying if congress regulated or placed a cap on Interchange fees, it would benefit consumers and urges them to act. I have a feeling we are getting very close to some type of regulation in the credit card processing industry. Is anyone else worried? As long as our position in this business isn’t affected, I wouldn’t care that much really, but that is the concern. Whenever the government gets involved with anything, it never turns out for the better. Politics & business do not mix! I hope V/MC are not too cocky on this topic and consider stop raising rates for a year or two and maybe lower some to ease the whole tension among the industry and merchants.

This is the one time I hope all the lobbyist the banks have in congress come through & block any regulation…

eBay was down on Saturday
Posted by: Curtis Stevens on November 23rd, 2009

The popular eBay site was recently found broken and not operational.    Thousands of shoppers found the site down on Saturday saying the search they entered wasn’t about to run.  Thankfully, weekend sales are generally relatively small compared to during the week.  But there are thousands of businesses and merchants that rely on eBay to generate them their business.  There are some that sale exclusively on eBay and this down time may reflect in their sales for the month.  This would also mean that Paypal’s credit card processing service through the site wasn’t operational either. The last update from eBay was at 6:28 PM EST saying that due to errors in some of their backend systems, members may be receiving error messages. eBay recommends using their advanced search option as a work around until the issue is resolved. This is no doubt something that will be talked about among the many merchants that sell on eBay and how much it has affected them. Hopefully, most merchants will not see much of an impact.

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.

Blogging and ecommerce
Posted by: Curtis Stevens on November 23rd, 2009

Have you ever wondered if your business should have a blog?  For many businesses today, it can be critical for them to reach a certain level, to have a blog for their company.  Social media is big business with many consumers today.  Depending on your targeted market, this may be a big piece of your business.  If so, then  you should be all over the social media space.  Take merchants like that has a blog, several in fact.  It helps create those connections with your customers.  Blogs can also be a great way to spread the word about your company and its new products.  Blog posts also seem to be indexed by the search engines fairly quickly and rank much higher because of its fresh and relevant content.  I reviewed a shopping cart a few days ago that integrates with blogs and social media sites.  So if you wanted to focus on selling your new products on your blog, you could integrate their shopping cart into your blog.  It also has integrated credit card processing that would allow to you accept credit cards without ever leaving the blog page.  In summary, if your business’ main market is the general public, then you should definitely have a blog.  Look at it this way, after giving it 6 to 12 months, if you haven’t received positive results, what have you lost besides some time and energy?

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