Ecommerce merchants, get ready for the holiday season
Posted by: Curtis Stevens on November 19th, 2009

Are you an ecommerce merchant that is ready for the holiday sales season?  It is just around the corner and consumers are shopping earlier these days, way before thanksgiving.  Here are some ways to spice up your site and increase your sales.  Add some holiday cheer to your web site.  Use some holiday graphics that makes your web site look like the season.  Shoppers love great shipping deals, especially free ones.  Be sure whatever shipping deal you are having, the customer easily knows about it by promptly displaying this information on the site.  Do know if you do not charge for shipping, one good thing will be is your total sales amount will be less, which would mean you pay less in credit card processing fees! Gift cards is a huge business, be sure to offer them even if you are not a retail merchant. Be generous when it comes to return policies around the holiday time. Most big merchants give 30 days after December 31, as the recipient will not have the gift until the end of Dec. This will also help you keep your chargebacks to a minimum, which will also reduce the fees you pay in that area as well. Contests are another way to increase sales, people like a chance to win something big.

All I want for Christmas is my credit card fees to be capped says the merchant
Posted by: Curtis Stevens on November 19th, 2009

A local owner of a furniture store is saying all the credit card processing fees he is paying can be burdensome.  With the holidays around the corner, issuers may increase Interchange shortly, which will add to their costs.   The owner said they simply want to keep the rates at a reasonable level, which is acceptable.  The issue is where do you draw that line of being not reasonable?  Many merchants claim that they must pass down these costs to the consumers.  My question for them is how do you calculate every other business expense?  Nothing else is as set as compared to credit card fees as they are charged on a per transaction bases.  Take your utilities, rent, insurance, etc.  What about all those fees, are you not theoretically passing those fees along?  Business is just that.  Businesses must make a profit and regardless of what their total overall cost are to run their business, they will price their products accordingly.  It doesn’t matter where all the expenses come from.  It is simply easy to single out Interchange as it is the only expense that is occurred on almost every dollar brought in.

A record month for an ISO office
Posted by: Curtis Stevens on November 19th, 2009

MerchantWarehouse, a registered ISO as a credit card processing service provider, had a record month in October for the number of new applications they boarded. The amount was over 3,000, which is a lot of new customers to bring on board in a single month. I personally didn’t know MWH was that large of an ISO and was impressed by the numbers. I’m also happy for them for the accomplishment as that is no easy achievement. hopes to become a 1/10 of that size one day, but is still currently a smaller company. I believe the advantage to that is you can focus on the level of personal service and attention your merchants receive. Once you become a certain size, it is a more difficult task. They stated that their new accounts came from three difference sources, in-house sales, other agents and value added resellers or affiliates. I personally understand the importance to have great affiliates that send you business. As a business model, you can’t rely on a single source or two for new customers. If that source were ever to disappear, then your company’s future could be in jeopardy.

Amazon having issues with the states on sales tax collection
Posted by: Curtis Stevens on November 19th, 2009

Amazon is having issues with a few states when it comes to collecting sales tax.  Since they are selling on the Internet, you now have interstate commerce.  Many ecommerce merchants find themselves with this dilemma and issue to work out.  Which states do you collect sales tax from?  Only from the states you operate in, such as warehouses, operations, etc?  Or do you only worry about the state where you are headquartered and doesn’t matter if you have some fulfillment center in another state.  Another thing you must consider, is you will also pay credit card processing charges on the sales tax amount as well, but that doesn’t amount to much unless your volume is huge. They say state and local governments lose more than 7 billion in revenue each year because of the 1992 courts decision that states the merchant must have a physical presence in the customer’s state.

I personally think it would be a bad idea if this were ever to be overturned. I think consumers would think twice about buying as much online. That has always been a big selling point, no sales tax and a big convenience of ordering without ever leaving your house. If this were to change, it would definitely change the landscape some.

Don’t mess with women when it comes to business
Posted by: Curtis Stevens on November 18th, 2009

Women are becoming a big key player in business.    During the course of the year, women owned businesses are generating around $3 trillion in revenue and employ 16% of the workforce.  I think it is great that women are starting to become  a big part to the entrepreneur industry.  As with men, women bring a unique perspective and view to the table.  The way they think and consider can be totally separate from men.  While this can be good, there are some possible downsides.  But that can also be said with men.  That is why it is important to have both females and males at the top of an organization.  That way you can draw the best things from both counterparts.

One thing I have noticed when talking to merchants is women seem to ask more questions, especially about the credit card processing fees. This can be very important as the industry as a whole is very fee oriented and if one doesn’t ask questions and fully understand what they are getting into, they could possibly find themselves in a pickle  This is a big plus in women’s favor.

Is it a good idea to be the first franchisee of a new franchise
Posted by: Curtis Stevens on November 18th, 2009

Being a franchisee is general is a completely different topic in itself.  But what about the idea of being the first franchisee of a new franchise system.  Susan, an owner of seven Batteries Plus gives us their experience.  She said being the first has its advantages and disadvantages.  One big plus is open territories.  The big downside I would think could be support and experience since the business hasn’t ever been in the franchise arena which is a whole ball game all together.  One of the important things to figure out would be who will be handling the store’s credit card processing service. Like many franchises, they require or highly encourage franchisees to use the company corporate is working with. Susan did say that you must have a good feeling about the owners, their drive to grow the franchise and support you every way possible. Don’t forget, you have the Internet and all of its resources at your fingertips. Something that wasn’t available for them back when they started in 1992.

How to make a micro-payment business work online
Posted by: Curtis Stevens on November 18th, 2009

Micro payments are becoming big business for online merchants.  Simply take a look at what Apple has done with MP3 downloads for a dollar.  When a merchant sells something and is only charging a dollar, there is very little wiggle room to cover your expenses.  One big expense can be the credit card processing fees.  A buck isn’t much to work with.  Even if you are dealing with Interchange only, you are looking at a minimum of 10 to 16 cents per transaction plus 2 to 3% of the transaction, which the % doesn’t amount to more than 3 pennies.

When getting a merchant account, the per transaction fee would be most important.  You will incur a transaction fee from them plus the gateway service, which I assume you will be using to collect the credit card data through a web site.  The hard cost per transaction with most gateways is 5 cents.  You are now looking at a transaction fee from your merchant provider.  They must cover their costs from the processor and have a little left over for their own profit.  Because technology keeps improving and overall costs continues to go down, processor’s fees for authorization and settlement have continued to decline over the years.  It is very well possible to get a transaction fee of 10 cents or less including AVS.  Depending upon your volume, it could be several pennies less.  One thing a merchant can do to help alleviate this expense is to have the customer prepay for so many units, downloads or whatever it is you are selling.  For example, if you are selling MP3 downloads, then sell them in groups of 25 for $25 instead of 25 individual $1 transactions.

Stop customers from leaving your ecommerce store
Posted by: Curtis Stevens on November 18th, 2009

Are you having a low conversion rate and too many of your shoppers seem to be leaving your store without buying anything? Here are some tips on what you can do to minimize it.  Don’t require registration.  Look at many of your huge online retailers like  Follow their lead as what they are doing seems to work or they wouldn’t become as big as they are.   Write your product descriptions for humans and not for SEO.  Be careful with too many out of stock items, many times people want to buy today and do not want to wait for you to receive new inventory before shipping.   Have a nice clean homepage that is focused and organized, like which has done a lovely job.  If your shopping cart can handle it, provide an estimated arrival date.  This will provide your users with useful information if they are anxious to receive their purchase.  Offer many payment options, such as credit card processing and possibly Paypal and/or Google Checkout. Don’t change negative reviews. If all you have are positive reviews on all of your products, this will look suspicious. Even the best products will have some negative reviews as you simply cannot please every customer, it isn’t possible. Do not display advertising on your site, like Adwords. There are so many reasons not to, like it is unprofessional. Lastly, make it easy for your customers to contact you with any questions, issues or concerns.

Cartfly review
Posted by: Curtis Stevens on November 18th, 2009

Cartfly is another shopping cart I’m reviewing today.  Cartfly is an ecommerce shopping cart tailored to the mini stores that use social media network sites, blogs and personal web sites.  It is being used on over 8,000 sites.   Instead of luring customers to your web site, this cart allows you to come where the customers are.  This can be useful since social media is a hot topic these days.  The cost is free to setup and are charged 3% transaction fee when something is sold.  The price isn’t too high, about what it costs for credit card processing services, which you would still need. Their big advantage is it works with social media sites, which most carts do not. Their big disadvantage is it can be a basic feature set.  They can also work with Facebook, twitter and myspace, bring business to a whole new market.

Posted by: Curtis Stevens on November 18th, 2009

Today, I will be talking about an ecommerce merchant  The web site was launched in 2000, almost a decade ago.  As you can tell by the name, it is a Christmas store.  When they started the site, they were thinking it would actually be a beginning to opening a retail location but that never worked out as the ecommerce site keeps them busy enough.  I would say the size of this company is still small.  They have around 2,500 SKUs and very seasonal, but can be a very profitable business.  They are expecting to hit $500,000 this year.  Personally, I’m surprised by this as I do not think the web site is very professional.  I also wonder if they had someone redesigned their site, would their sales double or even triple?  They started off using Yahoo as their shopping cart system and still use them today.  The big downside to Yahoo is they are only compatible with one particular credit card processing platform, First Data Nashville. This limits the merchant’s choices when it comes to selecting a merchant account provider. One good thing is they do not outsource their ordering management system. They do it themselves and use Quickbooks to manage their finances.

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