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5 Tips for Effective Calls to Action

What is a Call to Action?

A Call to Action, or CTA, is a link or button designed to catch the shopper’s eye, in an effort to get them to click on it. The action is designed to benefit the site owner and/or the revenue of the business. The most common example of this is a “Buy Now” button.

Here are some tips that will make your CTAs more effective, and will help you increase your revenue.

Use a Button

In this blog, you’ll notice “link” and “button” used interchangeably. That’s because a button can be a link, but a link is not necessarily a button. A plain text link is not nearly as effective as one that’s in the form of a button. So, be sure to use a Buy Button to close your sale, and use buttons wherever else you’d like to draw customers’ attention.

Create a Sense of Urgency

When customers feel that they only have a limited amount of time to seize an opportunity, they’re often more inclined to make the purchase. For example, if you have certain merchandise that you’re trying to move, a “Buy Now—Sale Runs Until Midnight Only” message will be more effective than the generic “Buy Now” link.

Keep the CTA “Above the Fold”

“The Fold” defines the point of a webpage where a visitor would have to scroll down to look further. Casual shoppers may never scroll down to see more, so you may have the greatest CTA in the world, but it won’t be effective if customers don’t see it, and you’ll lose out on sales. Instead, grab the attention of your shoppers by keeping it above the fold, so it will be seen by all.

Hero Images Make Great CTAs

Hero Images can be used as massive CTAs. A hero image is a large banner image, placed prominently on a webpage. This study shows that the first image seen, often the hero image—assuming the site is designed in this manner—receive 84% of all clicks.

Take advantage of these attention-grabbing images by linking them to a product or category of products within your webstore.

Try out Different Colors

There’s no single color that works best. That’s because the effectiveness will often depend on how it coincides with the look of your site, and every site is different. So, try different colors, and be sure to record the results. Eventually, you’ll see what color CTAs work best for you, and will be able to capitalize on the increased conversions.

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In other news

5 Tips to Help your 2016 Small Business Resolutions

Define your Goals

Saying you want to make a million dollars in 2016 is great. But how are you going to get there? Surely you don’t expect to something to happen differently this year without doing something different; that’s the definition of insanity.

So, define how you’re going to achieve that goal. Saying, “I’m going to increase my annual revenue to one million dollars by focusing on my marketing and social media efforts” is a much more realistic goal than, “I’m going to make a million dollars in 2016.”

Break Big Goals into Small Goals

Following this advice makes any task much easier to tackle. If we’re staying with the above example, you’d need to make $250K per quarter in order to hit a million dollars of annual revenue, so it also defines checkpoints to help you keep up with your goals. If you make $200K in one quarter, you know you’d need to make $300K the next to make up for not hitting your target. Striving to reach smaller goals along the way will make hitting your primary, bigger goals, that much easier.

Use Apps to your Advantage

You don’t have to do it all yourself. There are plenty of applications out there designed to help the business owner reach his or her targets. There are apps for time management, customer support, communication with customers, and even to help you schedule tweets and Facebook posts, if engagement in social media is one of your 2016 focuses. You’ll find that most of these applications are very affordable, and some are even free.

Strive for Consistency

Along the lines of the three above points, making changes is never easy, so start one step at a time, and get results from your efforts by turning them into habits. In order to stick with your 2016 resolutions, you’ll have to dedicate a litte bit of time to them every day.

If your goal is to turn your customers into a community, then that means tweeting every day, and doing so during time of high Internet traffic. Going back to point three, there are low-cost applications that can help you make posting to Twitter and/or Facebook a habit, like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck.

Make it a Team Effort

All goals are made easier by support from those around you. This can mean hiring new staff dedicated to accomplishing your goals to literally join your team. However, not everyone necessarily has the budget, or the complete need, for that.

There are free resources that can help you accomplish your goal as well. There are plenty of entrepreneurs just like you that are trying to grow their business. Try joining them in a community forum, and see what crowdsourcing can do to help you hit your 2016 resolutions!

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5 Tips for Photographing Clothing for Ecommerce

We’ve already given you tips on do it yourself product photography. However, certain products represent specific challenges. Taking clean, gleaming images of clothing is especially important if you’re in that industry, since customers will have to picture themselves in these items, and want to look good. Follow these tips and take amazing product photos every time.

Prepare the Clothing

Even though the garment might be brand new, it might not be in the best condition. It can become wrinkled, dirty, or even damaged in storage/shipping. Make sure the merchandise is in pristine by cleaning and ironing it beforehand. Remember, your sale is won or lost on these pictures.

Provide Multiple Angles

Show different angles, viewpoints and elements of your goods. Remember, you’re selling online. Your customers don’t have the option to hold and feel and get comfortable with the item they’re about to buy. So do your best to recreate that in-store feeling by providing big, beautiful images of your goods. Provide 360 degrees worth of angles or, even better make it a gif.

Use a Mannequin or Live Model

If you were shopping, what would look more attractive? A lifeless shirt lying on some background? Or a shirt on a mannequin or model? Not only does a mannequin/model give the shirt the appearance it will actually have when worn, if you’re using a model, it gives a more personal feel to it.

In the clothing industry, getting that item off the lifeless backdrop is essential to success. Look at the two shirts above. Which one would you rather buy?

Check your Lighting

You don’t want to give a gloomy representation of your product. Make sure you have enough light to give a bright and accurate portrayal of the clothing’s color. In short, bright lighting should be a priority when you’re taking these pictures.

You may want to consider buying or renting a lighting kit for these reasons. If you’re relying on natural lighting or a lit room, you’ll want to play around by shooting at different times and angles. If you’re using a higher end camera, there are different settings with ISO you can use. We won’t go into too much detail on ISO here, but if this applies to you, make sure you’re using the right settings.

Photoshop When Necessary

Photoshopping an image is a great way to clean up your product and make minor edits. A shadow here, a piece of dog fur you didn’t notice, there. However, do not rely too much on this kind of software. Photoshopping should be used when your image is about 99% of the way there, and you just need to touch it up to take it across the finish line.

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5 Ways to Increase Your Average Order Value

In the holiday rush, if you can get your customers to spend just a little bit more per order, it will make a big difference on your bottom line. Of course, they won’t just do it themselves, you’ve got to incentive them to spend a little more, without taking a loss yourself. Follow these tips and watch the holiday season be extra good to you this year.

Set a Free Shipping Threshold

“Free” is a word all shoppers love to see. For example, if you offer free shipping for orders $100 and up, most shoppers who are a few dollars short will by an extra item to hit that threshold. This is one of the easiest and time-tested ways to increase your average order value.

Include Limited Time Offer

Shoppers will procrastinate. Without a rush, they’ll mill about your site, maybe click buy, maybe wait because they aren’t quite sure if they want that little something. On a 30% off sale—or whatever figure you come up with—always include that the discount is for a limited time. That will get the procrastinators to click “buy” while they’re on your site, instead of hoping they come back later.

Package deals

A combination deal—pairing related items together at a discount from buying them separately—is a great way to incentivize your customers to spend a little bit more. If we’re using clothing as an example, you can offer an entire outfit for $60 to go with a shirt that may cost $45. Many customers will see the value there and buy the whole set.

Upsell

When executed correctly, upselling is a great way to bump up the total order volume. If a customer is looking at a camera, and you sell a version that also includes a function to shoot video, display that higher end model to the side. You never know, the customer might be willing to spend the extra hundred dollars to get the added function. Be careful with this advice though; don’t overdo it and just advertise more expensive goods willy nilly with every item a customer clicks on.

Offer Discounts on Minimum Purchases

If you’re running a sale, consider making your customers his a certain dollar amount before getting the benefits of the discount. You can even tier the discounts to different amounts, say 20% off all orders $25 or more, and 35% for orders $50 or more. If a customers is close to hitting that target, he or she will likely spend a little more to get that discount.

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How to Increase Your Ecommerce Conversion Rate

Include an FAQ Section

Shoppers may hesitate to click “buy” based off of very simple questions they have. “What’s your return policy?” or “Do you accept Visa Gift Cards?” The customer might intend to track down an email and reach out for these answers, but you’re risking losing the sale if they have a second thought, or just plain forget to reach out.

Minimize the loss of these shoppers by nipping these questions in the bud. Provide an FAQ with answers to these types of questions. Make them specific to your business—if you find yourself getting emailed by multiple customers with the same question, this is the perfect kind of question you should have answered on your site.

Provide a Point of Contact

You’re never going to have all of customers’ questions answered on an FAQ. In fact, you shouldn’t even try; they’re called frequently asked questions for a reason. Instead, include a “contact us” page on your site where customers can easily reach out to you if they can’t find what they’re looking for on your website.

Keep in mind, every email you get might not necessarily be a question or criticism. They may include notes from delighted customers that you’ll absolutely want to share as part of your marketing campaign.

Make sure the person responding to these emails is friendly, informed and ready to help. A rude or inept response is a great way to turn a customer off for life. Also, include the contact info. on multiple aspects of your site. You’ll want an actual “Contact Us” page, but link to the contact somewhere in your FAQ page as well.

Integrate Live Chat

Live chats incorporate the best aspects of a point of contact and an FAQ page. Customers can direct their questions right to a chat monitor, who will provide instant answers. This is a great way to seal the deal if a customer is on the edge of clicking that “Buy” button.

Integrating live chat into your website isn’t as expensive as you may think. There are plenty of different providers to go with, and the service can cost as low as $15/month. Get a leg up on the competition by having a customer support/sales representative ready to offer instant help to your customers.

Include Product Videos

You’re selling online, so you’re going to lose some of that in-store experience. Even after they click the buy button, customers are always going to have a little bit of trepidation until the product arrives on their doorstep and they can hold it with their own two hands.

Do your best to mitigate these fears by including product videos. Depending on what you’re selling, these videos can be anywhere from detailed “How-tos,” to a simple 360-degree shot of the product that gives customers a better look than a simple photo would.

Offer a Money Back Guarantee

Without a physical store to come back to and physically return the product, worry about returns is always going to be a primary issue with ecommerce shoppers. Again, your customers don’t have that in-store experience to hold and feel the item, so they’re always going to be a little worried that the item is not as advertised.

Offer a money back guarantee, and respect it. Then, SCREAM IT FROM THE MOUNTAINTOPS—include it in your FAQ, product descriptions, make sure anyone operating the live chat knows about it, wherever it’s appropriate.

Trust us, the cons of the occasional jerk who returns something just because are greatly outweighed by the pros of eliminating your customers’ fears. Let them know that their money is basically loaned to you until they get the product as expected.

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5 Tips for Do-it-Yourself Product Photography

Whether it’s family photos or professional head shots, do-it-yourself photography is all the rage lately. We all have and HD camera in our pocket, so why not? No disrespect to the professionals—they’ll always give you the best photos—but if you follow these tips you can get high-quality shots that will definitely fit in your budget.

Try out your Smart Phone Camera Fist

Obviously the first thing you’ll need to take a picture is a camera. But before you go out and spend hundreds of dollars on a name-brand, HD device, see how you like the camera on your phone. Take a look at the picture below, and you can see there may be little-to-no difference in the quality of the photo between a high-end camera and an iPhone.

If you like what you see from your phone’s camera, you can save yourself a lot of money by going that route.

Buy a Tripod

Even if you’re using a smartphone, you’ll want to invest in a tripod. Even the steadiest hands are hard-pressed to capture the perfect image, and there are even tripods that are designed specifically for camera phones. You can get a decent tripod for as low as $20, so it’s well worth the low-end investment here.

Setup on a White Backdrop

Often, shoots like these are done in front of a white backdrop. You can create a simple, inexpensive “do-it-yourself” method that will give you that professional look with just some craft paper and metal clamps.

If you’re going that route, roll the paper down a long and wide table, and use the clamps to attach the paper to something a few feet above the table. This will provide a smooth, clean base for your to shoot your product photo.

If you’re going the natural lighting route, do this in a big, open room with lots of windows. If you’re using purchased photography lights, you’ll want a darker room.

Use a Mannequin or a Model

If you were shopping, what would look more attractive? A lifeless shirt lying on some background? Or a shirt on a mannequin or model? Not only does a mannequin/model give the shirt the appearance it will actually have when worn, if you’re using a model, it gives a more personal feel to it.

If you’re in the clothing/fashion/accessory industry, getting that item off the lifeless backdrop is definitely the way to go. Look at the two shirts below. Which one would you rather buy?

Pay Attention to the Details

Avoid hard backlighting that will cast shadows on the surface of the object. Keep your lights or lighting on the same side as your camera, or slightly off to the side.

Also, be sure to check your photos as you take them. You don’t want to do all the work only to realize an ugly fingerprint on your lens ruined all your images. Using a digital camera makes checking your pictures as you go along simple, and will help you avoid the pain of retaking all those images.

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Black Friday Emails That Boost Sales

Another Black Friday is just around the corner and—likely—another record-breaking holiday sales season will come with it. Email campaigns are a proven way to effectively announce sales and boost profits. But what should you send? Take a look below for some ideas to use for the holiday season.

The Sale Announcement Email

We’ll start with the simple one first: Make sure your customers know you’re having a sale, and what it is, because you can bet your competitors will. Keep it simple. Everyone loves sales, so you’re subject header can just be “50% off Everything!” It will almost guarantee you that shoppers will at least open the email to find out more.

The Free Gift Email

Everyone loves free right? Including a free gift if customers hit a certain dollar amount is a great way to boost the average sale amount. If a customer has spent $90 and are $10 away from earning a free gift, they’ll likely spend that extra ten dollars to hit the target.

Again, the subject can be simple. “Free” will almost always get someone interested. You can also spin this so it doesn’t seem so salesy, and being that Black Friday is around Thanksgiving, in the body of the email you can include something along the lines of “Our way of saying thanks,” or “Our way of giving back during the holiday season.”

The Extended Sale Email

Black Friday sales don’t have to end on Fridays. If you’re in ecommerce—and you’re reading this blog so I’m assuming you are—the sale can last all the way to Cyber Monday. Last year, retailers brought in over $2 billion on the Monday after Black Friday.

Not everyone gets around to shopping on Black Friday. They may have missed the boat and will jump out of their seats when they see your “Extended 40% Sale off EVERYTHING” email.

The Black Friday Giveaway

This is a similar to philosophy to the “Free Gift” email—people love free stuff and rewards. Giveaways and contests are a great way to inject more life into your sales than those of your competitors.

The terms of the giveaway or sale will be up to you. One common strategy is to offer your customers a chance to win a gift to your site for every purchase they make. Or, you can guarantee a small prize—say a $5 gift card— for any purchase, with a chance to win the Grand Prize, such as a $1K gift card.

The Humor Email

You know what people like almost as much as free stuff? Funny jokes. Announcing your sale in a way that J.Crew did last year is a great way to get a leg up on competitors and their potentially similar sales.

You can also include a jokes specific to your business or industry. For example, if you’re in the clothing business, a post-Thanksgiving email featuring your stretchy pants might not be a bad idea.

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In other news

The Future of Spree Open Source Software

There have been a lot of questions and speculation regarding the future of the Spree OSS project. Please understand that our acquisition occurred as First Data was preparing for its IPO and there were significant restrictions on what we were able to discuss publicly during that time. Now that the IPO is behind us we can resume our public conversation with the community.

What is Happening to Wombat?

Our Wombat product is being discontinued as of March 31, 2016. It’s been a privilege to help and watch our Wombat customers grow over the years. We are working closely with our customers to ensure an orderly transition. Wombat is a closed source product and so the source code will remain private and closed source. The integrations for Wombat, however, have always been open source. They will remain open source even though we will not be maintaining these integrations going forward.

What about the Website and Demo?

We have made several changes to the Spree website. We’ve removed the references to Wombat and we’ve discontinued the “sandbox” demos where you can try out a hosted version of Spree without installing it locally. The sandbox takes quite a bit of time and resources to maintain – especially keeping it up to date with the latest version. Developers interested in the open source software can still try it out easily enough – just clone it from Github like you would any other project.

We’ve also disabled the extensions directory. The directory contents are quite out of date these days and it requires time and energy to curate everything in there. Unfortunately there aren’t enough volunteers who want to spend time on such a thankless task.

Will we Continue to Support Open Source Software in general, and the Spree Project in particular?

Our team continues to be interested in both using and supporting open source software. You can expect to see us continue to contribute to both new and existing open source projects going forward.

We will be spending significantly less time as a company on the Spree project. Several of our employees remain personally interested in the Spree OSS project, but as a company we can no longer dedicate significant resources to this effort. This means that you can expect a decline in contributions from employees who were previously being paid to work on open source as part of their day job.

What about a Foundation?

We’ve also heard people asking about the possibility of setting up a foundation. It’s unclear how this would resolve the lack of a strong core team with a unified vision. A proper foundation (see Drupal or Linux) requires significant legal and administrative expenses. More importantly it requires a dedicated group of volunteers to run it. Spree needs a new group of core contributors that are willing to volunteer a large amount of time to help maintain it. A foundation won’t help us to achieve that – it will actually be counterproductive since it will just add to the overhead needed to run the project.

Who will Contribute to Spree going Forward?

Like any successful open source project, Spree requires a continuous supply of new contributors. There are, however, some unique challenges in the case of the Spree which is somewhat of a niche framework. It appeals to Ruby developers who are interested in ecommerce. That’s actually a pretty small universe of people, especially when you factor out everyone who is doing ecommerce for just a single project and then moving on to something else. It’s much easier to form an active core team for a project like Rails since it’s a generic framework that can be used by a much larger universe of developers (people interested in web applications).

In addition, as the Spree software has matured over the years, many stores that use our software have “locked in” on a particular version of the software. This tends to result in short bursts of contributions by initial adopters followed by long periods of inactivity.

As a result, over time our community has generated a lot of developers who are incredibly interested in the future of Spree but they also have a very specific vision for how Spree should move forward. In many cases, this vision is at odds with what other developers need for their specific projects. For instance, developers working on legacy installations are not always interested in adding new features to Spree. They may be more focused on improvements in performance and keeping up to date with security enhancements.

What’s the Deal with Solidus?

Solidus is a fork of the Spree project. The contributors are primarily developers from Bonobos as well as a consulting company that has done work for Bonobos and other Spree customers in the past. The developers behind this project have a lot invested in a specific version of Spree and they’re working to improve performance and making other subtle improvements. If you’re looking to work on a very stable version of Spree and you’re comfortable with locking in on the version that Bonobos is using, then this might be a good option for you.

Spree Needs a Strong Core Team with a Unified Vision

Spree needs a new core team of dedicated contributors. That’s easier said than done. Our experience over the past several years is that for every ten people who say they want to contribute – only one of them actually follows up with a meaningful level of contribution. That number gets even smaller over time since most contributors tend to drift off to other projects within twelve months.

An even bigger challenge is to get a sufficient level of core contributors that agree on the future direction of Spree. We attempted to do this last year when we convened an in person “summit” with several of the key contributors and users. There was a lot of agreement on the types of things that needed to be done but very little agreement on the best path to achieve them. The biggest problem was that everyone was pretty much locked into a specific version of Spree and they only wanted to change what was needed for their specific agenda. This culiminated in the Bonobos and Freerunning guys deciding to create their own fork of Spree. That’s not a bad thing – developers need to focus on their own problems first and foremost.

What’s Next?

All software projects have a shelf life. The first Spree commit was made over eight years ago when Rails was in its infancy. Since that time there have been over 15,000 commits by over 700 different contributors. If you take a look at other popular Ruby libraries from 2007 you’d be hard pressed to find one that remains relevant today. The fact that Spree has remained a popular open source project for such a long time is a testament to the efforts of all of us working together to constantly improve the code. We have done all of this while trying our best to maintain backwards compatibility for our existing users.

We’re going to leave it up to the community to decide how to proceed. Our users need to decide if they want to continue forward with the current Spree codebase, use the Solidus project, or perhaps start another fork using a completely new approach. If we’re presented with a credible plan to maintain the project long term, then we’ll gladly turn over the keys. In the absence of such a plan, however, the project will naturally move it into “maintenance mode” and something new will eventually take its place.

It’s been a privilege building Spree together with you for the past eight years. Over that time we have learned from each other, empowered our customers, started numerous companies and forged lifelong friendships. Regardless of what happens next – we should all be proud of the great work we’ve done together.

In other news

How to Make Marketing Emails Work for You

Marketing emails can be a great tool to boost sales. But to do so, you have to do it right. What do I say to my customers? And just as importantly, when do I say it and how often? These tips will make sure you’re emailing the right way, and will help you take your business to the next level.

Content and Relevance:

This isn’t Lord of the Rings and one email does not rule them all. In other words, what’s relevant to some customers won’t connect with others. For example, if you sell clothing, sending your male customers a coupon for a sale on ladies’ underwear is not going to get you very far. Worse yet, it might make the impression that your store specializes in women’s apparel and have your male customers looking elsewhere.

Tracking your customer information, such as gender and age, will help you send targeted emails, which will in turn increase your open rate. Tracking sales information will help you target as well. The above example was pretty simple, but what about a business that doesn’t make it as easy as splitting up your customers into a 50/50 (emails for males, emails for females) group?

If you sell a wide variety of items, such as pet supplies, it would make sense to track customers’ sales. If Susan has spent a year buying nothing but cat toys, would it make sense to send her information on a sale for all goldfish products? Probably not.

Keep in mind, there are times when it makes sense for you to send customers information about stuff they don’t typically buy. Keep this in mind for the holidays, when customers aren’t necessarily shopping for themselves. Speaking of appropriate times…

Timeliness:

When to send an email is just as important as what to send. The sooner you send an order confirmation, the better. The longer the customer goes without receiving that confirmation, the more apprehensive he or she will be that something went wrong with the process.

Likewise, a shipment confirmation will also placate any fears that the order is NOT on the way. With the confirmation, include a realistic time that the customer can expect to receive the package, such as 3-5 business days.

Lastly, an email asking the customer how he/she likes the product is a nice way to wrap up the sale. It shows that you care that your customers receive their products as they wanted, when they wanted. Schedule this for a couple of days after the long end of your confirmation (using the above example, send the email on day six or seven). If you send this email too soon, it will have customers thinking they should have received it by now and something went wrong, when in reality the item is still on its way.

As far as emails that are intended to have customers buy again, research shows there’s certain times that will lead to higher purchase rates. Monday through Wednesday, as well as Sunday, have proven to be the best days to send your salesy emails.

On top of that, there are certain times of day that correlate with higher purchases as well. During the workdays, as well as during commutes home, have proven to be the best times to reach out to customers.

Frequency:

This last point is key, and can also be tricky to manage correctly. Email too often and you risk annoying the customer, who will in turn likely tag your emails as spam. Not good. Go too long without contacting your customers and you risk them forgetting about your company and going with a competitor. Also not good.

There’s no all-encompassing guide to point to that will provide best practices for all businesses, but as a general rule, you don’t want to email your customers more than once a week (with the exception of the aforementioned post-transaction confirmation emails), and you also don’t want to go more than a month without sending out your email campaign.

Hitting that sweet spot of perfect frequency will often depend on your business. For example, if you work in a subscription business, you’ll want to time replenishment emails with the frequency of the customers’ needs. If he/she buys dog food once a month, a reminder to place the order every three weeks would be appropriate, to give the customer some leeway and provide time for shipping. This way, the food will be there by the end of the month and Fido won’t go hungry.

Tools that Can Help

When you’re starting out, you can probably manage many of these tasks on your own. But what about when you’re handling 100, 500, or 1000 orders per month? Using an email service like MailChimp or MailChimp will help. Coupling one of those services with a tool that can automate the process will allow you to easily and efficiently communicate with your customers.

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Tips to Perfect Customer Service

Customer service is they key to ecommerce growth. You can have the best products in the world, but if your customers have a continuously bad experience it will tarnish your brand, and possibly do irreparable harm to your company’s reputation. Follow these steps to ensure you’re providing outstanding customer service every time.

1) Provide Timely, Effective Communication

Effective communication can solve a lot of problems and, more importantly, eliminate them before they happen. Sending a simple order confirmation will eliminate any doubt a customer may have that his or her order went through. Additionally, giving the customer a reasonable expectation of when to expect the item and/or providing shipment updates will keep customers informed and happy.

When your business reaches a certain point in its growth, you’ll find that keeping up with these emails can be a headache. At that point, automating your communication through services like Twilio or MailChimp can greatly simplify this process.

2) Provide a Customer Support Option

In the off chance that something goes wrong at any point in the process—whether an item’s out of stock, an order didn’t arrive, or the customer received the wrong size—you want to provide an easy way for customers to get in touch with you or your customer support team.

Depending on where your business is in it’s level of maturity, this could be a simple “Contact Us” link in your website that provides an email address and/or phone number. If and when your business is a little more established, you may want to look at a third-party service, such as Zendesk or Desk.com to help you with support tickets and error resolution.

No matter how you go about it, be sure whoever is on the receiving end of these issues/inquiries is prepared to give timely, effective, and friendly resolutions.

3) Engage in Social Media

Whether it’s Facebook or Twitter, 78% of all customers see social media as a customer service alternative. Some may go there directly, some may go there if whoever’s manning the options on point two has dropped the ball.

If it’s the latter, that raises the stakes even higher on social media, making it even more important to respond quickly and effectively. If a customer has a bad experience, you can be sure that they will call out your company on Facebook, Twitter, or whatever social profile you have associated with your business.

Conversely, if you provide a great experience, they’re likely to commend you and your business for all to see. Make sure you’re the retailer receiving the positive publicity, not the negative.

4) Track all Customer Interactions

Tracking all correspondence can save you, your support staff, and your customers a lot of headache. If customers have an issue and talk with two different people without a history of previous interaction, they will be left frustrated when they have to start from scratch with a new person.

Conversely, if a customer calls in and you can quickly say “Yes, I see you called in about exchanging your shirt for a different size on June 16th,” he or she will be left both impressed and relieved that someone is on top of the issue.

Create labels in your emails, attach notes to the thread, or do whatever it takes to keep all customer interaction in one easy-to-manage place. If you’ve talked with Joe Smith before, you should be able to easily search and find any and all correspondence with Joe.

Down the line, an error resolution service like the aforementioned Zendesk isn’t a bad idea. Zendesk tracks all correspondence that comes in via email, and all you have to do is search the support ticket number through your Zendesk account.

5) Never Argue About Returns

All of the above is great, but if you or a staffer argue with customers, especially about returns, they’ll think of your company in an extremely negative light. And with Twitter, Facebook, Yelp, etc. that’s not something any growing business can afford.

Remember, this is people’s money you’re dealing with, so put yourself in the customers’ shoes. You’re selling your product based off of an image on a computer. There’s going to be problems. And when there are, friendly, understanding, timely and efficient resolutions are the ways to keep customers coming back and sending their friends to your web store.

Bonus tip: Provide Online Chat

This tip is definitely for well-established businesses with customers on their site all day, but why else would you be in ecommerce if not to grow and dominate your market? Heck, some of you may already be there.

An online chat will require a paid solution like Olark and a staffer to monitor the chat, but once your business gets to a certain point, it’s well worth the investment. 77% of customers agree that online chat positively impacted their experience with the company. You simply can’t get any faster resolution than chatting with your customers in a live, real-time interaction.

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