Even the best online store hosting software will not be able to help you create the best website for your company if you don’t know how to approach the global market efficiently. Online stores have been the biggest trend since the beginning of the new millennium and every day we see hundreds of websites penetrate the web, but what hinders their progress is that they don’t take the global aspect of their product seriously. The simplest mistake a company can make when developing its website is not taking the diversity of an online customers into account. If you want to know how the most successful companies in the world have such a strong online presence, then simply visit their websites and study them. From the in-country domain to the design layout, these companies use their websites as representations of who they are, and by giving the customer an appealing look, not only do they convert their visitors into loyal customers, but they also make sure that the customer knows that they are taking their own business seriously. So what exactly are these practices that should be followed if a company is looking to develop a website for global presence?
How can you sell your products online with recurring billing? The answer is not always so simple, especially if your recurring billing / subscription billing requires any sort of customization. What are the foundation pieces you need to sell recurring subscription billing products or services? The answer is simple:
- a website
- a billing system that will allow customers to purchase subscription products and have their billing info. stored and charged on a frequency basis
A WebsiteYou may already have a website which is good. You may also have an online store which is good as well to sell one time purchase products. Now, depending on the type of customer experience you would like, you must integrate or connect with a recurring billing solution.
Connecting Recurring Billing to your WebsiteThis is where things can get tricky. Depending on your website solution and online store solution, the answer to how to proceed will vary. Typically, you will have 2 options:
- Integrate a 3rd party recurring billing solution directly into your website with embed code or custom programming (most professional)
- Just link from your website to the 3rd party recurring billing solution so customers are brought to the 3rd party site to pay (not the most professional)
Customer / User ExperienceThis is the most important part of creating a recurring billing membership solution, customer’s must be able to easily make payment, update payment information on file, and perhaps even upgrade or downgrade an existing or multiple subscriptions on file.
- Integrating recurring billing into your website directly is the most seamless solution and typically best user experience
- Ability for customer to update their billing info. on file is a must for when billing info. on file expires or a new card is issued for example
- Ability for customer to upgrade or downgrade their subscription package is a huge value but requires custom programming
- Ability for customer to apply a coupon to receive a discount on the first or all recurring payments
- Ability for website to calculate custom package pricing for the customer’s recurring billing subscription is an option with custom programming
Accepting recurring payments online is supposed to be quick and easy to get going, right? Yet, it is much more involved and often times complicated to set up an online store with subscription payments like for a service or auto-ship product. Today, online store’s are offered like a commodity, and recurring billing and subscription products are some of the most difficult features to find and especially to customize to your specific requirements.
Authorize.net Recurring BillingEarth Skater supports recurring billing (ARB, automated recurring billing) and CIM (Customer information manager to safely store customer information) with Authorize.net. Customization is a key to success with recurring billing setups. Your websites may need to allow customers to:
- update billing package
- update billing frequency
- update billing date
- update billing credit card information
- cancel a recurring subscription
- connecting in with 3rd party API’s
- update user/pass in membership account
- save billing information
What Does This Mean For Me?There are a few ways to setup recurring billing on your online store and so the biggest question is… Does your online store software support recurring billing and does it meet your requirements? If the answer to any of the questions above is NO, then please call Earth Skater today where we will be happy to help you review and find a solution to your business needs. Earth Skater specializes in eCommerce with complimentary website setup and transfer. We’ve helped hundreds of merchants make an easy transition into the world of websites and selling online with our online store platform.
Online stores are supposed to be quick and easy to setup, right? You just sign up and type in a few products, upload a few pics, and voila… er, not so fast. Today, online store’s are offered like a commodity, just pick the one with the cool web design and a list of checkmark features that seems to match your needs, at least the needs you think you know you have. It’s all up to you, good luck! Setting up an online store can be done on the cheap but I don’t think most merchants would describe it as easy, quick, or sufficient to needs of their success.
Online Store Customization = Custom For YouCustomization is a key to success, your website has to stand out through branding (your domain name, visual design, and marketing) and a variety of other factors including online store functionality and customer service in order to be distinct in the marketplace! Customizing your online store or website could involve:
- having the website design created exactly the way you want it
- create custom content or using high quality stock photos & video
- creating a custom interface for the customer ordering process
- programming to automate and process orders more efficiently
- connecting in with 3rd party API’s
- recurring billing subscriptions with membership account
- storing customer billing information
- digital download products
What Does This Mean For Me?There are many ways to customize your online store and so the biggest question is… Does your online store software provider provide the service to help you customize? Better yet, do they go the extra mile and offer the flexibility to meet your specific demands? If the answer to any of the questions above is NO, then please call Earth Skater today where we will be happy to help you review and find a solution to your business needs. Earth Skater specializes in eCommerce with complimentary website setup and transfer. We’ve helped hundreds of merchants make an easy transition into the world of websites and selling online with our online store platform.
What are the nuts and bolts of an eCommerce website? What are the foundation pieces you need to begin selling online? The answer to this question depends on at least two major factors including and perhaps most importantly:
- Your businesses budget
- Your interest and ability to compete head on with market leaders
The Absolute Basic Nuts & BoltsIn order to sell your products or services online, you must have the following 4 nuts and bolts as part of your eCommerce business:
- A domain name
- A merchant account (also called a payment gateway) such as PayPal
- An online store eCommerce website
- Website analytics (such as Google Analytics, Google WebMaster tools)
Minimum to Sell Online
- A brandable domain name
- A merchant account (also called a payment gateway) such as PayPal or Authorize.net
- SSL Security Certificate may be used to increase trust signs to customers
- An online store eCommerce website
- Marketing newsletter system
- Website Blog
Requirements to Compete with Market Leaders
- The most brandable domain name you can find or afford
- A merchant account (also called a payment gateway) that is integrated securely and directly into your own website such as Authorize.net or FirstData
- An online store eCommerce provider that offers real service to update and maintain your website, affordably, and when you need it
- SSL Security with clickable trust badge (provides extra level of trust to your customers)
- Marketing newsletter system (regular postings to your newsletter list)
- Website Blog (regular postings to your website blog)
If you are serious about starting an online store, then these 5 tips will help you, think of them as a checklist you should be able to pass easily and know the reason why you will succeed. If you can’t pass this checklist easily, then you have to rethink your business plan and if you are truly ready to start an online store yet.
- Do you absolutely know the product(s) you are going to sell? You have to know the product and related products you are going to sell in your niche market, know your competitors, know the CEO’s of those companies, and decide now if you plan to become a market leader or not, and what it may take to get there. This is where you must think as big as you can, regionally, nationally, globally!
- Is it your own product or not? If it’s your own product or you have a good vendor that is great. If you are an affiliate or drop shipping that is not as good typically.
- No mall websites! If you are a beginner entrepreneur and want to start a mall type of website like Walmart or Amazon or eBay, with tons of categories and products, we advise you to stop now; this concept is difficult even with a huge budget behind it.
- Can you afford to do it yourself? Yes, the question is can you afford to, because doing it yourself while it may seem free, actually may cost you the precious time you need to get started right away by going forward with a weak website with poor design and content. Can you afford to have a designer do it at the cost of a few thousand dollars? If so, then do it as that what it takes to be a market leader. Otherwise, choose Earth Skater as the budget solution where we handle the online store setup for you at no charge as part of our complimentary setup service.
- Can you afford to market it or can you learn to market it? If you can afford to market it and advertise with a budget that makes sense for your business, then you must start experimenting with your propaganda/message immediately, don’t make any long term commitments, and find the best team to work with. Either way, or if budget is a concern, you must to learn to market and advertise your business because you are the business owner, you know your business the best. Social media and blogging are the avenues you must follow in today’s market.
One of the most frequently asked questions by small business owners is how to start an online store business… we’ll give you the long and short break downs to help you get your business started online as easily as possible without any added stress.
Short…ish AnswerThe short answer is, get the right online store for your products. If you sell digital downloads, research online stores that offer downloadable products. Compare the features and compare the package prices to find the best solutions. Demo the solutions, speak with the company, read their reviews, and do your due diligence. Be prepared to fail at least once in choosing the wrong online store platform, abandoning it, and chalking it up to a learning experience. Almost every merchant we speak with goes through this process and sometimes many times before finding the right online store partner. Find an online store eCommerce provider that can either setup your website for you or support you effectively enough to set it up yourself. If you are a busy CEO with plenty on your plate as it is, the choice is clear. If you are a designer and web developer with little to no learning curve involved then the choice is clear. In either case, service and support are key features your online store provider should offer.
- Obviously you must have a product or service to sell, what are people asking for, what problems are they trying to solve. The more people who have a problem that you could solve, the better.
- Write copy that supports your value proposition (key to getting the price you deserve for the value you provide).
- Design and build an easy-to-use eCommerce website. See short-ish answer for details.
- Use social media, blogging, and advertising to drive traffic to your site.
- Establish an expert reputation for yourself (start with LinkedIn posting and blogging on latest news/tweets/topics as CEO of your company blog).
- Build a mailing list (use newsletter providers like iContact, Mailchimp, etc) and follow up with your subscribers regularly with offers.
- EXPERT TIP: Send an immediate email within 24 hours to each new subscriber with a lesser product offering at a lesser price (research automated conversion funnels to learn more)
- Increase your income through multi-channel sales, meaning sell on multiple marketplaces and target specific industry verticals to scale revenue) and upselling, meaning selling add-ons, upgrades, and affiliate offerings that are complementary to the customer.
As small business owners grow their business online, at some point they eventually may need to transfer their website. Changing anything can be difficult and that’s especially true when it comes to transferring your website. Whatever type of website you have, online store, or custom web web development, transferring to a new website solution can be difficult. Here are the top 5 challenges to consider when it comes to transferring your website.
- Website content and products transfer
- Maintaining SEO rankings
- Domain Name Settings
- Email settings
- SSL Security
Transferring ContentTransferring your website content can be a big ordeal, a huge headache and come with big costs to get it done correctly by hand. First off, the complexity of transferring your website content is in the question… how much content is there to transfer? At the easier end of the spectrum is transferring a simple website or blog and at the harder end is transferring an ecommerce or online store website with a lot of products and pages. Some important questions to consider about your new website solution and how to transfer your content:
- Will your new website solution help you transfer the content or do it all for you
- Can you export your content from your old solution and import it into the new solution
- Will your new website offer FTP access so you can possibly transfer content more easily
- Do you want to set all your content up from scratch yourself by copying and pasting and fixing the issues on your own
Maintaining SEO RankingsNot many web site solutions speak about this, but you can maintain your old website rankings when transferring to a new website solution. This can be a big deal because your high ranked search engine pages may come up with a 404 not found or just point point back to your home page after your transfer your website. Maintaining your SEO rankings can be achieved a few different ways, here are a few questions to consider:
- Will your new website solution provide some way to maintain important website rankings
- Can you maintain the old URLS through the transfer to the new website solution without any major changes
- Can you implement clever 301 redirecting of the old URLS to new URLS
Domain Name SettingsUpdating your domain name settings is easy but there are a few snafus that we’ve seen our merchants run into. Here are some things to consider when it comes time to transfer your website and update your domain name settings.
- Do you have the login information for your account with your domain name registrar
- Will your new website solution migrate any important domain name record settings for you
- You should know how to update your domain name DNS information if your new website solution will not do that for you
Email SettingsAgain, this will depend on how many email accounts you have existing on your website. If you have a bunch of email accounts that you use with your old website then it will be important to maintain them during the website transfer. If you only have one or a handful of accounts then it is just less tedious. There are also a few other considerations when it comes to transferring emails settings such as:
- Do you use a 3rd party email service like gmail or other email provider with your website and not the website’s own email account?
- If you use a 3rd party email service, then your MX records and other important email records must be maintained during the transfer typically by the new website solution.
- If you use your website’s own email accounts then they must be created in the new website email system
SSL SecurityFor merchants with eCommerce websites and online stores, you must consider whether your website SSL security certificate can be transferred or if you will need a new one. Here are some things to consider about transferring your website SSL security certificate.
- Will your new website solution transfer your existing SSL security certificate for you and do you have access to do it yourself if needed
- If you have a higher end SSL security certificate such as Extended Validation (EV SSL) then you will definitely want to transfer it instead of purchasing a new one
- Does your new website solution offer low cost name brand SSL security certificate or no cost certificates or your first year SSL security for free or other promotion that may help offset related SSL security costs
Whether you are starting a side business or working for yourself full time, setting up your online store could be a very difficult hurdle to get over.Here are the top 3 things we think new merchants should consider when choosing their online store builder and the company to work with.
Setup ServiceThe question to ask yourself are:
- What is your experience level in web design and development?
- How do you feel about setting up your own online store, is that something you desire to give a try?
- Do you want to set up your online store yourself or do you want to have it done for you?
2) Customization / FlexibilityMost online store builders are what you see is what you get when it comes to features. It’s extremely important to make sure your online store has the features you need. The number of features is not as important as the key features you need so don’t get distracted. Think of questions like:
- Will your website need customization that is beyond any of the features the store provides?
- Does the online store support customization like custom programming?
- Will the online store provider add new features to support your business
3) On-going SupportOnce your website is online, it’s your time to shine, now you can take full advantage of the online store builder to add and update products, write blog posts, update your slideshow and more. On-going support is vital to the reputation of your business. When you need help to make a change to your website, these questions are the important ones to consider:
- Does your online store provider have staff on call to provide on demand, hands on, support for your business?
- Will your online store provider go the extra mile to provide after hours service to support you in a critical time of need?
- Does your online store provider care about your business enough to provide suggestions that you may have overlooked that could be hindering your business
We use social media like LinkedIn to make connections, establish business contacts, and build mutually beneficial relationships. Often, we must reach out to people blindly, so to speak, without any formal introduction or direct connection. I’ve acquired these tips through experience and hope they will work for you as well as they have for me.
1. PersistenceIf you reach out to someone and they do not respond back, first do not take it personally. Popular and successful people receive hundreds of messages daily from people looking to connect, get advice, need help, and everything else under the sun. Mr. Louis David Spagnuolo, whom I’ve had the great honor and pleasure of meeting, is one of the most popular and inspiring people on LinkedIn, and he get’s flooded with inquiries 24/7, so start thinking about how you can stand out from the crowd. Reach out as many times as it takes to establish a contact that you truly believe should be made… just don’t go overboard chasing after one contact because there are many others that you may click with sooner.
2. TimingIf you reach out and you get a response or your invitation is accepted immediately… this is great! This means your timing was right and the context of your message was on point. However, if you do not get an immediate response or connection, you will not give up because of rule #1. Now, you must focus on the timing and context of your next message. Do not send a second message right away and do not wait too long either. One idea is to get to know their social media schedule so the next message you send will be at a time when you are fairly confident they may read it.
It took three years of effort before I connected with Mike Mann, a king of the domain name world, and it was largely due to persistence and timing.Today Mike is a great collegue, I’ve worked with him personally, and was honored to serve as CTO of his company DomainMarket.com for a period of time.
3. ContextTake the time to learn about each person you want to connect with. The key is to findhow you can provide value to your contact. Compare their business and services with your skills and your experience. Think in terms of what you can do for them and not what you can receive. Think about how you can differentiate yourself and stand out from the crowd of other inquiries they receive.
As Mr. Louis David Spagnuolo puts it, “If you want a seat, first bring something to the table”.This is where context comes in. If you explain yourself well, and within the context outlined here, and within the criteria your contact is looking for, then you will have done the work for your contact and they will instantly be able to acknowledge how you may be of immediate value and put your expertise to use. Therefore, you must craft your message in the context of the need or desire you can fulfill. Your message should be about helping your contact to fulfill that need for free (gratis, pro-bono) if possible or on an introductory (trial) basis. Only then, with the right timing and the right context, are you most likely to get a response. Once you establish your new connection, work as quickly as you can to iron out the details of your offer and then to fulfill the terms of your discussion or agreement. You may have one foot in the door but you are only one step closer to your goals. Once you have made a new contact, it is up to you to work even harder now to cultivate that relationship in the spirit of mutually beneficial success.
BONUS TIP: Pick up a copy of Napoleon Hill’s “The Wisdom of Andrew Carnegie As Told To Napoleon Hill” and study the 17 Principles of Success that many of your big contacts probably follow.Please share your thoughts in the comments section below and I will be pleased to reply. ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sener Korkusuz is the Founder and CEO of EarthSkater.com, dedicated to helping small business owners succeed online with custom tailored eCommerce solutions. He is the Co-founder and CTO of the LinkedOpinions.com, a free tool used to survey your LinkedIn connections and the co-founder and CEO of the A7FL. The American 7’s Football League, The Game America Wants.