Made to order Take online orders with Formspring

Posted by tom klein August 17, 2007 at 2:30 am

It may comes as a surprise, but sometimes the easiest way to make money on the web is to make sure that . . . you can actually make money on the web. This means that you have to set up your website so that people can actually pay you. While there are millions of complicated schemes and e-commerce engines (not to mention eBay), there are also some very simple options.

Formspring can help you create forms to securely collect on orders from your online customers. You create an order form at their site, then simply direct your users to the form (from your site). Your customers will complete the order form, and then be directed to make a payment using PayPal, which is integrated into the form setup.

Once you’ve taken the order and received payment, the form will return your customer to a thank-you page on your site. Using Formspring with PayPal costs as little as $12.50 per month. Why don’t you go ahead and let your customers buy directly from you?

What used to require a knowledge of databases and complex coding can now be handled by a relatively simple website. The beauty of Formspring is the ability to actually manage the technical aspects of taking and recording an order.  Now anyone can do business on the web.

When you start selling on the web, you will need to give some thought to your pricing and your merchandising. We spoke about creative merchandising options in itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny. Remember that comparison shopping is always just a click away.

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  Itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny Inspire better merchandising with Etsy

Posted by tom klein August 3, 2007 at 2:30 am

While online retail sales continue to grow, not many people are forecasting the death of shopping in the physical world. One of the things standing in the way for most online retailers? Terrible merchandising. There’s no passion, no romance. Over and over again, it’s the same story. Here’s a picture. Click if you want to buy it.

No thanks. Etsy is an online retailer of handmade items (merchandise categories) from around the world that puts some sizzle into its online merchandising. Trying to find a matching pillow for your couch, then you can search by color by simply clicking on a color. Or, maybe you would like to see what’s being sold from Iceland – or anywhere around the world. Just click on the map. You might find this lovely snowflake needlepoint pattern that would be perfect.

Modern web design and web application tools put this kind of merchandising within just about anyone’s grasp. By investing in merchandising, online merchants can capture the serendipity, and dare we say joy, of finding that perfect item.

Much of Etsy’s merchandising capabilities are powered by Flash, Adobe’s well-known design and animation tool, and enabled by the Flash player that nearly consumer has installed. If you’re wondering who might be able to help you with all things Flash, we’re big fans of Jordan Patsios at Toolbox Design (he didn’t pay us to say this).

When you think about the target for your online store, what are his/her potential deciding factors for why to buy? With the web you have nearly limitless data to manipulate and use so as to romance your products and, of course, sell. Have you merchandised your online store to inspire and delight your targeted consumers?

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  The virtues of reality Use Google’s Sketchup to sell in 3D

Posted by tom klein July 31, 2007 at 2:30 am

It’s hard to overestimate the power of an image to make your sale. It seems that so many people would consider buying anything from furniture to landscaping services if they could just see what the outcome might be . . . before buying. Unfortunately, you can’t really “try on” a couch or landscaping services. Or . . . can you?

Google’s Sketchup 3D modeling tool might be able to help you close the deal. It lets you build and modify 3D models quickly and easily, certainly such things as homes (a nice loft) or offices (the Campanile building in Atlanta). So, if you want to help your customers see how that new couch looks in the living room, it’s not out of the question. Sketchup democratizes 3D modeling so that it can be put to work selling just about anything – see this gallery of modeling examples.

In addition, you can also search the Google 3D Warehouse to get a sense of the types of things that people are designing, using this tool. As you might have already noted with gaming advertising, 3D modeling has arrived. It’s only natural that it should be put to work in selling materials.

Sketchup also lets you put your models into the quasi-real world of Google Earth, using actual coordinates. In other words, if you design your house, you’re able to place it in Google Earth for anyone to see.

This tool doesn’t do anything that architects haven’t been doing for centuries. It just makes model building more accessible. Think about how you can use this approach to differentiate your offering from your competitors, while also helping your customers make the decision to buy on the spot.

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  Yea, what he said Generate rich customer comments with PowerReviews

Posted by tom klein July 23, 2007 at 2:30 am

While everyone with an e commerce site would love to provide rich customer comments and “if you like this, then you’ll like that” cross-selling, it takes money. Usually lots of it.

At least until now. PowerReviews lets you add product reviews and referrals to your site . . . for free. It works more or less like Amazon, but with some interesting twists. First, they have a system set up to identify which reviews were completed by someone who actually purchased the product (verified buyers). Next, they’ve built their system to work on simple tags (complete a review of the Barbie Backpack Fishing Kit to see how tagging changes the experience), making it faster to complete a review and making it easier for readers of the review to figure out if the review applies to their needs or not (e.g., is this mountain bike for casual riders [see section labeled describe yourself]). Finally, they offer what they call Affinity reviews and recommendations to help you find the product that’s preferred by people like you (see how this works when shopping for a digital camera).

Of course, there’s no free lunch. In return for this free service, PowerReviews gains the right to aggregate all review data and present it on their own review site, Buzzillions. In any case, if you’ve thought that Amazon-style reviews and referrals were just out of reach – think again.

According to Forrester Research, 70% of online shoppers seek out product reviews. We wonder what the other 30% are doing. Because reviews are quite literally integrated into almost every page of an e commerce site, PowerReviews installs an engine directly on your site’s server to avoid any risks of downtime. Even a free service gets expensive if it gets in the way of keeping the doors open.

Once you’ve generated reviews a sufficient number of reviews, you can begin thinking about the next step: how to apply these reviews and recommendations beyond the confines of the product page. Consider this type of review generation a first step in putting social networking to work for your business. Helping customers create content and help each other

. . . all to drive your sales.

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