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Getting your online store ready for Christmas

15 Nov

With Christmas just around the corner it’s important to get your online store ready for the holiday rush.

Internet shopping continues to rise year on year, so here are my top tips for getting your store ready for what could be your most lucrative quarter.

Check your store. Is it ready?

Start by looking at the products on your store. Optimize images and give your site a festive feel. Images will play a big part in capturing the attention and hearts of shoppers. If your product photos are low resolution or have poor lighting, maybe it’s time to re-shoot them ready for the holidays. You might not want to upload them yet, but careful planning will take the stress out of what is going to be a busy time.

Get festive

If you use an eCommerce website builder or platform, why not choose a festive store design to entice your customers.  Freewebstore has some great designs to choose from – and they’re all free. Best of all you can easily switch between your Christmas design and your January Sale design at the click of a button using the Saved Designs Feature. A word of warning though – if you have a high customer base, don’t make drastic changes to the navigation or layout right now. This can cause disruption to customers’ shopping flow. If the site has drastically changes from what customers are used to, it could cause confusion, frustration and lead to abandonment.

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Check what your users see

Check your website. Does it load well? Is your url or domain memorable? Are all the links working? Does your site work on all devices?  Make sure all your images load and check your stock levels. You don’t want any ‘out of stock’ products appearing on your store as it may look as though your store has been abandoned or out of date.

Are your product descriptions accurate and of a good length? If they aren’t, online shoppers may be wary of buying from you. Do you use custom urls for your categories? All of this careful planning helps build up your SEO which will boost your Google rankings making it easier for shoppers to find you.

Fake websites

In response to Google’s decision to mark HTTP pages as unsafe starting October 2017, websites which do not have SSL encryption enabled will be marked as “Not secure” in Google Chrome. This could have a damaging effect on your sales if you don’t have an eCommerce website that is fully SSL secure.

Here’s an example of what your customers will see without you having an SSL enabled:

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This is an example of what your customers will see if your website is SSL protected.

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Freewebstore now offers ALL customers a free SSL. Find out more here.

Make checking out easy

Your customers are going to be busy leading up to Christmas. Don’t have them abandoning the checkout process out of frustration. After succeeding in the hard work of getting them there, losing conversions due to a complicated or lengthy form is far from ideal. Use a checkout that allows you to take payments directly on your store.

Monitor your stock carefully

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Choosing the amount of stock you need over Christmas can often be difficult, especially if you are investing in seasonal products. On the one hand, you don’t want to miss out on a share of the market, but on the other you don’t want to be left with surplus stock in January that you can’t sell.  Look at what sold well last year. Finding a pattern could make ordering your stock each year much easier, so make sure you keep a note of everything…good luck!

Get started with freewebstore.com

Article originally published: 21/09/16, Modified and Updated: 14/11/17

Store of the Month: November

10 Nov

Freewebstore are delighted to award the very hip ‘Team Dogz‘ store of the month for November. 👏

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Team Dogz live and breathe scooters and they’ve built up a solid following. We managed to speak to Steven from Team Dogz HQ, who took a break from the busy Christmas preparation to talk to us about the business.

Please tell us a bit about your business and where it all started

My scooter business, Team Dogz, started in a little alcove under my parents’ stairs in the 1990s after I returned from university. I had a dedicated phone line put in, bought some stock, and started programming my website. I was selling different products then but the internet was very early days so you had to find your niche and then grow our product base as new opportunities arose. My parents were wondering for a while when I was going to take my education and get a proper job, but they stuck by me and in the end, both came to work for me!

What made you get into this line of work?

I have always wanted to work for myself, and after my Bachelor’s degree I went straight on and did an MSc in Entrepreneurship at Stirling University in the 1990’s. This was as much about not knowing what I wanted to ‘do-for-myself’ as it was in wanting to learn more about business. While I was there, however, I started learning HTML on-the-side and this gave me an insight into a new industry. I started my business in December 1997 so am celebrating 20 years! (woop, congrats!)

What do you see as the most important marketing tool for your business?

I sell products which children and early teens are interested in, so PPC doesn’t work for me because all the Children can click away but not purchase. However social media works well and YouTube videos of products are essentially free marketing once the video is created.

If you could have ANYONE to come and work for you, who would it be and why?

I mentioned earlier that both my parents came to work for Team Dogz, my mum for 4 years and my dad for 6. As you spend most your living life at work, it was great to spend this time with those you love the most. Unfortunately, in the past 20 years, both have died but I would dearly love to have either of them back.

Do you have any advice for new store owners?

Be prepared for hard work. You don’t need A grades from school but you do need commitment and a big work ethic. Some of us might make it look easy but I was often putting in 12-16 hour days in the early years and re-investing everything I could back into the business.

Is there a specific reason you chose to use freewebstore as your eCommerce platform?

I started off hand coding my website, however technology got ahead of my skillset and I could not learn all there is to know in the world of programming as well as running a business. I have since used several shopping cart solutions but freewebstore is easy enough for any staff member to update these days and gives a lot of the flexibility we wanted. Freewebstore has also made behind the scenes tweaks for us so we have stuck with them for a number of years now.

If you could choose one magic power, what would you go for?

To know which product is going to be most in demand. It takes several months for Team Dogz scooters to be made in factories far away and every Christmas I seem to sell out of something way too early!

Speaking of Christmas, how’s the preparation going? 🎅

We start planning for Christmas in July at the latest, our products are then manufactured in August and spend September on a boat arriving with us early October. Only a few people purchase this early but it is certainly when the kids start putting their Christmas lists together so we need to have our products advertised for sale to get their attention at this point. If we have got it wrong, which we always do with the quantities on various colors, it is too late come mid-October to get anything more manufactured and delivered in time.

Why is eCommerce important for your business?

A national or global reach from a single outlet, what more could someone want. We don’t have the financial capital to put stock into shops all over the country and their margins would make us more expensive. eCommerce offers us national reach and the ability to offer the customer a more competitive price, it’s a win-win.

And finally, do you have any celebrity customers or famous skaters buying from your store?

We have come across a few famous customers over the years. Data Protection and our own concern for our customer’s privacy would stop us from naming them. However, our scooter wheels were glimpsed on BBCs One Show the other week. Unusually they were being used as part of a walking frame for a dachshund with poorly back legs but it’s great to know they helped and a sale is a sale.

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Would you like to be considered for the Store of the Month series? Email the freewebstore customer success team at successteam@freewebstore.com.

 

 

 

Freewebstore Halloween Social

31 Oct

A few brave members of the freewebstore team took part in the annual Halloween social. They all looked scarier the day after, to be honest! 🎃💀

Here are a few snaps from the day/night!

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Feel free to share your spooky snaps in the comments below! Happy Halloween!

Top 5 checks eCommerce Businesses must do today

12 Oct

As eCommerce sales are set to rise by 25% this holiday season (source: PwC), business owners selling online are preparing for what is set to be their most lucrative time of year.

Here is my top 5 tips that should be on your checklist for increasing sales this season:

1. Mobile ready

With smartphones accounting for nearly 70% of Thanksgiving Day traffic and 53% of all orders last year (source: thejibe) you really can’t afford for your website to look bad on a mobile device. Traditional websites designed for desktops are clunky and hard navigate on mobiles – reducing your chance of converting a sale. ECommerce platforms like freewebstore design web stores using the mobile first technique. Their checkouts ensure payment and shipping input fields are optimized for use on a mobile, that buttons reachable by thumb and that the correct keyboard appears when filling in forms (whether text, number or email). If you aren’t sure what your eCommerce website looks like on a mobile, now is the time to check.

2. Think of it as a marathon, not a sprint

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It seems fewer consumers will shop on Black Friday than in previous years. Research from PwC suggests thirty-five percent of consumers who plan to shop during Thanksgiving week say they will do so on Black Friday, down from 51 percent last year. However, do not be fooled into thinking Black Friday promotions are on the decline. The Independent suggests it is highly likely that Amazon will slash the price of some of its own products – including the Echo and Echo Dot speakers, the Fire stick, Fire tablets and Kindle e-readers. Reductions on the Xbox One and the PS4 are also likely.

The key message to take home is – if you’re current, your customers will expect a Black Friday Event from you. Make the most of the publicity and plan your event over a longer period not just a one day event.

3. Omnichannel

Business Insider suggests creating a strong, cohesive, multi-channel operation can make or break your business. Their research concluded that shoppers who engage with retailers on multiple channels make purchases more often. Think social media, blogs, (if you don’t have a blog on your eCommerce webstite, StoreBlog is a great one to use and is available to freewebstore users), or perhaps up your game in-store. If you don’t have a bricks and mortar store, exhibit at a trade show, Christmas Market or a pop up store. Solutions that link online, offline and mobile shopping are set to shape the future of eCommerce.shopping.jpeg

4. Promote

Make sure your store and the products you sell are on everyone’s minds throughout the holiday season. Up your email marketing efforts. Send out an email to your mailing list (not forgetting a second email to remind them) or post it on social media. Go to where your potential customers are gathering. Try to think of creative ways to reach them there.

5. Planning

It goes without saying that you really should prepare to avoid disappointing your customers. Decide on your promotions and make sure you have the right stock levels. Don’t turn what could be a great earner, and great promotion into a bad PR exercise.

On set with Sonja Elisa

29 Sep

A brief insight into our day with the impressive freewebstore eCommerce store owner, Sonja Elisa, for an upcoming video feature. 

I had the opportunity to visit Sonja’s creative studio, in the heart of the Gothic Quarter, Barcelona.  Observing Sonja’s passion for her work, her creative flair and determination it’s clear to see why she is the premier supplier of boutique silk accessories in Barcelona.

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Sonja showcasing one of her products

I had the opportunity to learn more about Sonja and her story of becoming a successful business owner. Having been in the corporate world for a number of years, traveling all over the world and dealing with all that corporate life threw her way, the lifestyle was having an impact on her work/life balance. With Sonja’s creativity, passion for fashion and determination to ‘go it alone’ – it was always in the plan to own her own fashion line. However, it was one opportunistic moment built the foundations for her business – deciding on a present for her brother’s wedding! Wanting to give her brother a unique gift for his wedding, Sonja designed a silk bow-ties gift set.

After receiving raving reviews Sonja started to design a range of products and research ways to enter the market and she hasn’t looked back since! Sonja’s bespoke silk products now reside in numerous boutiques across Barcelona, fashion markets and, most importantly, her very own freewebstore eCommerce store 😉

Once Sonja told us her story (which will be available to view soon) it didn’t take long before the enthusiasm for creating bespoke designs and products kicked in, and I got to watch the process of creating a silk scarf. Each of the scarves she has designed has a unique story behind it and the process from start to finish was (surprising to me) very therapeutic. This particular design was inspired by a recent music video Sonja had seen and the end product was fantastic.

It was great to meet Sonja, who risked the security and relative comfort of ‘corporate life’, to follow her dream of starting her own fashion brand. I hope Sonja’s success inspires many more entrepreneurs in the future.

Matt.

Sonja’s video feature will be released soon. Please follow our YouTube, Facebook and Twitter channels.

Store of the Month: July

10 Jul

Our store of the month for July is Rainbows and Sprinkles. Lucy took a few minutes out of her busy schedule to answer a few of our questions – take a look!

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1. Please tell us a bit about yourself, your business and where it all started

I am full-time Mum to my son Oliver who will be 2 in September, it was during the first 6 months of his life that I was spending a lot of time at home during the cold winter months and was looking for something that I could start doing at home to make myself a bit of pocket money. I experimented with various different baby products until I decided to develop a handmade children’s clothing range from newborn – 4-5years. I found a lovely lady in Exmouth to work with me to develop these products and we started working together very quickly after that!

 

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Lucy and her family

 

2. Do you make the clothes yourself or do you have a team to produce these?

We all have our own part to play in making every garment. I now have a team of 4 ladies who all work extremely hard to make each piece. Everything is cut out, sewn and assembled by hand all in sunny Devon.

 

3. Do you have a physical store as well as an online store? How do you market your product?

We advertise through Facebook and then customers order through my freewebstore. I’ve done a few stalls in the past when the business was very young however, I can reach so many more customers via Facebook and my website that it’s not worth selling at stalls. However, I would love to have a physical flagship store one day.

4. If you could have ANYONE to come and work for you, who would it be and why?

I would love Jo Malone to come and work with us! I love her work ethic and the reason so started her business is quite similar to mine. My aim is to be as successful as her – you’ve got to aim high!

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Jo Malone would be Lucy’s ideal celebrity employee!

 

5. Do you have any advice for new store owners?

If you have an idea just go for it! I thought about launching Rainbows & Sprinkles one evening and was so driven to make it work even though I had no background in textiles or clothing. It’s very cliche but you have to believe you will succeed. I was absolutely determined that Rainbows & Sprinkles was going to work, there was no other option.

6. Is there a specific reason you chose to use freewebstore as your eCommerce platform?

I think freewebstore is a fantastic platform. Almost all of my sales are placed on smartphones and my website adapts to smartphones so well and makes it so simple to use and navigate. I love the way my orders are set out and it makes them so simple to manage which is a massive bonus for me and If I ever have a concern or question, my emails are answered almost immediately which I think is just fantastic.

7. If you could choose one magic power, what would you go for?

I would love to teleport! I adore traveling and would love to see as much of the world as possible so definitely teleportation!

8. And finally, where do you see rainbows and sprinkles in 5 years time?

I have so many plans for Rainbows & Sprinkles in the next 5 years. We are always developing new products and introducing new prints – we are launching dresses in July and are discussing developing an older children’s range from 6-12y. I am also talking to a number of wholesalers at the moment to discuss various shops stocking out products and we are also working on moving from a made to order basis to an ‘in stock’ system to dramatically reduce lead times – we all know how fast babies and toddlers grow!

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Check out Rainbows and Sprinkles here. Interested in making a fantastic store like Rainbows and Sprinkles? Learn more here.

Freewebstore at IRCE 2017

14 Jun

Freewebstore attended the Internet Retail Conference and Expo (IRCE) last week (6-9th June) and certainly made a big impression.

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The exhibition team; Stephen, Matt & Dan

The exhibition team of Matt, Dan and Stephen mingled with our existing global partners such as Mailchimp and TrustPilot whilst meeting new friends at Avalara, PriceWaiter, Curalate, EureQa many, many more.

You may have seen (if you’re following freewebstore on Twitter) that we had a foosball table set-up. This was a big talking point and had many American punters feeling nostalgic, taking them back to their college days. This was a great way to talk all things eCommerce whilst having fun – which is what we’re all about!

We’d like to thank everyone who stopped by to have a chat with us, we were honored to be able to meet many interesting, knowledgeable and genuinely nice people. Here are a few highlights of the event:

 

 

We were also delighted to be able to donate the foosball table to a fantastic youth club in Chicago, the James Jordan Boys and Girls Club. I’m sure the boys and girls of Chicago are going to have as much fun with the table as the attendees at IRCE did!

 

 

 

On Location with one of our Store Owners, Ti-Springs.com

17 May

Visiting one of our store owners, Scout, on location this week it is clear to see why Ti-Springs.com are so successful. The World’s number one supplier for titanium springs for mountain bikes, Scout is passionate about what he does.

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Having been a rider from a young age, Scout has successfully turned his love of mountain biking into his career; forming numerous partnerships with international race teams and supplying springs to the World’s fastest riders.

So, it really wasn’t difficult to convince Scout to get out on the trails at Fly UP 417 Bike Park to show us how well his product performs on the trails…and show us a few tricks!

Being an enthusiast, Scout knows the circuit. He gets inside his customer’s heads – he knows what they’re looking for and where they will be. He makes sure he attends the right trade fairs and competitions for his niche market.

Ti-Springs has a strong brand. From the company vehicles to his own clothing and accessory line, the company stands out from the crowd. Along with a strong brand are the professional product images on his web store, produced by his partner Kayleigh who also runs her own successful business. She certainly delivers the goods when it comes to product images – a store owner’s absolute dream!

A real winning formula, I wish Ti-Springs.com every success in the future. I left feeling privileged to have met Scout and his partner Kayleigh this week. They certainly inspired me to do more of what I love and it felt great knowing that freewebstore, in part, has helped to realize someone else’s dream.

Have a watch of Scout’s story here.

Image by: kadams-photography.com

Freewebstore Pumpkin Carving

24 Oct

The scariest time of the year is nearly upon us (what’s really scary is how fast it’s come along!) The freewebstore team decided to get into the ghostly spirit of things and carve out some pumpkins.

Glowing ‘jack-o-lanterns’ were traditionally put outside porches and windows to welcome deceased loved ones and to protect against nasty spirits. We’ve placed ours outside of the offices to protect freewebstore from the nasty internet demons.

We thought we’d share a few of the team’s ghastly efforts.

What have you done for Halloween this year? We’d love it if you shared some of your spooky creations.