[Video] When Everyone is Digging for Gold, Be the One Selling Shovels

In this video I look at the old business mantra of “being the one selling shovels when everyone else is digging for gold”. In this video I explain why sales of the iPad fuel huge sales of custom iPad cases, how the preference for green/organic products has generated billions of dollars in revenues for new business and more – all rotating around the same simple concept.

Want to read more posts like this?

[Photos] Celebrating BigCommerce 6 With Steak, A Hummer and BigCommerce-Branded Beer!

Yesterday our engineers and network operations team (as well as myself and co-CEO Eddie) took the day off in our Sydney office to celebrate the huge release of BigCommerce 6, which we’d been working on together since February. In true Aussie style, we dined on steak, cruised around in a stretch Hummer and made our own beer at The Beer Factory in Seven Hills.

All 62 photos are up on our Facebook page, but here are a few I liked the most. Let’s start with…

Activity #1: Cooking and Eating Our Own Steak

From left to right: Chris, Rod, Eddie, Mitch, Brendan, Gaston, Dave

Cooking our steaks up on the BBQ at Phillip’s Foote in The Rocks

Activity #2: Stretch Hummer Out to Seven Hills

Our transportation from The Rocks to Seven Hills – A stretch hummer

Hummerific – from left to right: Chris, Gaston, Gwilym, Eddie, Rodney, Ray, Rayn, Mitch, Brendan, Dave

On our way – from left to right: Rayn, Rod, Gaston, Gwilym, Ray, Brendan, Dave, Chris

Activity #3: Making Our Own Beer

The Beer Factory at Seven Hills – heaven for most Aussies

The HUGE selection of beers you can brew yourself

A few grains of barley – one of beer’s key ingredients

Cleaning bottles before filling

Bottling our custom BigCommerce brews: a German-style and a bitter English style

BigCommerce – the easiest way to drink online?

Eddie and I getting the job done

Ten cases of our custom brew – which we stashed in the hummer for the trip home

3 hours later and we’re on our way home…

You can view all 62 photos from the day on our Facebook page. On a side note, if you like steak, beer, hummers and e-commerce software then why not come and join our team here in Sydney or Austin?

Want to read more posts like this?

[Video] Our New Sydney Office – Renovated!

Note: On July 7th I posted a “before” video of our new Sydney office which we’re currently renovating so you might want to check that out before watching the video above.

As you may know, we have an office in Austin, TX and one in Sydney, Australia where our engineering team and co-founders reside.

As our Sydney team continues to grow, we’ve been on the lookout for a new office. We’ve now found that office and over the last few weeks have been renovating it (or “funkifying” it, as we like to say) with beautiful wooden floors, down lights, a new paint job and a new fit out.

The video above is the “almost after” state of our new Sydney office – we still have to build a few glass walls for offices and a meeting room, and of course get our furniture in!

We’re aiming to move in at the end of August 2010.

Want to read more posts like this?

Final Round of Beta Feedback Before BigCommerce 6 is Rolled Out to New Stores

A sample store running on the iPhone using BigCommerce 6

A sample store running on the iPhone using BigCommerce 6

We’re counting down the hours until BigCommerce 6 (along with our new website!) starts deploying on all new stores. Until then, here’s some feedback from our customers who helped with the final round of beta testing (a BIG thank you to all of you for your help!):

“This is absoulty Brilliant, the interface has been tweaked, the ability to run feeds to the shopping networks is a great add to a platform that is already very good. We belive this Ecommerce platform is the best money can buy in the UK” – Luke Hill, www.britanniainks.co.uk

“Just finished beta testing BigCommerce 6. The two most important components for us are the integration with ShipWorks for processing all of our FedEx shipments, and Mailchimp for our email marketing. Setting up both components couldn’t have been easier. MailChimp is a great partner and there are a ton of data that BigCommerce can pass through to MailChimp which make it an invaluable tool. The Shipworks integration took less than 10 minutes, but will save us hours of shipping processing time over the course of a year. Congrats to BigCommerce for choosing great partners to work with, and for making the whole process so easy. It’s becoming more and more obvious why BigCommerce is truly the leader in ecommerce hosted shopping carts. Great job lads.” – Iain Bluett, www.ticketprinting.biz

“I’m testing every new feature of BigCommerce 6 and so far I am loving it! BigCommerce seriously is at the top of the game and ahead of every single e-commerce platform I’ve known. The multi-channel retailing is easy and fast to implement. Ebay, Shopzilla, Pricegrabber, NextTag…all within a few minutes. This will not only raise my sales greatly but also provides more valuable organic links to boost my ranking on search engines, which in turn increases my sales too! I was thrilled to see most of the customers ideas and problems are addressed in this release. It proves that BigCommerce listens and does care about the user community. You can’t find this in any other e-commerce platform! Thank you BigCommerce, you guys rock and I believe you can deliver more great things in the future.” – Arielle Phan, www.e-panda.com

“This platform just gets better and better… I love the new features in Version 6… Returns Management System, Email Marketing with Mailchimp Integration, Selling on eBay, Facebook, Shopping Comparison Site & Google Product Feed Uploads, Shipping Manager, a multitude of payment gateways, Coupons, Gift Certificates, Wish Lists, Discount Rules, Simple WYSIWYG system with the option of modifying the code, and so much more… I think I’m running out of room to write them all down!… Seriously… what more can someone ask for? I’ve tried plenty of other carts, from the hosted ones, to the ones you host your self, and I can tell you, by far this has to be the best eCommerce Platform I’ve used… Finally I think I can see my business expanding… All thanks to BigCommerce! I’m already looking forward to Version 6.5 / 7… Can’t wait to see what they’ll think of next!” – Ray Frangie, www.rmftechnologies.com.au

“Mitch and company, WOW, WOW, WOW!!! So I’ve been playing around with the BC6 Beta and I am absolutely blown away with the product you have put together here! BC6 is the most exciting thing that has happened around our office in years. Everyone is so jazzed about the eBay integration and the multi-channel sales tools. I added it up and so far, BC6 will get rid of four different software packages, two backend website services and a clunky order processing operation. Bravo guys, BRAV-FREAKING-O!!!!! It’s like a bunch of kids on Christmas eve around this place!…… The anticipation is killing us!!!!” – Clint Wilder, www.buyairbrushes.com

“Not even 5 minutes into testing I wanted to say how GREAT the new tax code set up is, the development of this and the detail is a 500% improvement and is exactly what our store needs, as well as the options on what tax info to include in orders thank you! Been playing around with the mailchimp integration which allows for very targeted marketing if you set it up right. Not planning to sell on Ebay with our Softbots website, but will with another one of our stores, so will look forward to using the option towards the end of the year. Instructions so far, look very easy to follow to set this up.” – Sabina Borthwick, www.softbots.co.uk

BigCommerce 6 will be made available to existing customers shortly after it’s made available on new stores. We will of course email you with details when it’s ready to go.

Want to read more posts like this?

[Video] Understanding Points of Diminishing Return

When I type define:diminishing returns into Google, this is what I get:

“In economics, diminishing returns (also called diminishing marginal returns) refers to how the marginal production of a factor of production starts to progressively decrease as the factor is increased, in contrast to the increase that would otherwise be normally expected”

What a mouthful. Long story short, there are certain areas of your business where adding more horsepower won’t necessarily give you the exact same result forever.

For example, if you build a customer service team comprised of only untrained, unmotivated, lazy customer service reps then eventually you’ll end up with frustrated customers who won’t be able to get their questions answered no matter how many people are on your customer service team.

In this video I discuss the economic principle of diminishing returns in the context of e-commerce and shares three examples that demonstrate how diminishing returns can impact your business productivity and bottom line.

The examples include:

  1. Spending more on Google AdWords to counter competitors bidding on popular keywords just to attract the same number of visitors
  2. Quality over quantity of autoresponders
  3. How to create a successful customer service department that when combined with automation will reduce your costs

This video is a bit heavy on theory, so if you don’t understand anything just leave me a question below or ask me on Twitter (@mitchellharper).

Want to read more posts like this?

Head to Head: Product Page Design From Top Online Retailers

Arguably the most important pages in your e-commerce store are the product detail pages. You know, the ones with your fancy photos, nice big “Add to Cart” button, description and price? When we created our shopping cart software BigCommerce, we spent a huge amount of time making sure the product pages were perfect.

But what makes a good (high converting) product page? There are certain elements that have been proven to increase conversion rates, such as having a bright, bold “Add to Cart” button shown above the fold (in the first 600 vertical pixels of the page), crisp and detailed product photos and of course good prices.

In this post I want to share product pages from sixteen of the top retailers in America and Australia. You will of course notice a lot of similarities on their product pages, but I’m sure you’ll also notice a lot of small differences. For example, the position and size of the “Add to Cart” button varies quite a lot between retailers.

Numerous studies have been done that show the “Add to Cart” button produces the best conversion rate when it’s shown above the fold in a bright color and toward the right side of the page, so why do some of the biggest retailers in the world show it in other places, potentially costing them millions of dollars in sales every week? Who knows.

Take a look at each of the sixteen product pages below and then leave me a comment to let me know which you prefer in terms of layout and why.

















Want to read more posts like this?

Existing Customers: Changes Required to Your Email and FTP Settings

Over the last 10 months our team of system administrators and network engineers have been working to make BigCommerce PCI compliant.

PCI compliance is a confusing subject for most people, but put simply it’s a way to certify that the BigCommerce hosting environment and application have met a level of certification and compliance required to prevent credit card fraud through increased controls around data and its exposure to compromise.

The good news is that we’ll be submitting for compliance shortly – we just have a few small changes we need you as an existing customer to make first. Specifically they deal with settings you use for checking your BigCommerce email and connecting to your store via FTP.

If you don’t host your email with us *and* you don’t connect to your store via FTP then you can stop reading.

There are two changes we need you to make and they only take about 5 minutes:

  1. You need to update some security-related connection settings in your email client (such as Microsoft Outlook or Gmail) for all email accounts hosted by us
  2. You need to update your server name and connect via FTPS instead of FTP when editing your template files in an FTP client (such as Filezilla or CuteFTP)

I’ve included the instructions our systems administration team will be sending to all existing customers via email below. They include clear steps on how to update your email details and how to update your FTP details.

Please note: these changes must be implemented by all BigCommerce customers before August 1st. If not, existing BigCommerce-hosted email accounts as well as your FTP login will no longer work.

How to Change Your Email Client Details

  1. Login to your BigCommerce control panel
  2. Click the “Tools” menu and then the “Email Accounts” menu option
  3. Click the “View Account Details” link next to an existing email address
  4. You’ll see the new incoming and outgoing mail servers listed in the window that opens

You need to update your email client with these new server details, which we will do next.
For incoming email, there are different settings if you’re using POP3 or IMAP to receive mail. The following settings in your mail client will need to be updated:

  • Incoming mail server (use the incoming mail server from step 4 above)
  • SSL (secure connections) should be enabled
  • Set the port to 995 for POP3 or 993 for IMAP

The outgoing mail server (that you use to send emails, sometimes called SMTP) will also need to be updated in your mail client. The following settings should be updated:

  • Outgoing mail server (use the outgoing mail server from step 4 above)
  • Either SSL (secure connections) or TLS (also called STARTTLS) should be enabled
  • Set the port to 465 if you’re using SSL, or 587 if you’re using TLS/STARTTLS

You can find detailed instructions on how to configure Windows Mail, Outlook 2007, Apple Mail and Gmail with these secure settings, and general mail settings for POP3 and IMAP here.

How to Change Your FTP Client Details

If you connect to your store via FTP, you’ll need to change the settings in your FTP client to connect via explicit FTPS. Some FTP clients may call this option a different name, such as FTPES, or FTP with TLS/SSL.

If your FTP client does not support secure FTP, or you do not see this option, then you can find a list of our recommended FTP clients here.

Going forward, instead of using your store’s domain name/web address as the FTP host name, you should use the address of the BigCommerce server your store is hosted on. You can obtain this address by:

  1. Logging in to your BigCommerce control panel
  2. Clicking the “Store Design” link in the top right corner of the control panel
  3. Clicking the “Edit Your Template Files Via FTP” button
  4. Taking note of the “FTP Server” listed in the window that opens

If you use one of our recommended FTP clients, you can find updated instructions on how to connect to your store at the following page:

Please note: these changes must be implemented by all BigCommerce customers before August 1st. If not, existing BigCommerce-hosted email accounts as well as your FTP login will no longer work.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact our support team.

Want to read more posts like this?

Feedback From BigCommerce 6 Beta Testers (Plus a Release Date!)

The BigCommerce 6 beta has been in the hands of a closed list of around 700 customers and external testers for just under a week now so I thought I’d share some feedback that’s been coming in over the last few days:

“After just a few hours looking over the new features in BC6, I’m finding that this will be one of the biggest boosts to our store since opening! The social networking features alone will allow us to become better suited to handling our customers’ needs the way we speak to them about everything else. With the ability to sell on FB and utilize Mailchimp integration to better alert our customers about the new goings-on around home base, we expect to be able to get more conversions per look than ever. The key for us is eliminating the amount of decisions between seeing our cool stuff and purchasing, and BC6 has taken the biggest step towards that yet. Add to that the ability to finally run an eBay store with fewer hassles and cross-management headaches, plus the ability to finally take preorders for items in order for us to gauge interest and you’ve got a winner for sure.” - Jason Craze, www.eternalcombustion.com

“Wow, just went through the process of getting products up on eBay.  Between signing up for eBay, getting the keys, configuring the test store and choosing the test products, the whole process took under 15 minutes.  It doesn’t get any easier than that.  I also love the fact we can now edit the robots.txt file.  Great work!” - Liliana Skurnick, www.uniquedollclothing.com

“The shopping comparision option I like. Gives products more exposure across high visibilty shopping sites.” - Bruce Garcia, www.veterangiftbaskets.com

“BigCommerce 6 takes e-commerce to a whole new level.  The new features look solid.  It’s nice to have a team that listens to their customers’ comments and suggestions!” - A J Robey, www.playerpost.com

“BigCommerce 6 just takes everything to a new level. MailChimp integration is amazingly well done and powerful. eBay integration now makes it even easier to run your own site while still benefiting from eBay customer numbers. Exporting to shop comparrison sites has been made easy and hassle free just like everything else in BigCommerce!” - John McCluskey, www.ufdirect.co.uk

“BigCommerce 6 has some great new features! There is a new coupon option that makes offering coupons a lot more flexible and rewarding. I am also very excited about using the new online shopping integrations offered with Facebook and the shopping comparison sites. We have 4 stores now with BigCommerce and I can’t wait to get them switched over to version 6!” – Matt Clark, www.neuroformulas.com

There’s very little work remaining on our end, so we’ll begin rolling out BigCommerce 6 to new stores early next week and will then provide the upgrade to existing live stores shortly after that. To all of our beta testers, a huge thanks for all your hard work and we hope you look forward to the finished product!

Want to read more posts like this?

Interviewed by eBay Guru John Lawson About BigCommerce 6

John Lawson is a social media and e-commerce guru who runs the extremely popular blog ColderIce. John had been trying to track me down for about 3 months and luckily we got through all of the email limbo and got together on Skype last week for a quick interview. In the interview we discuss our growth, why BigCommerce is different and what’s coming in BigCommerce 6, specifically eBay integration and what that means for business owners.

It’s always refreshing to speak with someone who just “gets it”, and John has an excellent understanding of e-commerce in general as well as social media marketing and using tools like eBay and Amazon to really take your sales to the next level, so make sure you read his blog, specifically his Education category which has lots of useful information – also follow him on Twitter.

Anyway, here’s the interview. It goes for 8:33 so it’s a quick listen:

Also, here’s the BigCommerce 6 trailer if you missed it:

Want to read more posts like this?

[Video] The Buying Cycle Explained

Whether they realize it or not, your customers go through four distinct steps before they buy anything online or off. This process is known as the buying cycle and the four steps are:

  • Realizing you have a need or problem
  • Researching solutions or information
  • Comparing options, price and value
  • Buying the solution to your problem
  • Repeating this process (optional)

In this video I explain the buying cycle and shares strategies you can use to assist your customers regardless of which stage of the buying cycle they’re in. The trick is to make your e-commerce store appropriate no matter which stage your customers are in, so they start with you and end the buying cycle with you, ideally coming back for more the next time they have a need or problem they need to address.

Want to read more posts like this?