How to Create an Online Store, Part 4: Attract and keep the right buyers

how to create an online store

If you’ve enjoyed this series, you’ll love our new ebook. How Create an Online Store This Weekend is a free step-by-step guide to launching your e-commerce business. In addition to great tips, tricks and advice on building your store, it includes examples and testimonials from 30 successful clients. Download the free ebook today and get ready to sell more!

Welcome back entrepreneurs! Over the past couple weeks we’ve laid out the essential steps in creating an online store. First, we discussed asking the right questions and selecting the right platform. Second, we guided you through building a solid infrastructure. Then, we gave you loads of ideas on how to wow shoppers. Now, with this last and final post, I will help you wrap your noodle around some key search and marketing concepts so you can attract shoppers to your store.

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Use email marketing to increase sales year round and make kittens happy

year-round email marketing

A couple of weeks ago, we asked our clients to submit their New Year’s Resolutions for 2014. We saw a trend emerge almost immediately. Many of you, including PictureIt Creations, said that one of your main resolutions was to focus on email marketing.

email marketing screenshot 1

Apparently mastering email is the SMB equivalent of losing ten pounds. And the best part? It is way more effective than the average fad diet. According to research from the Direct Marketing Association, email marketing has the highest return-on-investment of all organic channels. In fact, companies generated an average of $40.56 of return for every dollar spent on email marketing.

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3 steps for achieving your marketing resolutions

three step content marketing

A small business owner’s work is never done. Now that you’ve had a week to recover from the holidays, it’s time to gear up your marketing efforts for 2014! Marketing was a popular resolution for Bigcommerce clients, and it just so happens that one of the hottest trends for small businesses is content marketing.

If you want to get more attention from the search engines and social networks — but you have limited marketing budgets — content marketing is the answer. Setting up an e-commerce store enables you to sell online, but just having a store doesn’t guarantee you’ll receive orders. Buyers need to find your store before they can make a purchase. Creating and distributing relevant articles, client stories, product spotlights or company updates gets you the visibility you need to attract prospective customers.

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Send regular emails to increase your sales by 30% or more

Our integration partners at SimpleRelevance, who know all about sending the perfect email, have written this guest post to show you why email marketing matters and give you some tips on talking to your customers. Their app helps you send relevant, personalized emails to your customers based on their geographic, social, demographic and past purchase data. You can try it for free in our App Store.

Pardon us for stating the obvious, but your e-commerce store should be sending email. It seems like a no-brainer, but last year we conducted a survey of over 10,000 e-commerce stores and found an overwhelming majority of them do not email their customers. In fact, three months after opting in to each mailing list, 84% of retailers had not sent a single email.

Why does email matter?
Not surprisingly, regular email marketing campaigns are strongly correlated with higher sales. In fact, the same survey found that stores investing in email marketing can generate at least 30% of their revenue from these online campaigns. So if 84% of companies are leaving more than 30% of sales on the table by not emailing their customers, the total impact on $1.2 billion in sales is along the lines of $302 million. Yes, that’s right! As amazing as it is that small businesses using Bigcommerce have sold more than $1.2 billion, they could have sold even more with regular email marketing.

Email is still king
Still not convinced? Take a look at the results of a recent study by the Direct Marketing Association. It found that, on average, companies generated $40.56 of return for every dollar spent on email marketing. As you can see from the graph below, this is nearly double the return compared to mobile, social, display and search advertising efforts.

Custom emails = better sales
Sending emails is good. However, sending relevant emails with customized product recommendations is even better. has known this for years — in fact, VentureBeat reported that 35% of Amazon’s revenue comes from recommendations based on past purchase behavior. Luckily, customization does not always mean significant extra work.

For example, let’s look at a hypothetical email campaign for a ceramide hair straightener. Acknowledging that gender stereotypes do not always hold true, we can likely assume that the open rate on the hair tool email would be higher for women than for men. Aside from open rates, men would likely be turned off by the lack of relevant content and inclined to unsubscribe from your list. By simply customizing the subject line to “treat yourself this holiday season” for women and “give the gift she’ll love” for men, you can instantly make the exact same email more relevant to both parties.

Gathering data
Sending relevant emails does require you to truly know your customer. Unfortunately, a report by Marketing Sherpa found that only 14% of companies actually collect and use basic demographic data about their customers. Including a few extra fields on your email signup sheet such as age and gender is the easiest and most cost effective way of collecting data. Remember, even small customization features can make a big difference.

Optimizing your emails
Finally convinced of the benefits of sending email but still struggling to get it done? You are not alone. Research has shown that “too busy” and “not enough time” were the top two reasons companies were not sending email.

Given that over 70% of e-commerce retailers have only 1-10 employees, it is easy to see how the thought of finding time to send relevant emails can be daunting. But here are a few of our top tips for quickly putting together relevant email campaigns that will help increase your sales. 

1. Make sure your email reaches the inbox. List hygiene is essential to improve your deliverability, so periodically remove people who never open email, or addresses that bounce.

2. Make sure you use a professional template that is mobile-friendly and has a call to action focused on purchasing your products.

3. Subject lines are key! Make sure that they are concise, personalized, and familiar. If not, your message won’t even get opened.

4. Timing is everything. Don’t just hit the “send” button whenever you’re done writing. Think about when your customers are more likely to purchase, and send them email at the proper time.

Here’s one example of a Bigcommerce store that uses SimpleRelevance to apply all of these lessons:

For all of the tips above, it’s important to test and optimize over time. You’ll be amazed how often your intuition is wrong, so make sure to let the data do the talking.

Email is important, and neglecting it means you are almost certainly leaving money on the table. Don’t ignore your customers — send them email they’ll want to see and take action on. If you do, you can count on the fact that you will sell more!

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Don’t miss out on a major growth opportunity this holiday season (hint: it’s not sales)

This guest post is written by Adeel Vanthaliwala, CEO of, a shared-giveaways site that pools businesses together so they can offer big contest prizes (e.g., a $500 gift card) by sharing a fraction of the prize cost (e.g., $19.99) with other businesses. You can integrate Incentivibe with your Bigcommerce store through our App Store.

The Golden Opportunity

The holiday season is heating up. And it’s about to get sizzling hot. Businesses are now pouring huge amounts of money into advertising and chalking up huge discounts, all in an effort to drive more sales. But in this crazy hustle and bustle, business owners are missing out on a golden opportunity to increase sales and marketing throughout the year.
 The opportunity lies in converting more of your online visitors into leads (email subscribers, fans and/or followers) who you can market to for free throughout the year. Since 95% of your online visitors won’t be ready to buy on their first visit, turning even a small percentage of visitors into leads can really move the dial on your sales in the long run. Numerous studies have shown that people are more likely to buy from companies who they subscribe to via email, like on Facebook or follow on Twitter.

The Solution

Giveaway contests with big prizes are a great way of converting visitors into subscribers, fans and followers. Marketing experts such as Marketing Sherpa, HubSpot, Chief Marketer and others have detailed the awesome results of running giveaway contests to increase your leads so you can drive more sales throughout the year.
I’ve outlined four ways that giveaways help you get more leads, along with specific case studies that help you understand the power of giveaway contests with big prizes. And if you are on a tight budget, then you can use Incentivibe’s service to hold giveaway contests with big prizes at a fraction of the cost.

The Benefits

1. Increase email subscribers
a. The Sugar Trade Association ran a $200 Visa Card giveaway promotion along with grand prizes of a laptop and tablet computer. This added 3, 000 more email addresses to their database, an increase of 368%!
b. Expedia CruiseShipCenters added more than 100,000 email subscribers to its database by holding a month-long contest for a pair of cruise ship tickets.

2. Increase fans
a. Digitech doubled its fans from 4,000 to 8,000 during its two-week contest.
b. ProClip USA held an iPhone accessory giveaway that increased its Facebook fans by 30%.

3. Increase followers
a. Moosejaw increased its Twitter followers by 45% during its contest where they gave away their own products to the winner.
b. Kobo increased its Twitter followers by 43.5% during its 10-day contest for 3 Kobo e-readers.

4. Increase referral traffic to get more leads
a. Grove held a month-long giveaway contest with various Apple accessories serving as the prizes. It increased its Facebook referral traffic by 114%.
b. The Martha Stewart Show held a giveaway promotion where contestants were encouraged to share the giveaway to get additional entries into the contest. This brought in an additional 1,626 contestants and an increase in Facebook fans by 20%.

The Tips

Everyone gets different results from their giveaway campaign. The most important thing to do is have a single goal that you would like to accomplish by the end of a contest. I’ve listed some tips and valuable resources below to help you get the most out of your giveaway contest this holiday season. If you have any questions you can reach out to me via Twitter (@adeelv) and I’d be happy to help you.

  • Align your prize to the needs of your target audience to increase the chances of getting more visitors to participate in the contest and become leads.
  • Make sure you follow the rules and regulations of your country, as well as the social media platforms upon which you are running your giveaway. Some giveaway tools provide you with this information as part of their pricing bundles, while other do not. Incentivibe provides you with all the legal and administrative work required to run a contest within its pricing bundles.
  • There are plenty of good tips that you can find online. Some of the best ones that I have come across are from HubSpot and Unbounce.

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Automated Emails: Winning Strategies and Dangerous Mistakes

Jaime Brugueras is a 10-year marketing analyst veteran and the co-founder of Mineful, automated email software (that integrates with Bigcommerce) where he collaborates on customer retention and segmentation with anyone who is interested. You can find Jaime on  on Google+and Twitter.

Your business is all about customer response and interaction. Creative solutions for interacting like social media, community development and local deals are relatively new, but internet email marketing has long been a staple of direct outreach strategies.

HTML email marketing is a great solution for staying in touch with your customers long after a sale and retaining top-of-mind positioning for future sales. Here are some tips on how to make your automated emails encourage more business and pull in more conversions.

Consumers Actually Prefer Email Marketing Above Even Social Media

Social media is all the rage, and marketers are all hopping on the bandwagon and claiming that email marketing is dead in the water thanks to the Big Social. That couldn’t be more wrong!

In a 2011 marketing research study, consumers said that they were 200% more likely to be influenced by promotional emails than search engine results, traditional advertising, and word-of-mouth; and 300% more likely to be influenced by promotional emails than social media. The only influence that outdid ecommerce email marketing was prior familiarity with the brand—meaning people actually want to get your emails if they like your product.

Follow these tips, and the next time someone tells you email marketing is dead, just show them your repeat business and customer response rates. Or better yet—don’t! If marketers think it’s a good idea to abandon email marketing while you’re seeing results from it, that’s just less competition for your message.

Typically you’ll see automatic email in one of three flavors: Recurring, Transactional, or Threshold.

  • Recurring emails are sent on a regular calendar interval, and include birthday or anniversary messages and reminders for renewals and subscription updates.
  • Transactional emails are sent at the end of a conversion or transaction. This can range from a “Welcome” message upon subscription, a confirmation after a purchase, shipping information notices, and essential product information updates.
  • Threshold emails are sent after a special set of customer behaviors triggers an event. These often come in the form of product suggestions based on browsing history, discounts awarded from product purchases, and re-engagement messages based on a lack of use.
  • Each of these three kinds of automated email have the distinct purpose of engaging (or re-engaging) your customer base with your brand, and they accomplish it in many different ways.

There are some basic, but essential tips for good automatic emails that produce results:

  • Absolutely No Spamming: Sending too much over too little time will be seen by customers and email spam systems as garbage, and your messages may not even make it to the inbox.
  • Front-Load Subject Lines: Most email systems, on computers and especially on mobile devices, truncate long subject lines. Make sure your most important information is right at the beginning of the subject, or your emails won’t be nearly as compelling.
  • Make It Easy On The Eyes: Make sure your emails are consistent and well-designed, and try to make that design mobile-optimized if you can.
  • Test, Test, Test: A/B testing is absolutely essential. Constantly attempt to optimize your emails and keep a close eye on the response measurements.

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New Feature Coming Next Week: Abandoned Cart Saver


Numerous research reports show that you can expect around 15% of abandoned carts to be recovered using email marketing automation in combination with an optional discount or coupon code to further entice shoppers to complete their purchase.

If you’ve ever purchased something online I’m sure you’ve received at least one email trying to entice you to complete an abandoned purchase.

Research tells us that most people abandon their carts for a few primary reaons:

  1. They’re in research mode and shopping across multiple sites to price check
  2. They add a product to their cart to find out what shipping will cost (when the shipping cost isn’t clear on the product page)
  3. They simply run out of time or get distracted and never return to complete their purchase

Our abandoned cart saver, in combination with our automatic product review reminder emails (that went out in April) are two of the many features we’re currently working on to help BigCommerce clients sell more without having to do more.

We’re strong believers in marketing automation, especially for our smaller clients without a marketing team, and will continue to roll out other marketing automation features over the coming weeks and months with one primary goal – to get your conversion rate well above the average for the industry in which you sell.

So, let’s take a look at how the abandoned cart saver actually works.

How Does It Work?

Here’s a very high level overview of how the feature works:

  1. A shopper adds one or more products to their shopping cart in your BigCommerce store
  2. They start the checkout process, but for whatever reason don’t complete it
  3. They leave your website
  4. After one hour, they receive an email inviting them to complete their purchase
  5. If after one day they haven’t completed their purchase, they receive another email
  6. Finally, after two days if they haven’t completed their purchase, they receive a final email
  7. You see a report on all abandoned and recovered orders including the exact dollar amount saved

As is explained below, this feature can be disabled and both the content and timing of the emails can be completely customized.

When Will This Feature Roll Out?

The roll out will start this coming Monday, 21st May and may take a few days to reach your store depending on when you signed up for BigCommerce. The feature will be turned on by default for all stores on the gold, platinum or diamond plans and the feature can easily be disabled from the Settings -> Store ->Miscellaneous tab if required.

We’ve decided to roll this feature out on the gold, diamond and platinum plans only, for a few different reasons. The first is that in order to recover abandoned carts, you need to have a lot of carts that are abandoned. When we looked at the statistics, clients on the gold plan or above had a higher overall measure on all metrics, including the number of carts that were abandoned, purely because their sites get more visitors.

The second reason comes from lots of interviews, conversations and research with our clients. Our larger clients tend to pay extra close attention to conversion rate optimization (CRO) and the idea of being able to cost-effectively recover a large number of abandoned carts automatically is something that appealed to them quite strongly, again, primarily because they have the volume of visitors where a small percentage improvement in their conversion rate will have a huge material impact on revenue.

Clients on the broze or silver plan can get access to the abandoned cart saver feature simply by upgrading to the gold, diamond or platinum plan at any time. Let’s take a look at a few screenshots of the abandoned cart saver in action.

Customizable Email Messages

From the Marketing -> Abandoned Cart Notifications menu you’ll see a series of 3 emails that are setup by default. These emails are scheduled to be sent to any shopper in your store who abandons their shopping cart, which means they added products to their cart and started the checkout process but for whatever reason didn’t actually complete their order.

By default, there are 3 emails setup and they are scheduled to be sent 1 hour, 1 day and 2 days after a shopping cart has been abandoned. They contain a simple message which you can customize to include a coupon code if you’d like. The design of these emails can also be completely customized to include your brand elements and style.

Here’s how the default email looks (in this example, we’ve included a coupon code):

Creating or modifying an email in the series is quick and easy, as you can see below. You can create up to 3 emails to be sent to shoppers who have abandoned their carts. If you select a coupon code to include it will automatically be applied to the shopper’s order when they click the link in the email.

The contents of each email can also be personalized using dynamic placeholders for first name, last name, full name, cart contents, checkout link, store name, etc. See this knowledge base article for more details.

Abandoned Cart Settings

Of course you also have complete control over important settings for this feature and it can be disabled if required. Depending on how many visitors you get to your BigCommerce store, you can choose to be notified when a shopping cart is abandoned in your store. You can be notified every time a cart is abandoned, or you can receive a summarized email when a certain number of shopping carts are abandoned, such as 10, 50 or 500. You can also turn off these email notifications.

Abandoned Cart Saver Reporting

We’ve built a beautiful yet simple report that shows exactly how many carts have been abandoned and how many have been saved. We then tie these numbers together to show you exactly how much you’ve made in sales that you otherwise would have lost. We do all of this in one report:

The report also shows the exact details of every abandoned order that was saved so you have a completely granular level of reporting if that’s what you need.

Opting Out Of Marketing Emails

Along with the automatic product review reminder emails, your shoppers can opt out of receiving abandoned cart notification emails. Any shopper that ops out of receiving these emails will have a new attribute called Receive Marketing Emails set to No as part of their customer profile. You can also set this attribute to No if a client calls and asks to stop receiving these emails:


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New Webinar Series: How To Drive Sales Using Advanced Marketing Strategies

Overview: New advanced webinar series
Title: How To Drive Sales Using Advanced Marketing Strategies
When? 1pm CDT on Wednesday, August 10th (See this in your time zone)
Register: Click here to register (limited spots available)

We already run regular webinars that teach the basics of e-commerce and BigCommerce, but today I’m happy to announce that we’re adding a fourth series to our already popular webinars.

Lead by certified BigCommerce design partner and e-commerce experts Madwire MediaHow To Drive Sales Using Advanced Marketing Strategies is our latest webinar series and the first webinar kicks off at 1pm CDT on Wednesday, August 10th (see this in your time zone).

So, what will you learn during this free webinar? Here’s a taste:

  • Automatically targeting customers after purchase
  • Retargeting customers based on what they buy
  • Increasing conversion rate using promotional banners
  • When it’s best to offer time sensitive promotions
  • Strategies to increase sales using gift certificates
  • How to find and promote your best selling products
  • Analyzing abandoned cart data to improve conversions
  • How to manage orders and inventory for multiple stores
  • Dropshipping strategies to manage multiple vendors

Click here to register (limited spots available)

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Announcing Our New Marketing Site for Small Business,

Guess what – we’ve been working on a new content website for the last few months and today is launch day!

The new site is called and it was created to help you become an expert at Internet marketing, search engine optimization (SEO) and e-commerce!

Our new website is updated regularly with fresh content and will teach you:

  • Search engine optimization
  • Search engine marketing
  • Social media marketing
  • E-Commerce strategy
  • On-site merchandising
  • Public relations
  • Conversion optimization

… and lots of other tips, tricks, strategies and ideas which you can use to either start a new e-commerce business or grow your existing e-commerce business faster than you thought possible.

Go to

View the press release here

P.S. Really important – make sure you like ChiliFries on Facebook and follow ChiliFries on Twitter so you don’t miss a post!

P.P.S. Become part of the ChiliFries community by leaving comments on a few posts you like. It’s fast, easy and is a great way to meet like-minded business owners.

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Free Guide: Guerilla Marketing With Social Media

eBook: Guerilla Marketing With Social Media

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Well, the holiday season is almost upon us. As a way to say “thank you” for reading our blog (which now has over 50,000 readers a month – woohoo!) I wanted to give you a 27 page ebook that’s been 6 months in the making.

In Guerilla Marketing With Social Media I share the 7 social media strategies we’ve used to grow our business by 480% in the last 3 years (proof). And because these are all guerilla marketing strategies, you’ll learn how to reach a huge number of people for a very, very low cost.

This has been one of the most successful guides we’ve ever produced – it’s already been downloaded well over 5,000 times by people on our email list (sorry, they got it first!) so I’m confident you’ll love it.

Whether you want to increase sales, attract thousands of Facebook followers, launch a contest, partner with the big wigs in your industry or turn one-time customers into raving fans, it’s all here in this 27 page ebook.

Click here to download our free guide: Guerilla Marketing With Social Media

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