6 email marketing automation tips for eCommerce businesses

6 email marketing automation tips for eCommerce businesses

Gloria Kopp is a ecommerce digital marketer at Academized. She is an editor at Studydemic blog for writers and international students. Gloria is a contributor at Collective Evolution, Template Monster and Big Assignments. Follow her on Twitter: @Gloria_Kopp


 

With the rise of social media, SEO and paid advertising strategies, it seems like many businesses are letting their email campaigns slip off to the wayside. However, if used effectively, it’s still one of the most popular and most effective forms of marketing you can invest in.

In fact, according to one study by MarketingSherpa, they found that 72% of customers preferred communicating via email, that’s way more than calls, texts, instant message and social media combined.

So, as an e-commerce business, what can you do to implement an email strategy into marketing efforts? If you’re scratching your head for ideas, here are six tried and tested email automations you can set up and starting today.

Start with a Welcome Email

When a customer signs up to your business by joining your mailing list, what’s the first thing they receive from you? Is it an email a couple of weeks later featuring offers or a newsletter? KissMetrics found that implementing a welcome email into your marketing strategy will boost your click-through rate and revenue three times more than any other email you’ll send.

So, using automated email clients like GetResponse or ReachMail, you can set up triggers so as soon as a lead signs up to your mailing list, they’ll receive a welcoming email from you saying welcome to your community and a bit of information about your business and what they can do next.

Making Sure Everything is Okay

Following up the sales that you’ve made is a great way to improve the overall e-commerce experience that you’re offering your customers. It shows that you care about the service that you’ve provided them and that you simply haven’t taken their money and disappeared.

By using services like Litmus, you can send timed emails a few days from when the purchase is made to make sure that everything is okay, adding contact links and asking to get in touch if they have any problems. If you don’t have time to create these emails yourself, you can use email copywriting services such as UK Writings, as suggested by UK Top Writers.

The Importance of Upselling

Upselling has long been a successful marketing tactic used by businesses all over the world. With this process, you simply send out an email which details related products to the ones that certain customers have already been looking at or offers in regard to the products they are interested in.

This can be done with most email automation clients and can significantly boost your turnover and revenue, as well as increasing the chances of repeat purchases if implemented properly. As you can imagine, this is a lot of emails to create. To help you with this process, it can be beneficial to use free online tools like Easy Word Count or Cite It In.

Cart Abandonment Prompts

How many times do you see that a lead has added products to their basket and are just a few clicks away from making a purchase before they change their mind and leave your store? This could happen for a number of reasons from having simply no time to finish their purchase to changing their minds about what they’re buying.

However, using email automation, you can set up triggers that send off an email to your customer to remind them that they still have items in their cart waiting for them to buy, helping you claw back those all-important sales.

When generating these emails, be sure to maintain your credibility by checking the content to ensure it’s free from errors. You can make this process easier by using services like Essayroo (as recommended by Best Australian Writers ) or Boom Essays, another popular service recently featured in the Huffington Post.

Educate Your Customers

In marketing, there’s the 80/20 rule that refers to the content that a business sends to its customers. This means that 80% of the content you send should be educational while the remaining 20% is promotional.

So, in relation to your email marketing strategy, you’re going to need to plan what educational content you’re going to send. Luckily, there’s a lot of opportunities open to you, whether you’re talking about your products and their origin, industry related news and media, information about your business and more.

The most important thing to remember here is to keep the content relevant and relatable to your business. If you’re strapped for time, you can use writing services like State of Writing and Academadvisor for writing, editing or proofreading your emails.

Re-Engaging Customers

Sometimes you’ll see customers on your page analytics who regularly came to your website and interacted with your content and products but have since disappeared for whatever reason.

This is one of the easiest automated emails to set up as you can wait a month or two to remind customers that you exist as well as some information on what they are missing out on! “This can re-engage potentially lost customers, bringing them back to your business, customers you would have lost completely without email” – explains Richard Lainez, an Email Marketer at Assignment Help.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are many simple yet effective ways to implement email automation into the marketing process of your e-commerce store. All you need to do is get creative with what you want to achieve, and you can be sure your campaign will be a success.

How to plan a successful content marketing workflow in just 5 steps

How to plan a successful content marketing workflow in just 5 steps

Gloria Kopp is an ecommerce digital marketer at Academized. She is an editor at Studydemic blog for writers and international students. Gloria is a contributor at Collective Evolution, Template Monster and Big Assignments. Follow her on Twitter: @Gloria_Kopp


 

Content marketing is one of the most important and essential parts of your marketing and advertising campaign which requires an immense amount of planning and organizing to be successful. More and more businesses are seeing the benefits of having a content marketing workflow as it can help you and your team to streamline your processes and focus on achieving quality and results. Most businesses will have a workflow in place already but is it as successful as it can? Today, we’ll explore five key steps you can take when creating your workflow to ensure all the bases are covered and that your content is a success.

Identify Who You Need

Marketing teams can be extremely vast and variable departments with many different roles and job titles, from graphic designers and UX technicians to writers and SEO managers. When planning the start of your workflow, you need to create a list of all the job roles that you want to be included in that campaign. “This will help you to organize and plan who is going to carry out what tasks, whether you need to outsource any parts of the project and how your budget is going to match the project” – says Victor Raines, a Content Marketer at Resumention.

Finalise the Tasks Needed

Once you’ve created a list of the people that are going to be involved in your content marketing project, you need to define what jobs are in needed in order to make the project a success. When sorting out this stage of the workflow, the more detail you include now, the better your final project will be and the fewer edits you’ll have to make. And I mean you can go into an immense amount of detail. In regard to written content, think about the language you’re going to use, the grammar, the style of punctuation, the tone of voice and any information you need to include regarding legal or policy requirements.

Set Your Timeframe

With accurate time management in place in your content workflow, you can effectively manage your content marketing project to ensure everything is done on time and even leaves you enough time to make any changes and adjustments, so your content is ready and perfect for release. “It’s imperative that you remember that ASAP and Yesterday are not accurate deadlines to set your team members and precise times and dates are essential to your team’s success. Remember to include team feedback stages and leave enough time to evaluate your content and make changes” – explains Milton Clausen, a Marketing Manager at Bestbritishessays and Huffingtonpost writer. Don’t forget to make the deadlines realistic.

Creating the Content

Now that everything is organized, it’s time to set your teams up so they can start creating the content itself. With all the information and considerations listed above, this should be a relatively easy task since all the data has been compiled and it’s now a case of piecing it all together. Of course, you’ll need to ensure all of your teams maintain contact, so the style, of say, your images and banners match with the written content itself. Set up team managers to oversee every aspect of the content creation process so you can be sure that a minimal amount of errors and adjustments need to be made. Make your content easy to digest with writing tools like Bigassignments and Oxessays for more information, and your readers will digest it.

Review, Perfect, Publish

Once the content has been completed by the deadline, it’s time to review and make any necessary changes to the content that you need to make. Remember to check out relevant keywords and design aspects to ensure you’re giving the readers what they want. Once finalized, it’s time to release your content to the world and watch the traffic, sales and revenue soar! Don’t forget you can use a thesaurus or professional writing guides, like the ones found at My Writing Way and Australian help, be sure to make sure your language is captivating and compelling for your readers.

Using Online Tools for Creating a Successful Workflow

When it comes to creating your content marketing workflow, there are many processes which can be optimized and streamlined so you can process them faster and more effectively. Here are some tools and resources that can help you do this; Pulse App – budget is a huge part of planning your content marketing workflow, and it needs to be controlled. You can use this app to make sure that all your income and expenses are managed accurately. Trello – this is a collaboration app that allows you to bring all the members of your team together into one easy-to-use place where you can organize all your tasks, goals and communications.Revieweal or Paper Fellows – creating the content itself can be extremely time-consuming, and you may not have the time to do it properly. Instead, you can use writing services such as these to outsource your content creation tasks. Creately – this is a fully-featured desktop app where you can create and generate visual content marketing workflows from scratch Thrively – this is a time and workflow management platform that allows you to manage all aspects of your workflow, including sales leads, invoices and all the data surrounding your content marketing campaign. Academized / Grammarix – a copywriting tool to use when planning and research stages of content writing can drag on much longer than anticipated.

Conclusion

As you can see, when it comes to a content marketing workflow, the whole idea is to get as organized and as planned as possible. The more information and creases you iron out in the initial stages of the workflow, the smoother the entire process will be, allowing you to only focus on the important tasks so you can guarantee the success of your project.

Instead of loan financing consider a ROBS

Instead of loan financing consider a ROBS

For prospective buyers in the U.S. with substantial assets lodged in a 401(k), 501 (k), IRA or other retirement fund, Rollovers as Business Start-Ups (ROBS) may provide a means of financing with some very significant advantages.

When we say ‘substantial’, that means a minimum of $50,000 to roll over. Otherwise, the set-up and monthly maintenance costs for the quite complex ROBS arrangement will be too great a proportion of the investment to justify using this scheme.

However, for significant investment amounts the costs are entirely viable and quite advantageous. Set-up fees paid to an experienced ROBS provider are normally around $5000 upfront, with an ongoing annual administration fee of up to $2000. Legally speaking it is actually possible to do all the work yourself, without using a ROBS provider, but that would be foolhardy with many IRS and DOL compliance complexities ready to trip you up.

In fact, the steps are much too complicated to cover comprehensively in an article such as this one. However, here is an introduction to the world of ROBS, what it is and basically how it works.

Age is no barrier

You don’t have to be any particular age to roll-over funds from your eligible tax-deferred retirement account. It doesn’t matter how young or old you are. You just need to have the funds in credit and then work systematically through the rollover process. The great advantage is that this is not a loan at all, so there are no loan fees and no interest to pay. At the end of the day, it’s your money. You are simply accessing it for business investment purposes. The funds cannot be used to service personal expenses or to acquire purely personal assets. ROBS is for business investment only. As one potential source of finance to be considered, it can be used in parallel with other financings, including loans

In essence, you will be rolling over your money from one retirement fund into another new one, which your business will set-up. If you are buying an existing business you will put the necessary structures in place for the roll-over prior to the transfer of the business. The modest set-up costs cannot be covered by the ROBS itself. You need to cover these separately up front.

How does it work?

The first step is creating a C corporation (C-corp). This is obligatory and cannot be circumvented. However, this part is actually very easy and quite inexpensive, although specific details will vary slightly from State to State. The more complex step is then setting up an employee retirement plan, most commonly a new 401(k), for the new entity. At this point, you roll over the amount you have decided on from your existing personal 401(k), 501(k) or IRA into the new corporation’s retirement plan. The plan purchases stock in the C-corp, acquiring a shareholding on behalf of all employees, as will be explained shortly, and that purchase amount is released as your business capital. The ROBS rollover is now completed. There is no loan of any kind involved to repay. Of course, the retirement fund earns its share of the profits for future distribution and takes its share of any hit if the business loses money.

In the next stage the C-corp, of which you are the part-owner and also technically an employee, uses the capitalization from the ROBS to build a new business or buy and develop an existing one. The funds can be used for any normal legitimate business purpose, but not for personal expenses that only you benefit from and not for over-payment to yourself of any inflated management or director fees. In fact, any salary payment to yourself must not come from the rolled-over funds directly but must come only out of operating expenses. As we said, it’s your money – but in return for the release of investment funds, the new C-corp retirement plan retains its shareholding in the business and receives its share of all profits after reasonable expenses. The retirement fund will be a significant or even the major shareholder (depending on what other financing sources were used) and as director, you are required to the best of your ability to operate the company to the financial benefit of the fund and its members. You will be covered by the C-corp retirement plan and profits accrued by the fund will ultimately benefit you when drawn down.

Administration of this complex legal arrangement is demanding and really needs to be outsourced to an expert ROBS provider, although this is not legally mandatory. Ongoing monitoring for IRS and the DOL, and other statutory compliance including managing the annual IRS Form 5500 return is definitely no work for the business operator. However, the fees for this administration are actually minuscule compared to the loan costs on a comparable amount of financing from traditional loan sources.

Remember it’s still a retirement fund

ROBS advantages come with some complexities. One of these is that all employees of your new business have the right to join the C-corp retirement fund which you have set up. Note that you yourself must be classified as an employee managing or directing the business. There is no legal specification of the number of hours you must actively work on the business or how much you may pay yourself from the business operation, except that payments to yourself must be deemed ‘reasonable’. Otherwise, they will be treated as a ROBS prohibited transaction. This means that using a ROBS arrangement may not be quite as suitable for buying businesses with a ‘passivity premium’ because of requiring very little owner presence or investment of time.

All employees of the business will have the right to join the retirement fund and legally must be invited to do so. The ROBS provider routinely oversees this notification as part of the ongoing monitoring of the arrangement. For smaller businesses, this is unlikely to be an issue as the definition of ‘employee’ is quite restrictive. Contract service providers and casual workers are not covered at all. Eligibility varies slightly from State to State but essentially an employee must be at least 21 years of age, have worked for the business for twelve months or longer, and have worked a minimum of 1,000 hours during the preceding year. Processing the employee contributions and employer liabilities under the plan is quite onerous and is best handled through the ROBS advisor. However, many smaller online businesses will actually have few or not even any additional employees.

Winding up a ROBS arrangement

Often people enthusiastically enter into an arrangement in the excitement of a new business venture without working through what the eventual exit will entail. With a standard business loan, with all the associated costs and often punishing interest rates, paying out the loan when the business is eventually sold is very straightforward even if financially penalizing.

By contrast, exiting a ROBS provision is inexpensive but a little more complex. If the business is sold then the C-corp retirement fund as a shareholder receives its due share of the sale price, minus funds required to wind down the business and pay out existing liabilities. The retirement plan is then wound up and its assets distributed proportionally to all employees who have contributions in the fund. As the business owner and director your own closing balance in the fund is simply rolled over into a new or existing personal IRA for your (highly tax-effective) benefit. Essentially, through ROBS you have used your assets in an eligible retirement plan to finance business for as long as you operate the business, maybe for many years. At no point through this arrangement have you taken a loan or drawn down cash, and hopefully the ROBS has saved you lots of money.

However, it would be remiss in this article not to cover the implications of a less positive scenario in which the business makes a loss or even totally folds. Simply put, if the business has lost money and is sold for a lesser value than it was set up or acquired for, then the retirement fund and all of its beneficiaries, including you, take a hit. In the event of a total business failure, the assets you originally held in your original retirement plan will have been wiped; but as the ROBS is not a loan there is no financial liability to repay. Formally unwinding the ROBS must still be done according to law and the C-corp retirement plan is then closed out. Any other employees covered by the plan must have their situation and options explained to them. The ROBS provider would attend to this.

ROBS presents a positive opportunity

The ROBS scheme, while it may sound a bit daunting from the explanation provided above, is actually a very innovative business-backing initiative. It enables entrepreneurs to access money which is locked away in a retirement fund for business ventures, without the burden of normal business loans and with the prospect of strong profit returns on personal investment.

Start-up businesses and online businesses which have been bought and built up using some capital from ROBS arrangements actually have a significantly higher success rate than businesses relying more heavily on business loans for the primary financing. This may possibly be because business buyers who are backed by both retirement fund assets and the sophistication to understand the ROBS provisions are likely to have the capacity and the necessary perseverance to develop financially successful business outcomes.

ROBS arrangements are not for everyone. If you have $50,000 or more locked away in eligible retirement plan assets, make some time to talk to an expert ROBS provider. A substantial one-off first-time advisory consultation is generally offered totally free and without obligation. Be aware that the adviser will have a vested interest in talking up the arrangement, but you can always walk away. It’s a fascinating and potentially highly lucrative financing option to explore.

 

7 eCommerce email marketing tips to increase your conversion rates

7 eCommerce email marketing tips to increase your conversion rates

Author bio - Emil Kristensen

Emil Kristensen is the CMO and co-founder of Sleeknote: a company that helps e-commerce brands engage their site visitors—without hurting the user experience.


 

Emails are the best way for e-commerce stores to interact and engage with their customers. You have a special opportunity to entice new customers and revive previous ones in order to make more sales.

The question is: are you getting all you can out e-commerce email marketing?

We’re going to dive into 7 different methods you can use to boost the productivity of your email marketing campaigns, and ultimately increase your conversion rates.

Use these 7 eCommerce email marketing tricks to boost sales

 

1. Be friendly and personable

In a brick-and-mortar store, interactions with shoppers are essential to nailing a sale.

An e-commerce store may lack that direct human interaction, but it can use the language in its emails to create a connection with customers.

So, when writing your e-commerce email marketing campaigns, make sure to use a friendly, personable voice. Imagine you’re writing to a real person, have their face in your mind, and write as if you’re talking to them one-on-one.

This friendly attitude will shine through in your emails and will help people to see your brand as something made up of real people, not just an impersonal business name.

 

2. Create a subject line they can’t resist

Did you know that 35% of people open an email solely based on the subject line?

That means you need to create a subject line that pops.

Personalization is key, so try to always include the name of the recipient in the subject line.

Also, keep your subject line short to be mobile-optimized: only four to seven words fit in the subject line on the average mobile screen.

With limited space, you’ll need to choose those words carefully. Make sure to use words that pop, and A/B test your subject lines to see what works best for your audience.

For example, just adding the word ‘New’ to your subject line can increase open rates by 23%.

 

3. Balance design with simplicity

Obviously, it’s important not to overwhelm your email subscribers with too many design elements. Simplicity is key.

For example, if you’re sending out offers, try to focus on just one at a time instead of pasting five or six pictures all together at the top of the email.

Check out how Nike does this with their simple, focused emails:

On the flip side, try to include more design in your transactional emails. These emails are a goldmine for your marketing strategy since people are more likely to open and engage with them.

So, remember to include your branding in transactional emails, and add some personality. For example, when an order is shipped, add a happy GIF to that email.

 

4. Get customers to ask you for emails

People need to have a reason to let your emails into their inbox. So, let them sign-up to your email list at every possible opportunity.

For example, let’s say there’s a product you’re selling that is currently out of stock. Allow customers to opt-in to your email list here, and get an email notification when the product is back in stock.

Also, transactional emails are a great place to include opt-in opportunities. Give them a little incentive, such as free shipping on their next purchase, and convince them to sign up for your email list.

 

5. Hit them over the head with attention-grabbing CTAs

Just like the CTAs on your website, the CTAs in your emails must grab the attention of readers and convince them to click.

Sometimes, a simple change in language can help. For example, you can add a sense of urgency by using the word ‘now’ in your CTA (i.e. Shop Now, Buy Now).

Also, make sure your CTAs don’t blend into the background of your email. Make them visible, but without overpowering the rest of the content.

See how Revolve does this with their email CTAs:

 

6. Strengthen your abandoned cart emails

Sending an email (or emails) after a shopper abandons their cart can increase your chances of nailing a sale. In fact, 35% of those who click into abandoned cart emails end up buying something.

But only if you do it right.

One great way to strengthen your abandoned cart emails is to remind users of how much other people have enjoyed this product.

To do so, include ratings and reviews for the products they abandoned right in the email. That will build trust in your products and may convince them to complete the purchase.

Check out how Adidas does this with their abandoned cart emails:

 

Another trick to improve your abandoned cart emails is to include a discount. In fact, the subject line “15% off purchase” got an average open rate of 48% according to one study.

 

7. Entice existing customers to purchase again

Loyal customers are your bread and butter, and you need to do all you can to keep them coming back.

Once again, transactional emails are a great way to do this. Since transactional emails get 8 times as many opens as regular marketing emails, this is a great place to insert offers and try to upsell your existing customers.

For example, after a purchase has been completed, why not include related items in the ‘Order Confirmed’ email? Or, in the ‘Order Shipped’ email, you could add a 15% discount on their next purchase.

Another way to reactivate previous customers is through automated campaigns. For example, let’s say someone purchased from your store a few months ago but hasn’t purchased again. They’re still receiving your emails, but it seems like nothing is catching their eye.

So, set up an automated campaign that sends a reactivation email to that customer at regular intervals.

 

Use this email to remind them of why they purchased from you in the past, and offer a discount to show your appreciation.

Conclusion

Your e-commerce email marketing strategy can win you loyal customers who keep on coming back for more.

Following these strategies, you’ll develop email marketing campaigns that engage readers, draw them to your website, and convince them to purchase.

Working through the due diligence process

Working through the due diligence process

Buying an online business is exciting. So exciting that it’s easy to get carried away and risk buying unwisely. The good news is that it’s easy to avoid that pitfall.

When you’re buying an online business, everyone advises you to ‘do the due diligence’. Of course you must, that’s obvious, but exactly how do you do it with an online business acquisition? Unlike real estate or bricks and mortar retail and service businesses, there’s usually very little property, equipment or inventory being acquired with the purchase. You are assessing predominantly non-physical assets – but that doesn’t mean they are too intangible to inspect, assess and value.

Depending on the complexity of the business and the size of the purchase transaction, this stage is likely to take at least two weeks and will probably be the longest part of the overall sale process. Patience and staying grounded in this phase will really pay off in the long run, and if you decide to go ahead with your acquisition then you can do so with the fullest confidence.

Where due diligence fits in

Due diligence is different from the buyer’s initial consideration of the business as an appealing target for acquisition, no matter how carefully that has been done. It is a thorough and methodical analysis.

The due diligence phase commences once you have made a purchase offer in a formal letter of interest and the offer has been accepted in principle by the seller. There will probably be some mutually agreed variations written into the final specific details of the sale contract as a result of what is discovered in the due diligence probing by the buyer.

This is unlikely to be because of any deceptive claims by the business owner. Rather, the buyer may discover some impediment to the transfer of software licensing, other third-party arrangements or credit card processing arrangements, just for example, which need to be addressed in the final Agreement.

Remember that before gaining access to all the details of the business financials and operational systems, including all the external agreements in place and the level of owner expertise and time needing to be invested on a continuing basis, the buyer will need to have paid a substantial deposit or even full settlement amount, as negotiated, which is refundable and held securely in escrow. This is because otherwise some parties claiming to be authentic prospective buyers are merely attempting to gain access to the business financials and processes.

So, now at this stage it’s time to work quickly and efficiently, but still highly systematically, through the due diligence process. Discussed below are the key aspects to consider.

Take qualified advice

If you have lots of experience in the area it will all seem straight-forward and intuitive. On the other hand if this is one of your first acquisitions, overall or in the particular niche, gain the assistance of a more experienced guide who can lead you through the more technical aspects. If this is a trusted colleague then that’s ideal. However, the services of paid buyers’ advocates/consultants are readily available and not all that expensive. Ensure that anyone guiding your due diligence and the decisions based on it have no vested interest in the sale going through. Be wary of advice from brokers who, no matter how ethical, have a vested interest in promoting the value of the business.

Traffic analysis

The seller’s claimed traffic statistics need to be verified. Genuine sellers will readily cooperate in providing access to Google Analytics (or equivalent) over the long term so that the buyer can ascertain how many visitors the site has, how long they stay, what they view and whether they generally view multiple pages. If they stay for a low duration (under one minute) then it may indicate that the content quality or the UX is low. If visitors generally traverse multiple pages then the content quality and the UX is indicated to be high. Check the conversion rates for whatever monetization strategies are in place, and most importantly look for any emerging trends. Cross-check the financials with the traffic. How much revenue is each unique visitor generating on average? Does this outcome correlate with what the business model predicates?

Be alert to the possibility of any paid traffic or sponsored links driving traffic to the business. That is not inherently bad, of course, but it is an expensive strategy and a significant problem if the expense has not been disclosed by the seller. Over-reliance on unsustainable traffic sources is actually the most common single concern encountered by new owners acquiring online businesses.

Financial records

Assessing the audited accounts of income and expenses for as long into the past as possible is essential. Ensure there are no hidden expenses, such as software licenses or other licensing and registration fees. Ascertain the investment of the current owner’s time and expertise and put a dollar amount on this if the owner is not being financially recorded as an ‘employee’ cost. Be highly alert to the costs of all outsourced work such as content writing and website maintenance and ensure these are being fully disclosed. Don’t rely only on previous years’ financial records. Be vigilant about what the income and expenses are right now. Look for any indications of plateauing or even downturn.

Get to know the seller

Your due diligence process can be a dream if you establish a good business relationship with the current owner. That doesn’t mean it will be a nightmare if you don’t, but certainly your due diligence won’t yield all the positive information that it potentially could.

In online business purchases it remains fairly unusual for the buyer to meet the seller or the seller’s agent in person; after all they may well be located worlds apart. However, it is good practice to establish the seller’s business profile, history and reputation. While somewhat subjective, using social media platforms such as LinkedIn provides a valuable means of background checking.  

An authentic seller will be confident in the business and will have genuine reasons for wanting to sell the business at the present time. The current owner will have a clear sense of how the business is performing and, just as importantly, trending. Additionally the vendor may well have ideas for the next stage development of the business which would be useful to the purchaser, even if the buyer decides not to follow that particular growth strategy pathway.

Sellers should always be open to detailed questions from a prospective buyer as a result of the due diligence process. It is sound, and increasingly common, practice for the seller or the seller’s agent to agree to a conference call discussion with the buyer, to respond to questions or concerns raised by the due diligence. It also enables alignment of the buyer’s and seller’s expectations of the transfer. No reasonable seller expects a buyer to part with hard-earned money just on the basis of the buyer’s enthusiasm and blind faith.   

Technical and other asset issues

Successful online businesses all rest on relatively sophisticated technical operations, with not only base platforms but also plugins and extensions. It is essential to audit these and ensure that every element of the platform has been paid for or licensed, and that these are to be transferred with the business. SaaS and software businesses, as well as e-Commerce sites, will be reliant on source codes and it is important to confirm that they are clean and also modifiable for the future.   

Other assets which must be transferred include all domain names, subscription lists, customer records, product images and all third-party contract and communication details.

Owner’s operational commitment

What time and effort commitment is being invested by the current owner and what is the cost value of this? The seller should be open and specific about the details of this investment. Is this within the buyer’s capacity of expertise and time availability to sustain, and if outsourced what will it cost?

Legal aspects

Obviously, it is essential to check that the seller legitimately owns the business, its domain names and the assets being transferred, including all third-party agreements. It is unlikely that a site which is legal and unrestricted in its source territory will be illegal or prohibitively restricted in other territories which the buyer considers targets for growth. However, it is always possible and should be checked.

After the due diligence period and before committing to the final Agreement to purchase, it is important that the purchase contract be checked by a qualified legal practitioner with particular experience in the online business environment.

It is important to ensure that the seller has entered into a non-compete agreement for a specified period of time, and that this agreement is enforceable.  

Final considerations

It’s vital to be ultra-careful that all trademarks, propriety branding and any third-party brand licensing agreements are fully transferring with the business acquisition. Ensure there are no undisclosed debts or unpaid liabilities of any kind. In this regard double-check that you have an overview of the refunds policy and the potential liabilities arising from customer claims and returns once you have assumed ownership.

It is always wise to build into the sale contract a holdback provision. This allows the buyer to retain a percentage of the final sale price, usually 10 to 20 percent, for 30 to 60 days after the transfer. The advantage of this is that unanticipated delayed costs which were not incurred by the new owner can be debited against the final payment. Additionally, the seller will be motivated to assist in the ironing out of any issues in the transition which could not reasonably have been anticipated by the buyer on the information available.

Provided the final payout funds are securely lodged in escrow, a reasonable and ethical seller is unlikely to resist this provision as part of the purchase agreement.

There can never be a 100% guarantee against an unfortunate purchase. However, following these clear due diligence steps will provide very strong protection against disappointment and any possibility of falling victim to deception.

How to get amazon reviews to gain traction and grow your business

How to get amazon reviews to gain traction and grow your business

Selling on Amazon has some amazing benefits. Chief among these benefits is its enormous reach. Amazon has around 300 million active users, equal to the entire population of the United States. Not only that, but according to Forbes, 64% of American households have Amazon Prime. Conversion rates on Amazon.com are also much higher than other online retailers. 13% for non-Prime Members & 74% for Prime Members, compared to 3.32% for the next top 500 online retailers. So Amazon sellers have access to an enormous base of potential customers who are very likely to convert.

But selling on Amazon is not easy. Competition among Amazon sellers is fierce, which explains why product reviews are so important.

Why It’s Important To Get Amazon Reviews

Product reviews help customers manage expectations.  Customers want assurance that they will receive exactly what was advertised.  This is what product reviews are for. They allow past customers can to inform prospective customers. As such, they provide a powerful measure of social proof.

Collecting positive reviews is vital for a new product to gain traction on Amazon.

The Old Days of Getting Amazon Reviews

Savvy sellers used to get ‘incentivized reviews.’ That is, they offered discounted or free products in exchange for reviews. But in October 2016, Amazon banned incentivized reviews. Violators of this policy risk losing their selling privileges.

This came as a big shock for many Amazon sellers, but ultimately it is a good thing. For buyers and sellers. Incentivized reviews brought down the trustworthiness of the average review. Which is bad for all parties who value integrity in the marketplace.

Fear not. Plenty of options remain for soliciting honest reviews, without breaking Amazon’s policies.

The New Days of Getting Amazon Reviews

First off, let’s be clear that Amazon wants customers to review your products. As such, they send automated messages after every purchase, prompting customers to leave reviews.

For many customers that is enough to persuade them to leave a review. Many people will happily leave reviews if they love (or hate) a product. So you can let Amazon do the work for you.

But there are 2 things you MUST do to make it more likely they will leave a good review for your product.

  • Make sure your product is awesome. Easier said than done. But there’s not much you can do to get lots of positive product reviews if you aren’t selling awesome products in the first place…
  • Be a good seller. Technically, customer service is not supposed to have any effect on a product review. Things like prompt delivery and courteous communications fall under Seller Feedback. But it is inevitable that customer service will affect reviews. Buyers will be more likely to leave a positive review if you provide good customer service. Because they will associate that positive experience with your product. They will also associate a negative experience with your product. And will be more likely to leave a negative product review.

Ok so let’s suppose that you’ve sold an awesome product with great customer service, but you think that Amazon’s autoresponder is not enough. How else can you gather more product reviews?

Ways to Get More Amazon Reviews

Use a Feedback / Review Tool

You can use a software tool made to gather more Amazon product reviews and seller feedback. Something like Feedback Genius or FeedbackFive. These tools are specifically built to get more product reviews and seller feedback. So they provide templates to guide you. And they integrate with Amazon Seller Central.

You can take advantage of the strong association between the product and you as a seller in the following way. If a customer leaves you positive Seller Feedback, ask them to also leave you a review. [The Benjamin Franklin effect: someone who has already helped you (or bought from you) is more likely to help (or buy from) you again].

Use an Email Marketing Tool

You can use a regular email marketing tool (like MailChimp or Drip) to send out review requests. The benefit to using a popular email marketing tool would be familiarity. This only applies if you already use a tool for email marketing. The downside is that these tools do not easily integrate with Amazon and Amazon does not give you customer email addresses.

To take advantage of this strategy, you have to already have a list of customer emails. Or you have to get creative to get customer email addresses retroactively. But keep in mind, Amazon does not like you contacting customers off of Amazon. After all, they are Amazon’s customers, not yours.

The way to get around this, is to collect customer emails before they buy your product on Amazon.

Promotional landing pages.

One easy way to collect customer emails before they buy your product, which enables you to utilize email marketing to get reviews, is by using promotional landing pages.

These tools convert your Amazon listing into a landing page where you exchange a single-use coupon code for an email.

The main benefit of using these tools is to drive off-Amazon traffic (ie Facebook Ads) to your Amazon listings, to boost sales velocity for new products and collect emails. But having gotten a customer’s email before they go to Amazon, you can then setup your email autoresponder to ask them for reviews, without breaking Amazon’s Terms.

Customers who buy your product at a discount are totally allowed to leave a review. But they must disclose the fact that they received a discount and you cannot ask them specifically for a positive review. The review must be honest.

Our product, LandingCube, is one such tool that generates Amazon landing pages to run promotions and collect emails, and thus utilize an email marketing tool to solicit reviews.

Using Retargeting Ads to Get Amazon Reviews

Those promotional landing page tools also enable you to use retargeting ads to get more Amazon reviews.  But you must utilize their integrations with Google Analytics or the Facebook Pixel.

Here’s how that would work:

  • Integrate Amazon landing page tool with the Facebook Pixel (only takes 1-click) & setup conversion tracking
  • Create a Facebook Ad for your product
  • Someone clicks through to your landing page & Amazon listing and buys your product. (The Pixel registers this conversion).
  • Create a Facebook Ad asking customers to leave an honest review. Target the people who bought from you.

You CANNOT promise them anything in return for their reviews, but you can explain that reviews help you reach a wider audience and help you improve your products.

The Devil’s in the Details

Whether you use a tool specifically made for soliciting reviews or a regular email marketing tool, how and when you ask for a review is super important. It can make or break whether or not customers actually take action and leave a review.

How you ask?

First off, it’s super important that you ask for honest feedback. Some sellers ask that customers only leave them positive reviews. Some go as far as to say “Please leave us a 5-Star review.” Amazon considers this manipulation. [See the exact wording of the policy above].

Not only should you ask for honest reviews because it is against Amazon’s policy. But also because honest feedback will give you valuable insights. You’ll get valuable insights about your products, what you do well, and how you can improve.

Another thing to consider is the tone of your request and the frequency of emails. Some sellers have seen success writing very simple asks.

“Hi,

Can you please leave us a review. It goes a long way.

Thanks,

Acme Widgets”

Others have seen more success including some value-add information in the ask. Some examples:

  • Tips on how to maximize the product’s effectiveness. Include a list of recipes if you sell a food ingredient or kitchen appliance. Or sample workouts for a piece of exercise equipment.
  • Common mistakes or misconceptions about your product or something related to your product. A brain health supplement won’t be effective if you eat like crap, barely sleep, don’t exercise and stare at screens for 12 hours a day.
  • Additional uses for your product.
  • Links to existing resources. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel.
  • Include anything that will help your customers extract more value out of your product.

The more valuable they find the product, the more likely they will be to leave a positive review.

Just be considerate of your customers’ time and attention. Don’t spam them. This is why I recommend including the review request in the same email as the value-add info. You give them something and then ask for something in return (but with no expectation). If they do decide to leave a review. Great. If not, on to the next one.

When you ask?

The timing of your review request is also very important. You want to time it according to your product’s life cycle. Has the customer had enough time to use the product? They need time to get a sense of whether the product meets their needs and expectations.

  • Right-away: Phone chargers are probably used immediately upon delivery. So you can ask the day after the product is delivered.
  • Wait a few days: A drone or a video game controller is not an essential thing. It may sit around a few days before the customer plays around with it. So it makes sense to wait a few days.
  • Wait a week or more: Books might take weeks to be read. It’s hard to tell if supplements work until the whole bottle is finished. Time accordingly.

There’s one more way to get reviews that is very powerful and definitely worth mentioning.

Let’s Get Physical

You can include physical inserts in your package asking for reviews.

In today’s digital world, a little thank you card goes a long way. As it is more concrete than an email.

Keep it simple. Thank your customer for doing business with you. And ask them to leave an honest review. Then give them instructions on how to do that.

  1. Go to Amazon.com and log into your account
  2. Go to “My Orders” and select your recent order with us
  3. Choose “Write a product review”
  4. Be honest 🙂

But don’t expect each customer to leave a review. Even if 5% more customers leave a review, you’re doing a great job.

Verified Purchase Reviews

Keep in mind, that if a customer buys your product at a large discount, their review will likely not receive the “Verified Purchase” tag. Verified Purchase reviews carry more weight than reviews without the VP tag.

How does a review get the VP tag? Amazon itself only states that a VP is when they can verify that the product was purchased from Amazon.com. So for instance, if I want to review a book that I was given by a friend, but did not purchase from Amazon, I can’t get the VP tag.

It is also clear that discounts of 50% or more disqualify a review from getting the VP tag. That we know.

Some sellers claim that smaller discounts still prevent a review from getting the VP tag. Further, some even claim that Free Shipping alone can disqualify a review from getting the VP tag. Where Amazon draws the line is not so clear.

Here are some other tips on how to get the Verified Purchase reviews:

  • Give smaller discounts: If more reviews is your goal, rather than spiking sales velocity, it makes sense to give smaller discounts, ie 49% and below.
  • Instruct your customers to leave reviews from ‘My Orders’ section rather than the product detail page itself.
  • Customers can retroactively apply for the Verified Purchase tag if Amazon can verify that they bought the product from Amazon.com. It may not work. Try at your own risk. You probably only want to ask your most die-hard customers to do this. Business is all about relationships. You never want to overburden your customers with tons of messages. But if a customer has bought lots of products from you, left reviews and they’re not verified, it is possible to become verified.

Get Amazon Reviews: Summary

Reviews are super important for products to be seen as valuable and legitimate. There’s a lot of ways to go about getting reviews legally. You can use a review-specific tool, a regular email marketing tool, Amazon landing pages, retargeting ads, and/or physical inserts. Just remember to not be pushy and always give more than you take.

Thomas Pruchinski has been involved in two e-commerce businesses in the health space, with his focus primarily on driving growth of the Amazon channels. Thomas recently joined forces with LandingCube, which gives Amazon sellers the tools to drive external traffic and build email lists to differentiate their brands.