So, you’ve opened your first ecommerce store. It’s going OK, but not great.
And now you’ve run into a bit of a challenge. How can you make your customers return?
In this article, I’ll introduce you to ecommerce loyalty programs that you can start using straight away. These programs help you develop a stronger relationship with your customers, so they will want to come back for more.
The Basics of Ecommerce Loyalty Programs
Loyalty programs focus on three main objectives:
- Increase the chance of turning a second sale from a first-time buyer
- Nudge an existing customer into a higher paying bracket
- Gather feedback to improve business operations and marketing efforts
The toughest part of a loyalty program is finding a balance between new and already-loyal customers.
Loyal customers have shown their value and commitment which means giving these individuals a steep discount simply cuts at profits. After all, they were willing to pay for your offers, as is. Compare this to earning any amount from an individual that was on the fence about returning. The profit on the second sale may not be as high but it could lead to a loyal customer returning many years to come.
The Strategies of Ecommerce Loyalty Programs
You can use many different strategies to increase loyalty and engagement for your ecommerce store. These include:
- A point-based system which rewards users based on actions performed on the website.
- Gamification elements to make participation more fun and rewarding.
- Prizes, discounts, and freebies based on the number of points accumulated.
- Gift cards, travel miles, upgrades, and more.
Early incentive-based programs can be seen in examples like returning a proof of purchase to earn points toward items in the company catalog, stamp cards to earn freebies after reaching a purchase quota, or the classic addition of bubble gum to sports trading cards.
Today the landscape for loyalty programs has changed but many concepts remain the same.
Loyalty Programs in Action
You may not be aware of all the loyalty programs you’re involved with. That’s because these programs are such a natural part of your buying experience. Here are a few examples:
- Stores like CVS use loyalty cards with exclusive discounts and cash back for repeat business.
- Casinos in Vegas have player rewards cards that can earn entertainment and accommodation.
- Major credit cards, like Capital One, offer cash back, points, frequent flyer miles, and more.
- Amazon Prime offers free shipping, movies, and access to Kindle books.
- 1UP.com uses a point system to create ranks for members of the community.
Most loyalty programs are free to enroll and have just a few requirements whether it’s allowing an employee to scan a card, filling in a member number, or completing the purchase from an account.
Ecommerce stores have an advantage in which almost all elements of the loyalty program is all-inclusive and automated by the service. The ecommerce company will have access to multiple modules to experiment and implement with a variety of loyalty strategies.
The Marketing Benefits
The marketing potential behind all of this creates an amazing opportunity to encourage repeat business and advocacy of the brand.
The programs can provide marketing benefits such as these examples:
- Perfecting the timing between regular purchases to deliver a coupon or reminder just before the customer is aware of their need which is done by analyzing the purchase history and using that data to make a logical estimation.
- Educating the customers to give them a firm understanding of products and services which reduces the cost of customer service and gives them the control of information which can come to use when encouraging reviews and testimonials.
- Viral-based sharing due to deep discounts, prizes, and rewards which match the wants and needs of friends and family members of the customers.
Ecommerce loyalty programs create a layer of interactivity and engagement. They use free and paid rewards to retain customers to increase their lifetime value, and lowers the customer acquisition cost (on a large scale) by encouraging others to refer the business to members in their network.
Which Ecommerce Loyalty Program Should You Choose?
To lay claim to a “best” ecommerce loyalty program is a futile argument.
Most loyalty program services and tools offer the same type of features and benefits. Some may not have robust dashboards. Others may be written in a different programming language. But the main thing to keep in mind is whether it provides the features and benefits your business seeks and that it matches with the platform used on your website.
With that being said … there are plenty of options to choose from, including:
Some loyalty programs are hosted online whereas others may require a thorough understanding of installation on the server plus coding for the website.
A Simple Solution for Your Ecommerce Loyalty Program
For the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on PunchTab.
PunchTab is a stellar loyalty, rewards, and giveaway platform that is dead-simple to install and configure without having prior knowledge of programming. The service, as you will find with others, injects a website with interactive features for site visitors which rewards their actions and commitment to the brand.
The main loyalty module of PunchTab offers points to your community through the following:
- Sharing the website, page, or offer on social media
- Checking in on Foursquare
The prize catalog which comes with the service is provided by PunchTab but it can be customized. This is what drives individuals to stay active since there are valuable items available for their participation.
Other elements of the service include the ability to conduct viral-worthy giveaways which can have a variety of requirements per entry, and badges for loyal members of the community.
PunchTab provides a simple solution to those wishing to implement a loyalty program on their website or blog; you may start an account for free and upgrade based on the features you need.
A Checklist for Your Ecommerce Loyalty Program
The above example of PunchTab could integrate into an ecommerce website but it will take some tweaking and modification in order to fit the full spectrum of ecommerce.
Here’s the thing: most major ecommerce platforms (Magento, OScommerce, ZenCart, and others) have add-ons and modules for loyalty programs.
The add-ons and modules included in the major shopping carts or ecommerce SaaS solutions have been fine-tuned for their specific platforms; they have been developed by the team behind the platform or by the hands of freelance professionals. Additionally, these platforms are generally open to modification which would allow you to outsource work to implement a loyalty program that is specific to your business.
The main items to remember when exploring these options:
- The ability to create a customer account
- A point-based system that rewards frequent visits, shares, and other interactions
- Referral engine to attract additional customers through current customers
- Integration with other components of the ecommerce platform (e.g. email list)
- A system to monitor and measure feedback from loyalty program users
Over to You
A good ecommerce loyalty program provides you with all your required features and brings value to your customers. It should also provide users with ample reward for commitment. That way, the customers will be coming back for more.
What’s holding you back from implementing an ecommerce loyalty program? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments!
Flickr photo: Rachel Patterson
Aren’t we all looking for smarter, cheaper and more flexible ways to get paid online? This is especially important if you are buying or have just bought an ecommerce website on Flippa.
And no, we’re not just talking about PayPal.
There are other payment processors out there, and you’ll want to keep an eye on them because they might offer more flexibility for you and your customers.
After all, it’s important to take stock of all the different ways a customer might want to pay you. Who knows, there might be another option that might give you a new insight on how to interact with your customers.
Let’s take a look at some of the widely used PayPal alternatives.
Amazon Payments, also called Amazon WebPay, is a common alternative to PayPal. Developed by e-commerce giant Amazon, the service enables its users to send and receive money without any set-up or monthly fees. Their standard transactional rate is 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction.
Funding your account is simple and can be linked to your credit card or bank account. In having a system that exists free of charge, Amazon is hoping that you spend your money on other services they offer.
One of the downsides with Amazon Payments is that you can’t withdraw an amount smaller than $10. This probably won’t be a huge problem, but it’s something to be aware of.
Dwolla works across many business environments, ranging from online transactions to brick and mortar storefronts. The flexibility of payment options benefits users who need to accept credit cards and take payments across multiple environments.
Unfortunately, it does cost $0.25 to receive money. Although the fee is small and can benefit you if you usually process larger sums, it may be a turn-off for some users.
Google Wallet is a versatile option offered through your Google Account. Think of it as a virtual wallet that allows you to spend money both online and even in some stores. Google has a wide array of great services and this one is no different.
This service has become fairly popular, because it’s fully supported by Google and is even integrated into Gmail. Most people also love the ability to store their money in one place and have the ability to spend it across multiple platforms, online and in person.
There are two downsides to this service. First, a small percentage fee is charged on each credit and debit card transaction. Second, there is also a few limitations on the places where Google Wallet is actually accepted. So far, it’s only available in the US. If Google continues to pour more energy into the resources, you can bet it will expand.
Stripe is another popular PayPal alternative. It’s a useful service because it doesn’t require you to have a gateway or a merchant account. Indeed, they handle everything from storing cards and subscriptions to paying straight to your bank account.
There are no setup or monthly fees, and they only charge you when you earn money. Currently, that would be 2.9% + 30 cents per successful charge, but make sure to check the website for their latest fees.
Braintree is a payment platform that makes it easy to accept payments in your mobile app or on your website.
The standard price is 2.4% and $.30 per transaction, but that includes unlimited access to their support. What’s good about Braintree is that there is no minimum transaction fee and just like Stripe, there is no monthly fee, either. You could also use it for recurring billing, which is useful if you’re running a membership site.
Unfortunately, it’s only available in the United States, Europe, Canada, and Australia, but they have plans on expanding to other countries soon.
The following services focus primarily on businesses with a storefront. They use mobile technologies to help businesses process payments.
Square is one of the first companies to focus solely on mobile technology for payment processing.
Square gives you a free card-reader that plugs into your smartphone and allows you to accept payments. The setup is easy: you link your Square account to your bank account, and accept payments through the card reader. Receipts are generally emailed, thus saving you paper.
The only drawback to this service is the 2.75% fee charged per swipe.
Moblized maintains a structure very similar to Square above, except they offer a different payment plan to their users. Basically, the company sends you a free card reader, and then you can begin to accept payments. There’s also no contracts involved, which can be extremely attractive to some users.
Their payment plans involve a 2.69% fee, plus $0.19 per swipe. Depending on the amount of transactions you’re processing this can be slightly higher than other services.
Over to You
You’ve now been introduced to a few PayPal alternatives. The market will continue to grow and new alternatives will appear. By staying up to date, you’ll be able to make sure you’re getting the best deal when processing payments, whether in person, or on the web.
For security reasons, Flippa only uses Escrow via Escrow.com and Paypal. We’ve worked hard to balance the needs of a global user base and tip top security.
Have you used any of the above services? Or do you know of any other useful PayPal alternatives? Please add your suggestions in the comments!
Photo courtesy of David Muir.
Have you ever heard the term and wondered, what is Native Advertising?
Heralded as the Next Big Thing in late 2012, the words “native advertising” were on the tips of everyone’s tongues. Pity no one knew what the heck Native Advertising actually was. This isn’t unusual in the wonderful world of online marketing. Because we know that things move lightening quick, we’re here to give you the lowdown on what Native Advertising actually is, and why you should know about it.
What is Native Advertising?
Example of Native Advertising on Yahoo.
This Kissmetrics article claims that Native Advertising is “basically a page of content, riddled with paid links, and often these links were being used for aggressive manipulation of search results.”
Here is a more traditional definition: Native Advertising is a form of advertising that matches up stylistically with the form and function of the platform on which it appears—a definition that’s also alluded to in the Mashable article on native advertising.
Is Native Advertising the next big thing?
Web business owners need to be aware of what’s happening in the market. And who isn’t keen to hear about new ways of reaching potential customers or audiences? As fast as technology evolves, so too, apparently, do the ways of making a buck online.
All that said, Native Advertising is just one of many unique and effective online marketing channels that can be used to increase traffic. Because of that, to me, classifying Native Advertising as the next big thing is a little bit overkill.
If not Native Advertising, what is the next big thing?
Whether you use native advertising, Google or some other ad network, sponsored content, paywalls, or some other technique, at the end of the day, you’re finding a way to make money from your content.
Whether you pay to have your content appear on someone else’s site, or your “guest post placement” costs you nothing; whether your purpose for that guest post is to reach new eyeballs, or to boost your search or social rank; at the end of the day, you’re trying to expand your brand’s reach.
While fancy words like “native advertising” and “content marketing” might (or might not) help us refer to a certain technique in conversation, the concepts they capture aren’t new…
The next big thing
…and none of them represents the Next Big Thing.
If you look at some of the brands we know are growing their traffic and turnover online, they have one thing in common.
They focus on the customer.
On the prospect.
On the audience.
On the user.
The next big thing is—*sigh*—the same old thing: solving customers’ problems with a strong brand.
On the plus side, those problems are always changing, and technology is constantly enabling businesses to solve them in new ways.
Did I do a good job of answering the question, What is Native Advertising? I’d love to know what you think in the comments below.
If we break it down, there are typically four main ways people to make money directly with a website:
- Selling your own products
- Affiliate marketing
- Selling a service
Of course there may be other ways people make money with websites, but even if you have to stretch the idea a little, you could probably fit it into one of these four categories.
Today we’ll look at how you might help a WordPress site make money in each of these four areas.
1. Selling Your Own Products
Selling your own products can mean selling either physical or digital products. It can also mean selling access to content.
Physical Products: Of course selling a physical product can mean selling anything from baby strollers to sports equipment to heavy duty machinery. In order to do this with WordPress, the main piece of the puzzle you’ll need will be some type of shopping cart, and so you’ll need to look for a WordPress e-commerce plugin like MarketPress from WPMU DEV (this plugin also lets you sell digital products).
Digital Products: Selling digital products would include selling ebooks, audios, videos, images, etc. If you are not going through some third-party service that will handle your downloads for you, then you’ll want to pick up a digital download plugin like Easy Digital Downloads to help you do that right through your site.
Access to Content: Selling access could encompasses membership sites, training seminars, webinars, plain news or information, etc. The easiest way to do this with WordPress is to pick up a membership plugin.
2. Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing (i.e. getting a commission when selling another’s products or services) is one of the most popular ways to make money online. While some sites do run their own private affiliate programs, most people end up selling through the larger players such as Amazon, Commission Junction, LinkShare, ShareASale, Clickbank, etc.
While there are different types of plugins out there to help with affiliate marketing, many of the top affiliate marketers often say that what works best is good, solid content and a good ol’ simple link.
But no matter what you’re linking, the one tool that should be in any affiliate marketer’s toolbox is a redirection plugin such as Pretty Link Lite or Simple URLs.
What these plugins do is turn long, ugly URLs into clean, short URLs that look like they are going to another section of your site. They also track those links for you.
So, for example, if you link to Amazon with a URL that looks like this:
You can turn it into a link that looks like this:
The prettier link will likely be less of a turnoff to those who look at where the link is going by mousing over it first. But even more importantly, it will track those clicks for you. That means you can do things like set up mysite.com/xyz-water-bottle-1/ for one link and mysite.com/xyz-water-bottle-2/ for a different link (both going to same Amazon page), and then compare which link is getting more clicks. Once you have some stats, you can start analyzing and tweaking. No more guessing involved.
3. Selling a Service
Selling a service could involve all sorts of things, from selling SEO services to selling cleaning services. Different niches may require different approaches, but no matter your market, when you’re selling a service, you have to make getting in to contact with you easy.
Believe it or not, WordPress does not come with a built-in contact form. Not to worry, however, there are plenty of plugins that will do the job for you, and do it well. One of the more popular (but also simple) contact forms is the Contact Form 7 plugin.
If you want to take getting in touch even further, you could include a chat plugin like Quick Chat. Or you could even add a Skype widget to your site like Skype Online Status. This plugin will let your visitors click a button and call you on Skype right from your website.
Selling a service can also get into many other areas, such as using the Multisite function available in WordPress in order to run a site like WordPress.com, where you let users sign up for free and then place ads on their sites, or let them upgrade to premium services and then charge for them. Or you could do both, of course.
Other options that fall under the “services” banner include running a classified ads site or running a directory. In either of these cases, you can get both plugins or themes (with functionality built in) to help you do that. Also in either case, you could open up free to the public and then run advertising, or you could run a premium service and charge users per listing. Or, once again, you could do both.
And finally we come to advertising. Advertising comes in many forms. Some of the more common are …
- CPC – Cost Per Click (like Google’s Adsense)
- CPM – Cost Per Thousand Impressions (M in this case is for the Roman numeral for 1,000)
- Time Based Ads – Ads that stay up for an agreed upon time
- Sponsor Ads – Things such as paid reviews or just general sponsorship of content
- Text Link – Selling links in content
Advertising is like real estate in that location is one of the most important aspects. If your running Google Adsense, for example, then you want those ads to be in front of people so they’ll click on them. If you’re selling banner ads directly, then the advertiser is going to want the ads to be in front of people, or they aren’t going to buy from you.
All that makes sense, but it’s not quite as simple as it seems. If you rely on search engine traffic from places like Google, then you can’t just cram the top half of your site with ads so people will see them and click on them.
Well, you can, but you’ll likely lose your search traffic if you do that. You see, places like Google have page layout algorithms. And so what that means in the real world is that search engines don’t want to send visitors to sites that are nothing but ads. They want to send visitors to sites where the content is up front and easy to find.
Because of that, advertising plugins can be especially handy. They can help you do things such as inject ads into the middle of content, show ads to some visitors but not others, automatically randomize ads, and more.
Here are a few you may want to check out:
- AdRotate – Show random banners, use Google Adsense, get stats, get email notifications, and much more.
- WP-Insert – Lets you insert ads in all sorts of way: before you content, after your content, in the middle of your content, to the side of your content.
- Google Adsense Plugin – Control parameters of your Google Adsense ads right from your blog – size, color, type, positioning, etc.
While there are obviously lots other types of plugins that may help your site, it’s always important to keep in mind how your site makes money. With the loads of plugins available for WordPress, you should be able to optimize that approach, no matter which it is.
Joe Foley is a writer and editor for WPMU.org (http://wpmu.org) and WPMU DEV (http://premium.wpmudev.org). He specializes in helping WordPress users learn how to better manage their sites, as well as keep up with the latest in themes, plugins, and WordPress related services.
Photo Credit: Images_Of_Money
A few weeks ago, we asked you how you monetize your websites. For 63% of you, AdSense is the go-to way to make money on the Internet — but there’s also a growing dissatisfaction with Google’s ad platform. Is there a monopoly in online advertising, and if so, does it benefit publishers in any way? Today’s post is written by Tal Nissenson of Qadabra, a self-serve banner ad provider. She argues that publishers have the freedom to pursue other options. We would love to hear your thoughts on this!
Like in any industry, competition is crucial for the market to flourish. Monopolies can often be counterproductive, leading to lower service standards and high prices due to a lack of business rivals. However, monopolies have also had a positive effect by actually giving way to the creation of smaller players.
Take for example AT&T, the American telecom giant: they dominated the communications industry as the main telephone company for many years and set the standards high for quality service. After its break-up in the 1980s, several small telephone companies emerged, giving better access to services to the US population. This resulted in a vast market of communication alternatives, healthy competition, which benefited the U.S. citizens with more competitive offers and the freedom to choose
Online advertising: The self-serve giant
It’s no secret that when it comes to the world of self-serve ad platforms, Google’s AdSense is considered to hold the monopoly. Like other monopolies, when not facing a threat of business rivals, it’s easier to neglect consumer’s needs and forget to continuously thrive for better service and rates.
However, those people who have experience with monetizing their inventory can agree that this is not the case, and that’s a good thing! The competition which arose in the last decade in online monetization has given the whole industry a big uplift and ensures that publishers are making the most they can out of their website real estate.
In a market where industry competitors abound, publishers are offered different possibilities and greater chances of monetizing their site inventory. This allows publishers to really benefit. First of all, they can shop around! There are no binding agreements: the publisher has the control and the power. They can simply remove the tag and replace it with another to find the platform that best meets their requirements.
Because of this, the ad platforms mission is to constantly improve, innovate and most of all offer an added value to their users. And who benefits the most? The publishers! They now not only have a wide menu of alternatives to choose from, but they can also leverage each of the platforms against each other to see where they are getting the highest revenues that they can.
Qadabra is one of the newer AdSense alternatives that emerged in the past year. Qadabra built itself with the belief that site monetization is every publisher’s privilege. Advertising and the Internet, after all, were made for one another! And therein lays the true magic of Qadabra’s brand proposition: the ability to help publishers exercise these privileges by quickly transforming any website with an audience into a website that generates ad-based revenue.
- The privilege to leverage your website real estate for profit
- The privilege to grab a piece of the pie
- And above all, the privilege that should be allotted to all publishers to have access to this profit- with straightforward simplicity.
“I publish, therefore I am.” But today’s Internet entrepreneur aims to take this principle a step further and claims. I publish, therefore I earn…
So no, Qadabra isn’t the first, nor did we invent the revenue models that drive Internet-based advertising. We just made access to them magically simple and immediate for any website owner to pursue and enjoy.
Whether a website is a person’s main income source or just a profitable hobby, everyone who wants to make money off their site can enjoy a variety of solutions that fits their needs (others include Smowtion, AdSense, Infolinks). And competition can only flourish in a monopoly-free, healthy competitive environment.
Why? Because of the same reason that several product exist in a supermarket, and hundreds of fashion options in the mall: to have the power and the freedom to choose, and not be bound to one solution which probably doesn’t fit my needs and desires.
Because when it comes to monetizing website traffic through performance-based advertising, everyone deserves a little touch of magic.
Have you thought of trying a different advertising platform? Qadabra is offering a 10% bonus on the first month’s earnings for Flippa Blog readers. Click here to sign up.
Photo Credit: purplejavatroll
Today’s post is by David Gass
Experts will debate what the most important factor is when buying a web business. Some may say it’s the niche, while others argue it’s the traffic or monetization method.
There are several factors to look at when buying a website and all should be considered. Factors such as:
- Type of Website
- Number of Unique Visitors
- Monthly Revenue and Profit Numbers
- Page Authority
- Page Rank
- Traffic Value Based on SEMRush Reports
- Page Views Per Visit / Bounce Rate
- Organic Traffic or Paid Traffic
You know the drill. If you’re a regular reading of the Flippa blog, you’ll know that website valuation is discussed very frequently.
However, all of these factors are based on the history of the website. Although the history does help with due diligence, it is not how a website buyer will make their money after purchasing the website.
A website buyer’s most important factor in buying a website is future profit.
What Really Matters
Future Profit is the total of the monthly profit from the site’s activities while the buyer owns the site, plus or minus the profit from selling the website at some point in the future.
If a website currently generates $600 in monthly revenue, but you have the knowledge, skills and time to improve the conversion rate of visitors in order to generate $900 per month, your Future Profit will be higher than the site’s historical earnings would indicate.
Although many website buyers’ strategy is to buy, hold and grow with no intention of selling, the future profit must include the value of the website in addition to monthly profits. The value of the website is not truly realized until the website is sold at some point in the future.
What’s your site’s future profit?
Knowing the future profit of a website is impossible, unless a buyer finds a crystal ball that can see into the future.
For now, the best indicator of Future Profit is still past performance. However, by basing a decision to purchase a website on past performance alone, with the many outside factors that can change a website’s traffic flow and monetization, it’s very difficult to be 100% on target.
All the factors mentioned above such as niche, type of website, page authority, etc. are important to look at, but they don’t tell you exactly what a website’s performance will be next month or next year.
In my opinion, the best indication of future performance is the experience of buying, running and selling a website with similar characteristics to the site a buyer is looking to purchase.
There are two ways to gather this experience:
#1 – Buy a smaller website in a growing niche and use the experience for future purchases
Obviously, this provides a dilemma. There is still the first website that needs to be purchased on blind faith and any time a buyer wants to purchase a site in a new niche, they need to start over by buying another small site with no experience in that niche.
Based on my experience, I would guess this is what 99% of buyers are currently doing. They buy their first, second or even tenth website in a new niche. Each time they do this, they’re starting over with gaining experience in that niche to help determine future profits of any new website they want to buy.
#2 – Use the experience of others
Find others willing to share their experience of buying a website and the results they’ve had with the site. In this case, a buyer is learning from the experience of another website buyer.
Where are these buyers? Right on Flippa!
Flippa lists all previous auctions with the sale price and all data for the sold website at the time of the purchase. A website buyer can contact the current owners of these websites and ask if they have an interest in selling the site they bought. This works best when approaching someone who purchased a site at least 6 months prior.
If the seller has an interest in selling, ask them if they will provide the necessary due diligence data to purchase the site. All the data will help in determining what the website’s traffic and profits were after the initial purchase on Flippa.
The future profit indicators are easy to determine now. Simply compare the new stats since the sale with the initial stats from the Flippa auction. If a deal is put together, great. The website seller can list the site on Flippa as a private sale and have the buyer make an offer on the listing to win it.
Putting it all together
By buying a website in a similar niche, with similar traffic and monetization methods, this comparison will help dramatically in determining the future value of a potential website purchase.
After researching a niche, building some experience in it and seeing where your strengths can help grow revenue, you should have a much better idea of how long it will take you to recuperate your investment. This helps explain why different investors will have such different valuations of a same website.