Sunday, August 1, 2010

What We're Up To At DreamWorthyGifts.com

Hello DreamWorthy Friends, Fans, Followers and Customers!

Some of you have asked what we're up to, since you haven't seen us online (representing DreamWorthy, at least) or marketing heavily through Social Media, like we used to. Others have kindly written to check on us, out of concern.

First, all is well. The business is still running, albeit quietly, and we are well, personally. It has been a wonderful summer so far.

What we have been doing, is thinking. (Yes, I know. Scary stuff. ;-)

Between us, we have a ton of business experience, some of it even B2B ecommerce experience. But this was our first venture into retail B2C, online. As some of you well know, it's a very different world. Over the last two years, we have been mildly successful, while we were figuring things out. But mildly doesn't really cut it, for the long-term. We believe we've learned what it will take to make DreamWorthy wildly successful.

Here's what we believe we need:

  • A complete, modern ecommerce website redesign with a great shopping cart software and full social media integration and Web 2.0 features. Think beautiful, functional, easy, inviting, intuitive. Stuff like this.
  • Then, we need to employ the best thinking in A/B testing, usability, and landing page click-pattern tracking to ensure the design delivers a customer experience that encourages conversion. This is great stuff straight from the great authors in Website Magazine, which I can't say enough great things about.
  • A merchant account to take payments directly, rather than only through PayPal.
  • A separation from our current primary dropshipper, replacing them with a fulfillment system that we control or can trust completely (Amazon fulfillment comes to mind as an option, if we outsource). Zappos' CEO wrote an article about their journey through this process and it was immensely enlightening. Different article, but here are some lessons he learned that resonated with us. You can't deliver phenomenal service if you don't control the fulfillment process.
  • A separation from our current primary supplier, to create private-label products of the finest quality, in one specific niche - likely continuing our current bath and body focus and dropping the other product lines. This and the fulfillment choice make stocking inventory mandatory, at our location or the fulfillment center.
  • A well-run SEM campaign.
  • A great SEO plan, built into the site during the redesign - not an afterthought.
  • Integration with, but less reliance on, Social Media as a marketing medium. Social Media should be our channel for listening, learning, connecting, creating a loyalty magnet and a human voice for our business, not the primary way we get orders.
  • An aligned PR/Marketing Plan that reinforces our SEM, SEO and Social Media presence and voice.

So, this has been two years' worth of learning. In retrospect, with hindsight being 20/20, I wish we had done these 2 years' worth of research first, and launched the business this year, but I'm not sure we'd really have learned everything we did without the experiences we've had. Kind of an interesting Catch-22 loop.

One thing that would not change is the thing we got right from the start, in our opinion:

A kind human voice, a sense of humor, an unwavering focus on customer satisfaction -- even if it means losing money on one order, and a commonsense approach to problem-solving when something doesn't quite go as expected.

Now, the question is, what's next? The above plan would give us a truly good chance at making DreamWorthy a very successful brand and business. Not "compete with Bath & Body Works" successful (from a scale perspective, at least), but it might take us to a platform from which we could decide if we want to go that far. A lot of successful businesses have started in a basement or garage.

So, what's holding us back, you ask?

  • This is a completely new level of commitment for two people with one very demanding full-time career, a family, a daughter headed to college, a busy household with two younger children, 2 cats and an unruly but infinitely entertaining Dachshund.
  • Financing. Do we risk funding this from personal funds or seek an SBA loan or other funding?
  • Is the "bath and body" space saturated enough that our entrance would make only a small ripple? (In other words, are we overestimating the potential return for this plan and do we need more market research?)
  • Choices and decisions. We're researching site designers, carts, and private-label options and costs.
  • One big decision: has this been a fun and interesting experiment that has lead to some cool new knowledge and skills, or is this the springboard from which we are going to leap and change our lives? Do we have (enough) passion for this business and the bath and body world?

For me (this is Mike), if I free my time up, I have an opportunity to focus deeper on my career in the training and organization performance profession (outside of work hours), and with 20+ years of highly successful experience, to become a respected voice in that industry and community. I have personally been wrestling with this choice, because choosing DreamWorthy means a continued, focused, dedicated effort outside of my already-long work day, until there is no longer a need for that work day. In essence, do I want to make a career change, leaving my training world behind? (Until, perhaps, based on our success, I could free up to teach others how to make the same journey?)

So there it is, friends, all laid out for the world to see. This is what we're doing, thinking about, going through, researching, and deciding. In the end, one of two things will happen. We'll either:
  • Close DreamWorthy Gifts and move on.
  • Execute the above plan and you'll see a relaunch of the store.

We'll keep you posted.

In the interim, we want to THANK YOU for your friendship, support and patronage. It has meant more to us than we could possibly tell you here.









Until next time, your online friends,

Mike & Kali

DreamWorthyGifts.com

Sunday, November 15, 2009

DreamWorthy Wish List & Gift Registry - Buy Your Friends What They Really Want

Along with our DreamWorthy Private Gift-Giving Network for Social Media Friends, something else that can be fun for the holidays is our Wish List & Gift Registry:

This is a cool feature.

From our home page, look on the upper right of the search panel, just below the top navigation bar. When you click on Wish List, you'll see this screen, where you can register on our site, or log in - if you are already registered. (By the way, registration includes only contact and shipping information, not credit card info.... even though we offer Secure Socket Layering security, we do not store any financial information on our site.)

As a registered site member, when you look at an item, you can add it to your Wish List, as you see with the Vanilla Caramel Bath Set to the right. Click on the "Add to Wish List" button, and the item will be added to your Wish List!

(Good choice! This stuff smells great!)









Then, if you tell your friends and ensure they have the email address that you used to register, they can shop for you using our Gift Registry.

They'll find the Gift Registry on the home page on the left navigation panel under the Shopping heading. (See the highlighted Gift Registrylink to the right.)

When they click on Gift Registry, they'll see a Wish List login screen, like below.



















When they enter your email address and the displayed security code, they will see your Wish List and are able to purchase gifts that you really want!

That's it for this quick post on our Gift Registry and Wish List features. Remember to register soon and tell your friends!

And with that said, faithful readers, we'll wrap up this ShopWorthy post for now. Thanks for reading, and as always, happy shopping!

Until next time,

Your friends and Shopping Advisors at DreamWorthy Gifts

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Introducing the DreamWorthy Private Gift-Giving Network

Hello Social Media Friends, Fans, Followers and DreamWorthy Customers!

The DreamWorthy Private Gift-Giving Network
for Social Media Friends!


Last holiday shopping season, we started thinking about something special that we might do to help our social media friends and customers.

Then, serendipitously, a friend, whom we know only through social media, wrote to us and asked if we could help him. He wanted to send a present to a shared contact who was
also a social-media-only friend. As such, he didn't want to make the recipient feel uncomfortable by asking for private info like an address, phone, or email (or broadcast the intent to send a present, and ruin the surprise).

What a pickle, right?

Our friend seemed sincerely motivated only by a kind, good nature, which we had already come to truly enjoy (a fellow "Pay-It-Forward" individual). This person knew the intended recipient was a customer of ours, and that we had shipped things to them before.

So, we were asked if we'd consider sending a present from our store without sharing the recipient's info... and in fact, even telling the recipient that we helped out this way, by keeping all info private and acting as a middleman.

Cool, huh? We thought so and said yes. And that started the gears turning.

This is Your Brain. This is your Brain on Social Media.
  • Could we do this for others?
  • Would it be viewed as completely self-serving or fun and helpful?
  • Do enough people care about keeping their basic contact info private from their social media connection?
  • Do enough people want to send presents to social media connections, especially in these economic times?
We don't have the answers to all those questions... but we're going to give it a whirl and see what you think.

Here's how we're thinking it would work:

(Click for a larger graphic)

We wondered to ourselves about the amount that people would want to spend on presents for social media friends and whether the cost of shipping and handling
would be a deterrent (normally $8.99 but we offer special "save on shipping" promotions, based on what someone spends). We'd love to hear your thoughts. Keep these promotions in mind as you think...

Special Promotions That Might Help:
  • Coupon code PGGN4SMF * will save shoppers 20% at checkout. We'll likely enter the orders, based on the above process, and if we do, we guarantee that we'll reduce every order by 20% with this code.
  • For anyone who spends $25 on one order, shipping is reduced by 25%.
  • For anyone who spends $50 on one order, shipping is reduced by 50%.
  • For anyone who already has a gift card (we've distributed a lot of $10 gift cards during promotions), we can apply those as well, during checkout.
* PGGN4SMF = Private Gift-Giving Network for Social Media Friends

Flexibility and Comfort


There could be a few other ways to handle things...
  • If you ask in advance if the person is a customer and they are, you can just place an order on our website, use the coupon code, and request that we ship to your friend instead of you.
  • If we place the order for you, we'll send you an invoice through PayPal (so you don't need to share your payment info with us personally) and ship after we receive payment.
  • But we can work out preferred details on a case-by-case basis and ensure your comfort before we finalize.
So, friends and followers, with all that said...


We'll be waiting to hear.
  • Write to GiftIdeas @ DreamWorthyGifts.com, send us an @Reply or DM on Twitter @DreamWorthy
  • Give us a shout out on Facebook
  • Or, leave us a comment here on this blog post...
...whatever is easier for you.

Kali & Mike Kunkle
______________________
DreamWorthy Gifts LLC
Write to us: Mail @ DreamWorthyGifts.com
Shop at: http://www.DreamWorthyGifts.com
Read our Shopping Blog: http://bit.ly/ShopWorthy
Read our Networking Blog: http://bit.ly/DreamWorthyFriends

Refer-A-Friend Promotion: Refer friends and they each get a coupon for 25% off. When they buy, you get a coupon for 40% off! There is no limit to the number of friends you can refer or the number of 40% coupons you can collect. See the Refer-A-Friend banner at http://www.DreamWorthyGifts.com to participate.

JOIN US AT:
http://www.twitter.com/DreamWorthy - Follow us!
http://www.facebook.com/DreamWorthy - Be a fan!
http://www.facebook.com/Kali.Kunkle - Be a friend!
http://
www.facebook.com/Mike.Kunkle - Be a friend!
http://www.linkedin.com/in/DreamWorthyGifts - Link to us!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

The DreamWorthy 5-a-Day Gift Card Giveaway

5-a-Day Gift Card Giveaway!



Holy cow, we've lost our marbles!




It's happening again!!!


It's the DreamWorthy Gifts
~ 5-a-Day Gift Card Giveaway! ~


We did some math (yes, it hurt) and determined that this is a win-win promotion. It's a lot cheaper than other marketing/advertising options. Plus, call us crazy, but we just love giving away our gift cards!

So, we are extending our
5-a-Day Gift Card Giveaway until supplies run out! There is no calendar deadline ~ we'll just announce when they're gone. By way of estimate, at our current rate, we should have gift cards for the large majority of 2010.

So, we'll give away a $10 virtual gift card for
http://www.DreamWorthyGifts.com to the first 5 people a day who send an email to GiftCards @ DreamWorthyGifts.com and ask for one.

That's it! Just send an email and you could win a free gift card! On random days, we may announce that we are giving away more than 5 a day - or we may not announce it but might give away more than 5 because we're crazy - so even if you think it's too late, send the email!

Our gift cards are transferable, so you can buy something for you, for someone else, or give it away!
While you're at our site, check out our Refer-a-Friend promotion banner on the home page, and learn how to save up to 40% on future purchases!

It's always...
Serious Shopping | Crazy Prices at DreamWorthy Gifts!

For even more wacky fun, follow @DreamWorthy on Twitter!


Saturday, May 16, 2009

Why Should You Shop at DreamWorthyGifts.com?

Hello shopping fans!

In this post we'll share some of our thoughts about how we are trying to live up to our own standards for great online shopping.

If You Deem This Worthy, Please Spread the Word!
We are always grateful for the support of our friends & fans!


So, without further ado...

Why should you shop with us at DreamWorthyGifts.com? Here is what we think:

FIND THE PERFECT GIFT: Choose from romantic, relaxing, funny, pretty, cute, inspiring, or practical. We have 3,000+ items in 30+ product categories, with prices ranging from $1.95 to $299.95 We have something for everyone in every price range, including virtual gift cards and gift certificates for those 'hard-to-buy-for' people in your life.

CONVENIENCE: Obviously, you can do your shopping without leaving your home. (Jammies and bunny slippers optional.) And your order can be shipped right to your front door.

FREE SHOPPING ADVISOR SERVICE: If you write to GiftIdeas@DreamWorthyGifts.com and request it, we will make gift suggestions for you. The suggestions get better, the more you can tell us about the person and situation. Tell us...
  • Their First Name
  • Their Gender
  • Their Approx Age
  • What They Like
  • What They Don't Like
  • Some Other Things About Them
  • Occasion (Why You're Buying Them a Gift)
  • When You Need to Give Them The Gift
  • Total amount you want to spend (including shipping): From $___ to $____.
  • Where to email the suggestions
...and we'll make some great gift suggestions for you! For free!

GREAT PRICES: In a recent pricing comparison test, DreamWorthy randomly selected 10 products and compared prices for the same or similar items at major brick and mortar retailers as well as other well-known websites. Market prices for this test ranged from $4.99 to $149.00. In every case but one, DreamWorthy Gifts' price was lower (we lost once by a few cents). The savings ranged from $0.83 to $65.04, with an average savings of $17.03. (Our analysis included our standard DWG20 coupon promotion, to save an extra 20% at checkout. This promotion is available for everyone, can be used every time, and does not expire.)

SECURE ONLINE SHOPPING: When we transfer and receive financial information, we redirect visitors to a server that is secured using industry-standard 128-bit SSL encryption. SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is a protocol developed by Netscape for transmitting private documents via the Internet. In a nutshell, SSL creates a secure connection between our online store and the Gateway, the mystical place where credit card transactions occur. This allows shoppers to send their credit card information in a secure manner over the Internet. All major e-commerce websites use this type of encryption, and you should feel safe to shop online at our store.

MULTIPLE PAYMENT OPTIONS: In addition to using secure servers for your protection, we accept PayPal for payments. PayPal has earned over 20 awards, is owned by eBay, and remains the global leader in online payment solutions. You may pay using your own PayPal account, with a credit or debit card, or through eCheck (which is an electronic funds transfer from your checking account). And frankly, if these options don't work for you, contact us and we'll figure something out.

UNPARALLELED CUSTOMER SERVICE: We stand behind our products and will do everything possible to ensure you are completely satisfied with them and us. Yes, we have company policies, but we also apply reasonable logic, listen with empathy, use common sense, act with integrity, and make decisions on a case-by-case basis. Occasionally, we break our own policies to ensure a customer is satisfied. We take service seriously.

SAVE ON SHIPPING: Spend $25 | Get 25% off Shipping! ~ Spend $50 | Get 50% off Shipping!

SAVE WITH COUPONS: Use a coupon you already have or use code DWG20 to save 20% additional at checkout.

REFER FRIENDS & SAVE MORE: See our Refer-a-Friend promotion on our homepage: Refer friends and they receive a coupon for 25% off. When they buy, you receive a coupon for 40% off! There is no limit to the number of friends you can refer, or the 40% off coupons you can receive.

So, what do you think? Do you think we've got it right? Do you think we can do something else? Send us your feedback and suggestions - we love to hear from our friends, fans, blog readers and shoppers!

Thanks so much for your support!

Kali and Mike Kunkle
Co-Founders of DreamWorthyGifts.com and authors of ShopWorthy - A Blog About Online Shopping

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

DreamWorthy Gifts' 5-a-Day Gift Card Give-Away

5-a-Day Gift Card Give-Away!



Holy cow, we've lost our marbles!




It's happening again!!!

It's the DreamWorthy Gifts
~ 5-a-Day Gift Card Give-Away! ~


We did some math (yes, it hurt) and determined that this is a win-win promotion. Plus, call us crazy, but we just love giving away our gift cards!

So, we are extending our
5-a-Day Gift Card Give-Away through Sunday, May 31, 2009! We'll give away a $10 virtual gift card for http://www.DreamWorthyGifts.com to the first 5 people a day who send an email to GiftCards @ DreamWorthyGifts.com and ask for one.

That's it! Just send an email and you could win a free gift card! On random days, we may announce that we are giving away more than 5 a day, so even if you think it's too late, send the email!

Our gift cards are transferable, so you can buy something for you, for someone else, or give it away!
While you're at our site, check out our Refer-a-Friend promotion banner on the home page, and learn how to save up to 40% on future purchases!

It's always...
Serious Shopping | Crazy Prices at DreamWorthy Gifts!

For even more wacky fun, follow @DreamWorthy on Twitter!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

"Gettin' Social" at DreamWorthy 2.0 - The New Standards

Hello Online Shopping Fans and Happy Easter!


We are just dropping by today for some quick announcements about DreamWorthy Gifts. We have a few NewsWorthy items we want to share. This post further clarifies our expectations for a great online shopping experience, and how we are trying to live up to the standards we espouse.

NewsWorthy

Special Promotions at DreamWorthy Gifts

First, we now have a more robust promotions page. You can see it at http://www.dreamworthygifts.com/promotion_list.asp.

On our site, you'll see an updated list of current special promotions. Currently, they include:
  • Our FREE Shopping Advisor Service
  • An ongoing coupon offer
  • How to save up to 40% by referring friends
  • Other special promotions, currently including two shipping promotions
Here are some additional details.

FREE SHOPPING ADVISOR SERVICE:

If you write to GiftIdeas@DreamWorthyGifts.com and request it, we will make gift suggestions for you. The suggestions get better, the more you can tell us about the person and situation. Tell us...
  • Their First Name:
  • Their Gender:
  • Their Approx Age:
  • What They Like:
  • What They Don't Like:
  • Some Other Things About Them:
  • Occasion (Why You're Buying Them a Gift):
  • When You Need to Give Them The Gift:
  • Total amount you want to spend (including shipping): From $___ to $____.
  • Where to email the suggestions:
...and we'll make some great gift suggestions for you! For free!

SAVE WITH COUPONS:


Use a coupon you already have or use code DWG20 to save an additional 20% at checkout.






REFER
FRIENDS & SAVE MORE:


See our Refer-a-Friend promotion on our homepage: Refer friends and they receive a coupon for 25% off. When they buy, you receive a coupon for 40% off! There is no limit to the number of friends you can refer, or the 40% off coupons you can receive. It's the smart way to shop!


OTHER SPECIAL PROMOTIONS:
Shipping Promotions
  • 25|25 Shipping Promo: Spend $25 | Get 25% Off Shipping!
  • 50|50 Shipping Promo: Spend $50 | Get 50% Off Shipping!

Look Ma,
We Won Something!

Kidding aside, we learned last week that DreamWorthy Gifts won the 2009 Most Wanted Coupon Tournament! We're honored and want to say "Thanks!" to our friends and fans who voted for us.

The tournament started with 32 coupon-offering contestants, ranging from giants like Wal-Mart and Amazon.com to smaller businesses like ScrapbookPal.com and DreamWorthyGifts.com. See WantedCoupons.com's blog announcement for more details and "Keep On Coupin' On" at http://www.WantedCoupons.com!

We're still a little stunned, but I believe this is a real tribute to Social Media/Networking, where we have made some phenomenal friends and fans on Facebook, Digg, LinkedIn and Twitter. Thanks to everyone who voted for us - especially our friends/followers and fellow "tweeters" from Twitter, where we hang out as @DreamWorthy.

"Gettin' Social" at DreamWorthy 2.0
Speaking of Social Networking, we have added some features to our site recently that increase the social aspect of shopping with us... functionality that is often referred to as "Web 2.0." We're not Amazon.com yet, but we are moving in (what we believe is) the right direction. We would certainly like to hear some feedback from you. (Leave a comment or send us an email.)

Product Zoom feature:
See an example here. Place your mouse over the product image and you will automatically activate the zoom feature. Move your mouse over the product to move the zoom window. You can still click the "larger image" link to open a new window with a larger static image.

Customer Reviews by product:

See this link and scroll down to see the area for customer reviews. The image of the candle below shows where a shopper can add a review.

Question & Answer feature for products:
Directly below the area for reviews, you'll see a button to click to send us a question about the product.

Testimonials:

Customers can leave a testimonial about their purchase. On our home page, scroll to the bottom, look under "Site Info" and you'll see the Testimonial link. You can also see Testimonials on the home page left panel navigation, near the bottom under "Express Orders."

Wish List & Gift Registry:
This is a fun feature.

From the home page, look on the upper right of the search panel, just below the top navigation bar. When you click on Wish List, you'll see this screen, where you can register on our site or login, if you are already registered. (By the way, registration includes only contact and shipping information.... even though we offer Secure Socket Layering security, we do not store any financial information on our site.)

As a registered site member, when you look at an item, you can add it to your Wish List.

Then, if you tell your friends and ensure they have your email address you used to register, they can shop for you using our Gift Registry. They'll find the Gift Registry on the home page, on the left navigation panel under the Shopping heading. When they click on Gift Registry, they'll see a Wish List login screen, like below.


When they enter your email address and security code, they see your Wish List and are able to purchase gifts that you really want.










Share Feature ~ Tell Friends:
This graphic is a picture of a product page. On it, you can see where to add a customer review, the image zoom, Wish List and our last new feature, the Share this item link. When you click the envelope link, you can complete a form to send an email to a friend (or multiple friends) to tell them about this item. You can send a 500 character message and even copy yourself.


And with that said, faithful readers, we'll wrap up this ShopWorthy post for now. Thanks for reading, and as always, happy shopping!

Until next time,

Your friends and Shopping Advisors at DreamWorthy Gifts

Sunday, April 5, 2009

5 Things All E-Commerce Websites Need To Succeed

Hello online shopping fans! Welcome back to ShopWorthy - A Blog About Online Shopping!

In our ongoing effort to provide you with information about all aspects of online shopping, we are taking another interesting twist for this post.

Last time, we shamelessly wrote about our own online store and shared how we are trying to live up to our own standards about online shopping.

This time, to approach things from another angle, we have asked Ken Ramirez, owner of AxsysTechGroup.com, to share a perspective from the side of an experienced Web site developer, who has helped many other e-commerce biz owners. At the end, we'll share a special link where you can learn more about Ken as a person and his businesses.

But without further ado, let's learn from a real expert about the...

_________________________________


5 Things All E-Commerce Websites Need To Succeed
By Ken Ramirez
Axsys Technology Group

When Mike and Kali from DreamWorthyGifts.com asked if I would be interested in composing a guest post for their awesome blog, I jumped at the opportunity. What I didn't have at that point was a solid topic to write about. Little did I know that the topic would find me.

In case you don't know who I am or what my company does, a short introduction is in order. My name is Ken Ramirez and my company (Axsys Technology Group) provides website design, hosting, and e-marketing services. A very common task for us is to design and build e-commerce websites.

Most clients start by telling us what they wish to see visually, but have no clue as to what should happen behind the curtain. These days, of modern search engines, Web 2.0, and computer savvy users, what goes on behind the scene is just as important (if not more important) than what you see visually.

Furthermore, when I present our options list to our customers, at first, most don't understand what the options are, let alone why they need it. When I thought about this, it became clear as to what I would want to guest-post on a blog operated by the owners of an e-commerce website. That way, perhaps we could help a few of DreamWorthy's readers in case some are in the process of building an e-commerce website, and have no clue where to start (other than what they'd like to see visually).

Think SEO Now, Not Later

As a brand-new online store owner, one of the first decisions you'll have to make is to decide what to name your domain name. Easier said than done. When picking your domain name, think utility, not coolness. You'll probably come up with fifty cool names that you're proud of. Perhaps because you think that they are witty or slick. But your name should be blatantly obvious of what you sell. Stay away from words like Best, Greatest, NumberOne, or other adjectives that seem more like boasting than actual facts.

Next, don't forget the big three meta-tags in your pages: Title, Description, and Keywords. Many websites make the mistake of using the same title, description, and keywords across the entire website. It is especially important that you DON'T make this mistake in an e-commerce website. Your product pages should contain meta-tags that represent what is actually being displayed. For example, if you sell chairs, and the currently viewed product page is a black plastic chair with chrome legs, that is what you should put in your title, description, and keywords.

Another common mistake is the use of parameters in the URLs provided as links. In order to explain this one, let me provide an example. Let's say you have a page containing a list of products for a given category. Each item in the list might have a link to view the full details for each product. The link is followed by search engines (when crawling your website). However, each link looks something like this:

http://www.yourwebsite.com?prodid=143

http: //www.yourwebsite.com?prodid=125

http: //www.yourwebsite.com?prodid=214

This doesn't provide the search engines with any information about the actual products that you sell on your website. A better choice would be to have URLs that resemble the following:

http://www.yourwebsite.com/chairs/plastic-black-chair.html

http: //www.yourwebsite.com/tables/rosewood-dining-table

http: //www.yourwebsite.com/sofas/white-sectional-sofa

These last three examples have information that a search engine can sink its teeth into in order to rank you better.

Don't Be Anti-Social

Many new websites are incorporating social media websites into their marketing plan. Doing so could be as simple as joining AddThis.com and incorporating the buttons into your website. These buttons can then be used by your visitors in an effort to spread the word about something interesting they found on your website. When one of your products makes it to the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Digg, and other social media websites, it could mean the difference between success and failure. Furthermore, you can incorporate this feature into every single one of your products to make it easy for your visitors to spread the word for you.

Another upcoming practice is the ability to update your status on various social websites with new product entries as you add them to your website. This can be automatic if your website developer is familiar with the Application Programming Interface (API) supported by the social website you wish to provide updates for. On most social websites, as you add an update, the status is viewed by all of your friends (connections). If your friends comment on your status, their comment is viewed by their friends. This means that you could potentially reach hundreds of thousands of people...all from a single product update that made itself over to one or more social website.

Get Your Feed On

These days, it's becoming incredibly important for your products to appear on multiple shopping websites that point back to you for the final purchase. These sites provide product comparisons for the consumer and ease their product purchase decisions. The point is, you have to spread your wings a bit to make a bigger sale (or at least more of them). Sites that provide comparison features, pricing, discounts, etc., include: Google Base, Shopping.com, Bizrate.com, MySimon.com and many more.

Again, an experienced e-commerce development company will know how to add features to your store that will allow you to automatically forward your products to these other sites, based on a feed from your website to theirs. You should not have to perform double-entry. Most of these websites provide a public API that can be used by your website to communicate with them, easing the path to reach more customers.

This essentially translates to more sales for your company.

More Than Just A Pretty Picture - Rotating Banners

This is a visual component that can be used to display multiple products, specials, discounts, new items, etc. to your customers. However, just displaying pretty pictures is not enough. The images should act as clickable regions with specific words that state "click here to learn more" or something similar, in order to make it obvious what is expected of the customer if they see something that catches their interest.

When the potential client clicks on the image, they should be taken directly to the product's detail page, where they can view options, sizes, and most importantly, be able to add the product to the cart with a simple click of a button.

X-Sell Marks The Spot

X-Selling (a.k.a. cross-selling) is a technique that sometimes causes a customer to additionally buy something beyond what they intended to buy. For example, say they came to your website in order to buy one specific thing. When they got to the detail page, they clicked on the "Add To Cart" button. Next, they're shown the cart displaying their grand total and the list of products that they've added to the cart. Finally, right below the cart, or sometimes above the cart, they're shown a few other products that either:

A. Complement the last product added to the cart.
B. Other customers typically have brought when they also chose the last product added to the cart.
C. Is a good alternative product than the one last added to the cart (especially if it is more expensive).

When deciding how many products to X-Sell, a good number is 3. More than that is a bit overwhelming for the customer.

Summary

Now that you know what your online store should have, you're probably wondering the same thing that most of our customers start to think about next...what's it going to cost in order to add these features? There's good news and bad. First the bad, it does add more cost to your initial base when you start to add these features to your website. Now the good news...most of the features that I've discussed above, are now available as an add-on for most e-commerce engines. If your design company builds your e-commerce store on one of the existing e-commerce engines, the added expense should not be overwhelming.

You'll probably have to pay for a license (if there's a cost involved for integrating the add-on). You'll also have to pay for the extra time that your e-commerce development company will need in order to add the component to your e-commerce website.

If your e-commerce website designer has never heard of any of these features for your potential website, walk away and find someone else to build your online store.

And remember, if all else fails, feel free to give us a call at 954-499-5594 or write us at info@axsystechgroup.com. If you want to learn more about what it takes to run and operate a successful online business, read our blog at http://blog.axsystechgroup.com.

_________________________________


Well, faithful readers, this is the end of this special post. Even for you die-hard shopping fans, I hope it has been intriguing to see things from the perspective of a potential e-commerce site owner and the professionals who design sites to be efficient, effective, marketable, and profitable.

As always, please feel free to provide feedback to Ken or us, by leaving a comment or writing to us at Mail @ DreamWorthyGifts.com. And to learn more about the kind of person that Ken Ramirez is, and more about his business, see a special post at our other blog called DreamWorthy Friends.

And with that said, faithful readers, we'll wrap up this ShopWorthy post for now. Thanks for reading, and as always, happy shopping!

Until next time,

Your friends and Shopping Advisors at DreamWorthy Gifts

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Safer Online Shopping While Avoiding Identity Theft

NewsWorthy

A Little Diversion is Good For The Soul


Hello online shopping fans! We have something a little different for you today, but as ardent online shoppers, I believe it is something that will interest you and be helpful. We're thinking of making several (shopping-related) diversions like this over the course of this year, so your feedback would be appreciated about that. Good idea? Or do you need to slap us back into place? We'll wait quietly
over here, and hope to hear from you.

The Buzz About Identity Theft


There is a lot of buzz these days about online shopping and social media networking and the risks involved with both for identity theft. Our friends over at
AxsysTechGroup.com recently posted a blog about identity theft and Julio Ricardo Varela, a Facebook friend, posted this story. In addition to these examples, the news about online shopping, identity theft, and social media risks have been plentiful lately, so we won't detail them much further here. The last things we'll offer are Dateline's "To Catch an ID Thief" undercover investigation, which included an online store and some resulting tips on protecting yourself, including this helpful guide. Check it out when you have a chance.



So, What's YOUR Social Security Number?


We've posted before about ways to ensure
safe online shopping (courtesy of Tech Paul), but a newsletter we received recently from LifeLock (we're members), and a link to their blog, jogged me into writing and asking if they would write a post for ShopWorthy readers.

I thought I'd get a response weeks or months later, or never.


Within an hour or so, I got a reply from
Cortney Read, Public Affairs Coordinator for LifeLock, with an enthusiastic "Yes" reply and a friendly, professional message. Within a few days, I received the post below, from Cortney, which is written by Zach Friesen. Hats off to you, LifeLock (and especially Cortney and Zach). I am indeed impressed.

Disclosures, Disclaimers, The Other Side of the Coin


Now, we're not the
Motley Fool, and we do not own shares of LifeLock (and don't even know if they're publicly traded) or get anything in return for mentioning them here, but we should offer a few other "disclosures."

First, we are customers of theirs. About 20 months ago, when we moved to a new city, we opened a new bank account and had to prove that one of our social security numbers was ours, because it had been in use at that bank previously, on a closed account, by someone else. It appeared that it was possibly an honest mistake(?) on the part of the account owner but the fact that it slipped past the bank was astonishing to us. We had been seeing the bold commercials for LifeLock where the CEO,
Todd Davis, posts his social security number in magazines and on the side of a truck. After some research, we became customers to protect ourselves.

It does make getting credit somewhat more challenging, but with some advance planning it's not really a problem. There's a phone call involved between LifeLock and you to ensure it's you applying for credit. Not really a hassle for us, to know that our identity and credit are being protected.


Lastly, I've read that detractors say that placing fraud alerts on your credit bureau as a protective measure can slow down the entire system that is designed to protect those most at risk. Personally, I reconcile this easily, given the amount of identity theft that happens. Of course, given our story, I considered our risk high to begin with. Other detractors take issue with the CEO giving out his social security number, citing it as irresponsible. I can't speak to that, other than to say it was a bold and highly effective marketing campaign, and I have a hard time imagining that others would do it because he did, but you never know.
The FBI sees fit to work with them, and Google's CFO sits on their Board of Directors, so that says a lot, from our perspective.

So with all that said, I would like to turn over the floor to LifeLock and author Zach Friesen.


__________________________



Advice from the Experts
- Avoid Identity Theft While Shopping Online






Written By Zach Friesen,
LifeLock
Edited by Mike Kunkle,
DreamWorthy Gifts

Online shopping can be a lot of fun and lead to some great savings, but some people shy away for fear of the unknown. We've all heard stories of people who go to buy a gift or a hard-to-find item online and end up with a load of fraud and scams - but what's the truth behind the risks of online shopping? In this day and age, online shopping really is the best way to find just what you need, and despite the rumors, there are a number of ways to ensure a safe and happy experience.

Making a List (of Risks)


First, it's important to recognize just what kinds of identity theft you are at risk for when buying online. In general, identity theft is when someone obtains your personal information to use the credit you already have or to establish new credit. In addition, sometimes thieves attempt to use your information to get at your money instead of your credit. While identity theft has branched out into many different areas, these are the most pertinent to online shopping. (For more info on other types of identity theft, feel free to visit
www.LifeLock.com.)

Checking It Twice (Bills and Credit Reports)


The next step for consumers is to know how to check to learn if they already are a victim and continue this process to spot potential problems early. This is as simple as reviewing a credit report annually and carefully checking all the bills and credit statements you receive monthly. Looking at these documents, make sure there is nothing on them that you don't recognize (for example, a credit card you've never opened with a retailer or bank, or purchases that you did not authorize). If you see anything you are uncomfortable with, or simply want to ensure that you're protected, you can visit
LifeLock's website to learn more about checking your credit report and how experts can help you keep your identity safe.

Find Out Who's Naughty or Nice


Next, you need to be sure you know who you're dealing with, when shopping. There are some relatively easy and simple steps to ensure you're "where you think you are." A good rule to follow is: always find your sites, email addresses, and phone numbers yourself. If someone contacts you in an email or otherwise tells you where to go or what number to call, you should consider it suspect. You have no idea who you're dealing with, unless you verify the information or contact them another way. This is not to say that you cannot ever communicate using these means, just operate responsibly and never offer personal information without doing some of your own research. For example, many identity thieves will fabricate websites and provide links to you, in hopes of convincing you to give up information. Be cautious of this and look up the site yourself, using whatever search engine you prefer. It's also a good idea to check the URL to make sure the title and site match.

Finally, ensuring that you're dealing with secure sites can alleviate the fear of someone intercepting the transaction. While there are multiple ways to verify a secure site, the simplest and fastest is to check the URL again. If the site starts with "http" it is not secure, and "https" is secure.


Gauge Your Comfort - Decide What's Next


Remember, there is much that you can do for yourself to stay safe when shopping online, but there is still a lot that can happen - both on and off the Internet - that is out of your control. For additional help keeping you and your loved ones safe from identity theft, check out
www.LifeLock.com. You'll find experts that offer not only protection, but also a million-dollar safety net to catch you, just in case the worst should happen.

__________________________


One last note. LifeLock has their own
blog. Check them out at http://lifelockblog.com/

And with that said, faithful readers (Hi Mom!), we'll wrap up this
ShopWorthy post for now. Thanks for reading, and as always, happy shopping!

Until next time,


Your friends and Shopping Advisors at
DreamWorthy Gifts