Is Crowdfunding Right For You? Here's Some Advice.

This article is written by Kristen Knipp, VP Marketing, Product Marketing & Brand at Bigcommerce

Recently, I had the honor of presenting at UP Summit. The presentation, “How should I prepare for Crowdfunding?,” was based on the lessons my husband, John, and I learned when we successfully crowdfunded our invention, RingSafe, on Kickstarter earlier this year. Check it out:

Based on the conversations I had after the talk, it struck me that while many entrepreneurs are interested in crowdfunding, few know how to run a campaign or whether it’s right for them. Those side chats inspired me to distill my knowledge into a few blog posts and a decision tree.

The first post was on the benefits and drawbacks of crowdfunding. You can see full descriptions of each of these in the original post, but for reference here they are:

Benefits of crowdfunding

  • It validates the market
  • You receive valuable consumer feedback
  • It can rake in legitimacy and exposure
  • You could receive funds

Drawbacks of crowdfunding

  • It’s a lot of work
  • You pay a percentage of what you raise
  • Most campaigns fail
  • Funds might not always be allocated for growth

Before you decide you want to give crowdfunding a go, ask yourself five questions to determine whether it’s right for you:

  1. Is your idea targeted and specific?

  2. Do you need to keep your idea secret or under wraps?

  3. Can you define a specific and attainable funding goal?

  4. Will you benefit from market validation?

  5. Do you already have a fan base for your idea?

If you need a deeper dive into any of the questions, here’s my post “Considering crowdfunding? Answer these 5 questions first.” Also, check out this decision free and crowdfunding resources onesheet I created or ask me questions on Twitter.

Screen-Shot-2014-06-09-at-12.53.43-PM






Top 15 GSB Teams: E-Commerce Circle Powered By Bigcommerce

After tons of hard work and thousands of votes, we have our official top 15 teams for the E-Commerce Circle Powered By Bigcommerce!

url

These teams will move on to the formal judging round, in which they will be assessed based on set criteria by a panel of startup experts. Each team is now eligible to win some incredible prizes from Bigcommerce, including a team trip to SXSW, a trip to Bigcommerce headquarters for a month long mentorship from experts who truly know online business, and more. Stay tuned for the announcement of the E-Commerce winner on December 16th,

Faitmaison.co | Grenoble, France – A community where people can share their cuisines and earn some extra bucks. It serves you with delicious homemade food at reasonable prices.

Screen Shot 2013-12-10 at 11.38.04 AM

VisionBoards.co | Detroit, Michigan – A simple yet powerful e-commerce-enabled platform that allows users to easily create, print and share custom vision boards and other self-empowerment tools.

Screen Shot 2013-12-10 at 11.38.04 AM

Goodvid.io | Thessaloniki, Greece – Promises to change the way content from social video platforms is used in online retail.

Screen Shot 2013-12-10 at 11.38.04 AM

KAPCHER | Sydney, Australia – The world’s first global online real-time community marketplace for photo/videographers..

Screen Shot 2013-12-10 at 11.38.04 AM

Paybutton Africa | Accra, Ghana – A service designed to bring online payments to small African businesses who are currently unable to accept payments online. Services like PayPal and Visa aren’t available.

Screen Shot 2013-12-10 at 11.38.04 AM

RV Sherpa | Laguna Beach, California – A website which helps renters find RVs to rent at a great price. Also, adding over $100 million to the RV rental economy by accepting rental offers for unused or unrented RVs just like airbnb and priceline does for homes and hotel rooms.

Screen Shot 2013-12-10 at 11.38.04 AM

Garden Genie | Auckland, New Zealand – Make growing simple and enjoyable.

Screen Shot 2013-12-10 at 11.38.04 AM

Fabrique | Accra, Ghana – No.1 stop shop for authentic African fabric.

Screen Shot 2013-12-10 at 11.38.04 AM

Griflens | Toronto, Ontario – An entertainment and educational platform that spans online and offline worlds by combining physical, collectible beads with online interactive storytelling.

Screen Shot 2013-12-10 at 11.38.04 AM

Bootlegger | Hyderabad, India – Delivers booze at your doorstep. Vision is to make purchase of alcohol easy and hassle free.

Screen Shot 2013-12-10 at 11.38.04 AM

Jibbin | Isfahan, Iran – Help you find the best commodity within your budget.

Screen Shot 2013-12-10 at 11.38.04 AM

Global Arts | Maceió, Brazil – A marketplace environment directed to art promoting.

Screen Shot 2013-12-10 at 11.38.04 AM

Tip It | Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – Gathers people who appreciate good music and talented artists in an online environment. You can meet new talents in music, enjoy live and unique shows and contribute to the artist’s career.

Screen Shot 2013-12-10 at 11.38.04 AM

OpenMyArt | Quebec, Canada – Aims to make art accessible to everyone and to bring out tomorrow’s talents through an efficient web platform that offers a direct connection between the emerging artist and the art lover.

Screen Shot 2013-12-10 at 11.38.04 AM

Service Shop | Tehran, Iran – An application based on electronic shop services but unique in its way of sharing – adding the power of comparison among service providers, sharing photos and making it possible for services to be bought through the internet.

Screen Shot 2013-12-10 at 11.38.04 AM

Boda Inteligente | Mexico City, Mexico – A website where you can buy online all the things you need for your wedding in 3 easy steps!

Screen Shot 2013-12-10 at 11.38.04 AM

The Look | Cordoba, Argentina – An app that teaches you how to dress well, considering your wardrobe, the characteristics of your body and your style.

Screen Shot 2013-12-10 at 11.38.04 AM

Dale Pay | Caracas, Venezuela – We explore the pedagogical use of video games in Spanish-speaking school.

Screen Shot 2013-12-10 at 11.38.04 AM








E-Commerce Conversion Tips, Part 2

This post was written by Kirsten Knipp – VP of Product Marketing & Brand at Bigcommerce

In our first e-commerce post, we took a deep dive into maximizing your product pages. Your products are truly the foundation of your online store, and now that you have those optimized, it’s time to take a step by and tackle your the overall look, feel and user experience of your homepage. At Bigcommerce we’re all about selling more, not spending more. Don’t invest any money in paid search campaigns, display advertising or social media ads until you have your homepage and site architecture down cold. No matter how much traffic you drive, you won’t get a return on that investment unless your site is designed to convert shoppers into buyers.

Begin at the beginning with the three-second test

To get the most out of this test, you need to forget everything you know about your business. Pretend a friend told you about a great new site, gave you the URL and you’ve typed it into your browser. You don’t know anything about this store or the people running it. Looking at your homepage through these eyes, ask yourself two questions:

1.) In three seconds, can you tell exactly what this store is selling?

2.) Would you trust your credit card and personal information with this store?

You better answer a confident YES to both. If not, it is time to get to work, and the best place to start is with design.

Go clean and make it all about your products

Visitors should be able to instantly identify your product when they land on the homepage. The best way to do this is keeping your store design clean, professional and focused on high-quality images of your products. Cluttered designs with unrelated graphics or confusing CTAs will merely distract shoppers. Your homepage should serve the singular purpose of getting consumers to view and ultimately buy your awesome products.

You can see this principle in action by comparing these two examples. Both stores are selling the same product, but they are doing it in very different ways.

bad ecommerce homepage design good ecommerce homepage design

The first one is almost all text, which means you really have to look to see that they sell bicycles. Who wants to buy something they can’t find? You don’t have that problem with the second example. There are big beautiful bikes all over the place, plus it is referenced in their logo, tagline and supporting content.

In a consumer study by Oneupweb, 70.8% of shoppers said that having products displayed on the homepage influences their purchasing decisions. When choosing images to feature, it’s a proven best practice to display your most popular products. It may be tempting to promote products that need more love, but you want to show off your top sellers to pull people into the shopping experience. If you don’t know which products are your crowd pleasers, use a tool like SumAll or Google Analytics to dig into the data and figure it out.

Another important difference between the two sites is that Example 2 has a much more professional design. Not only does it focus on the product, it also looks like they spent some time and money on their store. That same Oneupweb study found that 76.5% of consumers rated a site looking credible and trustworthy as important, and 66.7% said that a site needs to be visually appealing to get them to buy.

Finally, the second homepage has easy-to-use navigation, featuring a few major categories on the top nav row that expand to show all the related subcategories. That is a huge advantage over Example 1, which throws every subcategory in a left-hand nav column. It looks messy and turns simple browsing into manual searching.

Be trustworthy and make it easy to call 

Back to the fact that 76.5% of shoppers said a credible and trustworthy look was an important factor in their buying decision. One easy way to improve your credibility is by borrowing some from trusted organizations. A study by McAfee shows that online conversions can increase by 12% when a retail site displays familiar trustmarks.

Trustmarks are usually logos from groups like VeriSign or the Better Business Bureau that represent security or ethical business practices. Don’t be afraid to display these logos prominently on your header or footer. You can also add logos of the major credit cards, PayPal or other payment methods you accept. Those are major brands with positive reputations that can rub off on your store.

Another way to increase your credibility with shoppers is displaying a phone number prominently on the homepage, or even on every page via the site header. Fly-by-night operations usually don’t want you to get in touch with them, so this helps people know you’re a real business they can purchase from with confidence. It also lets them know that help is just a phone call away in case they ever need it.

Be upfront and address pain points

You may have noticed that many successful e-commerce sites call out certain policies or features, like free shipping or a return policy. That’s a great way of addressing possible objections people have to buying online before they even think about it. Here’s a great example:

ecommerce policy callout

See how they mention free shipping and their easy return policy right at the top of their site? A little further to the right they even have a low-price guarantee. Those are all potential pain points that visitors can stop worrying about so they can focus on shopping.

A little more on the importance of shipping costs. Did you know this is the top reason people ditch their full shopping carts? A Forrester study showed that 44% of carts are abandoned due to high shipping costs. If you offer free or low flat-rate shipping, make sure to display it loud and proud on your homepage. And provide as much detail as possible. It’s much better to say “Free shipping on $99+ orders” than just “Free shipping*.” Be clear about your consumer-friendly policies so that expectations are properly set before checkout.

Be open and share customer testimonials

It’s been shown that more than 80% of consumers consult reviews when making a purchase, and adding them to your site can help lift sales by as much as 18%. Back to thatOneupweb survey, customer reviews and testimonials are considered an important purchasing factor by 40.9% of respondents. Usually these live on the product pages, but you can share the goodness on your homepage too

Pull a few of your most effusive reviews and put them on your homepage in the form of testimonial quotes. Bonus points if you can get a photo to go along with the quote and customer name—seeing that real people have purchased and liked your products or services will increase your credibility. We actually do this on our very own homepage and have found it to be a solid driver of conversions.

Be proactive with a homepage promo

Another way to entice shoppers to buy from you—especially new customers—is to give them a deal right on your homepage. Everybody loves a good coupon code, and when you offer a percentage off certain items or free shipping, a new customer is more likely to take a chance on you. After they experience your amazing service and delightful products, the hope is they’ll come back for more and become a loyal shopper.

If you have a homepage carousel, it’s easy to create simple graphics that display your special offer. If the offer is a percentage off items in a certain category, make sure you link to that category from the image so shoppers know what the discount applies to. If the offer requires a promo code, display that text in a large, eye-catching way right in the graphic. This is a good example:

ecommerce homepage promo

Another type of promotional graphic that’s become increasingly popular is a promo strip. The nice thing about this option is it sits right under your main nav bar, which means it follows the customer around your site and is visible from every page.

No matter how you decide to display your offer, picking the offer itself is a critical step. How do you choose? Test, test, test. Start with something you know you can afford—like 20% off one of your high-margin products—then test multiple variations until you find something that converts for you. Really focus on sales from new visitors, since that is the prime target of homepage promos. And even when you find something you like, continue to create and test new deals, you never know if some better is waiting for you.

Thanks for reading! Hopefully these tips will give you plenty to work on while you build a new store. And don’t forget that GSB participants can try out Bigcommerce free for 45 days.








E-Commerce Conversion Tips, Part 1

This post was written by Kirsten Knipp – VP of Product Marketing & Brand at Bigcommerce

Setting up an online store is easy, especially with Bigcommerce, but it might not be immediately clear how to optimize it for the best results. In this post, we’ll give you a checklist of things you can do to improve the essential building blocks of your e-commerce business.

bigcommerce products header

Product pages are the most important part of your store, not just because they inform customers about your products and entice them to buy from you, but because good product pages help with your search engine rankings and actually bring in more customers in the first place. Improving your product pages is one of the easiest things you can do to improve your sales.

Product Name

You want your product name to be descriptive so customers know exactly what you’re selling. But it is also a great way to increase your search engine rank—the more specific your description, the fewer websites you’ll be competing with when someone searches for that product. For example, you could use a generic product name like “Creatine Powder,” but that has more than 2 million hits on Google. You want to use a specific name like “Musashi Arouse Pre Workout Creatine Phosphate Blend,” which only has 247,000 hits. Just by using a specific product name, you’ve cut out more than 1.7 million competing pages. An added benefit is that visitors who search for specific keywords (like those you’ve included in your now excellent product name) are much more likely to buy than those who search for generic terms.

Product Description

Learning to write a killer product description is key to increasing your sales. Again, you’re providing customers with the information they need to make a buying decision, and you’re also getting your products in front of more customers. Google loves unique product descriptions that include quality content, so investing a little time in really fleshing out your descriptions will dramatically increase your e-commerce SEO and get your products in front of a lot more potential buyers. Here’s a good example:

bigcommerce product description 1

Aim for that level of original content. Don’t just throw out the basics of a product and call it a day. Really think like a consumer—identify the things that would help you buy the product, then pack your descriptions with that useful information. For key features, use a bulleted list to call attention to the biggest selling points. Like this:

bigcommerce product description 2

That’s the kind of content that jumps you up to the top of search engine results. By writing detailed product pages, our example bike company has four of the top five search results for that product. Plus it offers consumers a complete picture of the product, giving them everything they need to make an informed purchase.

Product Images

Because online shopping is such a visual experience, it’s important to provide your customers with beautiful images that really show off your products. A study of online consumers found that a third of their time shopping is spent looking at images, and 67% of consumers interviewed rated image quality as “very important” when deciding to purchase.

bigcommerce product pics

The example above features tons of professionally shot, good-looking photos. They really show off the design and all the features of the bike. And the bigger the image the better. You want customers to be able to zoom in to see all the details, just like they are shopping in person.

While it’s best to have professional photos whenever possible, you can take your own to get started. A few general tips are to make sure you have good lighting, use simple backgrounds to make the product stand out, and keep your angles consistent across all your pictures. For more detailed advice, check out this article from PC World on How to Take Great Product Photos for Your Online Store.

Product Videos

Videos are another fantastic way to make your shoppers feel like they’re getting an in-person demo. Even better, videos will drive more people to your pages thanks to better search results, then help convert them once they’re there. A video makes it 53 times more likely that you’ll get a front-page Google result, and consumers are up to 85 percent more likely to purchase after watching a product video.

So adding videos to your product pages can help you in every aspect of the online sales cycle. Great. Now how do you get your hands on them? If you have product demos from the manufacturer, that’s better than nothing, but the best solution is to make them yourself. Not only do you get to fully control the content of your video, but it’s better for your search results if you’re putting out unique content rather than just adding something everyone else has.

Our awesome client YETI Coolers did a great excellent job with their product video. It highlights the main selling points of their coolers, really showcasing how strong and durable they are, plus shows all the cool features that make them unique. But you’ll notice it isn’t a fancy, high-cost production. Don’t be afraid to take the plunge and produce your own video. Just start with a script, keep it short, show the product in action and make it conversational. When it comes to actually shooting and editing, Vimeo has a fantastic Video 101 series that will help you with everything from camera selection to shot composition to putting together the final product.

Now Dive In

You can see that transforming your product pages into selling machines isn’t difficult, it just takes a small investment of your time. And that investment will definitely be well rewarded. So if you’re ready to get started on your entrepreneurial dream, kick off an online store as part of the GSB e-Commerce Circle and you’ll get 45 days of Bigcommerce for free!

 








GSB 2013: Introducing the E-Commerce Circle powered by Bigcommerce

We are thrilled to announce another ‘Circle’ for Global Startup Battle: E-Commerce! More Circles means more ways to win and Bigcommerce is giving away some prizes you don’t want to miss.

use this now

Bigcommerce, the fast growing e-commerce platform for businesses of all sizes, will lead the judging for the E-Commerce Circle competition, singling out the most innovative, smart, enthusiastic and promising team for a month-long e-commerce immersion experience at Bigcommerce.

The experience includes:

  • Trip to Austin, TX for an immersive e-commerce experience at the Bigcommerce offices. Flight and lodging included!
  • Tickets to SXSW Interactive
  • A personal e-commerce coach
  • Collaborative office space
  • Your own online store with built-in marketing tools
  • An opportunity to meet face-to-face with execs from Bigcommerce to discuss and refine your business growth strategy

Bigcommerce will cover travel and event expenses so the winner can hunker down to make their online startup a success with mentorship from the experts who work with online businesses every day.

“Global Startup Battle provides a great opportunity for entrepreneurs to connect with and learn form each other, proving new ideas and opportunities to build their business in this fast-paced market,” said Steve Case, Chairman and CEO, Revolution and Chairman of UP Global. “As access to the $250 billion global, online marketplace for retailers and merchants, is increasingly democratized, e-commerce provides a compelling opportunity for young startups to go toe-to-toe with giants in their space.”

So how can you get involved?

A Circle is a themed startup competition within Global Startup Battle. Teams will submit video pitches, get crowd votes, and winners will eventually be named by a panel of industry expert judges.  The first step to entering the E-Commerce Circle is to find a Startup Weekend taking place during Global Startup Battle. There are two weekends available to choose from: November 15th and November 22nd.  At the beginning of the event, participants will pitch their ideas and teams will form around the most popular ones. The teams then have 54 hours to build a company around the idea. On Sunday evening, teams will present to a local panel of judges and event winners will be named. From there, all teams will have 24 hours to submit a video entry describing their company to the GSB Circles of their choice.

To register to attend a Startup Weekend event in a city near you, please visit http://globalstartupbattle.co/.  If you’re located in Bigcommerce’s neck of the woods, you can find details regarding the Austin, Texas and Sydney, Australia startup weekends at the following links http://austin.startupweekend.org/ or http://sydney.startupweekend.org/.