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Manta Offers New Tools to Socially Connect Small Businesses

Today, websites like Facebook and Twitter are the most well-known social destinations for businesses looking to connect with their customers, but one social piece missing from these popular spaces is a connection between small business owners.

Manta, the largest online community dedicated to small business, is a site designed to help small businesses connect and grow through a large online community. According to Pamela Springer, Manta’s CEO, millions of people visit the site daily to look for companies to buy from or to partner with.

“We’re really fueling the ability to find small businesses, the ability for small businesses to connect with one another to ask questions and for consumers to find resources to buy from,” said Springer.

A recent survey conducted by Manta revealed that 42 percent of business owners get their advice from fellow small business owners, and a large part of the Manta community conversation is based around operating tips, where business owners help each other with business issues — such as how to market your business or how to outsource PR and other business processes.

Manta, which is home to more than 89 million small business owners, uses social business profiles and other online communication features to help small businesses improve their online presence and gain increased visibility with customers and prospects.

New Features for Recommendations and Referrals

On Manta, small business owners can create, manage and share their online identities, promote products and services and also build and engage with an extensive small business network to access shared knowledge and insights. 

Indicative of Manta’s popularity as a destination for small businesses, this week the company announced that it has received a $44 million minority equity investment from Norwest Venture Partners (NVP), a leading global investment firm. Last month, Manta.com also launched major enhancements to help small businesses build their referral network through recommendations and social connections tools.

The new Manta Recommendations tool lets people leave a recommendation for any company on Manta.com. Business owners can use the accompanying Manta Recommendations widget and put it on their own website so any recommendation left on Manta, or on their own site, are syndicated through the widget and available in both places.

When a small business owner claims a profile on Manta, he or she receives a weekly report to keep up-to-date on things like: how many people view the company profile, and how many people visited the competition’s profile. It also provides specific actions you can take to show up in more categories, more geographic areas, and for more keywords on Manta.  

As people leave recommendations, Manta requires authentication and then shows their identity to the small business owner so you can follow up with that customer, vendor or prospect using Manta’s in-mail box.

“As you think about these recommendations you are able to pull from your customers, you can now establish more credibility with new prospects that find your Manta profile or your business website,” said Springer, who also mentioned that business owners will soon be able to share recommendations on other social profiles as well.

More Features for Small Business Owners

Using Manta can also help a small business improve its mobile presence because the business profile is available in the Manta mobile app.

“We had more than 750,000 phone calls generated to our small business audience in the month of February as a result of their Manta profile,” said Springer.  “We allow businesses to manage their reputations, collect recommendations and increase their visibility online and in mobile and also allow the 34 million people who visit Manta each month to connect themselves with the companies they do business with.”

Looking at a company profile on Manta reveals the recommendations that have been left; it presents an opportunity to dig a little deeper to see how a business has connected with other users; and it verifies expertise in the questions and answers section. This is useful in terms of screening vendors — you can see who provided credible answers.

“Manta profiles can also be used as a prospecting tool,” said Springer. “Small business owners will come in, and they have to find certain accounts or prospects in a specific industry or state, and you can find that detail on Manta.”

What’s the Cost of a Manta Profile?

Most of Manta’s small business community features are completely free, and a subscription fee is only required for businesses that want an enhanced listing for better visibility — both on Manta.com and in search listings. Subscription packages start at $29 per month.

Based in Nova Scotia, Canada, Vangie Beal has spent the last decade contributing featured articles and reviews to more than 20 technology-focused publications, including Webopedia and Ecommerce-Guide. You can tweet with her online @AuroraGG.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other e-commerce topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com E-Commerce Forum. Join the discussion today!

Read more

Manta Offers New Tools to Socially Connect Small Businesses

Today, websites like Facebook and Twitter are the most well-known social destinations for businesses looking to connect with their customers, but one social piece missing from these popular spaces is a connection between small business owners.

Manta, the largest online community dedicated to small business, is a site designed to help small businesses connect and grow through a large online community. According to Pamela Springer, Manta’s CEO, millions of people visit the site daily to look for companies to buy from or to partner with.

“We’re really fueling the ability to find small businesses, the ability for small businesses to connect with one another to ask questions and for consumers to find resources to buy from,” said Springer.

A recent survey conducted by Manta revealed that 42 percent of business owners get their advice from fellow small business owners, and a large part of the Manta community conversation is based around operating tips, where business owners help each other with business issues — such as how to market your business or how to outsource PR and other business processes.

Manta, which is home to more than 89 million small business owners, uses social business profiles and other online communication features to help small businesses improve their online presence and gain increased visibility with customers and prospects.

New Features for Recommendations and Referrals

On Manta, small business owners can create, manage and share their online identities, promote products and services and also build and engage with an extensive small business network to access shared knowledge and insights. 

Indicative of Manta’s popularity as a destination for small businesses, this week the company announced that it has received a $44 million minority equity investment from Norwest Venture Partners (NVP), a leading global investment firm. Last month, Manta.com also launched major enhancements to help small businesses build their referral network through recommendations and social connections tools.

The new Manta Recommendations tool lets people leave a recommendation for any company on Manta.com. Business owners can use the accompanying Manta Recommendations widget and put it on their own website so any recommendation left on Manta, or on their own site, are syndicated through the widget and available in both places.

When a small business owner claims a profile on Manta, he or she receives a weekly report to keep up-to-date on things like: how many people view the company profile, and how many people visited the competition’s profile. It also provides specific actions you can take to show up in more categories, more geographic areas, and for more keywords on Manta.  

As people leave recommendations, Manta requires authentication and then shows their identity to the small business owner so you can follow up with that customer, vendor or prospect using Manta’s in-mail box.

“As you think about these recommendations you are able to pull from your customers, you can now establish more credibility with new prospects that find your Manta profile or your business website,” said Springer, who also mentioned that business owners will soon be able to share recommendations on other social profiles as well.

More Features for Small Business Owners

Using Manta can also help a small business improve its mobile presence because the business profile is available in the Manta mobile app.

“We had more than 750,000 phone calls generated to our small business audience in the month of February as a result of their Manta profile,” said Springer.  “We allow businesses to manage their reputations, collect recommendations and increase their visibility online and in mobile and also allow the 34 million people who visit Manta each month to connect themselves with the companies they do business with.”

Looking at a company profile on Manta reveals the recommendations that have been left; it presents an opportunity to dig a little deeper to see how a business has connected with other users; and it verifies expertise in the questions and answers section. This is useful in terms of screening vendors — you can see who provided credible answers.

“Manta profiles can also be used as a prospecting tool,” said Springer. “Small business owners will come in, and they have to find certain accounts or prospects in a specific industry or state, and you can find that detail on Manta.”

What’s the Cost of a Manta Profile?

Most of Manta’s small business community features are completely free, and a subscription fee is only required for businesses that want an enhanced listing for better visibility — both on Manta.com and in search listings. Subscription packages start at $29 per month.

Based in Nova Scotia, Canada, Vangie Beal has spent the last decade contributing featured articles and reviews to more than 20 technology-focused publications, including Webopedia and Ecommerce-Guide. You can tweet with her online @AuroraGG.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other e-commerce topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com E-Commerce Forum. Join the discussion today!

Read more

Free QR Code Generators for Ecommerce Business Owners

As the number of consumers wielding a camera-enabled smartphone increases, so do the number of QR Codes in online and print advertising. A QR Code (quick response code) is a type of 2D barcode that can be read using special barcode readers or a camera-enabled smartphone loaded with QR reader software.

QR Codes: A Bit of History

QR codes are not a new technology. They actually date back to the 1990’s but have only become a popular marketing tool recently, due to the explosion of smartphone use. If you didn’t know, QR Code is actually a registered trademark of Denso Wave Incorporated, and it’s an ISO standard. The company has made the specification for QR Code available for use by any person or organization, so you can use the QR codes without a license or paying a fee.

QR Codes for Online Marketing

For marketing, the big deal about a QR Code is that it can be embedded with information such as a URL, SMS message, email or plain text. Businesses can code these to do any number of different things when a customer scans it — like display text, provide contact data or even open a Web page in the browser on the smartphone.  Small business ecommerce site owners can use QR codes to let customers quickly opt-in to an email marketing list or to open a special product page with a discount offer.

If you’re thinking about incorporating QR Codes in to your online marketing strategy, here are five free online services to help you create a QR code.

Five Free QR Code Generators

1.  QR Stuff is free to use and you have unlimited use of the QR codes. With this service you can have a “Free User” account and generate as many QR codes as you like. Subscribers (those with a paid subscription fee, starting at $3.95/month) get analytics and dynamic QR code editing when using the QR Stuff URL shortener, along with other features not available in Free User mode.  

QR Stuff supports the following data types: Website URLs (including YouTube Video, Google Maps Location, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, FourSquare and iTunes Link), plain text, telephone number, SMS message, email address, email message, contact details, calendar event and a PayPal Buy Now link.

2.  The ZXing (short for zebra crossing) Project offers a quick and easy online QR Code generator. The project is an open-source, multi-format 1D/2D barcode image processing library implemented in Java, with ports to other languages.  The ZXing Project QR Code generator supports contact information, calendar event, email address, phone number, SMS message, plain text, URL or Wi-Fi network and Geo location data type.

3.  The QR Code Generator by Delivr lets you create QR Codes and download them in PNG, EPS, or SVG formats. You can also register on the site to access editing features, location via device GPS and QR Code tracking. Delivr’s QR Code Generator supports URLs, tweets, Foursquare check-ins, iPhone App Store downloads, Android Market downloads, Google Analytics campaigns, Coremetrics campaigns, and more.

4. The Quikqr free QR Code generator lets you create, save, print, email or share the QR Code. The free service does not require you to create an account to use Quikqr. Quikqr has partnered with Moo and Zazzle so you can easily create QR Code t-shirts and Moo cards. Quikqr supports URL and plain text data.

5.  Another option for URL data is to create and share QR Codes with Google’s URL Shortener service (goo.gl). If you often use a URL shortener, then you can try Google’s goo.gl service, which automatically generates a QR Code. Simply enter a URL to shorten, then view “details” to the right of your new short URL link. This will provide you with a QR Code to the URL you just shortened. You can right-click on the QR Code image to save and share it with others.

More Ecommerce Business Marketing Tips

Are you looking to get a better handle on integrating online marketing into your ecommerce marketing plan? Try these tips and guides for small business ecommerce sites:

Based in Nova Scotia, Canada, Vangie Beal has spent the last decade contributing featured articles and reviews to more than 20 technology-focused publications, including Webopedia and Ecommerce-Guide. You can tweet with her online @AuroraGG.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other e-commerce topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com E-Commerce Forum. Join the discussion today!

Read more

Free QR Code Generators for Ecommerce Business Owners

As the number of consumers wielding a camera-enabled smartphone increases, so do the number of QR Codes in online and print advertising. A QR Code (quick response code) is a type of 2D barcode that can be read using special barcode readers or a camera-enabled smartphone loaded with QR reader software.

QR Codes: A Bit of History

QR codes are not a new technology. They actually date back to the 1990’s but have only become a popular marketing tool recently, due to the explosion of smartphone use. If you didn’t know, QR Code is actually a registered trademark of Denso Wave Incorporated, and it’s an ISO standard. The company has made the specification for QR Code available for use by any person or organization, so you can use the QR codes without a license or paying a fee.

QR Codes for Online Marketing

For marketing, the big deal about a QR Code is that it can be embedded with information such as a URL, SMS message, email or plain text. Businesses can code these to do any number of different things when a customer scans it — like display text, provide contact data or even open a Web page in the browser on the smartphone.  Small business ecommerce site owners can use QR codes to let customers quickly opt-in to an email marketing list or to open a special product page with a discount offer.

If you’re thinking about incorporating QR Codes in to your online marketing strategy, here are five free online services to help you create a QR code.

Five Free QR Code Generators

1.  QR Stuff is free to use and you have unlimited use of the QR codes. With this service you can have a “Free User” account and generate as many QR codes as you like. Subscribers (those with a paid subscription fee, starting at $3.95/month) get analytics and dynamic QR code editing when using the QR Stuff URL shortener, along with other features not available in Free User mode.  

QR Stuff supports the following data types: Website URLs (including YouTube Video, Google Maps Location, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, FourSquare and iTunes Link), plain text, telephone number, SMS message, email address, email message, contact details, calendar event and a PayPal Buy Now link.

2.  The ZXing (short for zebra crossing) Project offers a quick and easy online QR Code generator. The project is an open-source, multi-format 1D/2D barcode image processing library implemented in Java, with ports to other languages.  The ZXing Project QR Code generator supports contact information, calendar event, email address, phone number, SMS message, plain text, URL or Wi-Fi network and Geo location data type.

3.  The QR Code Generator by Delivr lets you create QR Codes and download them in PNG, EPS, or SVG formats. You can also register on the site to access editing features, location via device GPS and QR Code tracking. Delivr’s QR Code Generator supports URLs, tweets, Foursquare check-ins, iPhone App Store downloads, Android Market downloads, Google Analytics campaigns, Coremetrics campaigns, and more.

4. The Quikqr free QR Code generator lets you create, save, print, email or share the QR Code. The free service does not require you to create an account to use Quikqr. Quikqr has partnered with Moo and Zazzle so you can easily create QR Code t-shirts and Moo cards. Quikqr supports URL and plain text data.

5.  Another option for URL data is to create and share QR Codes with Google’s URL Shortener service (goo.gl). If you often use a URL shortener, then you can try Google’s goo.gl service, which automatically generates a QR Code. Simply enter a URL to shorten, then view “details” to the right of your new short URL link. This will provide you with a QR Code to the URL you just shortened. You can right-click on the QR Code image to save and share it with others.

More Ecommerce Business Marketing Tips

Are you looking to get a better handle on integrating online marketing into your ecommerce marketing plan? Try these tips and guides for small business ecommerce sites:

Based in Nova Scotia, Canada, Vangie Beal has spent the last decade contributing featured articles and reviews to more than 20 technology-focused publications, including Webopedia and Ecommerce-Guide. You can tweet with her online @AuroraGG.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other e-commerce topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com E-Commerce Forum. Join the discussion today!

Read more

21 EBay Inventory Management and Online Selling Tools

In the fourth quarter of 2011, eBay Marketplaces reported 100 million active users worldwide. According to eBay on its marketplace a woman’s dress sells every 8 seconds and someone buys a cell phone every 5 seconds.  

EBay is still a very popular buying and selling platform and used by many different types of sellers — SOHO ecommerce owners, part-time eBay enthusiasts and large businesses. Different sellers need different eBay tools.  While eBay offers its own listing tools, you may find — like many other people do — that eBay’s tools don’t provide the listing features you need; for example, listing your inventory across multiple auctions sites in addition to your own Web store.

Many of the inventory management and multiple-channel selling tools for eBay sellers we list below offer a free trial, so you can try different eBay tools to see which ones best suit your business needs before you make a cash investment.

13 EBay Inventory Management and Multi-Channel Selling Tools

Even if you sell on eBay and make a profit, many sellers prefer to manage their own off-eBay Web store and list the same products on other sites such as Amazon or eBay alternative sites.  The problem is that manually tracking sales across multiple channels and removing products from one online listing when it sells elsewhere is not a good business strategy.

Inventory management and multi-channel ecommerce software can help you to create your own online store if you don’t have one and synchronize your inventory and stock levels across all the places you do business. Here are 13 options to help you better manage a multiple channel selling strategy for eBay.

1.  AuctionBlox eMarketConnect provides access to eBay and Amazon.com from your existing online store. By connecting your store with eBay, AuctionBlox allows you to list your products on eBay and to process checkout in your own store. CRE Loaded, oscommerce, Zen Cart and Magento art software is supported.  AuctionBlox Storefront pricing starts at $99/month.

2.  AuctionSound is eBay auction-management software that helps sellers manage eBay consignment and online inventory. AuctionSound provides image hosting, eBay templates and consignor-management and reporting tools. Pricing starts at a $24.99/month; free 30-day trial.

3. BigCommerce lets you create your own Web shop, plus you can sell on Facebook and eBay.  Extra features include multi-channel retailing, mobile commerce, SEO, and easy upselling. Pricing starts at a $24.95/month.

4.  ChannelMAX is an inventory-management service that lets you create a Web store plus list your inventory to multiple online marketplaces including eBay, Overstock and uBid. You can schedule listings, create listing templates and more.  Pricing starts at $24.99/month.

5.  DesignCart is an online, hosted shopping cart designed for a small to mid-size business that wants to sell products on the Web. It works on any hosting platform and is eBay compatible. DesignCart provides capability to list and complete payment for your eBay auctions. Winning bidders will be presented with an add-button via email, and upon successful payment, the cart will update the eBay auction status automatically. Pricing starts at $18/month; free 14-day trial.

6.  Infopia offers SaaS (Software as a Service) ecommerce solutions including a Marketplaces product to build a multi-channel business by optimizing product sales across your own website and online marketplaces like eBay and Amazon. Sellers can manage all online inventory, marketplace listings, and orders from one place.  Contact Infopia for pricing details.

7.  Kosmos Central eBay ecommerce integration software lets you upload items from your online store to your eBay account, and download orders from eBay to your ecommerce website — integrating all purchases into one system to keep your eBay and online storefronts in sync. You’ll find pricing for different Kosmos services on its website.

8.  Mercantec E-Commerce Express offers an entry-level storefront and cart service so you can sell in a number of places including your own site and eBay. You can use E-Commerce Express for auction (and other types of online checkouts including eBay fixed price listings. Mercantec lets you create an Instant Storefront or generate Snippets that are embedded into existing content. E-Commerce Express is a free service.

9.  ProStores offers sellers a complete ecommerce platform, including Web store, shopping cart, built-in templates and more. EBay sellers can sync eBay and ProStores inventory and also list on eBay from the ProStores interface. Pricing starts at $20.95/month in addition to per transaction fees; free 30-day trial.

10.  Solid Commerce is a multi-channel ecommerce platform that allows you to sell and list items across a number of sites including eBay and Amazon. Inventory management features lets you synchronize your inventory stock levels in real-time across your various sale channels and manage your business from a central interface.  Pricing is based on monthly sales revenue.

11.  Techwave Free Shopping Cart software provides everything you need to build, update and maintain an online store. Techwave is fully integrated with Microsoft CRM, Sugar CRM for organized business and sharing procedure, and also offers an EBay Integration Module for Techwave Ecommerce that will fully integrate your ecommerce website with an eBay store.  Contact Techwave for pricing details.

12.  T-HUB for QuickBooks is an order-management solution designed to integrate your ecommerce stores with QuickBooks and Shipping services (UPS/FedEx/USPS).  T-HUB works with several leading ecommerce platforms and shopping carts such as Amazon, eBay, Yahoo stores, Magento, Volusion, GoDaddy, X-Cart, BigCommerce, AmeriCommerce, osCommerce, AspDotNetStorefront and others. Pricing starts at $550 for standard software purchase, with Pro and Advanced versions available.

13.  Vendio eBay Listing Software is part of the Vendio Platform and is an eBay listing tool that you can use to create and manage your online auction pages. It’s a multi-channel solution that can manage sales across eBay, Amazon, a Vendio Store and more.  Pricing for Vendio Marketplace starts at $19.95/month (a basic plan is free).

8 EBay Auction Management Tools

If you’re not ready to list across multiple selling channels, and you’re happy to stick with just eBay right now, the following eBay auction-management tools will help you create eBay auction pages, manage images and give you options for professional eBay templates to make your pages more appealing to potential buyers.

14.  AuctionSplash is a desktop tool that gives eBay sellers access to listing templates, picture hosting (up to eight photos) and scheduling. It works with eBay U.S., eBay UK, eBay CA, eBay AU and others. The service offers a no-hassle single page listing screen.  AuctionSplash is free to use.

15.  Auctiva auction management provides eBay sellers with a number of tools including professional eBay templates, marketing tools, image hosting, listing software, and inventory management.  The unlimited plan is $9.99/month; a free basic plan for image hosting is available.

16.  Blackthorne Basic is a software application that lets you create professional listings in bulk, track the status of sales, and manage buyer communication and feedback. And it integrates in your eBay selling manager. Pricing starts at $9.99/month; free 30-day trial.

17.  Blackthorne Pro includes all the features of Blackthorne Basic, plus additional options for inventory management, reporting, multiple user profiles, and is available in a desktop version. Pricing is $24.99/month; free 30-day trial.

18.  eBay Selling Manager is free for all eBay sellers and can be accessed from within your “My eBay” tab. The tool is designed to help medium-volume sellers manage their eBay listings. Features include the option to track active listings, generate bulk feedback, and print invoices and labels in bulk.  The eBay Selling Manager is free via an eBay account.

19.  eBay Turbo Lister is a free tool that lets sellers list multiple items and upload in bulk to eBay. Turbo Lister offers bulk editing capability, search tools, and a toolbar for better control of your listings. The eBay Turbo Lister is free via an eBay account.

20.  EZLister.Net is a Web-based auction business management solution. Sellers can use EZLister.Net to automate routine tasks associated with listing and managing eBay auctions and item listings. Pricing is based on a per-listing fee, and it starts at $56 for 250 listings.

21.  Supreme Auction is an eBay Compatible application that lets you create multiple listings and submit them to eBay. The application offers free template designs, widgets, images and more. With this tool you can list on eBay U.S., eBay UK, eBay Germany. Supreme Auction is free, and there are optional paid upgrades available.  A basic version with all features is free, and sellers can upgrade to a paid Premium account.

EcommerceGuide.com wants to know: What is your favorite eBay selling tool? Tell us about it in the comments section below.

Looking for More eBay Tools and Tips?

From beginner guides to expert tips, our selection of eBay and Web shop articles can help you to better manage your ecommerce business.

Based in Nova Scotia, Canada, Vangie Beal has spent the last decade contributing featured articles and reviews to more than 20 technology-focused publications, including Webopedia and Ecommerce-Guide. You can tweet with her online @AuroraGG.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other e-commerce topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com E-Commerce Forum. Join the discussion today!

Read more

21 EBay Inventory Management and Online Selling Tools

In the fourth quarter of 2011, eBay Marketplaces reported 100 million active users worldwide. According to eBay on its marketplace a woman’s dress sells every 8 seconds and someone buys a cell phone every 5 seconds.  

EBay is still a very popular buying and selling platform and used by many different types of sellers — SOHO ecommerce owners, part-time eBay enthusiasts and large businesses. Different sellers need different eBay tools.  While eBay offers its own listing tools, you may find — like many other people do — that eBay’s tools don’t provide the listing features you need; for example, listing your inventory across multiple auctions sites in addition to your own Web store.

Many of the inventory management and multiple-channel selling tools for eBay sellers we list below offer a free trial, so you can try different eBay tools to see which ones best suit your business needs before you make a cash investment.

13 EBay Inventory Management and Multi-Channel Selling Tools

Even if you sell on eBay and make a profit, many sellers prefer to manage their own off-eBay Web store and list the same products on other sites such as Amazon or eBay alternative sites.  The problem is that manually tracking sales across multiple channels and removing products from one online listing when it sells elsewhere is not a good business strategy.

Inventory management and multi-channel ecommerce software can help you to create your own online store if you don’t have one and synchronize your inventory and stock levels across all the places you do business. Here are 13 options to help you better manage a multiple channel selling strategy for eBay.

1.  AuctionBlox eMarketConnect provides access to eBay and Amazon.com from your existing online store. By connecting your store with eBay, AuctionBlox allows you to list your products on eBay and to process checkout in your own store. CRE Loaded, oscommerce, Zen Cart and Magento art software is supported.  AuctionBlox Storefront pricing starts at $99/month.

2.  AuctionSound is eBay auction-management software that helps sellers manage eBay consignment and online inventory. AuctionSound provides image hosting, eBay templates and consignor-management and reporting tools. Pricing starts at a $24.99/month; free 30-day trial.

3. BigCommerce lets you create your own Web shop, plus you can sell on Facebook and eBay.  Extra features include multi-channel retailing, mobile commerce, SEO, and easy upselling. Pricing starts at a $24.95/month.

4.  ChannelMAX is an inventory-management service that lets you create a Web store plus list your inventory to multiple online marketplaces including eBay, Overstock and uBid. You can schedule listings, create listing templates and more.  Pricing starts at $24.99/month.

5.  DesignCart is an online, hosted shopping cart designed for a small to mid-size business that wants to sell products on the Web. It works on any hosting platform and is eBay compatible. DesignCart provides capability to list and complete payment for your eBay auctions. Winning bidders will be presented with an add-button via email, and upon successful payment, the cart will update the eBay auction status automatically. Pricing starts at $18/month; free 14-day trial.

6.  Infopia offers SaaS (Software as a Service) ecommerce solutions including a Marketplaces product to build a multi-channel business by optimizing product sales across your own website and online marketplaces like eBay and Amazon. Sellers can manage all online inventory, marketplace listings, and orders from one place.  Contact Infopia for pricing details.

7.  Kosmos Central eBay ecommerce integration software lets you upload items from your online store to your eBay account, and download orders from eBay to your ecommerce website — integrating all purchases into one system to keep your eBay and online storefronts in sync. You’ll find pricing for different Kosmos services on its website.

8.  Mercantec E-Commerce Express offers an entry-level storefront and cart service so you can sell in a number of places including your own site and eBay. You can use E-Commerce Express for auction (and other types of online checkouts including eBay fixed price listings. Mercantec lets you create an Instant Storefront or generate Snippets that are embedded into existing content. E-Commerce Express is a free service.

9.  ProStores offers sellers a complete ecommerce platform, including Web store, shopping cart, built-in templates and more. EBay sellers can sync eBay and ProStores inventory and also list on eBay from the ProStores interface. Pricing starts at $20.95/month in addition to per transaction fees; free 30-day trial.

10.  Solid Commerce is a multi-channel ecommerce platform that allows you to sell and list items across a number of sites including eBay and Amazon. Inventory management features lets you synchronize your inventory stock levels in real-time across your various sale channels and manage your business from a central interface.  Pricing is based on monthly sales revenue.

11.  Techwave Free Shopping Cart software provides everything you need to build, update and maintain an online store. Techwave is fully integrated with Microsoft CRM, Sugar CRM for organized business and sharing procedure, and also offers an EBay Integration Module for Techwave Ecommerce that will fully integrate your ecommerce website with an eBay store.  Contact Techwave for pricing details.

12.  T-HUB for QuickBooks is an order-management solution designed to integrate your ecommerce stores with QuickBooks and Shipping services (UPS/FedEx/USPS).  T-HUB works with several leading ecommerce platforms and shopping carts such as Amazon, eBay, Yahoo stores, Magento, Volusion, GoDaddy, X-Cart, BigCommerce, AmeriCommerce, osCommerce, AspDotNetStorefront and others. Pricing starts at $550 for standard software purchase, with Pro and Advanced versions available.

13.  Vendio eBay Listing Software is part of the Vendio Platform and is an eBay listing tool that you can use to create and manage your online auction pages. It’s a multi-channel solution that can manage sales across eBay, Amazon, a Vendio Store and more.  Pricing for Vendio Marketplace starts at $19.95/month (a basic plan is free).

8 EBay Auction Management Tools

If you’re not ready to list across multiple selling channels, and you’re happy to stick with just eBay right now, the following eBay auction-management tools will help you create eBay auction pages, manage images and give you options for professional eBay templates to make your pages more appealing to potential buyers.

14.  AuctionSplash is a desktop tool that gives eBay sellers access to listing templates, picture hosting (up to eight photos) and scheduling. It works with eBay U.S., eBay UK, eBay CA, eBay AU and others. The service offers a no-hassle single page listing screen.  AuctionSplash is free to use.

15.  Auctiva auction management provides eBay sellers with a number of tools including professional eBay templates, marketing tools, image hosting, listing software, and inventory management.  The unlimited plan is $9.99/month; a free basic plan for image hosting is available.

16.  Blackthorne Basic is a software application that lets you create professional listings in bulk, track the status of sales, and manage buyer communication and feedback. And it integrates in your eBay selling manager. Pricing starts at $9.99/month; free 30-day trial.

17.  Blackthorne Pro includes all the features of Blackthorne Basic, plus additional options for inventory management, reporting, multiple user profiles, and is available in a desktop version. Pricing is $24.99/month; free 30-day trial.

18.  eBay Selling Manager is free for all eBay sellers and can be accessed from within your “My eBay” tab. The tool is designed to help medium-volume sellers manage their eBay listings. Features include the option to track active listings, generate bulk feedback, and print invoices and labels in bulk.  The eBay Selling Manager is free via an eBay account.

19.  eBay Turbo Lister is a free tool that lets sellers list multiple items and upload in bulk to eBay. Turbo Lister offers bulk editing capability, search tools, and a toolbar for better control of your listings. The eBay Turbo Lister is free via an eBay account.

20.  EZLister.Net is a Web-based auction business management solution. Sellers can use EZLister.Net to automate routine tasks associated with listing and managing eBay auctions and item listings. Pricing is based on a per-listing fee, and it starts at $56 for 250 listings.

21.  Supreme Auction is an eBay Compatible application that lets you create multiple listings and submit them to eBay. The application offers free template designs, widgets, images and more. With this tool you can list on eBay U.S., eBay UK, eBay Germany. Supreme Auction is free, and there are optional paid upgrades available.  A basic version with all features is free, and sellers can upgrade to a paid Premium account.

EcommerceGuide.com wants to know: What is your favorite eBay selling tool? Tell us about it in the comments section below.

Looking for More eBay Tools and Tips?

From beginner guides to expert tips, our selection of eBay and Web shop articles can help you to better manage your ecommerce business.

Based in Nova Scotia, Canada, Vangie Beal has spent the last decade contributing featured articles and reviews to more than 20 technology-focused publications, including Webopedia and Ecommerce-Guide. You can tweet with her online @AuroraGG.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other e-commerce topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com E-Commerce Forum. Join the discussion today!

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Will the New iPad Be a Game-Changer for Online Retailers?

At this stage of the game, online retailers should be aware of how important mobile commerce is to stay competitive. If you haven’t made the transition to a mobile ecommerce site, it’s a must-do and something you need to move on, well before the holiday 2012 shopping frenzy.

In the midst of more than 82.2 million people in the U.S. using smartphones and Web shop owners catering to those mobile shoppers, online retailers have another trend to cash in on: the tablet; more specifically the release of Apple’s “iPad 3.” The new iPad (yes, that’s the official name) is the third-generation of Apple iPad tablets and it’s much faster, offers Wi-Fi plus 4G connects, and the graphics quality and resolution of the device has been boosted, along with other features.

Why Retailers Need to Pay Attention to the New iPad

While there are many types of tablets on the market today, the reality is that people want to own iPads — it’s the new cool. The release of the new iPad (and the discounted iPad 2) will boost Apple’s tablet market share. According to this eWeek report, Apple held a 57 percent share during the fourth quarter of 2011, which is expected to rise to 61 percent for the full year 2012.

Diane Buzzeo, CEO and founder of ecommerce software provider Ability Commerce, says that the iPad is changing the face of ecommerce. She says the release of the new iPad is going to do a couple things — most importantly it will put a device that is easy to shop from in more hands.

“The iPad 3, most importantly, will lower the price of the iPad 2, which puts the iPad 2 in that many more hands,” she explained. “The trickle down is that people who love their iPad 2 will run out and buy the new iPad and give their old iPad 2 to their brother, sister or kids — so it keeps expanding.”

The important take-away for online retailers is not just in knowing that consumers like to shop on the iPad — but also that online retailers see mobile devices drive traffic on ecommerce websites and that shoppers using iPads convert to the purchase funnel more often. The iPad and tablet shoppers also spend more money when they make an online purchase, compared to shoppers on other types of devices.

According to a survey conducted by PriceGrabber, an overwhelming 77 percent of consumers who own a tablet indicated they use either a tablet or a smartphone to shop. PriceGrabber also expects the new iPad to have an even bigger impact on the way people shop.

“Out of the 22 percent of respondents in our survey that own tablet computers, more than half currently own an iPad, and 42 percent of these iPad owners plan to purchase the new iPad when it comes out,” said Graham Jones, general manager of PriceGrabber. “Given this high demand, we won’t be surprised to see consumers developing an even stronger loyalty to the iPad brand and, consequently, increasing the extent to which they incorporate the iPad’s features into their daily habits, including comparison shopping.”

Is the New Apple iPad a Game-Changer for Online Retailers?

The release of the new iPad might play a part in changing the face of ecommerce, but Buzzeo predicts that the big game-changer is going to be the continuing evolution of the iPad: what you can attach to the device and how people use an iPad in their home.

“As an e-tailer I love watching my nephew’s wife sitting on the couch with the kids in the evening, playing games and shopping; I think this is changing the face of ecommerce,” she said.

People use iPads often and the device and the Web becomes a part of daily life.  Seeing products on television commercials and in magazines can now result in an impulse buy because an add-to-cart button is only seconds away with a few clicks and touches on an iPad, which is typically within an arm’s reach of the consumer in their home.

Buzzeo doesn’t see the new iPad device as the big event for e-tailors, but she does think the accessories for the new device, like the Bluetooth keyboard, will be. These accessories will let consumers use the tablet more like a computer. You put the device in a foldable case with a clickable Bluetooth keyboard, and you have an even more functional device that’s comfortable to use and easy to shop from — any time, any place.

Retailers Need to Offer an Excellent iPad Shopping Experience

Apple’s official release date for the new iPad (“iPad3”) — March 16, 2012 — is not going to change your ecommerce business overnight, but online retailers need to be ready. As more people buy the new iPad or acquire an iPad 2 at lower prices, you’ll experience the trickle-down affect of more iPad shoppers visiting your site.

First, Buzzeo recommends you make sure that your catalog is available in an iPad translation (e.g. an iPad app).

“People who really do like ‘sitting on the couch flipping through a catalog’ can still have that experience. They can just click a button while using the app and order what they see in the catalog. You also need to have a pick-it-up-at-the-store app, especially if you don’t have ship-to-the-home capability,” she said.

Another important thing to note is that smartphones give shoppers a “buying experience,” but an iPad provides a “shopping experience.” If you want customers to stay on your site to browse and shop, you have to provide an excellent user experience for the growing number of iPad users.  Your site has to look great on an iPad.

“It’s growing so quickly. A year ago the idea of having a catalog that you could flip or swipe and that looked good on an IPad was probably something you should have been thinking about,” said Buzzeo . “Now you have to have it.”

Lastly, we’re only seven months shy of a new holiday shopping season.  If you’re not ready for mobile shoppers — and specifically the iPad shoppers who convert more often and spend more money — you’ll miss out. If you’re not optimized for iPad shoppers, put your plan in action now, don’t wait and try to work it in later.

“Ecommerce retailers who don’t have their site looking like a billion dollars on an iPad by the holiday season aren’t going to have a next season,” said Buzzeo. “And if you’re not working on it now, you won’t have it for the season.”

Ecommerce-Guide Mobile Commerce Articles

Looking to get a better handle on integrating mobile commerce into your small business ecommerce marketing plan? Try these mobile commerce tips and guides for small business ecommerce sites:

Based in Nova Scotia, Canada, Vangie Beal has spent the last decade contributing featured articles and reviews to more than 20 technology-focused publications, including Webopedia and Ecommerce-Guide. You can tweet with her online @AuroraGG.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other e-commerce topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com E-Commerce Forum. Join the discussion today!

Read more

Will the New iPad Be a Game-Changer for Online Retailers?

At this stage of the game, online retailers should be aware of how important mobile commerce is to stay competitive. If you haven’t made the transition to a mobile ecommerce site, it’s a must-do and something you need to move on, well before the holiday 2012 shopping frenzy.

In the midst of more than 82.2 million people in the U.S. using smartphones and Web shop owners catering to those mobile shoppers, online retailers have another trend to cash in on: the tablet; more specifically the release of Apple’s “iPad 3.” The new iPad (yes, that’s the official name) is the third-generation of Apple iPad tablets and it’s much faster, offers Wi-Fi plus 4G connects, and the graphics quality and resolution of the device has been boosted, along with other features.

Why Retailers Need to Pay Attention to the New iPad

While there are many types of tablets on the market today, the reality is that people want to own iPads — it’s the new cool. The release of the new iPad (and the discounted iPad 2) will boost Apple’s tablet market share. According to this eWeek report, Apple held a 57 percent share during the fourth quarter of 2011, which is expected to rise to 61 percent for the full year 2012.

Diane Buzzeo, CEO and founder of ecommerce software provider Ability Commerce, says that the iPad is changing the face of ecommerce. She says the release of the new iPad is going to do a couple things — most importantly it will put a device that is easy to shop from in more hands.

“The iPad 3, most importantly, will lower the price of the iPad 2, which puts the iPad 2 in that many more hands,” she explained. “The trickle down is that people who love their iPad 2 will run out and buy the new iPad and give their old iPad 2 to their brother, sister or kids — so it keeps expanding.”

The important take-away for online retailers is not just in knowing that consumers like to shop on the iPad — but also that online retailers see mobile devices drive traffic on ecommerce websites and that shoppers using iPads convert to the purchase funnel more often. The iPad and tablet shoppers also spend more money when they make an online purchase, compared to shoppers on other types of devices.

According to a survey conducted by PriceGrabber, an overwhelming 77 percent of consumers who own a tablet indicated they use either a tablet or a smartphone to shop. PriceGrabber also expects the new iPad to have an even bigger impact on the way people shop.

“Out of the 22 percent of respondents in our survey that own tablet computers, more than half currently own an iPad, and 42 percent of these iPad owners plan to purchase the new iPad when it comes out,” said Graham Jones, general manager of PriceGrabber. “Given this high demand, we won’t be surprised to see consumers developing an even stronger loyalty to the iPad brand and, consequently, increasing the extent to which they incorporate the iPad’s features into their daily habits, including comparison shopping.”

Is the New Apple iPad a Game-Changer for Online Retailers?

The release of the new iPad might play a part in changing the face of ecommerce, but Buzzeo predicts that the big game-changer is going to be the continuing evolution of the iPad: what you can attach to the device and how people use an iPad in their home.

“As an e-tailer I love watching my nephew’s wife sitting on the couch with the kids in the evening, playing games and shopping; I think this is changing the face of ecommerce,” she said.

People use iPads often and the device and the Web becomes a part of daily life.  Seeing products on television commercials and in magazines can now result in an impulse buy because an add-to-cart button is only seconds away with a few clicks and touches on an iPad, which is typically within an arm’s reach of the consumer in their home.

Buzzeo doesn’t see the new iPad device as the big event for e-tailors, but she does think the accessories for the new device, like the Bluetooth keyboard, will be. These accessories will let consumers use the tablet more like a computer. You put the device in a foldable case with a clickable Bluetooth keyboard, and you have an even more functional device that’s comfortable to use and easy to shop from — any time, any place.

Retailers Need to Offer an Excellent iPad Shopping Experience

Apple’s official release date for the new iPad (“iPad3”) — March 16, 2012 — is not going to change your ecommerce business overnight, but online retailers need to be ready. As more people buy the new iPad or acquire an iPad 2 at lower prices, you’ll experience the trickle-down affect of more iPad shoppers visiting your site.

First, Buzzeo recommends you make sure that your catalog is available in an iPad translation (e.g. an iPad app).

“People who really do like ‘sitting on the couch flipping through a catalog’ can still have that experience. They can just click a button while using the app and order what they see in the catalog. You also need to have a pick-it-up-at-the-store app, especially if you don’t have ship-to-the-home capability,” she said.

Another important thing to note is that smartphones give shoppers a “buying experience,” but an iPad provides a “shopping experience.” If you want customers to stay on your site to browse and shop, you have to provide an excellent user experience for the growing number of iPad users.  Your site has to look great on an iPad.

“It’s growing so quickly. A year ago the idea of having a catalog that you could flip or swipe and that looked good on an IPad was probably something you should have been thinking about,” said Buzzeo . “Now you have to have it.”

Lastly, we’re only seven months shy of a new holiday shopping season.  If you’re not ready for mobile shoppers — and specifically the iPad shoppers who convert more often and spend more money — you’ll miss out. If you’re not optimized for iPad shoppers, put your plan in action now, don’t wait and try to work it in later.

“Ecommerce retailers who don’t have their site looking like a billion dollars on an iPad by the holiday season aren’t going to have a next season,” said Buzzeo. “And if you’re not working on it now, you won’t have it for the season.”

Ecommerce-Guide Mobile Commerce Articles

Looking to get a better handle on integrating mobile commerce into your small business ecommerce marketing plan? Try these mobile commerce tips and guides for small business ecommerce sites:

Based in Nova Scotia, Canada, Vangie Beal has spent the last decade contributing featured articles and reviews to more than 20 technology-focused publications, including Webopedia and Ecommerce-Guide. You can tweet with her online @AuroraGG.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other e-commerce topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com E-Commerce Forum. Join the discussion today!

Read more

15 Essential Tools for New SOHO Ecommerce Businesses

Small office/home office (SOHO) ecommerce business software can quickly eat away at your (non-existent) budget when you’re first starting out. Sure, a great ecommerce tool might cost just $19.99 per month, but you probably have a list of a dozen or more tools you’re interested in, and those monthly subscription fees can add up quickly.

If you want to slowly expand into the world of ecommerce, we have a list of 15 SEO, shopping cart and email marketing tools to help you build, manage and grow your ecommerce business — and it won’t cost you a dime.

SEO Tools for the Small Office/Home Office

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a process of tactics and methodologies that can help you increase the number of visitors to your ecommerce website by obtaining a high-ranking placement in the search results page of a search engine, like Google. If you’re new to search engine optimization, the following SEO tools will offer guidance.

1. Keyword Density Analyzer: Keyword density is a percentage-based measurement of the number of times a keyword or phrase appears on your page, compared to the total number of words. For SEO, keyword density is important since search engines use this information to determine the theme of your website. The Keyword Density Analyzer is a free online service. Simply enter a URL to analyze total words, and two and three word phrases.

2. Google SERP Checker: Once you start your SEO action plan, it’s important to know if any site changes you make actually improve your placement on a search engine results page (SERP). The free online Google SERP Checker allows you to enter your keywords and a site URL to view your current position and how it’s changed over time.

3. Google Adwords Keyword Tool: if you have an idea for keywords you want to use, but wonder if there might be better words to target, the free Google Adwords Keyword Tool is an online service that provides you with specific and similar keywords. You can choose filters — such as by county or language — and view ideas that are closely related to your search terms.

4. Keyword Niche Finder: Hitting niche searches can be profitable and easier than competing with larger, well-established ecommerce sites for more common keyword phrases. The Keyword Niche Finder lets you search for a general topic to find profitable keyword niches.

5. SEO Book Tools: SEO Book offers a free set of three tools: Rank Checker, SEO Toolbar and SEO for Firefox. You need to install the Firefox Web browser and register on the SEO Book site by providing your email address and a username.

SOHO Ecommerce Shopping Carts

There are a number of open source shopping cart options for SOHO ecommerce sites that are completely free, but some individuals might find open source carts difficult to set-up and customize. If this describes you, another option is to use a Web-based cart that is free to use unless you make a sale.  In this case, you don’t pay a monthly subscription fee, but if you make money you have to pay a transaction fee. The benefit to using a hosted shopping cart is that you don’t need to worry about maintaining a server, and little to no IT knowledge is required to get started.   

6. PayPal Buy Now Buttons: If you’re looking for something really simple and easy, PayPal Merchant Services provides free shopping cart buttons (check out the options here) so you can sell items on your website with a PayPal checkout. You’ll only pay standard PayPal fees when you make a sale.

7. Cashie is an easy way to sell on your own site if you have a PayPal account. They host all the code and you customize a shopping cart and then copy and paste code to your own pages. Standard PayPal fees will apply and Cashie charges a 1 percent monthly transaction fee (e.g. $1,000 in monthly sales will result in a $10 fee paid to Cashie), but no fee is charged if you don’t make a sale.

8. Vendio offer a free plan that includes the basic elements needed to create an online Web store with no transaction fees. But free is free — so while you shouldn’t expect a whole lot of extra customization options, you will end up with an online store that works.

9. Muncom: This free PHP shopping cart lets you create a free store and also display a cart tab on your Facebook profile. To create the cart you need to first design a free store on Muncom.com. Muncom’s shopping cart service is currently in beta. Your new Muncom store won’t have any ads, but it will have several links to Muncom’s website.

10. Open source shopping carts are a good choice if you expect to grow your online store beyond just a few products. Today, open source shopping carts are as intuitive as commercial solutions, and there are many options available and lots of support should you need it. To help you decide what works best for you, click on this link to read the features we’ve highlighted from six of the best open source shopping carts that we recommend.

Free Email Marketing for SOHO Ecommerce

Email marketing is a great way to keep in touch with your customers, to let them know that’s going on with your business, and to market your SOHO ecommerce promotions.  Many email service providers (ESPs) offer fully functional and completely free plans for low-volume senders. The totally free services restrict the number of emails you can send in a 30-day period and might offer fewer features, but you’ll get the basics: list management, opt-in subscriptions, compliance, templates and reporting.

11. MailChimp: This “Free Forever” plan lets SOHO ecommerce businesses store up to 2,000 subscriber contacts and send up to a total of 12,000 emails per month. The free account includes designer and email templates, paid newsletter subscriptions, RSS-to-email, campaign archives, Facebook integration, A/B Split testing and reports.

12. Benchmark Free Edition: This product is the same as the paid subscription service — the catch for using the free version is that double opt-in is required, and you can’t upload your own list. Benchmark Free offers email tracking, drag-and-drop editing, online surveys, video, templates and unlimited email campaigns.

13. Campaigner Free: The free Campaigner product lets you send as many emails as you want to a maximum list size of 500 people. The free service includes email templates, 1MB of storage, email address management, multiple email groups and tracking.

14. JangoMail: You can setup a free JangoMail “free trial” account that offers all the features found in paid plans, but it restricts you to sending 200 emails per month. Some of the email marketing options include personalization, templates, reporting and analytics, email triggers, RSS-to-email and reply management. 

15. iContact: iContact offers a free version of its Web-based email marketing tool that would be useful to individuals, local organizations and very small businesses. The free offer is a bit skimpy as you can only maintain a list of up to 100 subscribers, but it does have all the standard features including 24 email templates, reporting and email or chat support.

More SOHO Ecommerce Tips and Tools

Are you looking to get a better handle on managing your SOHO ecommerce business? Try these tips and guides for small business ecommerce sites:

Based in Nova Scotia, Canada, Vangie Beal has spent the last decade contributing featured articles and reviews to more than 20 technology-focused publications, including Webopedia and Ecommerce-Guide. You can tweet with her online @AuroraGG.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other e-commerce topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com E-Commerce Forum. Join the discussion today!

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Measure the Value of Social Activity With PowerReviews ESS

Many businesses use social media to improve brand awareness, but they struggle with finding real business results from the effort. Case in point: you might have 2,000 Facebook Likes, but do you know which “friends of your business” shared content that resulted in a sale?

Measure the Dollar Impact of Social Activity

The new Essential Social Suite (ESS) from PowerReviews is designed to help companies promote, reward and measure customer engagement and content generation. It will also help you measure the dollar impact of your shopper’s social activity.

According to PowerReviews’ vice-president of marketing, Nadim Hossain, the world has gone social with the average consumer spending a quarter of his online time on social networks. “What this means for marketers in general is that it’s really the customer — and not the brand — driving the conversation now. There are a million pieces of social content created by consumers every 60 seconds creating a pace that brands couldn’t keep up with if they wanted to,” he says.

Ecommerce companies have been using social media and doing things like setting up a Facebook Page to increase Likes and using Twitter, and while these tasks are important, Hossain says to remember that “likes don’t equal sales,” and it’s this social hole that PowerReviews aims to fill with Essential Social Suite.

ESS Offers Social Content, Engagement and Measurement

With ESS, PowerReviews integrates three key components of social success: content, engagement and measurement. The suite includes the following new products:

  • Social Content: Generates three times more product-related social content, including customer reviews and Q&As. This fresh and relevant content is effective at driving conversion rates and powering improved SEO that generates 10 to 50 percent more organic site traffic.
  • Social Answers:  Designed to drive conversion and SEO by ensuring that customer questions are answered within 24-hours.
  • Social Engagement: Amplifies social content across the Web by giving a brand’s most valuable customers the tools to connect and contribute to the community.
  • Social Loyalty: Uses engaging technology to create the social content and sharing activity to drive traffic, conversions and sales.
  • Social Discovery and Community:  Drives organic traffic from social networks and connects shoppers with your best advocates.
  • Social Measurement: Precisely measures the sales impact of social activity with a powerful analytics engine.  Social measurement helps ecommerce owners answer key questions such as “Which type of shared content creates the most organic traffic?” and “Which type of engagement is most likely to drive a conversion?

Describing the benefits of the new ESS product, Hossain said, “It’s a one-stop shop for any business with an online business, primarily ecommerce companies, that wants to have a social presence and turn social activity into sales results.”

By integrating the three key components of social success, you can tie your ecommerce social activity to a sales outcome.  On an ecommerce website, ESS can power a customized social community where active participants — your best brand advocates — are placed on a leaderboard so other shoppers can connect to those advocates using social.

Shoppers can do things like follow reviews or ask questions directly. Shoppers are rewarded for sharing with friends, and they can follow the product or even ask a friend for advice while considering a purchase.

According to Hossain, current beta clients (companies that are existing PowerReviews clients) have reported positive, early results with upwards of a 10 percent increase in sales.  “In social discovery, they’ve reported a doubling of traffic through Facebook, which is very exciting. More importantly they’ve seen a tripling of revenue from Facebook, which means they’re getting a higher quality of traffic from Facebook than before,” he explained.

The key for ecommerce owners is that all these features are integrated into the ESS community capability, and on the back-end you can see when something is posted, all the social activity around it, and see any sales result from the social conversation.

“By integrating the social discovery capability, for example, on every product page you have those Facebook buttons in front of the consumer. They can choose to follow your product, and you can stay in front of them in their newsfeed and their friends to create that viral marketing,” said Hossain. “You can see all the results and tie it back to dollars and cents because of the social measurement.”

Deployment, Pricing and Availability

ESS is a SaaS (Software as a Service) platform, with drag-drop-and-click customization for easy set-up and deployment. According to Hossain, after you decide on your community and branding, roll-out can be done in less than a week, and ecommerce owners can then optimize the social platform over time.

“Really, a lot of the heavy lifting is in thinking about your community and how you want to interact with them. Technically it’s a simple implementation that takes a matter of days, and we take care of that,” he said.

The full suite, including social content, reviews and ratings, answers, the loyalty and community and the discovery integrated with the measurement starts at $5,500 per month, targeting the mid-sized retailer. For smaller retailers you can start with one step of the platform, for example the reviews, starting at $1,500 per month and add additional social pieces of the social suite as needed.

In discussing deployment for smaller retailers, Hossain said that “getting it out there, starting it and then optimizing it over time and integrating more things,” is probably the way to go.

More Social Tools and Tips for Ecommerce Owners

From beginner guides to expert tips, our selection of hosted storefront tips and articles can help you to better manage your ecommerce business.

Based in Nova Scotia, Canada, Vangie Beal has spent the last decade contributing featured articles and reviews to more than 20 technology-focused publications, including Webopedia and Ecommerce-Guide. You can tweet with her online @AuroraGG.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other e-commerce topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com E-Commerce Forum. Join the discussion today!

Read more