9 Ways to Discover Ecommerce Ideas on Your Own

ecommerceEcommerce is on the rise. According to granify.com, more than $1.23 trillion in B2C ecommerce sales are expected this year. By the time 2013 closes, we’d have 3.5 billion Internet users.  Ecommerce is a good answer to entrepreneurship. Yet, you’d have to begin somewhere. You’d need an idea (while it doesn’t have to be brand new). How do you go about looking for the right idea for your new ecommerce store? How do you dig out ideas? What products or services would you sell? Is there a structured way to brainstorm?

Some of these approaches should give you a direction to follow or at least some food for thought:

Going Back to Tradition

Ecommerce means that the medium of transaction and the operational dynamics of the business changes while most other things remain the same. Instead of a brick-and-mortar office/warehouse/store, you’ll now get a digital equivalent of a store. Instead of having customers visit you in person, they’d come visiting the store. What used to be a cash-and-carry business now becomes a pay-to-delivery process. Payments end up as online transactions and feedback comes through as testimonials.

Sometimes, you don’t need a new idea at all. Pick up a traditional business and give it the ecommerce treatment.

Look around you: what are those classes of products or services that you’d still have to drive downtown to pick up? Your million-dollar idea might just be there. Go look for that spark of inspiration — that apple on your head.

Travel to Import Ideas to Your Market

Travelling, they say, teaches you a lot. It also has a lot to give you in terms of inspiration and adding to your idea bank. There could be tons of businesses operating in another country – they operate in a specific way, have their own style, and market in a particular fashion. Is there a way you could import that idea to deliver your own, customized version for customers in your country? Even if you can’t travel, there are sources such as Spring Wise that will do the job of spotting new entrepreneurial ideas, trends, and stories from all over the world.

Spot your idea. Import it.

Break Into Markets That Don’t Exist Yet

Some products are popular with respect to ecommerce: travel, tickets, events, electronics, books, apparel, and many more. However, there are many product classes and services that are not available online. Depending on where you live, find out some of these product classes that don’t have dedicated ecommerce outlets yet. For instance, we are yet to see an ecommerce store that sells only bed linen exclusively. Apply this approach to a range of products and you’ll have ideas popping up like popcorn. How about socks? What about selling distribution supplies or printing labels exclusively? Maybe you could specialize in printing products or supplies.

Go Specific: Dig Into Unexplored Niches

Niches are powerful. They give you exclusivity and enable you to quickly make a name for yourself within that niche. By picking up a focused niche, you don’t compete with the big boys such as eBay and Amazon. You are on your own and you’ll be known for that. What niche, exactly? Here are some ideas to kick-start your train of thought:

  • Apple products for self-employed professionals. Alternatively, sell Mac products only for corporates. More ideas? Sell stickers and designer covers only for Mac users.
  • Office supplies for work at home moms (and dads).
  • Web design services only for lawyers (or doctors, writers, dentists, video specialists, photographers, etc.).
  • Leather accessories for teens.
  • Travel for differently-abled people.
  • Apparel only for seniors.

That’s just the beginning. Grab a cup of coffee and brainstorm ideas as fast as you can breathe. You can pick and choose “the idea” later. You’ll know when the bulb goes on.

Ecommerce for Non-ecommerce Target Segment

Chances are that you live in a country where people might not be comfortable buying online yet. Or it could be a trend that’s still catching up only to raise its head slowly. Crash into markets like those and look to serve this entire group of customers who don’t wish to transact online.

Maybe you are looking at a target market that doesn’t qualify for credit cards yet (students, perhaps). Alternatively, set up an ecommerce store where they would place orders but you’d complete transactions traditionally by using modes such as “offline payments”, “Bank Transfers”, and “Cash on Delivery”.  Your goal – for this line of thought is simple – how do you bring ecommerce and wedge into a process that traditionally never had one? What customers don’t fall under the rush of ecommerce yet? Go serve them.

Reverse Ecommerce

We first heard about the term “reverse ecommerce” from Marc Ostrofsky who wrote the book Get Rich Click. There are likely to be segments of customers who’d never venture online to buy products or services. There might be customers who don’t even know (or don’t want to know) about such an option.

Think of it another way: there could be customers who still head to local malls and regular stores to buy products that are still expensive (owing to higher markups thanks to rent, utilities, and staffing that local businesses still have to pay for). Drive bargains to these customers. You can buy products on behalf of your customers on any of your online sources (and even bargain for deep discounts when buying in bulk) to make a profit off ecommerce without even putting up an ecommerce site).

Ecommerce arbitrage

Pick up products off an ecommerce store and sell it on another ecommerce store, which allows user listings. For instance, pick up products from Liquidation.com and then sell them on eBay.com.

Find closeouts, deals, and bulk discounts on other ecommerce stores to sell them again on your own ecommerce store for the usual price. It’s called ecommerce arbitrage and it’s a great way to be in business without actually scouting for products to sell and making deals with wholesalers and distributors (Note: this is not the same as drop shipping).

Learn From Others

There are plenty of ideas already in execution. You can learn tons from those ecommerce stores that have been put up and are already in operation. You could also learn from published ecommerce success stories. Gain inspiration from other entrepreneurs, throw ideas into the midst of communities and gain feedback from others. Contrary to what most people think, it’s ok to share ideas because most people won’t act on those ideas anyway. Even if people who can act and take advantage of your idea do spot it, they are likely to have too much on their plate.

Forget the Idea- Just Adopt a New Way of Doing Business

As we mentioned before, you don’t need any new ideas at all. You’ll just find new ways to do the old thing. Zappos isn’t the first ecommerce store that sold footwear. It’s, however, the first e-store that gave away 365 days of money back guarantee, no questions asked.  Try to find ways to do business that others did not attempt yet: provide free shipping and returns. Give unconditional money-back guarantees. Introduce sophisticated software on your apparel store that takes inputs from customers to determine the exact size.  Give freebies. Call up customers to invite them for lunch. Send them free coupons for coffee saying, “Enjoy the product. Coffee is on us”.

You get the drift, don’t you?

Which of these ideas will make you stare at the ceiling tonight? What’s on your mind?  If you are already on the road, go ahead and show off your ecommerce store. We’d love to visit.

Image Credit: Shutterstock mtkang

Tag! You’re it! How to Tag Domains and Keywords in AuthorityLabs

Are you tagging your Domains and Keywords?

No? Well you should. Don’t know how? I’ll show you!

Domain Tagging

In this tutorial I walk you through how to add tags by selecting the box next to the domain name and adding a tag using the left hand toolbar. You can also add domain tags by clicking through to the domain that you want to tag. While on the domain page you can select the add tags option.

al_post_option2

If you wanted to add your domain multiple times to track different keyword sets, you can use our tagging feature to do so. For example, I’m tracking the domain Annielytics twice in my account. I use the first one for local keywords specifically for Philly. The second version tracks everything else.

al_post_domaintags

I could also group these two domain together under one client name. You can check out my Grouping and Syncing post for more details on that.

You will be able to see the tag from the dashboard page or when you scroll over the domain portion of you left side toolbar.

al_post_dash

Tired of your tags? Simply click the “x” in the circle on the right side of the tag to remove it.

Keyword Tagging

Tags are so important while organizing your domain’s keywords. With hundreds of keywords, tagging can save hours of searching. In this tutorial Destinee walks through a quick way to add keywords. You can also follow below to learn how:

To add tags to your keywords, select the check box next to the keywords you would like to tag. The keyword actions panel will appear on the left.

al_post_kw_tags

Then click “Add Tags” and from there you are able to enter multiple tags.

al_post_kw_tags2

When you have added all the tags you want, click the “Submit” button. Keyword tags are very easy to search. At the top of each domain page there is a filter option for keywords and keyword tags. How is this useful? I could look up every instance of the word book, kindle, or ebook, tag them with the “books” tag and not have to repeat that search. You could also add multiple tags to one keyword. So, I could tag kindle as a book, tablet, and portable tv.

Now that you know how to tag, and why you should tag. Go out there an tag all the things!

How to Use Social Media to Improve Your Reputation

Social media has been a godsend for businesses across nearly all industries. Its value lies in its versatility and ability to help companies achieve various goals.

While marketing and networking are often the first things that come to mind, social media is also perfect for reputation management and boosting your credibility. By using the right networks, carefully monitoring your accounts, and connecting with your target audience, social media can give you a decided edge over the competition.

Here are some ways you can use it to your advantage.

Monitor Comments

Perhaps the simplest technique is paying attention to what your audience is saying and what the general consensus of the comments is. If there’s a pattern of compliments about a new product or service across Facebook, Google+, and Twitter, this is tangible proof that you’re doing something right.

In this case, it would be smart to rinse and repeat so you can maintain the same level of quality. If you’ve received several complaints about a product or service, there’s probably something to it, and the issue should be addressed as quickly as possible.

Regardless of whether they’re positive or negative, responding to comments shows your audience that their feedback is important. When handled correctly, even complaints on social media can be used to your advantage because you can de-escalate a situation before it intensifies. That way, you have the potential to convert an angry customer into a satisfied one.

Publish Awesome Content

The beauty of social media is that it allows like-minded people to exchange ideas and form relationships that would otherwise be impossible. While posting unique content that’s promotional typically accounts for the bulk of what you find on social networks, publishing non-promotional content is actually more important for building and establishing your brand as an authority.

You can do this by posting interesting articles, blog posts, videos, etc., that are relevant to your industry and which your audience will find interesting. Even if you’re in a “boring” industry, there are plenty of ways to get creative and publish content that will set you apart from the competition. One good example of this is this article, “Top 10 Mortgage Mistakes in Canada,” which was published by a mortgage lender. While mortgage lending would typically be considered a boring industry, this article illustrates the idea that content doesn’t need to be self-promotional (it can, instead, be informational or educational), and can be interesting to the target audience.

Curate Awesome External Content

Peppering curated content into your own blog or individual articles has three advantages. First, you can ensure a steady stream of quality material without having to create it constantly yourself.

Second, it shows customers or clients that you’re not strictly self-serving and you put forth efforts to provide consistently great content even if it’s not your own.

Finally, it can potentially unlock B2B networking opportunities that may come in handy later on. As other authors notice you referencing their work, they’ll often reach out to thank you. This opens the communication lines for further work down the road. This combination is an effective way to improve your reputation and help others become more comfortable doing business with you.

Be Transparent

In general, people try to avoid companies that hide their activities and come across as generally sketchy. One of the most critical steps to building relationships is being open and honest about operations and coming across as being relatively personable. That’s why it’s helpful to give consumers a window on your company culture and demonstrate what makes you different from your competition.

Networks like Instagram and Tumblr are perfect for this because of their visual element. Posting images of team members on the job or even outside of the office lets your audience get to know your company on a deeper level.

You might also highlight a particular employee once a month or create a quick video on Vine. No matter which channel you use, offering some first-hand insights into your company and truly being yourself tends to work well for attracting new business and turning one-time customers into repeat sales.

This can also help with expanding your brand equity and claiming a percentage of consumers even in the most saturated of niches.

Why You Should Be Using the Teams Feature in AuthorityLabs

Don’t be a lone wolf. Start using Teams. Don’t know how? Watch this.

teambuilding

What’s so cool about teams?

Using Teams gives you the option to add users to your account who don’t have their own separate AuthorityLabs account. This means that multiple people in your company will have the option to view a custom list of domains that you would like to share.

You also have the ability to add admin privileges to these users and revoke those privileges at anytime. All it takes is a user’s email address to send them an invite. Then a confirmation and new account password from the user. This is extremely useful for adding employees from departments to corresponding teams.

Let’s say you have an account manager working on a client’s domains and they would like to access the client’s ranking data. All you need to do is set up a “Team” with that account manager’s clients and send them an invitation email.

Team members don’t have an account?

First, you have to invite a user. You can access this under Account > Access > People. When in the People tab, select Invite UserWhile in this tab all you need is the new users email address.

invite user page

You can select to add them with Admin privileges or not. You can also add them to a team that you have already created.

Once you have done this your new user will receive an invite email with the option to accept the invite or decline it. Once they have selected the invite they will input a password for their account and voilà! You now have a new user who can access the domains in that Team.

request access email

This process is only needed once per user. Once a user has been added to your account you can add them to multiple teams. You do this by navigating to Account > Access > Teams > People On This Team. Once on this page simply start to type in the user’s name/email and they will show up in a drop down menu.

find a user to add

Can this be used with my clients?

Definitely! I would highly suggest using this service to give your client’s access to their ranking info. With Teams you can create a different team for each of your clients. From there you can give them access to only their site’s info.

How do I remove access?

Removing access is very simple. Start off by going to  Account > Access > Teams (select the team you want to edit) >People On This Team. Here you are able to view everyone who has access on team to delete a user, simply select the red x on the right side of their name.

red c option

To allow them access, but remove their Admin privileges select their name and in the top right corner their is an option to “Remove Admin”.

remove admin

Here’s that tutorial on how to add Teams:

What’s in Your Wallet: How 11 Marketers Budget for SEO Tools

SEO tools are the key to success in the world of online marketing. However, since money doesn’t grow on trees, budgeting for SEO tools should be an integral part of any company’s marketing strategy. To get an idea of how the pros are doing it, I asked some internet marketers how they budget for SEO tools.

Tony AdamTony Adam – Founder, CEO at Eventup

“It really depends on the client or project. I tend to look at how simple the project is and if I’m just using the basics and free tools (e.g. Google Keyword Planner) or if it’s a larger project where I need enterprise data. Typically, I start with Authority Labs and Moz, because it sets my baseline, and I go from there. I would say I spend no more than $250 monthly on tools for a project, on average.”

 

Alan BleiweissAlan Bleiweiss – Forensic SEO Consultant at Alan Bleiweiss Consulting

“I don’t budget for SEO tools per se. I have several I already pay for to help me in my audit work, and from time to time I reevaluate if I think another tool will help me be more efficient, or provide more insights for clients in various situations.

From there, I consider whether the cost of the tool is worth the knowledge and increased efficiency or is worth the bother. That’s my entire ‘budgeting’ process for tools.”

 

Michael BonfilsMichael Bonfils – President at SEM International

“We assess every tool to make sure it’s a fit for the client. Enterprise clients usually see the value in broad, high-level reporting tools. Smaller clients tend to see the value in more strategic tools, which will give them an edge and insight into a specific niche. Many of our clients are agencies; in those cases we utilize their tools.”

 
 

jon_cooperJon Cooper – Founder of Hyperlynx Media

“Budgeting for about 80% of the SEO tools out there can be done simply by answering one question – do we generate more profits with it? Yes, there will be some management tools that you may need purely for scalability reasons, which are difficult to measure the ROI of in the short-term. However, for the vast majority of them, it hasn’t been difficult for me to nail each tool’s value down to a quantifiable number that makes the decision process easy.”

 
 

Annie CushingAnnie Cushing – Independent Consultant

“I budget for SEO tools according to the urgency of the data needs they meet. Tasks I do often, like data gathering for site audits, get star treatment as they are the most essential to my success as a forensic marketer.”

 
 
 
 

victoria_edwardsVictoria Edwards – Digital Strategist at Florida Blue

“While I am on the content side of my industry, I heavily focus on SEO. I’m constantly trying to promote the benefit of SEO and show that we need to invest in the proper tools to help us determine what we need to improve on. I am fooling around with Screaming Frog and may purchase a license, but as of now I rely heavily on Google Analytics and Web Master Tools. 2014 is being budgeted for now, and I’m trying to see about getting another tool, but basically just a lot of praising SEO for now and how we need to focus heavily on it, no matter what department you’re in!”

 

melissa_fachMelissa Fach – Moz Associate and Independent Consultant

“I don’t think you can make money in this business and/or be effective without tools, so they are part of monthly costs; I treat them like the electric bill. With each monthly client there is a cost that technically goes toward tools. The more clients you have the more tools cost. The word ‘how’ isn’t in it for me; ‘must’ is a better fit.”

 
 

jon_henshaw_smallJon Henshaw – Co-Founder of Raven Internet Marketing Tools

“When your budget is tight, SEO tools can seem very expensive. However, if you pick the right tool, it should easily pay for itself. For example, what’s cheaper? Paying someone hundreds, or in some cases thousands, of dollars to aggregate data and create monthly reports or paying $99 for an SEO tool that can create all of the reports for you?

The same is true with SEO tools that provide unique data. If a $49 per month tool can provide insightful data that can then be applied to profitable marketing tactics, then you should be paying for that tool. Ultimately, regardless of which SEO tools one uses, the cost of those tools should be factored into the service fees for clients or the budget for an in-house marketing department.”

 

jordan_kasteler_newJordan Kasteler – Digital Marketing Strategist at Vizion Interactive

“At Vizion Interactive we work the cost of the tools into our hourly rate for all clients. We look at the cost of tools and compare that to time savings. If it can save us more time than our hourly rate is doing it manually then we’re likely to sign up for that tool.”

 
 
 
 
 

melanie_mitchellMelanie Mitchell – Senior Digital Marketing Strategist 

“We have a yearly SEO tools budget where we evaluate several areas:

  • Cost
  • Benefit/Differentiator – either proprietary or can build custom data and reports to differentiate us
  • Overlap of reports across tools – in order to make decisions on if we still need to invest or can cut
  • Coverage – can it cover multiple media outlets (display, SEM, social, etc.) for large programs to look at consumer journey

We don’t silo SEO, as we feel it is important to understand what the consumer is doing overall and where to better understand the areas to place investments to test, optimize and scale. SEO tools are roughly 15%-20% of our overall media tool investment. We then submit the complete list of all media tools with monthly/yearly costs, ranked in priority order, to finance for approval. Some tools are an investment to use in pitches, some are used as a value-add for clients, while others may be an additional charge to the client.”

 
 

andrew_norcrossAndrew Norcross  Lead Developer at Reactiv Studios

“Same as any other budget item: if the tool matters, I find the money. Beyond that, I look for tools that have some stability, backed by solid support, and give me the ability to get data out if need be.”

 
 
 
 

How do you budget for SEO tools?

 

How to Create an Interactive Dashboard

Interactive dashboards are basically the sliced bread of data visualization. They are dynamic, easy to use, and compatible with Mac and PC. This tutorial is best applied to clients who are tracking a domain’s rankings in multiple locations. But, these principles can be used to make many interactive dashboards. This tutorial was heavily inspired by Annie Cushing, author of Annielytics, and her interactive chart blog post. Alright, let’s get started!

If you would rather watch the tutorial, here it is:

For you readers out there, carry on. There will be links to the specific part of the video tutorial for each of these steps.

Collecting the Data

I first started this dashboard by exporting the ranking data from my grouped site Olive Garden. Once you’ve collected the ranking data from each of your cities, compile that data into one document.

step1_compile exported raw data

Next, grab the Keywords, Google rank, and Search Volume for each of the cities and add that data to one table in your Raw Data tab. Pro Tip: The Raw Data tab is sacrosanct, it should be kept free of formulas and charts. Save that for the Calculated Data tab.

step3_raw data tab

Calculate the Data

The first step in calculating the data is creating a list of cities. You can type this out manually, use a VLOOKUP, or just copy and paste.

step4_list of keywords

The second step is a little bit more labor intensive. First make sure that you have the Developer tab open. You have to select this tab to viewable through File > Options > Customize Ribbon. Then you will need to create a Combo Box using the Form Controls.

step5_make combo box_step2

Once you have drawn out the Combo Box, right click to select Format Control.

step6_select formatting combo box_step2

Now here is the fun part. Under the Control tab, select the Input range to be the list of cities you made earlier. (That will be the list that your Combo Box shows.) Next, select your output, or Cell link. Lastly, change the Drop down lines to 4 (because we only have four cities).

step7_inputs combo box_step2

The third step is to put in an INDEX formula. This formula will allow you to look up the Cell Link we set up earlier, and output from our Cities list. This means that when you select Chicago, IL on the Dashboard tab, it will output the text, “Chicago, IL” in that cell.

step8_index formula_step3

Collect Location Specific Data

Bring over the data from the Raw Data tab with a SUMIFS formula. Never worked with SUMIFS? No problem, just follow this handy-dandy image. I would recommend referencing the video tutorial for this bit.

SUMIFS have two criteria that need to be met to output the data you’re looking for. The first criteria in our SUMIFS will be finding the Rank number for the Keyword “italian restaurant”.

step9_sumifs rank_step4

The second criteria will look to make sure that Keyword matches the location in cell F4 (where our INDEX formula is).

step10_sumifs rank_step4

The second SUMIFS formula is exactly the same as the first except for in the “sum_range” you select “Table1[Volume]” instead of Rank.

Concatenation Formula

In this step you will perform a simple concatenation formula. It will combine the text string “Keyword Ranks & Search Volume for ” and the city that the user will select from the Combo Box (which is in cell F4).

step11_sumifs rank_step5

Create the Chart

Create the chart by navigating to the Insert tab and selecting Recommended Charts > All Charts > Combo Charts. Make the Rank data a Line with Markers chart, and the Volume a Clustered Column chart. Also, move the Rank to a Secondary Axis. Move the chart to the Dashboard tab.

step12_creating the chart_step6

Format the Chart

Now that the Rank data is on a secondary axis, reverse the order of the values. This will allow you to view the Rank data in the order that one is positive, and 100 is negative.

step13_format axis_step6

I like to remove the line and just leave the markers. You can do this by right-clicking on the line and clicking “Format Data Series”. Also, add in the Primary and Secondary Vertical Axis Titles. That way we know which axis is Rank data and which is Volume data.

step14_format lines_marker_step6

Add the Chart Title

This is where the chart title we made in the Calculated Data tab will come into play. We want our chart title to automatically update when a user selects a different city.

step15_format lines_marker_step6

Ta-Da!

Congratulations on making your first Interactive Dashboard!