Restricting product visibility to members or wholesale customers

vip-customerNew feature… and free for every store!

So your business has been growing and you want to expand into the wholesale area or maybe you’re creating customised products for specific groups of customers. How on earth do you deal with that in your Spiffy Store?

We’ve found that a lot of small businesses are running into that exact problem, so we decided to do something about it.

The concept is pretty simple. When you enable customer accounts for your store, you can add ‘tags’ to all of your customer accounts to help you group and categorise them. For example, maybe some of your customers have a VIP status, so you could add a ‘vip’ tag to each of these accounts.

Now suppose you want to offer only these customers a special package deal. You can create this special product exactly like every other product, but then you add the ‘vip’ tag to the product in the Customer Visibility section.

Once that’s done, only customers who are logged in to their accounts and have the ‘vip’ tag will be able to see and buy that product. It won’t be visible to any other customers or guest users. Nor will it be visible to the search engines or product data feeds.

It’s a VIP product, so only VIP customers get to buy it!

And that’s it. Now imagine how you can extend this idea to support lots of different groups of customers and you can see how powerful this feature is.

For this feature to even show up you’ll need to do the following;

Finally, remember that this is a free feature and is included on every Spiffy Store plan.

A Major Spiffy Stores Toolbox Update

spiffy-presentsWe decided all our Spiffy Store owners deserve an early Christmas present, so we’ve rolled out a rather fab update to the Toolbox a little earlier than we’d previously planned.

We’ve been working on this for some time, but as it’s mostly an upgrade to our infrastructure code behind the Toolbox, we don’t think you’ll notice much of a change. However, the huge benefits for everyone are clear to see. We’ve positioned our code so that it’s far easier to upgrade and to extend, so you’ll see a more consistent interface, and we’ll be able to deliver new features at a faster rate.

So, it’s pretty much “Good news everyone!”

Along the way, we also decided to improve a few of the Toolbox features and we hope you’ll find these enhancements useful.

  • We’ve added custom filters to the products and inventory listings and they work just like the customer filters. You can view your products and variations using a wide range of filters to select only the items you want to see. No more hunting and searching for that elusive product. The information you need is now only a few clicks away. This is really going to help our larger store owners manage their inventories.
  • You can now add custom SEO page titles and descriptions to override the system generated versions for all products, pages, articles and collections. If you want to tweak your site settings to make sure the right descriptions are picked up by the search engines, then you’ll want to use this feature.
  • The Menu Items are now using some new code to help you build your multi-level menus using drag and drop. The new code shows a highlighted placeholder to help you position the menu item exactly where you want it.
  • The Shipping rate calculators have always taken into account weekends when providing an estimate of when a parcel will be delivered. We’ve decided to take this a step further by also taking into account public holidays, so that your customers will receive an even more accurate idea of when a parcel will be delivered.
  • Keyboard shortcuts are available for most Toolbox operations. This will be a boon if you need to do some mundane data entry. The help popup is available from the link next to the store preview link in the Toolbox menu.

You’ll be seeing a lot more in the new year, but for now, please enjoy these updates!

Australian Data Retention Laws – Are you protected?

email-privacyAustralia’s new data retention laws start today, and this means that ISPs are obliged to collect and keep records about your digital activities for 2 years, and to make those records available to various government agencies on demand without the need for any warrants or legal oversight.

The good news is that the email services provided by Spiffy Stores and Domain Hosting Shop are not subject to these data retention laws. In basic terms, the law only applies to carriage service providers, which means anyone who provides the physical connection for your home or office to the Internet or telephone system.

We will keep your Spiffy Stores email safe and secure, and you can send and receive email secure in the knowledge that the messages will not be archived and retained in any way, and will not be available to any government agency.

Melbourne Ecommerce Theme

We’re delighted to announce the release of a new theme for Spiffy Stores. We love it, and we’re sure you will too!

Melbourne, our most feature-rich theme yet, is a fully responsive theme, that will automatically adapt to the screen size it’s viewed on, whether that’s a smart phone, a tablet or a laptop. In fact, it will always look its best on any screen width from 320 pixels to over 2500.

And we’ve included loads of customisable features such as…

  • 4 levels of drop-down menus so you can make really specific product categories
  • Full width home page slideshow, with 3 different transitions, captions and links, so you can tailor each one to a different message
  • Customisable product pages with custom product fields, dynamic image zoom and related product up-sells
  • Integration with Yotpo to provide product reviews
  • Featured collections on your home page with full support for collection images
  • Featured collection pages with support for collection images, so you can show off your different product categories on one page.
  • Featured links on your home page allowing you to link deep into featured collections and products
  • Social media integration to grow your audience on your Facebook, Google +, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Flickr, YouTube and LinkedIn pages
  • Customisable Instagram Feed to show off a gallery of your product images
  • Image gallery support to show off your products and great photography
  • Customisable Parallax banners on your home page, collection pages and product pages
  • Newsletter integration with MailChimp, Campaign Monitor or Mad Mimi so you can sign up visitors to your email list through a simple form
  • Newsletter subscribe popup.  A proven method to increase your subscribers
  • Built-in customer wishlist page
  • Built-in icons for payment methods like PayPal, Visa, MasterCard, AMEX, and Bank Deposit
  • Matching checkout styles with your logo and colours
  • Currency conversion allowing overseas customers to view product prices in their native currency

Why not take a look around the Melbourne theme demo store. While you’re there, try resizing your window. You’ll see the seamless and dynamic resize in action!

If you want to apply the Melbourne theme to your store, just navigate to the Design & Assets > Theme gallery section of your Toolbox and update your templates with one click. Don’t forget to save your current theme by downloading it first so you can restore it later if you’d prefer to use it instead.

Instructions on how to make changes to the Melbourne theme to get it to suit you perfectly, can be found in the Melbourne theme guide in our Knowledge Base.

How to spread your message with a sassy guest post

 

guest-postingWouldn’t it be great if you could get yourself and your business in front of thousands of readers of someone else’s blog without paying a cent for it?

You can!

It’s called guest posting and it’s mighty popular.

Guest posting – writing an article or blog post that’s published on another website – is a tried and tested marketing technique to get you more:

  • Exposure for your products
  • Traffic to your Spiffy store
  • Social media likes and shares
  • Backlinks
  • Potential sales

It’ll also help build your personal profile as a knowledgeable authority in your niche. How nice is that!

Don’t tell me. You heard that Google frowns on guest posting, did you?

Well, yes. And no.

It depends how you’re going about it.

There’s guest posts and then there’s ‘guest posts’

If you’re going to throw together a weak and thinly veiled sales piece and stick it up anywhere that will have it, then yes, Google’s not a fan. And anyway, your unlikely to get the attention or traffic you’re after.

But if you spend time creating a unique and helpful solid article that offers value to the reader, and it’s published on a popular and relevant site. Well, that’s bingo baby!

Where to start

Step 1 – Do your research

I don’t want to sound too obvious here, but to stand any chance of getting published on a decent blog or website, you’ll need to produce content that’s relevant and interesting to their audience.

Say you sell beautiful decorative beads. Don’t try to get your fabulous post about ‘beads of the world’ in the Gardening Wonderblog. They want what their readers expect, and I’ll bet it’s not beads. However, the Popular Crafts Wonderblog might prick up their ears!

So you’ll need to find relevant online publications and blogs that cater for an audience that’s the right fit for your products.

> Search for “xxx blog” (where xxx is a keyword related to your business) and go through the results to find websites whose audience you think would want to read what you have to offer.

You can also try using keywords in your search like “guest post” (use the quote marks), which will help you find the ones that accept guest posts quicker.

> Visit blog directories like www.alltop.com and search using your keywords discover blogs in related categories

> Once you’ve identified the target blogs, check if they accept guest posts. Browse their website for information or guidelines on guest posting or send them a polite email asking if they accept guest posts.

> If they do, make a list of these websites somewhere safe.

> Now read through each blog you’ve identified to get a feel for what’s popular with their audience and the type of topics they like to cover. And you’ll want to target blogs that get a decent amount of comments and shares on their posts. After all, you don’t want to spend all that time writing a super-duper post only for it to fall on deaf ears.

And while you’re at it, take note of their guest post guidelines if they have them and stick to them. It’ll save you pain later.

Step 2 – Play nice

Thought you were going to head straight to the writing bit? Think again!

Start up a relationship by playing nice with the guy or girl you hope will help you out with a guest post opportunity. Call it a sweetener. Take time to comment on their articles and share them in social media. And just a one off won’t cut the mustard either. Go back several times and give them a hand.

Not only will it show you’ve bothered to get to know what they’re all about, it’ll show you’re willing to give and take.

Step 3 – Get writing!

Now that you’ve found the blogs you want to feature in, and the blogger has hopefully noticed your interest in their stuff, it’s down to the writing business.

Create a unique article that you really think would interest that audience and give them something of value. Don’t be lightweight here, you need to write something meaty. Think comprehensive tips sheet, how-to article or, in the case of the bead shop, a very visual guide to the world’s most beautiful beads.

If you’d like some tips about blog writing, check out my post on blogging.

Finish off your article with a short “About the Author” paragraph. Something along the lines of “Mimi is the owner of Mimi’s beads, an online store that specialises in beads from around the world, www.mimisbeadstore.com.au“

Step 4 – Send it in

Before you send in your guest post, double and triple check the format, grammar and spelling. Quality website owners and bloggers won’t publish it if it reflects badly on them and makes their site look amateurish. And you don’t want to look silly either.

When you send in your article, summarise it briefly in the email and explain why you think their readers would benefit from it. It saves the recipient time. And attach the image(s) to accompany it.

Step 5 – The waiting game

With any luck, the blogger will like what you’ve done and will feature your guest post on their blog.

But that’s not always the case. Don’t expect your piece will be automatically accepted.

If you don’t get a reply after a week, follow up with a short, polite email asking if they’ve had time to read your post and if they thought their readers might like it.

If you don’t get a response after that, or if your post is turned down (you may get this a lot from more popular blogs), try sending it to another blog on your target list. Just go through the steps above to make sure it will fit the other blog and tweak if necessary.

Or you can add it to your own blog.

Step 6 – Tell the world

Whatever you decide, promote the heck out of it on social media once it’s live and respond to any comments. Promoting it is just as important, if not more so, than creating it.

And keep going with other blogs!

 

How to use Pinterest to promote your online store

You must have been living under a rock if you haven’t heard of Pinterest, the “scrapbook” website that lets its users collect images in themed albums called ‘boards’.

It’s a very powerful social network that’s inspired people all over the world to share their interests and ideas through images, and connect with others by liking, commenting and re-pinning to their own boards.

Pinterest was launched in 2010 and has been growing at a mind-blowing rate. It now gets around 1.5 million unique visitors a day and boasts nearly 73 million monthly active users, making it the fourth most popular social media platform in the world.

Pinterest is a gift for retailers

Because Pinterest is so visual, it’s a great promotional platform for companies selling products like yours.

If you’re looking to get more traffic, exposure and attention for your Spiffy store, tap into Pinterest’s enormous popularity. A US RichRelevance Shopping Insights study has found that Pinterest users deliver a bigger average order value on retail sites than those coming from Facebook or Twitter!

Get ready to pin your wares

Before you dive in and start pinning your goodies up for all to see, ensure your website content is optimised. You’ll be pinning product images directly from your Spiffy store, so you’ll need great quality photos and clear descriptions (these encourage Pinterest likes and “re-pins”, which will widen your audience).

> Make sure your product photos are high quality, well lit and appealingly shot. I can’t stress this enough. Images are the currency of the Pinterest community so if your images aren’t great, you won’t attract attention or sharing!

> Give your product pages clear, specific descriptions and tags containing that product’s keywords so that Pinterest can index them easily. Think about the words and phrases people would type into search engines when looking for products like yours and use these when you write.

Once that’s taken care of, it’s time to set your brand up on Pinterest. This is the fun part! Pinterest have put together a simple guide to pinning to explore to get to know the platform better. In addition, I’ve made a few notes to get you started.

Set up your account

Jump onto https://business.pinterest.com/en  and click “join as a business” to sign up for a free business account.

Fill in the requested fields in the sign up form and make sure you read their terms for business use and are willing to comply with them.

Pinterest will then ask you to choose some board categories to follow as a starting point. It makes sense to pick ones closely related to your business.

Next, you’ll be offered the Pinterest browser button. Take it! It’s the easiest way to pin images you find all over the web to your boards. Once it’s downloaded, it’ll sit patiently at the top of your browser window waiting for you to click it and send an image you’ve found to one of your boards.

Once Pinterest has had a few seconds to digest all the information you’ve just given it, you’ll find yourself in your homepage – a visually rich scrolling page full of images. These images have come from the category choices you made a few minutes earlier.

The next step is to customise your page.

Brand your profile

At the top right of your page, you’ll see your user name (it should be your business name) in a button. Click it and you’ll be taken to a page where you can design your profile for you brand. Add your logo and fill out the other fields available, not forgetting to add your business keyword term in the description.

Have a good snoop around

Before you start creating your own boards, I suggest you do some simple research. Type your keywords and your competitors’ names into the Pinterest search box at the top of the page and see what comes up. Notice how products like yours are shown, how others title their boards and what’s popular. These insights will be helpful as you set up your own boards.

Create your own boards

Once you’re more familiar with Pinterest, start creating your own boards. You can do this by clicking the ‘create a board’ box on your profile page and filling out a few details.

Click on the board to choose an image to pin to it.

Don’t limit your boards to just your product categories; play around with different themes such as Christmas presents, best sellers and cocktail hour etc. Have fun with the board titles too – clever titles seem to attract more attention!

Social networking is all about authentic connections, so you might like to also set up a couple of boards on your own interests. This will help personalise your brand.

Pin images to your boards

Pin your product images directly from your online store to your boards so when a visitor clicks on the image, they’ll get sent directly to your website. Once you’ve pinned your images, you can edit the board cover to show the image that best reflects the board’s content.

When you’re exploring the web, use the Pinterest browser button to pin images you like to your boards. See, I told you it would come in handy!

Don’t just stick to standard pictures of your products – make your images as unique as you can. Try including photos or videos showing different uses for your products, or photograph them from different angles and in different lights. Files can be uploaded directly from your computer so they don’t have to be on your web store already.

Create detailed descriptions for each of your pinned images. Include your keywords when you write and put them in #hashtags at the end of the description. Add the link to your website product page and the price.

And there’s more!

Become an active member of the Pinterest community – it is a social network after all! Repin content you like that fits your brand, follow other people’s boards and comment on other pins. You can use the @ in front of a username to address them personally in a comment. This is not only fun but it’ll increase your exposure and number of followers.

Place Pinterest sharing and follow buttons on your product pages so that visitors to your Spiffy store can follow you and share your things on the network.

Install the Pinterest App onto your smartphone so you can browse boards, take snaps and pin on the move.

When you’re set up and have some good content, invite your connections to visit your board. Send out an email to your mailing list, and compose a tweet, blog or Facebook post that links to your Pinterest page and ask what they would like to see more of.

And finally, keep it up!

Keep pinning. People are more likely to come back if there is new content and it’ll widen your appeal.

Keep exploring and engaging in Pinterest. Continue to repin and engage with others on the network. Short but regular activity on Pinterest is better than a big push once in a blue moon.

Keep up with how others interact with your content. The number of likes, repins and comments you receive will reveal what the customers want from you.

As with all social media, you will have to devote time and effort to keep it fresh and interesting. But in return you’ve got a free promotional platform for your online store that can reach millions of people.

So go forth and pinnify!

 

Get to know SEO so you don’t get ripped off!

learn seoWe’ve all had those uninvited emails.

The ones kindly telling you that you’re not ranking well on search engines like Google, and their Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) services will bring you lots of web traffic and a position on the first page of Google results.

Tempted? Take a deep breath and think again.

No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google.”

 How do I know? Cause that quote is taken directly from Google’s support website.

A brief history of SEO

Search engines like Google want to be able to show you the most valuable and relevant web pages for your search query. To be able to do that, they first crawl web pages and use very complicated algorithms to rank them in an index.

Very early on, people started gaming the system using tricks known as ‘black hat’ techniques to try to outwit the algorithms and jump up the rankings.

These tactics included:

  • Stuffing the keyword phrase into the page (both visibly and invisibly) as many times as possible
  • Buying and swapping links, or listing on poor quality web directories, to get as many backlinks as possible
  • Spamming the comments section on blogs and forums just to get a backlink
  • Spinning low quality versions of an article onto lots of different sites
  • Technical trickery like doorway pages, cloaking and redirects

As a result, Google began to update its algorithms to reward top quality content and filter out pages that used dubious methods to try and win their attention.

And it’s got very good at it.

Play nice or face the consequences

Many dodgy SEO tactics are still being used by unscrupulous companies, even though the Google algorithms have been updated numerous times to recognise and penalise these tactics.

These methods are useless at best and downright dangerous at worst. And who gets penalized for these actions? The website owner. That’s you.

So if you want to steer clear of a Google penalty that bombs your search rankings, you need to make sure any SEO activities for your website are best practice.

What is good SEO?

Good SEO is about giving Google what it wants. Which is all about giving the user what they want…

> top quality, helpful content (web pages, video, pdfs etc)

> relevant to the search query

> on an easy-to-use website (technically sound)

> that other people recommend (through quality, earned backlinks)

So what are your options?

Firstly, do yourself a red hot favour and learn some SEO basics.

>>> Start with this article, or this one, by yours truly, written as a simple intro to SEO for people with little or no prior knowledge.

>>> Read up about SEO. There are a huge amount of free resources online like this SEO guide from Google itself.

>>> Take an introductory online SEO course like the one run by my pal Kate Toon called “The Recipe for SEO Success”.

When you’re up to speed (it doesn’t take much to learn the basics!), you’ll have a choice to either pay an SEO specialist to do the work for you, or do it yourself.

Use your smarts when you pick an SEO supplier

If you’re going to employ a specialist, please don’t randomly pick one (or reply to one of those unsolicited emails). Speak to other business people to find out who they use and recommend, and search online for good reviews.

A legitimate SEO company should be able to

  • explain the SEO techniques it uses
  • show you examples of their work
  • put you in touch with happy customers
  • provide detailed reporting of their work and the results it’s getting

Their services should include

  • keyword research for your specific niche
  • an SEO audit of your current website with advice on what to fix to make it more SEO friendly
  • a strategy and support to build quality backlinks
  • help with content development

With a good understanding of SEO at your disposal, you should be able to weed out any dodgy dealers.

The takeaway?

Don’t waste your time and precious cash trying to outwit Google. Understand how to work with them, not against them.

Whether you choose to hire an SEO specialist or DIY, maintain a good quality website and you’ll enjoy a stream of visitors who want to be there.

 

Seattle Ecommerce Theme. Now mobile friendly.

seattle-ecommerce-theme-responsiveJust a quick post to let everyone know that the Seattle theme has now been updated in your Theme Gallery. The update includes quite a few new features, as well as the addition of mobile compatibility and new customer templates.

The new version of the theme is now available in the Theme Gallery section of your store. You’ll need to download a backup of your current theme before applying the new theme to your store.

Once you have updated your theme, it’s likely that you’ll need to update your settings in your theme editor. We have a guide below on what has changed in the theme so you can be better prepared for the update. If the version of your theme is quite old, you might find that there are also some nice surprises!

Continue reading

19 ways to promote a new product on the web for free

free-signSo you’ve got some pretty cool new stock for your online store – bonza!

Once you’ve got that sparkly item beautifully photographed and loaded safely in your Spiffy Store, it’s time to go to town with your marketing.

You don’t have to have a big marketing budget to promote your new product online.

Here are 19 ideas that will cost you nothing but a little bit of your time.

  1. Post a photo of your new product on your Facebook page, linking directly back to the product page on your store
  2. Tweet that cool photo and link out on your Twitter account
  3. Post the image and link on your Pinterest page
  4. Post the image and link on your Google+ page
  5. Make a creative photo on Instagram
  6. Write an update for your LinkedIn company page
  7. Take a short video of the product on your smartphone and load it onto your YouTube channel
  8. Post the video out on your other social networks too
  9. Use a #hashtag on social media whenever you mention your new product. For example, #shoes or #goldsandals.
  10. Post on social media more than once. If you do it just once, it may get lost in the noise of the newsfeed.
  11. Feature the product in your next newsletter
  12. Mention it in your email signature with a link
  13. Write a blog post about it. If it’s something to wear, you could discuss different ways to wear it. Remember to use the product name in the page title and headline.
  14. Write a traditional press release and post it on PR sites like Newsmaker. If you’re not sure how to do that, check out my post on how to write a press release.
  15. Monitor sourcebottle.com for free publicity opportunities and giveaway requests that would fit your product. You can sign up for alerts on the site.
  16. Search for popular blogs in your niche (fashion, lifestyle etc) using Google Blog Search or Alltop and send the blogger some information about your product along with some nice images. They might feature it.
  17. When you ship your new product, invite your customers to post a snap of them using it on social media with a #hashtag so you can follow the activity
  18. Slip a note about the new item into the package when you ship other goods
  19. Add a note and link in your automated emails to check out the new product in the store

There you go. A bunch of online marketing ideas for you that don’t cost a cent!

Updates to email notifications

gmailThis is just a quick update regarding the email notifications that are sent out from your store.

Until now, all notifications sent out from your store were sent from our “noreply@spiffyserver.com” address.

We have now updated the notifications so they are sent from the Store Email Address that you set in the Preferences -> General Settings section of your store’s Toolbox.

Unfortunately, this can’t be the case for emails sent from domains that don’t belong to your store (for example gmail or hotmail).  If you’re using another email provider and want to use that address, you’ll need to set up an email forward from an email address that belongs to your store to your other email account.

You can the update your Store Email Address to the one on your domain, and all future emails will come from an email address that belongs to your store, and is less confusing for your customers.

Affected email notifications include the following…

  • Order confirmation emails sent to your customers
  • Shipping confirmation emails sent to your customers
  • Shipping update emails sent to your customers
  • Auto-responses sent from the contact us page of your store

Other emails sent out, such as order confirmation emails will still be sent from our “noreply@spiffyserver.com” address.