11
Jul
5

10 tips to maximize your ecommerce productivity

I started this out with five and quickly went to eight and finally split into two five part categories, where I’ll stay. This is for the ecommerce businesses that have only one person or just one person that runs all of the online stuff, for webmasters, and for anyone that spends a lot of time developing online. From web design, to marketing, database programming, and shipping, these tips are to help you maximize your efficiency because there just isn’t enough time in the day to get everything done.

Personal:

  1. Wear a suit to the office.
  2. Optimize your computer monitor situation.
  3. Make a daily schedule, and stick to it.
  4. Work on one task at a time.
  5. Outsource if you can’t do something yourself.

For your website:

  1. Make very good use of FAQ and self help pages.
  2. Properly integrate and automate payment methods on your website.
  3. Make sure you are using a good website host.
  4. Optimize advertising landing pages.
  5. Optimize your website’s structure and navigation.

Personal Productivity

1.) Wear a suit to the office:
This one may seem a little arcane, especially if you work out of your home, but wearing a suit or at least business acceptable clothing when you work has several positive affects. When you are wearing your work clothing, you are at work. More psychological than anything else, it will separate your work from your personal obligations, and help keep you on task. If you keep the mindset that when you are at work you do only business and not personal tasks, it will further help the suit effect.

This will also keep you comfortable and used to wearing business clothing. This is especially important for people who visit trade-shows or industry conferences where business attire is appropriate.

2.) Optimize your computer monitor situation:
If you take no other advise than this, get a second monitor for your computer. I can’t think of anything that will increase your computer productivity more than a second monitor. Personally, I keep my email and other semi-static programs on my right monitor and use my left monitor for my main workspace. Also if you are doing something that requires copying and pasting from separate windows, you can put one in each monitor and you don’t need to swap programs every time. A third monitor may help for some people, but I find it over stimulating, and often get confused on how to keep three monitors organized. Two is my recommendation. Also, I highly recommend you throw down the extra money for Ultramon or another program that allows you to have multiple task-bars.

Multiple Monitors

Setting it up:
Your current video card may not be able to handle multiple monitors, and if you want a decent low cost replacement here’s my recommendations. All of these can be found on ebay for fairly cheap.
For AGP – ATI Radeon 9000 128Mb
For Standard PCI -ATI Radeon 7000, or 9000 64Mb (If you only have a PCI video card slot, this card should be more than sufficient for your system). ~$35
For PCI Express (x16) – ATI Radeon (x300 – x800) 256Mb (Dual monitor versions). These are low cost, very good performing cards. ~$30 – $100

If you’re computer supports SLI, crossfire or some other newer video technology, then you probably don’t need my advice on a Video card. There are a ton of good cards out there, these are all ones that i have used and would recommend. Also, if you come across a low cost one, almost any Matrox dual head card (>32Mb) will be very good.

Guide to setting up multiple computer monitors.

The second part of optimizing your monitor situation, is getting bigger monitors. I recommend 19″ (standard aspect) or 22″ (wide-screen aspect) or larger LCD monitors. Good LCD monitors are getting very close to the quality of a high-end CRT’s, and unless you do graphic design where screen colors have to be 100% precise, you wont know the difference. LCD’s are also getting much cheaper, and you can get a lot of very clear information on a 19″ screen, with minimal desk space. Right now, I recommend the Samsung 226BW 22″ Wide-screen LCD, and an adjustable stand. This monitor has the lowest refresh rate of anything I have ever seen, is huge, and costs about $300. By far the best monitor I have ever purchased. The only complaint is the crappy stand that comes stock, but it has VESA mounts that work with other stands.

3.) Make a daily schedule, and stick to it:
Make a schedule for your work just like you would at a normal job. Include periodic breaks, and a lunch break, and make a solid attempt to follow it. If it doesn’t work out at first, then adjust as necessary, but try to keep a consistent schedule.

Also include time-specific tasks that you need to perform throughout the day. (IE: 7AM write blog post, 3PM send daily orders to drop-shipper, or start packaging daily orders, etc.)

At times you may not think that you are getting as much done, but over time you can accomplish a greater amount because you are only working on one task at a time (see below), and that task was scheduled.

4.) Work on one task at a time:
While you may think you get more done when you are working on five things at once, multi-tasking actually reduces productivity. When you constantly switch between tasks, you experience a downtime getting back into the new task. This downtime and inability to get in a productive flow reduces your overall efficiency. Try to include in your schedule time for certain tasks that you know you have to do every day. (Updating websites, Programming New Features, Monitoring Advertising Campaigns, Etc.)

Additionally, If you constantly check and send emails, schedule to do this at the end or beginning of every hour or half hour. This way you aren’t interrupted answering emails every few minutes, but you can still get to them in a timely manner.

Projects that are going to take a lot of time, should be broken up over multiple days, or scheduled into your plan so that you can work on a single task for an entire day or more. This way you aren’t neglecting your other tasks, because you planned around the larger one.

You don’t necessarily need to be militarily strict with a schedule, but a little structure can go a long way.

5.) Outsource if you can’t do something (properly) yourself:
Sometimes you run into a task that is far beyond your current skill. It can be worth it to learn new skills to complete a project, but often it is much more effective to outsource to another professional. This is especially important if you don’t think you will use the new skill again or if it is something that will take a lot of time and / or money with little guarantee of future use.

Another reason to outsource is when you find that some service or continuous task that your business requires is taking more time and resources than you can comfortably give to it. Some examples are ongoing marketing campaigns, link building, certain website management tasks, etc. Outsourcing also may be necessary if you just aren’t getting the results that you think you should be getting. No everyone can be good at everything, and sometimes all you need is to see what does work to get you on the right path.

Try: http://www.getafreelancer.com to outsource a project.

Website Productivity

1.) Make very good use of FAQ and self help pages:
First off, I am not stating that you should make it difficult for your customers to contact you. Most website visitors would rather easily find the answer to their question on your website than call or email you. Being easy to contact does not negatively affect your visitor’s likelihood of making a purchase from you, it’s the exact opposite.

Your FAQ page(s) assuming that you have them (you should), should be based on the common questions that your customers ask, not just the questions that you think they will ask. If you are getting a lot of similar questions by email, start including those with universal answers on your FAQ page. FAQ pages should be very easy to find, and linked from appropriate areas of your site as well as from every page prominently in the navigation.

I have personally seen a website’s email volume get cut in half, while doubling their conversion rate just by optimizing their FAQ pages. A large percentage of visitors would rather shop somwhere else than try to contact you, so if you can answer their simple questions online, you just gained a few customers without any extra effort.

Universal FAQ answers:

  • Shipping cost and delivery time
  • Payment methods that are accepted
  • Return and refund policy
  • Product warranties
  • Specific answers about your products
  • Anything that more than two customers have asked you

2.) Properly integrate and automate payment methods on your website:
First off, I’m a very strong believer in multiple payment options for your visitors. I recommend accepting at a very minimum Paypal, and credit cards (not through paypal). If you are in the US, Google Checkout is gaining a fairly strong user base, and I as well as many other websites have seen Google Checkout transactions pass paypal transactions.

In all, Paypal accounts for about 10% of online transactions, and especially if your products are bought by tech savvy, or users who spend a lot of time online, paypal can make up a large percentage of your transactions.

Online shoppers will expect to be able to pay with a credit card at a minimum, and if you can offer other payment methods that some customers prefer, they will be more likely to come back and shop with you.

Properly integrating means that all of your payments are consolidated into a single back-end system. All of your orders, whether they are compiled daily or continuously, should be accessible from the same place. You shouldn’t need to log into paypal to get paypal orders, authorize.net for your credit card orders, google checkout for your google checkout orders, and so on. Everything should be designed into a single system. Having to go to multiple places to build order summaries, do customer service, and make reports takes a lot of unnecessary time. If you don’t have the technically ability to properly integrate the back-ends of different systems into yours, then hire a professional to do it for you.

3.) Make sure you are using a good website host:
Simple, if your website goes down, you don’t get business. If your website is slow because of your server has 15,000 other websites on it, you loose business. At any time someone could be trying to purchase something from you, so any interruption or poor performance can affect your business.

Once you get a reasonable amount of traffic, or you need to do some custom server configuring, or you expect that your online sales are going to grow a lot, it is probably time for a dedicated server. If you are able to manage servers yourself, there are un-managed dedicated servers for around $200 per month. For fully managed you should be looking in the $400 minimum per month range for a good quality service. Prices on dedicated servers have no limit, as you can easily shell out $5,000 per month on a small redundant server cluster. Most website owners will have a more stable, completely customizable and faster setup with a $200 per month dedicated server at a good host, than the best shared setup.

4.) Optimize advertising landing pages:
If the money you spend on advertising isn’t being used effectively, then you are just wasting business. Even if you are getting a positive ROI from your advertising, sometimes a few mistakes are keeping your from doubling or tripling your conversions. Landing pages tend to be one of the largest pitfalls of online advertisers, especially when they are made without a lot of usability and marketing experience.

There are companies that specialize in optimizing landing pages and advertising campaigns, and there are many blogs and websites that provide great information on getting the most out of your online advertising. Make sure that you are testing your landing pages, and give a new landing page some time before canning it or promoting it because diverse fluctuations are common with online advertising.

Checkout grokdotcom’s landing page optimization category, and http://www.marketingexperiments.com/.

5.) Optimize your website’s structure and navigation:
Again, if your visitors are getting confused or lost trying to get around your site, you are loosing business. If your pages are slow to load, or you have media that many visitors can’t view you are loosing more business. Continuously work on making your website easier to navigate, optimizing your product and shopping cart pages will really pay-off over time.

The Jakob Neilsen books in the books you must read section are a good place to start. There are hundreds of good usability resources on the internet, but I have found that the Jakob Neilsen books are the best place to start.

Useit.com and Grokdotcom are essential websites for website optimization.

Related Posts:
My favorite time-saving programs and hardware
10 Ways to ruin visitor experience on your website

Also, check out How To Improve Productivity from http://howtosplitanatom.com.

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5 Comments:
  1. […] Original post by jestep […]

  2. stephenraj 14 Jul, 2007

    The ten tips were eventually good. Thanks for sharing the information.

    http://www.7dollars.shorturl.com

  3. Charles Tang 26 Jul, 2007

    For testing landing pages, Google now offers their excellent “Website Optimizer” tool that lets you do multi-variate testing easily and for free. Multi-variate testing just means you can test multiple elements on your website and landing pages at once rather than doing slow A/B split tests.

    Create a new Google Adwords account if you don’t have one. It’s listed at the top navigation bar.

    Pretty darn cool…

    Charles Tang
    InstanteStore.com
    Shopping Cart Software

  4. Gregory D Peterson 8 Sep, 2007

    What Does Free Online Store Really Mean?

    I have been talking to dozens of people for the past week about the free ecommerce site offered by fastcommerce. the back office productivity tools for order processing, account management, shipping and tax calculations are awesome. free to 250 products. everything you need. More to come.

    Here at FastCommerce.com we’ve been taking phone inquiries, answering questions, and offering support to our growing list of small business entrepreneurs who are currently building their free online store with FastCommerce.com. The question always comes up, if it is free how do you make money? And if the FastCommerce.com ecommerce software is free, how good is it.

    These are all good questions. Here at FastCommerce.com, out goal is to provide a really great ecommerce website for small business, and to do it at a low price. Our technology is first rate, and it’s been designed to handle thousands of customers. Our goal is to make having an ecommerce shopping cart no different than signing up for Yahoo or Hotmail email: with email applications you sign up and sign in and you have access to an application that is easy to use, has lots of tools, and does what you need it to do.

    Here at FastCommerce.com, our goal is to provide web based ecommerce websites that will let small business owners run the whole of their online business from a single site. Our free online store is not a simple shopping cart, but a business application that lets you sell online while also running the rest of your business with shipping, email notifications, processing orders, order and account management, and more. And there is much more to come.

    So in offering a free online store, FastCommerce.com wants to earn your loyalty by offering you the best online business tools for ecommerce. We figure that if we make it easy to get started, and keep developing more tools, that we will not only earn your loyalty, but also be instrumental in your success.

    We will be developing new product features, like coupons and gift certificates, and we will charge money for additional features. You will be able to choose from a list of options that will let you tailor your online store to your goals and needs. We will not bundle features together, but let you choose a highly targeted list of features so that you will spend the least amount of money to get exactly those tools you need to succeed with your online store.

    Nevertheless, this is a free online store that will let you run the whole of your online business and to do it for free. The free part will not change. By signing up for our free ecommerce software solution, you are not skimping on the tools you need to run your online store. You can sign up with the security and confidence to know that your software is no or low cost, and it will give you the features you need to build a successful online store. As your needs grow, FastCommerce.com will be there with more great features to enhance both your online store and your back office business.

  5. creditcardquick.com 10 Jul, 2009

    Those are really helpful tips that I’m certain would aid a lot of readers. You’ve managed to outline your points and that made the topic easier to understand.

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