technology

What You Ought to Know About Starting Your Own Website

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If you have or are starting a business to sell your products to the rest of the world, your own online store is a necessity.

When launching your online store, you will probably have concerns. Will I have enough time? Am I technical enough? How will I attract people to my store? Can I actually afford it?

All very legitimate concerns, but all concerns that can be answered with ease. Promise!

MadeFreshly is the perfect software platform for independent sellers. Those with a passion for their small business, and who need their own dedicated website to sell their products.

Time:

Online stores and businesses take time. Plan wisely. If you already have a business or store (or are simply thinking about it), you know that business plans and preparation takes lots…and lots…and lots…of time; however, if you plan your days accordingly and practice organization techniques, your online store does not have to keep you up at night.

Technical:

It’s incredible (we think so!), but MadeFreshly is simple to use and makes it easy to get your business started. Follow the steps in our first article here and we promise to take stress and anxiety out of the building process. The planner guide will help you create a five-day plan to launch your store, and after that, it’s all about the fun and enjoyment of growing your business.

Marketing:

Marketing your online business isn’t always easy, but social media and guerilla marketing is a great, and often free, place to start.

If you don’t already have a social presence, sign-up for Facebook and Twitter. Start sharing the social love with your own personal connections (friends, family and existing social base). Network, Network, Network! Post regularly and engage with your audience. Consider building an email database to provide regular (but well-thought out) messages to your audience. Read through our feature article, Easily increase your Facebook fans with these 3 proven tactics, for some creative ideas to engage and communicate with your audience.

Affordability:

You’re in luck. MadeFreshly offers a free plan to get acquainted with our platform, so you can get your online business set-up at no cost. Once you feel comfortable with your store, we encourage you to sign-up for a paid plan.  MadeFreshly ranges from $11.99 – $34.99 per month, a much more affordable alternative to hiring a designer, developer, hosting and more. We give you all the tools you need to do it yourself.

When you’re ready to upgrade, Handmade Success will give you 25% off your first 3 months. Enter code handmadesuccess at the upgrade page.

Have questions for us? Any other concerns you need debunked? Leave us a comment!

Editor’s note: I am so in love with the passion MadeFreshly has for helping the handmade community – check out this video I just watched on their home page. I know you will totally relate! (Handmade Success has teamed up with MadeFreshly so feel free to ask me any questions too!)

A New Year + A New Online Shop for You From MadeFreshly!

madefreshly1It’s a guest post! We’re very excited to announce this brand new partnership with ourselves, MadeFreshly, and Handmade Success. In an effort to help handmade sellers in creating their online store, this partnership aims to provide some of the most creative and unique artists and designers with an online framework and easy-to-use website to sell their products.

Here at MadeFreshly, we keep it easy, simple and straightforward. We want to help you promote and deliver your product in one unified online store that is able to managed on-the-go. By setting-up an online store for your business, you can not only display your products visually, you can also reach a brand new demographic and audience through digital sales and transactions. Our platform offers you the ability to brand a home for your products, be easy-to-reach and available to your customers and expand your database. How could you say “no”?

In comparison to many other online e-commerce platforms, MadeFreshly is designed to be easy to understand and set-up. It is made for the independent, small business seller – YOU. We take pride in creating a great platform and product for our customers.

Why I started MadeFreshly:

I needed to create an online store for my clothing business. I used open source software, then tried just about every hosted ecommerce software that was out there. Even with a technical background in web design, it was hard to set up and customize the online store to get exactly what I wanted – and a lot of the designs that were available were just not up to my standards. I ended up shutting down the clothing business, but I kept thinking about how frustrated I was when trying to create the online store. With this in mind, I set out to make someone simple, well designed and fun to use for just about anyone. My partner and I spent years understanding usability and software design and madefreshly is the product of our love and labor. Ecommerce can be very confusing, and overwhelming so we set out to fix this! Although all sorts of business sell with MadeFreshly, we found that the handmade community is one of the most supportive communities of entrepreneurs – and this is why I wanted to start this partnership with Handmade Success. It falls along our core love of helping the “small guy” do what they love. We want to help you.

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Are you ready to sign-up for your online store? Sign up at the MadeFreshly Registration page. Once you sign up you will have to confirm your email before logging into your account. You will start off with the forever free plan. The Starter Free plan is perfect for starting a small store and for you to get acquainted with the platform. Once you feel up to it, you can upgrade to a premium plan that jives with you. Premium Plans have advanced feature like SEO, extra themes, advanced customization and lots more. Go to the Pricing and Plans page to find the plan that is right for your store. Setting up and designing your online store takes 5 minutes – we promise. Check out this link here for all of the juicy details.

Have questions? We have answers. Get started with registering for an account with us and, if you have any questions along the way, please do leave a comment or check out our support center. We can’t wait to see you on MadeFreshly!

Editor’s Note: I am so excited about this partnership with Trin Salaloy  from MadeFreshly! Be sure to check out the amazing Online Store Planner above to get all set up with your new online store. You can even check off tasks and take notes right from your computer! You can check out some of the cool shops that have already signed up here: https://madefreshly.com/samples.

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If you decide to upgrade from the Starter Free Plan be sure to use the discount code “handmadesuccess” to receive 25% of your first 3 months!!!

You can share your questions in the comments or email Trin at trin@madefreshly.com or me at kerry@handmadesuccess.com. Stay tuned each week this month for more posts about creating an amazing new shop for your business!

 

Technology & Your Shop

shoppingColorful Village Storefront Shops Print from Anna See

The way we shop has changed – for good. How often do you walk into a bricks and mortar store, find a specific item you’ve been looking for, and buy it there and then?

If you’re anything like me, this scenario happens a lot less often than it used to. In 2013, I can walk into a high street shop and pick up a product that tickles my fancy. I can then take my smart phone out of my pocket, open up a browser and do a quick internet search. Within seconds I’ll be reading reviews from other shoppers and comparing prices from different retailers. Perhaps I’ll a post a photo of whatever I’m mulling-over on Facebook, and ask my friends for advice. All of this while I’m still in the shop!

Unless I’m in a desperate hurry for an emergency purchase or gift, I’m unlikely to get in line and hand over my card there and then. I’m far more likely to go back home, look at a few more options online, think about it for a while….. If and when I finally decide to take the plunge, am I going to get into my car and drive back into town? No! I’m going to buy online – from the shop that has the best price, the best reviews, and who can deliver it quickly and conveniently to my home.

Now if you’re thinking this scenario doesn’t apply to customers buying from independent retailers and craft sellers….you could be right. Customers buying from handmade sellers are more likely to be looking for something special and unique than searching for a deal.

But don’t let that lull you into a false sense of security. The pace of change in technology is changing the way we shop, for good. This, together with the fact that we’re still dealing with a challenging economy – mean that it’s important for retailers of all shapes and sizes to take note.

If you’re a small business with big ambitions, here are four things you should be thinking about:

  • Think multi-channel 

When thinking about how and where to promote your work, think about the lives your customers lead. Do they spend all their time in coffee shops, reading books and magazines? Or do they spend 24 hours a day online, browsing websites and checking their social media accounts? Chances are, they do a bit of both. Digital and “real” life are now so intertwined, your customers are likely browsing the Etsy app on their iPhone while sitting in a coffee shop, or reading reviews on Amazon for the latest craft books while lying in bed.

To make the most of the opportunities the digital economy provides, you need to adopt a multi-channel approach. A website is no longer a nice-to-have: it’s an essential tool for doing business online and off. Even if you’re selling to galleries and offline shops rather than direct to customers online, a professional online presence is a must.

If you don’t yet have a website and are planning to get one soon, choose a responsive design so that if can be used on different devices like smart phones and tablets. Don’t forget to include the URL on your business cards too!

  • Take a long-term approach 

In this age of constant distractions and huge choice of options online, customers won’t make an immediate decision about whether or not to buy from you. So stop thinking in terms of the instant sale. Some customers will want to research and look around. Others will want to get to know you first. So give them plenty of ways to do this by building an authentic online presence, sharing your story, and being consistent in your approach.

Crucially – make sure you’re encouraging them to sign-up to your email list when they visit your website or blog. It’s your best chance of getting in touch and encouraging them to come back if they don’t buy from you first time around.

  • Pull, don’t push 

It’s no longer acceptable (if it ever was) to be pushy and use the hard sell. How many brands have you un-followed because of a barrage of promotional Facebook updates or tweets?

The next generation of consumers are savvy, sophisticated shoppers, and firmly in control. So attract, engage…..then let them know about the wonderful products and services you have to sell. Learn to listen to your customers and understand their needs. Become the brand they look forward to hearing from because you put a smile upon their face!

  • Embrace openness 

In 2013, there really is nowhere to hide! Ratings, reviews and feedback play an important part in building trust and authority for your brand. So embrace openness and use these tools to your advantage.  Ask customers for testimonials. Make a habit of requesting feedback after an order has shipped. Let customers leave ratings and reviews.

Once you’ve done this – add a praise section to your website. Add snippets to your product descriptions and about page, even your business card. Then look out for an increase in sales!

Have you noticed any ways that technology is impacting your business and the way your customers shop? What are you doing about it? I’d love to know – leave a comment below.

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Claire Hughes — Make, Do & Sell

Claire Hughes is an online marketing consultant with over ten year’s experience running campaigns for some of Europe’s biggest brands. Proud to call herself an internet geek and home-working mum, she now focuses exclusively on working with creative entrepreneurs. You’ll find Claire sharing free tips and advice on the Make, Do & Sell blog, as well as co-leading the Handmade Horizons marketing e-course. That’s when she’s not changing nappies or feeding her Pinterest addiction, of course…..

There’s nothing Claire loves more than helping talented ladies overcome their marketing challenges and achieve their wildest dreams. Why not connect with her on Twitter and tell her all about yours?

Your Opinion Wanted: Your Phone + Your Business

Happy Friday everyone! I have really been enjoying this new series and appreciate your opinions. I am back today with a question from Amy of Lady Mockingbird and her Buttercups.

I’ve been in limbo recently about my phone.. I have a good ol’ blackberry bold and am SO OVERDUE for an upgrade.  I am and always have been a traditionalist when it comes to my phone – it took some serious convincing to get me to upgrade to the blackberry from the traditional “flip” but having my email on the go became necessary.  I am still very anti-iphone.. for one, I like having buttons.. I need them, two I just can’t accept that a phone needs to be able to do that much and I don’t want to fall into an “app trap”, and three – lets face it, “grace” is NOT my middle name and I dont trust myself with something so expensive and so fragile.  On the other hand, I’m reading all these blogs and seeing all these instagram posts and going to fairs where people are paying for things on credit card via their phones and I wonder.. am I doing my business a disservice by not jumping on the bandwagon with this technology?  Basically are there any indie business owners out there happily and sufficiently working sans iphone?  Or is it the single best way to operate?

Ooh! Such a good question! I can’t wait to hear about the role your phone plays in your business. Please help Amy out and share your thoughts and opinions in the comments!

Time To Check Up On Your Checkout Procedures

Two years ago, my mom wanted to buy me a dress I wanted for Christmas. The problem was this: my dress was from a vintage seller on Etsy and my mom still asks me what the little box at the top of the internet screen is for.  She tried hard, but she just couldn’t get through it. In the end, she ended up giving me the money so I could buy the dress myself rather than try and deal with the Etsy shopping cart.

Here’s another illustrative story about user friendly websites. When I last made a big clothing purchase, I got all set to do it from a US based website that I had heard good things about. It was hard to navigate and by the time I got to the point that it wouldn’t let me change the American Express drop down to Mastercard I was ready to scream. So I deleted my order and bought from a site in the UK. They translate pounds to dollars, had a great search function and made checkout easy. Bad processes killed a big sale for Company A and gave one to Company B.

No matter how great your stuff is people need to be able to pick it out, put it in a shopping cart and press the right buttons to make it show up on their doorstep. Even people who don’t understand the internet.

Everyone spends lots of time on their production descriptions and copy, but rarely do we think about the basics like website usability and navigation. Can people find the buy button? Do they have to sign up for Paypal to check out? How many different ways do they have to use to authenticate their credit card?

The worst part is that you can’t even figure out where the problems would be because if you’re reading this site all of this seems really easy for you. This is where being related to or friends with a technophobe can be a real boon to your business.

If you’re wondering how your store or website stacks up, have your technophobic friend or relative go through the entire process. Start by having them Google you and see if they can get all the way to end of the checkout process. If they get hung up somewhere, have them take notes about where they would have quit trying and why. The most common issues I see come from SEO issues where you think you’re ranking for “scotty dog necklace” but you’re really showing up under “fried green tomato” or something and from shopping cart usability. Both of these can usually be remedied by some changes in wording, which is cheap and easy to do.

How useable is your website?

 

Holly Jackson — Cottage Copy

Holly Jackson is the owner of The Full Figured Chest Copywriting, along with being a fashion blogger and columnist. She lives in Mississippi with an artist, two dogs, and a whole bunch of mystery novels.

 

 

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