Zen & the Art of Holiday Ecommerce Strategy

You are receiving this email on October 15th. A simple math calculation makes the heat skip a beat – October is half over already and we are just about six weeks out from the Zombie E-pocalypse that we call the holiday shopping season. But we’ve got your back.

Here are this week’s top stories.

1. Zen and the Art of Holiday Strategy

Do you have all your ad spending and email campaigns set up yet? No? There’s still time for that, and the time is now. These guys did some solid research and put together some advice, tips, and trends with snippits of advice from a bunch of industry folks. It’s worth the reading.

Read about Profit and Peace on CommonThreadCo.

2. It’s Like Having a Crystal Ball

Most of us in Ecommerce don’t compete with folks like Best Buy and other big box retailers. But those guys have already done all the work. They have pre-purchased their ads, built their email campaigns and … believe it or not … they have already printed their flyers and mailers. So, whether you want to price-match, want to see their content and marketing copy, or want to get a jump on your own personal holiday gift-planning ….

Here is BestBuy’s BFCM marketing flyer.
Here is Amazon’s pre-pre-pre-BFCM flyer.
Don’t like Walmart’s very much.
Find a bunch more of them here.

3. SEO is the Grinch

SEO is competitive, hard, and time consuming, but we all have to worry about it. But there might be a few so-called “rules” of SEO that are more myth than fact. Practical Ecommerce came up with a list of seven of them.

See the 7 SEO Rule to Ignore for Ecommerce.

4. More BFCM Stuff to Look at

Shopify is gearing up the servers and stress-testing their platform for the holiday season to make sure that the tech is ready for the load. But they have also opened up the info toolbox for merchants to get ready too. And this is what that looks like.

Read the Black Friday Cyber Monday Toolbox from Shopify.

5. Black Friday is About Existing Customers

We’ve said this a lot…. The competition for attention during the holiday shopping extravaganza is intense. You’ve got huge mega-mart companies with more money than sense sucking a lot of oxygen. The key for the smaller seller is to remember that the best sales on BFCM come from your existing customers – the folks that have already purchased from you before.

That is the top take-away on this stat-filled article from Klaviyo.

OK kids … that’s a wrap for this week. I would normally take a few extra minutes to write up something clever, but you have work to do.

Happy Selling,
Zachary

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Black Friday Bootcamp

Say it with me people … it’s October! When you receive this email on Tuesday morning you will be, exactly 51 days, 14 hours, and 45 minutes away from Black Friday.

That means we all have a lot of work to do. Which is why this week is all about getting ready for The Show. We’ve plucked some of the best BFCM preparatory resources online to share with you this week, so let’s get on to it.

1. Black Friday Bootcamp

Privy put together a series of videos to help you get ready for Black Friday … and golly, they sure did a good job of it. It’s called “Black Friday Bootcamp” and instead of a crusty drill sergeant barking at you to “drop and give me forty!” you have a bunch of pleasant eCommerce experts giving you advice.

Seriously, check this bootcamp out for yourself.

2. Maximizing holiday sales with limited-time offers and promotions

Pixel Union is one of the top theme and app providers in the Shopify ecosystem, so they know their way around the holidays. Well, they just posted an article talking about all the different kinds of sales and promos you can run to hold customers in rapt attention. And they have a few tasty discounts at the end so you can sample the goods.

Read the article on the Pixel Union blog.

3. When did “sell” become “influence” anyway?

You shell out some marketing bucks and send free merch to the “influencer” who posts a happy picture of themselves using your product on Instagram. But did it work?

Lots of folks talk about influencer marketing. This article not only tells you a lot about how it works, but it suggests a few techniques to actually track if it’s working – GASP! And that’s the real rub, right?

Solve your influencer problem.

4. Finally, some good shipping news

Most shipping companies charge a bit extra for residential deliveries. But this article reports that both UPS AND FedEx have suspended the residential surcharge for the holiday season, staring on October 21st. Makes total sense. During the holidays there are so many residential deliveries that it’s easier to make a profit AND they have to remain competitive.

Read about UPS and FedEx stuff.

5. Content is hard … creative content is harder-er

We all need help and inspiration when making creative content that keeps people engaged. Except for me – I’m an emailing genius. But for everyone else, a little inspiration never hurts.

When the mind is blank and content deadlines are a’coming, give this article a read and see if it cranks up those creative marketing juices.

Read about it on the Shōgun website.

The entire time I‘ve been working on this email I’ve had “Black Friday” by Steely Dan cranked up. Just seemed like the right thing to do.

Do you know someone else preparing for BFCM? How about you forward this email that person right now – just to forward this email.

Happy Selling,
Zachary

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We've been promising to bring you content to get you ready for the holiday season – BFCM is going to be here before you know it. So this week we're bringing you marketing strategies to get you started now. But first, let's talk about cannabis as a business model.

Here are this week’s top stories.

1. Shopify is NOT High, They Just Sell the Ganja

Well, not really … I mean, Tobi Lütke isn’t hanging out on street corners with little Ziplock bags of contraband. But Shopify recently announced that they had put together a set of partnerships and services to let online cannabis entrepreneurs legally market, sell, and distribute non-intoxicating CBD products in the US – and the market is smok’in!

So many potential puns, so little time. But I endured through all the info and wrote up a blog post just for you.

Read about selling CBD products online in the US.

2. Ezra Firestone Makes a Million Dollars

Speaking of gonzo … Ezra Firestone is a marketing kind of guy. Not only does he have his “SmarterMarketer” business, he is the co-founder and CEO of “Boom! By Cindy Joseph,” an online cosmetics business. Well, he sat down for a podcast with Kurt Elster a few weeks ago to lay out his entire strategy for the entire holiday season – including doing a million dollars from BFCM.

Go ahead and listen to this podcast, we dare you.

3. Speaking of Black Friday/Cyber Monday, Get Your Checklist Right Here

Have you started your email and ad planning for the big show yet? Now is the time my friend because we are only eight weeks away from the retail and eCommerce party of the year. And to help, Shopify just posted a blog with a 27-point BFCM checklist.

Read the list, get more sales, be more happy.

4. Microsoft? Who’d Have Thought?

Back in the 1980s and 90s, Microsoft was THER cool company. No joke! And then Apple came back, Google and Amazon were born, and suddenly Bill Gates was eating lunch in the cafeteria alone … again. It’s funny how things come back around, right? Because Microsoft is kicking bytes and taking domains all over again. Want proof? Shopify just got on the Microsoft Advertising bandwagon (you can too).

Read about sexy tech companies that are not Google and Amazon.

5. Thank You Professor, May I Have Another!

We love a little honest critique. We don’t always agree, and that’s cool. But when you take off the gloves and bare-knuckle the tough love, you get our respect. And that’s what Jill Kocher Brown does in the article on Practical eCommerce. She picks three eCommerce blogs and picks them apart to show what works and what doesn’t for SEO.

Class is in session on PracticalEcommerce.

Happy Selling,
Zachary

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We’re finally getting some decent weather here in the Midwest. It still a bit warm and humid, but we’re not melting like the Wicked Witch of the West and it’s not raining. So that means I’m in a pretty good mood, all things considered. Let’s see if all that translates into some good email write’in on this lovely Monday evening.

Here are this week’s top stories.

1. The Devil Came Down to the Internet ‘Cuz He Was Looking for a Soul to Steal

Do you resell as a third-party through Amazon? A LOT of small and large ecommerce brands do just that. Yes, Amazon wants to eat your lunch, steal your soul, and leave whatever’s left for buzzards to gnaw upon. BUT … the devil keeps his promises. So, if you’re an online merchant and you want to get listed in the annual Amazon Digital Holiday Gift Guide, you have exactly one more week to cut that deal.

Get the info on the Amazon Gift Guide here.

And in case you missed it, the title of this section references one of the greatest Country-Rock songs ever, and you should listen to it.

2. It Pays to be German … Sometimes

When you read this story you might ask yourself, “What the heck do I have in common with a super-big German car maker?” Well, turns out that way back in the stone age of the 1980s, Audi had a big brand problem. Their ad agency solved it by coming at the issue sideways. Instead of touting quality specs like most ads, they solved it by playing into the biases already in customer’s minds. Do you have a brand problem? "Just read and think.

3.  I’m Rich … Rich in Snippets!

OK, this might be the nerdiest entries in our weekly email ever. That’s because it talks about website code … GASP!

So, read it if you care (the developers at TaskHusky love this stuff). But at least give it a look because Google understand how some websites game the system and cheat on SEO by posting fake-a-licious reviews and they are trying hard to cut down on that kind chicanery.

Read about algorithm changes at Google.

4. Making it Rain – The Issue of Business Funding

I talk to dozens small business entrepreneurs every week. After we get done talking about website tweaks, product trends, and marketing, you’d be surprised how often the topic of funding comes up. Get a loan, take on an investor, borrow money from the ‘rents, use credit cards … that kind of thing. And there are lots of ways to spend that money. Some make sense, some are warning lights.

I’m going to keep my eyes peeled for content on this, but here’s a recent article on the Shopify blog to start.

5. It’s Gett’in Real – Walmart Continues to Make Moves

Competition in business is good. The last thing any of us need is to have on eCommerce Death Star our there ruling the galaxy. Better to have two slugging it out. We started writing about this on the TaskHusky blog a couple of years ago. Well, FedEx just terminated their air and ground delivery contracts with Amazon. This stuff’s gett’in real folks.

Read about the Walmart – FedEx Alliance.

That’s a pretty good email. But I have to admit that several times I got distracted by all the good weather outside. It’s a great day for a ball game and a beer. And you know what? Now that this email’s done that’s EXACTLY what I’m gonna do. I hope you have as great a day as I am.

 

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Can you believe that September is already half over? What in the name of all that is good made that thing happen. Steven Hawking says that time travel is not possible, but the way the calendar is flipping on me these days tells me he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Here are this week’s top stories.

1. We’re #2! We’re #2!

Shopify isn’t an eCommerce website … not really. It’s a platform where folks like you and I host our websites. And even though there are site-builders and theme templates, it’s not a website content management system like Wordpress or Joomla either. It’s somewhere in the middle. That’s why analysts tend to compare it to Amazon, Alibaba, and eBay rather than BestBuy, Target, and Zappos. Anywho …

Based on quarterly revenue, Shopify has risen up the ranks while making Tobi Lütke a billionaire.

Read the story on Observer.com.

2. Kick the Ship Out of It.

Speaking of Shopify, regular readers of this email have been following along with us as Shopify builds out a distribution network. And while this is causing panic attacks in the offices of their logistics app partners, it’s a strong move that kind of feels necessary to keep the power-mad Jeffy “Baggy-Pants” Bezos at bay. And along that line, Shopify just dropped some SERIOUS cash to acquire a piece of their distribution puzzle.

Read about the insidious plan.

3. Is That Your Logo or Are You Just Glad to See Me?

We’ve seen entrepreneurs invest a bazillion hours into their business logo. Hey, we get it! Brand is important and you want to get it right. But what does “get it right” mean? We found an article that doesn’t answer all the questions, but it addresses one of them – to go abstract or descriptive and what it means using social science.

Read the article on Harvard Business Review.

4. Influencers Go mainstream Affiliate

This is actually an interesting idea that levels up influencer marketing. And Amazon thought of it all on their own.

The whole “influencer” thing is crazy. Those cats get paid to use a product or take a photo of a product and post it on their social media … that kind of thing. But Amazon has created a way for influencers to systemize and analyze the influencer influencing that they do … and get paid by Amazon.

Read about influencer affiliates on AdExchanger.

5. Bespoke Hand-crafted Artesian Whatever

People have been making things and selling them since the dawn of time. Everyone has an Aunt Jeanie who sends out those hand-made Christmas gifts each year – and actually does a really really good job on them – making everyone else feel lame in the process. But turns out that there is a huge market for the Aunt Jeanie’s of the world. Aunt Jeanie is a business model.

If you’re an Aunt Jeanie or know someone who is, check out this blog post.

And just like that … we conclude the thirty-eighth edition of this little newsletter slice of entrepreneurial life we call Checkout Weekly. Not even Stephen Hawking could do better.

 

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