Shipment Tags, New Settings, WooCommerce, Magento, Shopify updates and then some

We hope that spring has been treating you well so far and just wanted to share what’s been poppin’ off lately in Ordoro Land. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover, so let’s get right to it!
Shipment Tags

Tags for Shipments

Now you can tag shipments just like you can tag orders in Ordoro. We’ve had a ton of customers requesting this feature (especially those with larger volume), so we’re really excited to release this.

With shipment tags, you can categorize and filter shipments more efficiently, assign certain shipments to a specific warehouse employee, set up different shipping dates for different shipments and a whole lot more. Just create a tag for each new purpose and apply at will!

Settings

Settings Revamp

Along with shipment tags, we’ve also unleashed a major redesign of the settings section in Ordoro. We’ve introduced a sleeker, more intuitive UI that will make updating your Ordoro account information much easier. It’s not just all eye candy though. This update is part of a much larger infrastructure overhaul project we’ve been working on to accommodate and scale to the growing usage of Ordoro. The more things we move over to this new architecture, the faster we can release cool, stable features in the future. Hooray for progress!

Shopify OAuth2

Recently, Shopify switched their user authentication mechanism to OAuth, a simpler and more secure way to authorize usage of their application. We worked behind the scenes (hopefully you didn’t notice anything) to make our integration with Shopify compliant to this change. OAuth is awesome and we love working with partners that embrace the future.

WooCommerce Integration Beta

Since the release of WooCommerce, we’ve received countless requests from WordPress users for an Ordoro integration. The wait is officially over. As of last week, we released our WooCommerce integration beta and have been testing it out with a handful of users.

Are you a WooCommerce user interested in the beta program? Email us at info@ordoro.com for more details.

Proxying and Throttling for Magento

For many Magento users, their server is configured to only allow a certain list of IP addresses that can access your store. This is a common security measure called “whitelisting.” To make our users’ lives easier, Ordoro now uses a single proxy server to access Magento machines. This means you only need to add one additional IP address to your whitelist instead of the many that comprise our robust back-end system.

On top of that, we’ve also built in some rate limiting to make sure Ordoro doesn’t overload your Magento server when fetching new orders or writing back inventory and tracking numbers.

Status Baratheon

Status Baratheon – Our Internal Dashboard

Our engineering team also took a two day break from their busy schedule to hack on a fun internal project: A dashboard that displays the health and status of the dozens of servers that power Ordoro. Aside from designing a lovely visualization of the data and giving it a terrible, punny name based on a Game of Thrones character, they also built in some alerts that instantly notify them anytime a failure or outage occurs. This means faster fixes and a better customer experience. Yes, please.

Oh Yeah, We’re hiring!

Are you a python or javascript developer? We’re looking for some awesome people to join our engineering team. Check out the job postings to learn more and to apply.

That about does it! We have some great stuff coming your way in the near future including moving international shipping labels to the batch processing workflow and a whole lot more.

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2014 SXSW Startup Crawl time-lapse video

Here is a time-lapse video of the 2014 SXSW Startup Crawl in action at the Ordoro HQ

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eCommerce Guide SXSW 2014

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Ordoro has partnered with some of the hottest companies in ecommerce such as Shopify, KISSmetrics, and Olark to bring some serious ecommerce love to SXSW!

If you sell online and plan on attending SXSW, we have handpicked a list of events not to miss.

Thursday March 6th

Friday March 7th

Saturday March 8th

Sunday March 9th

Monday March 10th

Tuesday March 11th

(*) Events sponsored by Ordoro. If you’re in town come meet our team at these events!

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In defense of licensed shopping carts

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After my blog post about the myths of hosted shopping carts, I feel obligated to give credit where it is due – to the hosts of licensed shopping carts.

I include open-sourced shopping carts when I say licensed shopping carts as well.

In my experience the key driver for deciding on a licensed shopping cart is the hosting provider you select to host your website. The underlying reasons for why I feel the host is critical for this decision are the exact same for why I think hosted shopping carts have benefits over licensed shopping carts.

And in our experience there are three key factors that a merchant should take into consideration when deciding on a hosting provider.

Experience with hosting

Most hosting providers do a decent job of putting up a standalone static website or a blog that is accessed by a few humans via browsers for cheap – even my two year old macbook could do that.

But to have a website that will be doing eCommerce transactions you need to make sure the hosting provider focuses on speed, scalability and security. You don’t want your prospective customers to be turned off by slow/unresponsive pages – or worse yet URLs that give 404 errors.

Moreover, when a web-app connects to other web-apps there are some common initial technical issues that need to be overcome- firewalls, timeouts, URLs, etc. These are issues experienced hosting providers deal with on a daily basis. And have the systems, resources and people to address these.

Experience with the shopping cart platform

Every licensed shopping carts have their own nuances. Heck there are significant differences in different versions of the same shopping carts. To add to that folks who opt for open-source shopping carts do so because they want to customize it – not use the off-the-shelf versions (If they wanted that they would pick a hosted shopping cart!)

Experience dealing with these nuances sets the hosting services apart as it enables them to anticipate and navigate technical challenges related to scalability, security and responsiveness of the shopping cart platform. They better understand what resources (memory, bandwidth, processing power) affect optimal website performance and are aware of any security loop-holes that may compromise the shopping carts.

Eventually, every online retailer using a licensed shopping cart has to go through a version upgrade (To make it better, faster, fancier). This can be an absolute nightmare if one hasn’t had extensive experience with it. A value of the hosting companies experience in these situations cannot be understated.

Reputation for customer service

Though it may seem that I state the obvious, good customer services goes a long to make your life easier.

We have had to deal with several hosting providers and they broadly fall into two categories – folks who give you stock answers to your questions and folks who make it their business to get your problems resolved. Any guesses at which one we prefer?

Summary

I would select a shopping cart host that is outstanding in at least two of these aspects. Deficiency in the third can be made up for by the other two.

Honorable mentions

Two honorable mentions I have to make here are Lexiconn and Nexcess. Our experience with dealing with these folks on mutual customers has been outstanding. I feel these hosts excel in all three departments – hosting, familiarity with the shopping cart platforms and technical support diligence.

And it’s not just us. All their customers swear by them and are avid advocates of these hosts. (A little known fact: we have been inspired by their commitment to customer experience and have secretly aspired to be like them. And still do)

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5 Myths of Hosted Shopping Carts

Shopping cart in the cloudImage credit: Mykl Roventine

One of the first decisions an online retailer makes is selecting a shopping cart platform for their eCommerce site. With the chaos of the holiday season behind us, several long time retailers also look to revisit this decision.

While there are numerous shopping cart choices available to merchants, one choice that they need to make is whether to go with a hosted shopping cart or a licensed/open-source shopping cart.

I have had this conversation several times with both, experienced and newbie online retailers. Today, I had another interesting discussion with one such long time retailer who switched from a hosted shopping cart to an open-source cart and then back to a hosted cart, all within the span of six months.

I had a chance to think about it some more and here is what I feel are some facts about hosted shopping cart platforms that are often misrepresented or just plain untrue.

Myth 1: A hosted shopping cart is not cost-effective

I want to address this first simply because making a decision based on price alone is the biggest mistake a merchant can make. Most merchants are attracted to licensed shopping carts because they are either free or have a fixed upfront cost. But here are some costs that they do not take into account:

Non-hosted shopping carts still need to be hosted. It’s just that you are bearing the cost of hosting it- either by running your own server (if you do that, you probably have made it to the big leagues) or by selecting a hosting provider.
When something goes wrong on your webstore, you are responsible to fix it. This may involve purchasing service contracts from the hosting provider or keeping developers on your payroll.
If you ever want to get that “one new feature” (say, that will protect your SEO from Google’s ever evolving search algorithm), you will probably have to upgrade to the next version. Which is not just painful and time-consuming but may also need you to bring down your site.

Myth 2: You lose the flexibility of customizing the cart to meet your needs

Open-source shopping carts, in theory, do let you customize your shopping cart to your heart’s content. (Heck you can rewrite the whole code base just the way you like) But then, listening to your heart is hard when the brain is thinking about the time and cost of development.

Given that we are now in the 2nd decade of the 21st century, most hosted shopping carts have public APIs that you can use to customize to your heart’s content. And if your brain starts turning scrooge, you can pick from the several hundreds of apps that have already built out the customization you are looking for.

May I take the liberty of mentioning one such app? Ordoro – The smartest shipping app!

Myth 3: Hosted shopping carts have limited scalability

The argument here is that since you own the hosting responsibilities, you are in complete control of ensuring that the website scales for traffic, visitors and eventually customers. And so you can add the resources – memory, processing power, bandwidth, etc necessary to handle the load.

But that assumes that you actually know what it takes to predict and accommodate the increase or spike in traffic to your website.

Popular hosted shopping carts have tens of thousands of successful businesses. They have seen and managed these problems hundreds of time year over year. They are in the business of managing visitor traffic increases and spikes. Most shopping carts have uptime guarantees and show history of service interruptions to build trust.

Myth 4: It is hard to port your website on a hosted platform

I beg to differ. Hosted shopping carts are more than happy to port your website from a competitor (hosted or licensed) – for free. They either have experienced onboarding experts who have do this on a daily basis or they have apps that let you port over.

Here’s the bottom line- it will cause you just as much pain to port a licenced shopping cart from one host to another as it takes to move your website from one hosted solution to another hosted.

Myth 5: Your options for 3rd party app integrations are limited

Someone recently pointed out the app marketplace of a popular open-source shopping cart and compared that to the app-stores of the popular hosted shopping carts.

To this I say – quality over quantity.

This one is near and dear to us here at Ordoro. In our experience, it is much easier (less painful) to build a robust, predictable integration with a hosted shopping cart. This is because when a 3rd party app interacts with a hosted shopping cart, it deals with a single entity (the host is the shopping cart) and hence a finite set of variables (read: things that can go wrong).

Which is unlike a licensed/open-sourced shopping cart. In addition to the variables of the licensed shopping cart, every host has its own variables (different versions, rate limits, firewalls, etc), thus compounding the complexity to establish a robust connection.

To summarize- If I were starting an online store for the first time, I would not touch a licensed shopping cart with a 10 foot long pole.

If I were a long time retailer, I would do my due diligence before being swayed by the sound bites we hear about the benefits of licensed shopping carts.

Here’s a follow up blog post – In defense of licensed shopping carts 

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USPS Price Increases effective Jan. 26, 2014

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Effective this weekend, Sunday Jan. 26, 2014, USPS is increasing the postage for certain types of First-Class Mail. Here are some details -

  • Letters (1 oz.) — 3-cent increase to 49 cents
  • Letters additional ounces — 1-cent increase to 21 cents
  • Letters to all international destinations (1 oz.) — $1.15
  • Postcards — 1-cent increase to 34 cents

You can read more details in the announcement that USPS made last year. These price increases are expected to boost USPS annual revenue by $2 billion.

Note that UPS also increased their prices on Dec 30, 2013.

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Shopping Cart Abandonment: the Reasons and Solutions

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Image credit: Jay Parker

Customers changing their mind at the last second is a major problem for most online retailers. Conversion Voodoo indicates two ways of shopping cart abandonment: a customer either fills the shopping cart up but doesn’t enter the checkout or begins the checkout process but leaves the page without finishing it. Up to 75% of prospective transactions end in shopping cart abandonment depending on each particular online store, but the overall average which the Baymard Institute estimated using data from 22 different studies is 67.44%. It means that most online stores lose more than two thirds of potential sales, and it usually doesn’t depend on the quality of their merchandise. There are multiple reasons for shopping cart abandonment, and they are generally different depending on the phase of the shopping process in which the customer is at the time.

No intention to buy.

According to a consumer survey by Statista, the main reason for dropping the cart before starting the checkout process is the customer just browsing without an intention to buy (37% of respondents). In fact, SeeWhy found out that 99% of customers don’t plan to purchase anything on their first visit, yet 75% of them abandon their cart with intent to return later.

The solution. Conversion Voodoo recommends extending the cart life so customers would have plenty of time to think about the purchase. In addition to that, sending follow up emails (as long as the customer has already registered) might also be a good idea, as people tend to forget their online shopping endeavors. If the customer was planning to buy, they won’t consider a friendly reminder as spam, and if they weren’t… well, it seems you’ve lost them anyway.

Website problems.

Two other cart abandonment reasons indicated by Statista include finding a better price elsewhere (36%) or the overall price being too expensive (32%). It’s pretty clear here: if you can’t lower your prices, you can’t appeal to these particular customers. But there are multiple reasons for dropping the cart that have something to do with your website, including the navigation being too complicated (25%), the website crashing (24%) or timing out (15%), the shopping process taking too long (21%), or the price being presented in a foreign currency (13%).

The solution. The website crashing or timing out is quite simple to take care of: if it happens frequently, you should really think about picking a more reliable hosting provider. For the reasons regarding the checkout process and general usability, Groove Commerce recommends A/B testing of different approaches and applying the option which performed better. Whatever you do, taking the simplest, least demanding path for your customers seems to be the better idea most of the time.

Unexpected costs.

A whopping 56% of Statista’s respondents pointed out unexpected costs at the checkout as the reason for abandoning their shopping carts. Most of these costs are formed by the price of delivery: 55% of carts are dropped because of the shipping fee according to Conversion Voodoo. In fact, with options such as Amazon Prime available for everyday use, most customers expect free shipping on any online store nowadays (we wrote about this earlier on Kabbage), so a delivery fee making up half of their purchase appearing at the last second has a very, very negative impact for all shoppers.

The solution. Whenever it’s possible, you should offer free shipping to your customers. If you can’t do that, at least set a flat rate or certain thresholds to qualify for free delivery (it can even increase your average order value). The most important part here is displaying all the shipping costs for every item clearly on your website: note the unexpected part in unexpected costs.

Security issues.

17% of consumers surveyed by Statista indicated concerns about payment safety as the reason for cart abandonment. On the other hand, 18% of them pointed out excessive payment security checks as well. According to Conversion Voodoo, 35% of online stores don’t display any security information throughout the checkout process, raising some legitimate concerns for their customers.

The solution. The only way to appeal to both the 17% and the 18% here seems to be treading the middle ground, ensuring customers about the safety of your store yet making purchase as simple as possible at the same time. Clearly displayed security logos on checkout should appeal to some concerned customers, but adding a testimonials section and an easy-to-find customer support link can help even more. Satisfaction guarantee badges recommended by Conversion Voodoo could certainly increase the trust of certain groups of customers, but it can result in the more experienced online shoppers getting suspicious as well.

Overall, although customers dropping their carts in the middle of the shopping process is a worrying issue for most online businesses, one of the main reasons for that is simple: most consumers are not willing to buy at their first visit. That’s why the cart abandonment rate can hardly ever be lower than around 50%. For returning visitors though, you have to ensure that the whole course of shopping is as enjoyable, clear, and brief as possible. If you do that, you should expect the cart abandonment rate decreasing in no time.

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Easy Shipping AND Automatic Inventory Sync for Multi-channel Sellers

A poll by the AuctionBytes Blog shows that 84% of online merchants sell on multiple channels. The most popular ones are eBay (used by 81.5% of sellers) and Amazon (44.6%), while selling on their own website is chosen by 37.7% of surveyed merchants. There are a number of problems that multi-channel sellers have to cope with, but according to Julia Wilkinson, the editor for the AuctionBytes Blog, probably the largest challenge is keeping the inventory straight. Simply said, it means that most online merchants feel that having to go through all the marketplaces to update the stock after every single transaction is a total waste of time. Having to manage the stock manually can negatively influence any online business both presently and further down the road, as it forces some of the larger sellers to place different items on different marketplaces and prevents expansion to new sales channels when managing inventory becomes too much of a hassle.

Exploring new ways to sell by trying out new online marketplaces is something that any seller has to do if they’re looking to expand their business. A handful of new potential sales channels are born and some of the older ones wither away every year, so a successful online merchant is constantly prospecting the market for new opportunities. However, there are some obstacles in doing that, such as the lack of time and the need of additional investments (for some of the marketplaces). But probably the most significant issue here is the need to manually update the stock in each and every one of the new marketplaces – add that to all the old and tried sales channels and you’ll spend half of the day doing inventory updates. That’s what discourages most of online merchants to expand their business, losing hundreds of sales opportunities.

So the problem here is evident: updating inventory manually is an obstacle that makes selling online significantly harder than it should be. And that is where an app like Ordoro can make a big difference. Ordoro is the smartest shipping app because it comes with built in inventory management.  Using Ordoro, you can aggregate all your orders into a single dashboard, where you can print USPS, UPS, and FedEx shipping labels AND it automatically updates the stock in all your sales channels.  Actually, it was one of the main reasons we founded Ordoro in 2010. We knew the obstacles that multi-channel sellers face, including shipping management and keeping inventory in sync. The main difference is that we looked at it all as one single problem – is there so much of a benefit in being able to comfortably print shipping labels while you still have to spend hours every day updating inventory in all of the sales channels that you use? We think not – and that’s why Ordoro does what it does.

Let’s say you sell an item on your online store on Shopify. Once you sell an item that you also list on the marketplaces, you’ll have to go to Amazon, eBay and wherever else you’re selling and update the stock for that particular item. And what happens if you only have one in stock and transactions on multiple marketplaces are carried out simultaneously? One of your customers isn’t getting the item, causing numerous problems for your business. With Ordoro, the stock will be updated automatically as soon as the transaction is made. Not only does it save a lot of your precious time, but also helps you protect your seller ratings by abolishing the possibility of selling the same item to multiple customers at the same time.

Ordoro is currently fully integrated with both of the largest online marketplaces (eBay and Amazon) and some of the best shopping cart platforms on the internet (including Shopify, Bigcommerce, Magento, 3dcart). Don’t worry if some of your sales channels aren’t here, as we’re constantly working on building new partnerships with various online marketplaces. So if it’s not on Ordoro today, it might be here tomorrow – please don’t hesitate to contact us at 512.271.9453, info@ordoro.com or @ordoro for more information.

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5 Ways to Increase Your Average Order Value

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If you’re looking to increase the revenue of your online store, you can do it in a number of ways. Most online merchants choose the volume approach, meaning they try to increase the number of products or services sold to (most of the time) separate customers. But trying to increase the average order value (AOV) might work even better: if you’re selling more to the same customer, you’re saving in quite a few areas of your business as well, ranging from shipping expenses to the cost of ink and paper for printing invoices. There are multiple roads you can take to increase your AOV, but some of them seem to be worthier to take than the others. So here are five ways which we think are certainly worth a try if you’re looking to increase your AOV, revenue, and (hopefully) profit:

1. Free Shipping

According to Deloitte, 71% of online shoppers are planning to take advantage of free shipping this holiday season. For online merchants, it means that offering free delivery is becoming an essential part of business, as it not only can increase the average order value, but is also necessary to attract most of the prospective customers to even consider shopping there.

RJ Metrics recommends three ways to implement free shipping into an online store. Firstly, you can set shipping thresholds, meaning customers have to spend a certain amount to qualify for free delivery. According to Deloitte, 40% of customers will spend more to get the products delivered for free, so it’s certainly a good option if you’re looking to increase your AOV. Secondly, you can offer free shipping on a certain combination of merchandise or deliver the whole cart for free in case a customer purchases a particular item. Lastly, limited time offers for free shipping might not only increase the number of orders on calmer periods, but boost the AOV as well, as customers know they’ll have to pay for shipping in case they want to buy something else in a few days or weeks.

2. Product Bundling

According to KISSmetrics, one of the best ways to increase your AOV is to offer discounts when buying multiple products at once. You can combine a few relevant items yourself or you can leave the mix and match option to the customer, but receiving a considerable discount might just be the factor which drives the customers to buy more at once.

Bundling can cause some inventory challenges since you may sell items separately or as part of a bundle. Don’t worry about that if you’re using Ordoro to manage all your orders though, as our kitting functionality allows you to bundle products and keep your inventory count accurate at the same time.

3. Volume Discounts

It depends on what you’re selling (people probably won’t buy two same car parts when they need just one), but offering discounts depending on the amount of products bought can also considerably increase your AOV. For example, Paperstone, an office supplies company, offered their customers different prices if they bought more than 5 or more than 10 boxes of A4 paper. According to Visual Website Optimizer, it resulted in the online store’s AOV increasing by 18.94%.

KISSmetrics points out that it’s also very important to clearly show the exact amount of money that the customer might save if they’re buying in larger volumes. In fact, it’s true for all the incentives mentioned above and below – if you let the customers know that they’re eligible for free shipping only just before checking out, you’re losing on a lot of prospective purchases. Although it can certainly be a very nice surprise!

4. Cash-backs and Vouchers

Another way to increase your AOV recommended by Visual Website Optimizer is cash-back offers when the customers spend a certain amount shopping in your store. You can offer such deal to anyone who comes to the store or your previous customers only (presenting the voucher as a gift on checkout), but it works the same either way: for example, if the customer spends at least $50, they get a $5 discount on the whole shopping cart. You can even offer different cash-back levels, increasing the amount saved with every spending threshold ($12.5 on $100, $30 on $200, etc.).

5. Social Proof

People tend to hesitate spending a lot of money in an online store they barely know anything about. So unless you’re selling some well-known merchandise, you might need someone closer to the customer to influence them to spend more, consequently increasing your AOV.

RJ Metrics lists a few ways to influence the customer to buy more by using the opinions of other people: user reviews, celebrity endorsements, and recommendations from friends. According to Reputation Labs, 89% of people trust online reviews, meaning several positive ones near your product might sway them to buy it. In addition to that, Bazaarvoice notes that the AOV of customers who read reviews is 6% higher than of those who don’t. So a review system certainly seems to be worth implementing. While celebrity endorsements might not be cheap and are suitable only for some lines of business, apps and toolbars that let the customers shop together with their friends can boost the AOV up to 50% according to DecisionStep.

In conclusion, we have to note that there’s only one way to know what will or won’t work for your customers: testing. You’ll have to do plenty of tests to understand how many freebies and discounts are plausible when trying to increase your average order value. After all, a higher AOV isn’t the final objective, as it doesn’t necessarily increase your profit as well. It usually does though, so it might be a good idea to try at least a few from all the things listed above.

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UPS 2014 Rate Increase

UPS just announced their new rates for 2014.  You can expect  an average increase of 4.9% for Ground, Air and International parcel products effective December 30, 2013.

Learn more about the rate increase here.

Also, check out this analysis which shows that UPS Ground increases are higher at the lighter weights and less impacting at heavier weights.

 

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