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Outsourcing Your Customer Service

Why does the term “customer service” evoke such an uneasy feeling? After all, the field of customer service carries out one of the most effective ways for potential and recurring customers to directly communicate with your business. However, if you have experience in a customer service role, then you know that most people’s reasoning for contacting you isn’t usually to give accolades.

A clay tablet currently housed in the British Museum contains what is believed to be the first documented customer complaint. Dated 1750 BC from Babylonia, this tablet conveys a man’s disappointment regarding the quality of purchased copper ingots.

Fascinating, huh?

Jump ahead about 3770 years to today and businesses are still fielding customer complaints with regularity. This is not a criticism towards businesses, because customer complaints—whether they are due to elements within your control or not—are inevitable. And while anyone who is filling in for customer service duty may not be directly fielding phone calls, tasks such as answering emails and responding to social media concerns are now on your plate.

If the scenarios above sound familiar, then outsourcing customer service has likely become a recurring thought. But how can you know when the time is right? For a professional opinion on all things customer service, we can turn to Datapak’s own Monica Clark. Among Clark’s responsibilities as Customer Service Manager is the oversight and training of her team as the first point of contact for several of Datapak’s clients.

We asked Clark: “At what point in a business’s life should outsourcing customer service be considered?” and, “What should a business look for when outsourcing?”

Any business that is drowning in calls, emails, chat or other ways of servicing customers should have already looked into outsourcing. This also holds true for companies that are either growing too fast and are in danger of tarnishing their reputation, or companies with a bad reputation which they are trying to overcome.

One needs to be extremely selective when approaching and using outsourcers. It is always best to use someone who is closely matched with your company’s morals and values and that can identify with your mission statement. Obviously, experience is important as well. When lacking experience, an outsourcer can do more harm than good.

One of the most important things to consider when selecting an outsourcer is their training system. It is crucial to choose an outsourcer with great training practices. These trainers must be experienced, capable of learning a variety of information, and have the ability to teach everything they learn.

One of the end goals here is that if the company providing the service is on point, then outsourcing should be seamless and your customers unaware of any transitional period.

Check back for upcoming posts in which we’ll explore other topics regarding call centers and customer service.

 

Learn more about our Customer Care solutions.

What to Know About Email Marketing

 

Questions: When does a business develop into something more than just a means of making money? When does it become a brand with an identity that consumers can form a relationship with?

Answer: We don’t exactly know, but it’s not something that happens overnight. Instead, if you ask us how a business can develop a brand identity… Well, we’ve helped enough of our clients reach that point for us to confidently share a few insights with you.

One of the quickest ways to evolve your business into a brand is by gaining consistent recognition from your target market.  This recognition can be achieved via advertising, marketing or public relations efforts. The issue that smaller businesses face with implementing any of the above is that these tactics usually cost money. However, there are some free options available. One we can focus on now—email marketing

Even if you’re not familiar with it, don’t let the term “marketing” discourage you. At its most basic level, email marketing is any form of email communication from a business to any individual or other business. Before we go any further, we strongly suggest reviewing the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 which dictates standards for the sending of commercial emails (click here to read more).  Yes, we are aware of just how dry of a read this will be. We are also aware that your chances of actually violating any of these regulations are minimal. Regardless, taking the 10 minutes to read over the link provided will help guide you towards best practices.

With that aside, email marketing is one of the best ways to build brand recognition and drive sales for any up-and-coming business. What more is that depending on the size of your email list and the marketing provider you use, this can even be done for free.

Before we dig into just how to implement email marketing for your business, let’s start with a point of reference. The image below can serve as a template for what email marketing messages generally look like. You’ve undoubtedly seen at least a few emails with a similar layout delivered to your inbox.

 

Now that you have something to reference, we can discuss the benefits of implementing email marketing as a routine function of your business.

If you read over the CAN-SPAM link, you would know that you are only legally allowed to solicit to individuals or businesses who actively and willingly subscribed to your email list. This gives you a leg up on marketing efforts. Why? Because the audience you are reaching already expressed interest in your product or business. Therefore, any information within your actual email message has a potentially high conversion rate.

Before we dive in any further, allow us to be completely honest- we love MailChimp. Of all the email marketing providers available, MailChimp is undoubtedly the most popular, and for good reason. We love the clean interface, template builder and list management capabilities. So keep that in mind as we reference, well, just about everything going forward.

To get things started, you first need a way for someone to become a subscriber. The easiest way to do this is by creating a signup field (or page) through your email marketing provider that can then be linked to your website. Most prebuilt website platforms, such as WordPress, Shopify or BigCommerce will work seamlessly with your email marketing provider instantly implement this signup form on your site. This form will be automatically synced to any managed subscriber list. If you happen to have a custom built website, then most email marketing providers (MailChimp certainly does) will generate the code necessary to be plugged into your HTML.

What this means is that anyone who uses this form to subscribe can be added to any list you create. You can edit and curate lists however you see fit- perhaps you would like to create separate lists of past customers, potential customers or business entities. You can then create and deliver emails which target these specific lists. Congratulations, you now know the basics of email marketing.

Our next installment on this topic will cover ways to organically build your email list and best practices for your email marketing efforts. To subscribe to Datapak’s email list, well, simply sign up in the form below.

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Copywriting- Three Quick Tips Towards Developing Best Practices

In last week’s post, we discusses a logical approach towards your product photography. This visual representation of your merchandise is perhaps the driving force in moving visitors from product category pages to product detail pages. In order to get these visitors to become customers, though, you might need more than just solid photography. Applying basic copywriting practices can help paint the full picture of not only your merchandise, but also your brand. Utilize any or all of the following tips to help you get started.

Start With the Title

The first thing your customer notices while navigating a product category page (PCP) are hero images. The next thing? Product titles. Because this is your store and these are your products, you know almost everything about them. Assuming the same for your visitors is unwise. Take a look at the image below, which shows two versions of the same product as it would appear on a PCP. (This product is featured on one of Datapak’s client’s ecommerce store- The Pure Michigan Store.)

Both versions essentially do their job, which is to tell a visitor that they are in fact looking at a cutting board. However, including one or two additional details in the title, such as materials, color or brand can help a product appear less static and ultimately as something more than just an image on a website. Bonus tip: This practice can help with your site’s SEO value.

Appeal to Senses

A featured image will let a visitor see what your product looks like, but what can your description do? Noting dimensions and weight will automatically let your visitor imagine themselves holding it in their hands or seeing it in their home. Mentioning materials, construction or special ingredients will appeal to their sense of touch, smell and taste. When a visitor is able to do more than just see a product, you’re one step closer towards making a sale.

Appeal to Action

While giving your visitor the ability to virtually examine your product will help in conversion, painting a picture on how to interact with it will help that much more.

If you’re selling a board game, don’t just say that they can have fun while playing it, describe to them a rowdy evening with friends and family. If you’re selling headphones, don’t just say that they sound good, let the visitor know that they will unveil new, subtle nuances to songs they’ve heard many times before.

We’re not asking for you to discover your inner author, but taking a few extra moments to develop stronger copywriting will only help your online store.

Developing Standards for your Product Photography

When it comes to product photography, it doesn’t matter if you use a cell phone, a 10 year old Canon Rebel (yes, we have one of those) or the newest professional level DSLR. You could manage to take the most detailed photo possible, but, if it doesn’t fit the standards of your online store, then your efforts are mostly lost causes. One of the most important of these standards refers to the background of all product photography on your online store.

The good news is that if you have access to photo editing software such as Photoshop, then implementing this standard can become second nature. Follow along with the steps below and feel free to leave any questions or comments.

This process will use Photoshop, which is our choice for photo editing software. Currently, you can subscribe to use Photoshop via Adobe’s Creative Cloud service for $20/ month. We truly feel this cost to be 100% worthwhile. Even novice users can utilize Photoshop to get the most of their product photography. This example will be using a product featured on one our client’s e-commerce stores. The end goal is to completely remove the current background and replace it with solid white.

 

As you can notice, the background of our photo does not have a consistent color or tone. Let’s get that taken care of.

 

Go ahead and locate the Quick Selection Tool, as indicated by the red arrow, or press on your keyboard. The location of your Quick Selection Tool may vary, or it may not even be on your toolbar. If such is the case, then navigate to Edit -> Toolbar to configure your toolbar however you like.

 

Set the tool’s diameter appropriate to your photo (highlighted below with an orange circle) and simply click and drag over your product . You will see a dotted line (referred to as marching ants) attach to certain elements of your photo- most usually edges or instances of sharp contrast in colors, levels of brightness or patterns.

You can continue to click and drag your marching ants until you have fully captured your product. If your marching ants have expanded beyond where you want them, then simply hold ALT (PC) or Command (Mac) and click/drag to push your marching ant border inward.

 

Next, click the Select and Mask option (highlighted below in orange). This will open a sub-menu which allows for you to smooth and feather (soften) edges, or shift edges inward/outward.

Note: The green circle in the upper right of the second photo below highlights a drop down menu which allows for previewing your image over a handful of backgrounds. This example uses a solid white.

 

After you have edited your selection, click OK (located at the bottom of the sub-menu) to be brought back to your previous screen. Your marching ants will now be positioned to reflect any edits you have made.

Press Control/ Command C, then Control/ Command V to copy and paste your selection onto a new layer. Hide your original layer by clicking the eyeball next to it (red circle), and proceed with any further editing of your photo: cropping, rotating, spot color correction or superimposing.

 

Navigate to File -> Export -> Save for Web (Legacy). This will allow you to resize your image to a smaller file size suited for web use. Save as a JPEG (this will give you a white background) to your desired location, and that’s it. Below is our final image.

 

Additional Tip: Implement a size or ratio standard for which all of your product images are saved. This step will go far in ensuring your store to not have any inconsistencies in the overall presentation of your products.

How to Get the Most Out of Your E-Commerce Store

For any individual or business that has just launched their first online store, a congratulations is in order. You just took the first step towards exposing your brand to a potentially global audience.

The first look at the backend of your store, with tabs for inventory, customer information and analytics may look daunting, especially if there’s nothing there yet. The truth for any new user is that it will look daunting. So, with 15+ years of experience with e-commerce platforms, Datapak would like to share a few tips to help you get the most out of your new store.

Documentation is Your Friend

For some, the following advice will be obvious. For others, it may become a force of habit. Wherever you may fall, the documentation available for your platform can help with obvious answers to simple problems, or tips for digesting complex backend data. This guidance will be presented as either a formally authored document by the platform themselves, or as a straightforward, forum style question/ answer discussion.

Take note of dates for whichever documentation you reference. While some articles or discussions will immediately tell you if the topic is outdated or refers to a previous build (while usually linking you to more relevant info), not all of them do.

Visual Editing: Get a Logo Up There

If you decide to preview what your store looks like, you’ll probably feel underwhelmed. What you’ll see is a general blueprint of whichever theme you chose, and it’s probably filled with empty grey and white boxes. If this happens to bother you—don’t worry, it’s normal. Your store will only look better from here on out.

All prebuilt platforms will have a type of visual composer. These will allow for you to make edits to your store’s look and feel without having to do any bit of coding. The name of this visual composition tool will vary depending on which platform you’re using, but they will all share similar functions. All you need to do is navigate to whichever theme you have preinstalled and locate the “Customize/ Edit Theme” option. This will bring up a new window or tab with your store occupying about two thirds of your screen. The remaining space will house an editing menu.

This menu will show all of the individual elements that make up your store, such as a header banner image, product grid or a gallery slider image. The way this menu is organized will directly mirror the layout of whichever page you are currently editing. This is illustrated in the example image below.

If you do find yourself feeling underwhelmed with how barren your storefront may look, then the simple task of adding your business’s logo to your header may help ease your worries. Most visual editors allow for this by following a course of action similar to that below.

Here’s another tip:

Take note of the icon highlighted in the lower left-hand corner of the first image. (Other platforms will generally have this functionality located towards the bottom your screen). Clicking on this icon will let you preview your store as if it were on a mobile device. This is important because although you are likely developing your store on a desktop, a majority of your site’s visitors will be seeing your site on mobile. Switching between desktop and mobile view will show if any of your store’s elements fail to render properly. Adjusting these errors in advance can prevent visitors from becoming annoyed with inconsistencies on your site.

Note: These example images feature the Shopify platform. You can read more about Shopify here in part two of our “Which E-Commerce Platform Should I Choose?” posts.

Consistency

Once you’re ready to start populating your store with content, take a preventative measure and check that all similar “items” (products, banner images/ sliders, icons etc.) are the same resolution or ratio. Doing so will ensure consistency across all of your web pages. Simply put, this can prevent your storefront from looking unorganized and unprofessional.

In addition to image size, the background on which your products are presented plays a big part in the overall appearance of your store. At the very least, define a standard background that will be used for all product photography. A common way to approach your product presentation can be accomplished on any standard photo editing software. This simply requires you to crop your product out of your original photo and paste it onto a blank, white background.

Check back next week for a tutorial on developing and implementing a standard background for your product photograph.

Which E-Commerce Platform Should I Use? Part Three- Custom Builds

Read part two here

Wrapping up our breakdown of popular e-commerce platforms is the case for having a custom build specifically for your store. Even though we only scratched the surface of what they can offer, platforms such as Shopify and BigCommerce do have limitations. And while most users who turn to these prebuilt platforms won’t run into these limitations, some stores, whether because of their design or their products, will need a custom build.

An example of such a store can come from one of Datapak’s own clients, OLLY. OLLY is a brand of gummy vitamins and wellness products operating on a subscription based business model.

Click here to visit OLLY’s site

In 2015, OLLY began searching for a new fulfillment company with a system of programs to help their subscription based business model excel. When they discovered a potential fulfillment and distribution partner with Datapak, they were also introduced to our team of specialized ecommerce website developers and programmers.

The importance of this stems back to OLLY’s model of subscription based ecommerce. With an abundance of plug-ins, extensions and even outsourced development available, OLLY would have likely managed fine with any robust platform such as BigCommerce or Magento. But, the knowledge and experience of our independent development team allowed OLLY to have customized programs seamless integrated into the backend of their store, such as recurring payment, order management and automatic shipment options. This left OLLY with an end product that was not only completely customized to their requests, but also a platform that could be modified whenever necessary.

While this example is specific to just one store, other stores with unique inventory or shipping options may run into preventable roadblocks with any prebuilt platform.

Throughout our previous posts, you may have noticed the name Magento mentioned. What makes Magento worth acknowledging is that it is an open source e-commerce platform, meaning that Magento’s source code is not only available to view, but it is also modifiable in any way the user can imagine. This open source design allows for any experienced user to customize both the frontend and backend of your ecommerce site. The issue? You’re going to need an experienced Magento developer. We won’t begin naming costs associated with this because they can vary greatly depending on your store’s need, but initial startup fees will be far greater than those with any prebuilt platform. This approach to using Magento is not recommended to new or intermediate level users, mainly because of the cost of hiring developers and paying hosting fees.

However, Magento does offer lower level subscriptions which feature a prebuilt platform that function and look similar to that of Shopify. However, you’re still on the hook for fees such as hosting.

To wrap things up, we can conclude that if your store demands it, a custom built ecommerce platform will allow your store to grow and develop at the same rate as your business. There is no one platform, either prebuilt or custom built that we can recommend over another. We suggest taking advantage of the free trials offered by the prebuilt platforms to get a grasp of their layout, functionality, preinstalled programs and available plug-ins to determine which platform your store deserves.

And if your store demands a custom build, contacting the ecommerce experts at Datapak is as easy as scrolling to the bottom of this page and saying hello.

Which E-Commerce Platform Should I Use? Part Two- Moving Forward

Read part one here

Our last post dealt with us recommending WooCommerce to e-commerce newcomers that may already have experience with the WordPress platform. We recommended WooCommerce because it’s simply a WordPress plugin designed to get anyone with a WordPress site introduced to the world of e-commerce. Even if you are completely new to having an online presence, going the WordPress/ WooCommerce route will likely be the most logical route to take. After all, WordPress powers roughly 27% of all websites and prides itself on relative ease of use.

However, if you either have an existing WordPress site and are looking to forego WooCommerce’s cross functionality for something more robust, or you are setting up a storefront without a supplemental website, then it may be the wisest choice to choose another e-commerce platform.

And while your store can prosper on any of the platforms mentioned, what it is that you’re selling should influence which platform you ultimately choose.

BigCommerce

BigCommerce is better geared to service stores with an inventory that has several options and variations, such as clothing or apparel accessories. This is because of BigCommerce’s extremely robust functionality of assigning product options, SKUs and eventually ‘rules’ to govern it all. Once the user understands and optimizes these systems, then the chances of errors in communicating orders to fulfillment and shipping are drastically reduced.

The following is an example and shouldn’t necessarily dictate how your store should assign SKUs. It is also a simplified version of how to assign product options in BigCommerce.

Say that your store sells a T-Shirt. Let’s assign this T-Shirt a SKU of 1200. If this shirt comes in two colors, red and blue, then you would need to assign sub-SKUs of 1200-R and 1200-B. This shirt comes in multiple sizes, right? Therefore, you need to assign a further set of sub-SKUs, such as 1200-R-01 for a small in red and 1200-B-03 for a large in blue.

If this shirt also has three graphics to choose from… then you get the picture. While this system of assignment may seem overwhelming, with BigCommerce, the functionality is very straightforward and presented in a clean fashion. You can see in the photo below that the process of something such as assigning SKUs opens within your current browser window and keeps your processes streamlined.

To take this example even further, let’s say that this T-Shirt has a standard price of $24.95, except that sizes XL and above cost two dollars more. BigCommerce has you covered with its “rules” functionality. Just as the SKU assignment functionality works, you can assign rules to further govern the price and availability of individual or groups of SKUs.

While just about everything illustrated above can be done with other e-commerce platforms, we feel that BigCommerce provides the best pre-built functionality and interface to do so.

Shopify

Shopify is a great platform if your store is mostly selling static products—that being, products with little to no options or variation. You could still set up and sell a T-Shirt (such as in the BigCommerce example above), but in our opinion, the process isn’t as polished as it is on BigCommerce.

Another big advantage that some users may find that Shopify has over BigCommerce is its visual composer. Keep in mind that like BigCommerce, Shopify has several free and paid themes for your store, and the ability to dive in and hardcode your site is available at any time. Regardless, visual composers are the ideal solution for anyone unfamiliar with web design or development . With Shopify’s visual composer, you have much more immediate and robust control with the overall look of your store than with BigCommerce’s equivalent. In visual composer, your pages are essentially broken up into blocks. These blocks are whatever you dictate them to be: banners, sliders, product grids, video, testimonials, maps and several other options.

In short, we believe that Shopify is an overall easier platform to get accustomed to. From our own use of both platforms, we also believe that Shopify has slightly better documentation on troubleshooting issues with your store.

How do we know all of this? We play an integral role in managing and modifying our client’s stores across these platforms and others. Whether it be website design and development, backend programming, product sourcing, photography and copywriting, searching engine optimization and third party app integration, we have an expert for it.

On our next post, we will discuss the appeal of custom built e-commerce platforms, whether they are from an independent web/e-commerce development team or on platforms such as Magento.

Which E-Commerce Platform Should I Choose? Part One – The Newcomer

In early 2016, the Pure Michigan Store began operating under a new vendor. While the physical assets, such as merchandise and promotional materials were easily transported to a new facility for storage and shipping, the store’s digital assets demanded more regard. These digital assets weren’t just flash drives full of product images and descriptions, but included a database of custom programs and applications. Despite the fact that this new vendor already had a robust, internally built e-commerce platform, a decision on how to handle this new data was imminent— either spend the man hours modifying their current platform, or go with an existing e-commerce platform provider.

While your business’s situation may not be as complex as the one above, your online store still needs a platform on which to run. Custom built options aside, the most prevalent e-commerce platforms are as follows.

(In no particular order)

  • WooCommerce
  • BigCommerce
  • Shopify
  • Magento

For any business owner that is new to e-commerce yet familiar with the WordPress platform, WooCommerce may be your best bet. This is because WooCommerce itself is a WordPress plug-in. What this means is that your store’s control panels and back-end layout will share an interface almost identical to WordPress itself.

Even if your’re not familiar with WordPress, take into account that approximately 27% of all websites currently run on the WordPress platform. To add to this point, WooCommerce claims to power over 39% of all online stores. These figures speak for the popularity and ease of use for both platforms. Plus, with top-tier support and documentation, it’s hard to argue against any newcomer using WooCommerce. But just because of its popularity among beginners, don’t get the impression that WooCommerce is not on-par with with more advanced platforms.

Since it lives on the WordPress platform, the ability to dive in and code your store either by yourself or through a professional developer will always be an option. There are also several hundred WooCommerce extensions to help your store evolve when you’re ready, such as inventory management, point of sale, customer service and marketing tools. Keep in mind that although there are plenty of free plug-ins and extensions, many of the worthwhile options will cost you.

On our next post, we’ll discuss some of the other popular e-commerce platforms and what they can do for your online store.