The importance of using Instagram for e-commerce

InstaP1Feature-860x410ShipStation tells it like it is

No matter what you sell, if you’re not using Instagram, you’re likely leaving money on the table. The social media platform is a force to be reckoned with, boasting 400 million monthly active users, 80 million daily posts and 3.5 billion daily likes. For teens, it’s become the single most important social network.

Ninety percent of the top 100 Interbrand companies have Instagram accounts. So do tech startups, such as MailChimp, and non-tech companies such as Dollar Shave Club and Warby Parker, which sells prescription eyewear and sunglasses.

And the evidence shows that Instagram has some advantages over its parent company Facebook, especially when it comes to engaging users:

  1. Thirty-two percent of Facebook users interact with brands, compared with 68 percent of Instagram users.
  2. Instagram has more engagement per follower than Facebook. In December 2015, an average post engaged 1.08 percent of total followers. Facebook’s total was 0.37 percent.
  3. Ninety-three percent of marketers use Facebook; only 36 percent are using Instagram, which gives you a better opportunity to connect.
  4. Even the average order value is higher on Instagram: $65 vs. $55 for Facebook.
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What’s love got to do with it?

moneyoragamiHow to make the most of your relationship with your payment processor, despite how you feel about fees

By now you’ve probably realized that, despite what your mother told you about love, it’s actually payment processors that make the world go ‘round. Certainly there are many aspects of your company that qualify as essential, but the ability to move money from your customer’s pocket to your business’ bank account quickly, efficiently, and safely is truly what makes your online retail business a business.How to make the most of your payment processor, despite how you feel about fees. @RobMcGrorty #Unify Click To Tweet

Given the complexity of the payment system and the important part it plays in your business, it’s no wonder there are so many different fees associated with a simple transfer of money. When you add up a year’s worth of sales, these fees can be alarming. Some of the most common payment processor charges retailers find themselves responsible for are the start-up or annual fee, monthly statement fee, discount rate, transaction fee, batch processing fee, minimum monthly fee, gateway fee, chargeback fee, address verification fees, and termination fees.   Continue reading

4 ways to grow your company while keeping your staff small

The Lim family holds Lollaland’s first product, the Lollacup. (Photo: Caroline Tran)

Hint: Automation is one of them

When you start a business, especially in consumer products, the odds of succeeding are bleak. Some say if you can make it to year three, you’re in good shape. When your business does succeed and begins to grow, it can be tempting to staff up in order to accelerate the process, but no startup wants to spend all of its funding on salaried employees, only to lay off those hires later on.

One company that has grown successfully while remaining small is Lollaland, which produces “innovative infant/toddler goods that are functional and fun.” The company was founded by husband-and-wife team Mark and Hanna Lim in 2011, spurred on by their frustration trying to find sippy cups with functional straws for toddlers. Three months after launch, Lollaland had earned close to $30,000 in sales and was picked up by 50 retailers. These accounts were secured exclusively by Hanna, who had no prior sales experience. Then the couple got onto ABC’s TV show “Shark Tank,” and on that one night alone the brand’s e-commerce site did more than $100,000 in business.

Unlike some companies that see a short-term boom around a media hit, only to have sales trickle back down, Lollaland kept growing. Last year, the company took in more than $1 million in sales, but they’ve managed to maintain a lean staff. They currently have just four full-time employees and three part-timers. Here are some of Hanna and Mark’s tips for growing a brand while keeping your staff lean, and your fixed expenses low:

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How to retain quality as you expand your business

how_to_retain_quality_as_you_expand-14631771892115 ways to protect your passion from too much, too soon

Expanding your business can spark a lot of complicated feelings. On the one hand, you’re elated that you’re finding success and that your venture is resonating with your customers. On the other hand, you’re worried that when you expand, you’ll lose or dilute the special sauce that got you to this place. It is possible to grow your business while staying true to your mission, but you can’t lose sight of what’s truly important. Here’s how:Here's great advice on how to stay in control while your business grows. #Unify @Square Click To Tweet

Keep up with employees. In the beginning, you and your employees are on a mission to get your business off the ground. Everyone is wearing multiple hats and filling in where needed, which fosters a sense of teamwork. But as you grow, employees have more defined roles and the business has more formal processes, so it’s easy to lose your collective “us against the world” mentality. Still, it’s crucial that you keep up your relationships with employees, both new and old. Whether it’s a scheduled meeting or a casual coffee run, it’s important to stay current on what’s happening with them and get feedback on how things are going at work. Your employees are the people who got you to this point, so their input and perspective are as valuable as ever. If you’re new to managing a larger team, brush up on some tips for how to be an effective leader.

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Tao te cha-ching

Fear is the only darkness.

6 simple principles for achieving inner peace while running a profitable business

Who among us would argue that harmony in one’s work life comes from earning? Shallow as it may seem, fulfillment is about satisfying a need, and a sustainable business needs profits. In my experience supporting owners of small-to-medium-sized businesses, I’ve learned that much of what it takes to build and grow a business comes not from an MBA, but from wisdom hard-fought through trial and error on the battlefield of the balance sheet. Read Tao te cha-ching by @ParagMamnani to protect both sanity and profits. Click To TweetUnfortunately few soldiers make it past the front lines to drink from the overflowing chalice of accounts receivable. For those who need a faster path to enlightenment, I give you the way of the profitable warrior. No nunchucks required.

Be transparent, not translucent. In other words, speak the truth and don’t color the message based on how you want your audience to perceive it. Remind yourself that the perception of others is none of your business, your only job is to report the news. Whether you’re sharing quarterly earnings with the board or selling software over the phone, know your truth and stick by it. A word of warning, Grasshopper: Managing with transparency is not for the faint of heart or the small of balls, but it does wonders for taking the drama out of most any business situation and building trust with those who work with you. As a wise TV character once said, “Fear is the only darkness.” Continue reading