7 Holiday Online Shopping Trends and Tips

Christmas Present Wrapped in Gold and Silver

Consumers are beginning their holiday shopping earlier every year. That’s one reason brick and mortar retailers start adding holiday-themed items to their store shelves two or three months before holiday dates. As a result, you see items for the next holiday appear on shelves as soon as the previous holiday has occurred.

You are certain to miss substantial sales this year if you start your online holiday promotions after physical stores. Halloween shopping began well before Labor Day, and Christmas shopping will begin far in advance of Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday this year.

Here are seven more reasons to get started earlier than ever this holiday season.

1. One in Four Shoppers Began Christmas Shopping Before Halloween

Shoppers increasingly desire to get an early start on their Christmas shopping so make sure you are offering the items they want when they want them.

2. Half of Shoppers Did Most of Christmas Shopping by Cyber Monday

Retailers that wait for the traditional start of Christmas shopping will miss as much as half of their sales opportunities.

3. Most Shoppers Now Research Their Purchases Online

Shoppers are increasingly relying less on friends and relatives when researching their purchases. Offer the information shoppers want.

4. More than a Third of Holiday Spending Occurs Online

Since a majority of shopping research now occurs online, rather than at physical stores, online retailers are converting this activity to sales.

5. Half of Online Shoppers Use Smartphones or Tablets

The popularity of smartphones and tablets means they have become the top devices used during online shopping, so get mobile friendly ASAP.

6. Almost of Online Shoppers Will Purchase From a New Retailer

Online shopping makes it easier to comparison shop for availability, pricing, shipping options, and more. Stay competitive to get new customers.

7. Shoppers Spent $1 Trillion Dollars with Retailers Last Year

Regardless of the state of the economy, shoppers are spending a tremendous amount of money with retailers each year.

T-HUB Supports CordaRoy’s 300% Growth Without New Employees

Cordaroy's case study graphic

“T-HUB allows us to meet the growing needs of our shipping department 
without adding employees.” Bryon Young, CordaRoys.com

Cordaroy’s is an online store offering patented convertible chairs that transform into standard-size super soft beds. Remove the cover and reveal a bed. It’s that simple. Bryon Young shares how T-HUB helped Cordaroy’s manage 300% growth in one year without having having to hire additional employees.

How Did Your Business Start?

“CordaRoy’s is the classic garage start up. Back in 1998, I had the idea to make the absolute best beanbags in the world by using quality components including polyurethane foam instead of beans or beads. During my quest I accidentally discovered that the inner liner portion could serve as a bed, making CordaRoy’s the only dual function chair/bed of its kind. Great products combined with impeccable customer service and a lifetime warranty have made CordaRoy’s a trusted brand for nearly 20 years and it continues to grow at record pace.”

How Does T-HUB Help Your Business?

“T-HUB saves us tens of thousands in payroll because without it we would have to add staff to handle sales increases.

For example, after appearing on Shark Tank our sales grew over 300% in one year. This meant that our shipping also increased 300% as the majority of our sales are through our website. Without T-HUB we need to add staff to process all these new orders.

With T-HUB, we can meet the growing needs of our shipping department without adding employees.”

What is Your Favorite T-HUB Feature?

“Our favorite T-HUB feature is the integration with our e-commerce website and our QuickBooks accounting system. T-HUB saves us a tremendous amount of time by importing all sales transactions from our website into our accounting software.

T-HUB also allows us to ship our products without re-entering information and this eliminates mistakes caused by human error when retyping information.”

Universal Commerce: The New Way to Shop


A guest post by the team at WorldPay.com that originally appeared here.

The rapid adoption of mobile technology and rise of social media have dramatically changed consumers’ expectations for their overall buying experience. Traditional brick-and-mortar shopping is no longer enough. Today’s consumers have the ability to, and expect to be able to, move quickly and seamlessly from one shopping channel to another – whenever and wherever they want.

With nearly universal access to social media, better integration of mobile apps into everyday life and the proliferation of online promoters, such as Groupon and ShopKick, more and more consumers are using a variety of devices at various stages of the purchase journey.

From awareness-building and research, price comparing and deal searching, browsing and paying, to sharing reviews and recommendations, consumers are becoming more savvy shoppers and utilizing technology to ultimately get what they want for the price they are willing to spend. As a result, businesses are taking an integrated approach to selling that delivers a consistent customer experience across multiple channels, engaging in what’s become known as universal commerce.

What can you do?

In order to thrive in the age of universal commerce, merchants must:

  • Focus on the customer. Move your focus from customer transactions to customer relationships. Factor lifetime value into pricing, loyalty programs and customer service.
  • Ensure integration and compatibility across channels. Online stores and websites should be compatible with mobile devices. It’s expected that by 2015, 40% of Internet traffic will come from smartphones, meaning businesses need to make it easy to view online stores and websites via smaller, touchscreen devices. Businesses can further enhance the experience by making it easy for customers to move from one channel to another, such as when customers order online and pick up in a store.
  • Keep online stores and websites up-to-date. Few things turn off today’s consumer faster than a visibly outdated website or online store. Keep things fresh with new sales and offers, and make sure promotional information and inventory are continually updated to ensure a positive customer experience and keep them coming back.
  • Get social. Connecting with customers on social media is critical to keeping your brand top of mind. Nearly half of all consumers who use social media to follow brands do so to find promotions and deals, and 50% of social media users will visit a brand’s website if presented with an attractive sale or special offer.
  • Leverage email. Direct marketing is still an effective and efficient way to reach consumers, so don’t neglect the opportunity to expand your reach. If you don’t have a customer list, start by asking customers to provide their email addresses during the check-out process. Once you have a list, engage an email service provider to send customers updates, promotions and special offers. (Note: Be sure to follow CAN-SPAM guidelines, such as establishing an opt-out policy. The full requirements can be found at http://www.business.ftc.gov/documents/bus61-can-spam-act-compliance-guide-business.)
  • Listen to what consumers are saying. Over 25% of social media users say they look for friend and expert recommendations online.¹ So, keep your ear to the ground for what customers are posting about your brand. Responding quickly to customer complaints voiced via social media networks is an effective way to protect, and even boost, your reputation.

These steps will give your customers – and prospective customers – new opportunities to get to know you and promote brand loyalty through all available channels, whether in-store, online, mobile or social. All sellers, from the most forward-thinking international brands to independently owned neighborhood shops, can take full advantage of universal commerce to build awareness, grow their business and keep customers coming back.

The ABC’s of Ecommerce Shipping

A guest post by the team at Endicia.com that originally appeared here.

ABC Blocks

As an ecommerce seller, you’ve got a lot on your plate. From building your website to delivering excellent customer service to managing your bottom line, it’s easy to overlook one critical element of a successful ecommerce business – your shipping plan.

When developing your shipping strategy, there’s a whole list of elements to consider. Here’s a round-up of the most important things you need to consider when developing a successful shipping strategy.

One of the first questions you should ask yourself is whether or not to offer free shipping. After all, 93 percent of online shoppers take some sort of extra step in order to qualify for free shipping. However, while free shipping promotions help on the marketing front, it can add extra cost to your shipping budget.

There are a few different routes you can take when it comes to shipping options. You can offer free shipping as an incentive, you can charge an average amount to each customer or you can charge your customers for the actual cost of shipping. Whatever you decide to do, keep in mind that it may take some trial and error to determine the best option for your ecommerce business.

As customer expectations continue to rise, it’s imperative that online retailers go above and beyond the standard, and deliver an online shopping experience that is top-notch. Look at your product packaging as a way to extend your customer service and an opportunity to set your brand apart from all the others. Add in a thank you note, personalized packaging or other little details to show your customers you care about their online shopping experience.

Now that you’ve determined how to charge customers for shipping and how to package your goods, it’s time to decide how you want to label your packages. As your business grows, hand-written labels probably won’t be an option. Look into finding an ecommerce shipping platform that allows you to print shipping labels directly from your online store or marketplace.

Depending on the types of products your business sells, you may or may not decide to provide parcel insurance. If you’re frequently shipping pricier items, it’s definitely a factor to consider.

Dispatch notifications and tracking information are two other useful tools that will help you package and ship responsibly. Help yourself keep track of shipments and provide your customers with a sense of security throughout their shopping and shipping experience.

Shipping responsibly also means making sure you’re shipping profitably. Research your shipping and packaging options so you don’t end up losing money on your shipping services.

When shipping internationally, make sure to include the correct documentation and customs forms. Check in with the countries you will be shipping to in order to find out exactly what you’ll need to include in and on your packages.  Also, make sure your customers know whether or not additional customs fees will be charged to them. This way, they won’t be surprised about unexpected expenses at the time of delivery.

In the end, there’s no such thing as a universal shipping plan. Take the time to figure out what works and what doesn’t for your ecommerce business. Consider your cost-friendly options, your customers’ satisfaction and what’s going to make the most sense for your business to be successful.

Navigating the Challenges of Cash Flow

Folders on shelf

A guest post by the team at Kabbage.com.

An important focus for any business is cash flow. In fact, some business experts argue that cash flow is more important than turning a profit. It is possible for a business to be profitable while also having a negative cash flow, to avoid this you need to focus on more than just revenue.

Cash flow enables your business to operate. Think about it this way – If you cannot purchase the goods to sell, then you cannot sell the items and make a profit. On the other hand, negative cash flow can impact a business to the point where it has to shutdown.

It is easy to confuse cash flow as revenue minus expenses, but in reality it is ensuring a balance between your inflow (revenue) and outflow (expenses). Negative cash flow only arises when there is more outflow than inflow.

Cash flow is mainly affected by three different activities in a business, operations, investing and financing.

  • Operations
    This includes your day-to-day tasks and where your cash flow is generated. For businesses such as retailers, this is a daily activity that includes account receivables and payables.
  • Investing
    Certain businesses purchase or sell long term fixed assets such as property, plant locations, and equipment. As businesses begin to grow, they begin to invest, but this activity will also impact cash flow.
  • Financing
    This includes any loans or financing that the business has. This activity includes not only the borrowing but the repayment of long term liabilities.


Negative cash flow is just that, negative, and it will adversely affect your business. Unfortunately, operating a business comes with many challenges, and attempting to maintain positive cash flow is one of the most important. Many things can negatively affect your cash flow, like inventory, markdowns/sales, payroll, and lack of planning.

  • Excess Inventory
    Most retail businesses must maintain inventory in order to exist. This is especially true for small retailers. Inventory generates cash, however retailers have to be careful not to keep too much on hand. This is because it can put a damper on cash, especially if a business is unable to unload excess inventory.
  • Excessive Markdowns
    Inventory and excessive markdowns go hand in hand. When a retailer has too much inventory, they have to find a way to get rid of it. And that activity usually involves marking it down. The problem with this is that it is usually marked down so low that it there is not enough cash received. This creates a problem because it puts the business in a position that it does not have enough cash to cover its expenses.
  • Excessive Payroll
    Businesses have to meet payroll and retailers or resellers are no exception. Retail businesses want to make sure that they have enough staff to work with customers, and this may be especially true during seasonal influxes. Resellers businesses must have enough staff to accommodate the sales activities. Balancing staff and sales is a challenge to maintaining positive cash flow.
  • Poor Planning
    Maintaining positive cash flow requires good planning. A starting point is for the manager to understand sales and inventory. If this is not done, then the business will not have the cash flow that it needs to survive and businesses can fail. There has to be a process in place for sustaining the business.


By implementing a cash flow forecasting system, you will be able to keep an eye on your cash. You can download a free spreadsheet template from Microsoft to get you started here. A cash flow forecast will allow you to identify where your cash flow is negative and make adjustments in advance. There are three key components that should be included in your cash flow forecast.

  • Sales
    Reference previous sales history to gauge what the revenues will be weekly or monthly.
  • Payment Terms
    Understand how long it takes for you to get paid. Some retailers are not paid for over 30 days. It is important to keep this aspect in your forecast so that you will know when to expect payment.
  • Expenses
    This aspect is so important to the success of your business. This will include both fixed and variable expenses. The fixed expenses are those items such as rent, payroll, and utilities. The variable expenses are things that may change from month to month and are associated with the cost of doing business.

Understanding cash flow is not an easy task, and it is something that most businesses struggle with. Cash is the critical component that will make your business run, so keep an eye on it. And remember to continually update your cash flow forecast.

The team at Kabbage contributed this guest post. Kabbage helps businesses to grow by getting convenient access to funds online in minutes. Learn more by visiting Kabbage.com online.

5 Simple Ways to Increase Holiday Online Sales

Holiday Online Shoppers

Online competition is fierce every year, but this year the world’s largest online merchants have announced their intention to offer the deepest discounts ever. This makes it very important to focus on retaining visitors to your online store and then helping them to accomplish their holiday gift giving tasks, especially if you cannot match or beat their pricing.

Here are five tips to increase online sales during this holiday season.

1.    Showcase Items With Special Prices

Online shoppers are especially price sensitive since they plan to purchase many items as gifts for themselves and others. Buyers will experience numerous advertisements from “brick and mortar” stores focused on communicating their lowest prices of the year. Meet the expectations of visitors to your online stores by showing them your biggest discounts first.

2.    Offer Online Coupons to Past Customers

Reminding past customers you are an online store they have trusted and used in the past gives you an advantage over other online alternatives—your competition. If you already plan to discount prices for the holidays, communicating these discounts in the form coupons allows you to advertise and promote these special holiday prices to your best customers.

3.    Make Returns Convenient for Gift Recipients

One of the factors that makes online gift giving popular is its convenience. In a single visit, a buyer can choose, purchase, and deliver gifts to many people at once. However, no one wants to be remembered for sending a gift that doesn’t fit, is the “wrong” item, or has some other perceived deficiency. Eliminate buyer’s concerns about returns to increase gift giving.

4.    Prepare Your Online Store for Success

If you are like most online stores, the holiday season is your busiest time of year. This means your website will see more visitors than normal and people will probable spend more time on your website that usual. Make it your mission to ensure everyone that visits your online store has a pleasant and productive experience with a highly responsive and reliable website.

5.    Address Potential Privacy and Security Concerns

E-commerce transactions involve Private Personal Information (PPI) and sensitive financial information that include names, addresses, debit/credit card details, login credentials, and more. Even the largest online merchants struggle with keeping customer information private and secure, so use extra care during the holidays and communicate these efforts to buyers.

5 Way to Increase Your Online Sales

Mobile shopping cart

How Much is Online Shopping Cart Abandonment Costing You?

You could be loosing 2 out of every 3 online sales opportunities!

Studies consistently show that most online shoppers abandon shopping carts during checkout. Just 1 in 3 online shoppers complete the checkout process and this results in a significant amount of lost revenue for businesses that sell online. Fortunately, there are many ways you can reduce shopping cart abandonment.

These 5 Tips Can Decrease Shopping Cart Abandonment

  1. Avoid Unexpected Price Increases
    No one appreciates a price increase, especially after a purchase decision is made using a lower price. Whenever price depends on buyer choices, such as choosing a size or other options, try showing a price range and then display a specific price after necessary options have been selected.
  2. Eliminate or Reduce Shipping Costs
    Everyone realizes there is a cost to have their online purchases delivered, but online shoppers become disappointed when shipping costs become a large portion of the total checkout price. Consider offering one standard option for free delivery and several discounted “premium” options that subtract your cost for standard shipping—even if you need to increase prices to compensate.
  3. Match Direct Competitor’s Pricing
    The Internet is a big place to shop, and while shoppers can technically shop anywhere they want, this doesn’t mean every online seller worldwide is your direct competitor. Identify those few competitors that are most likely to be found by price shoppers and make sure your pricing is similar. Even if your product is genuinely unique, online shoppers might be able to find lower-cost alternatives at other online stores they could substitute for your items.
  4. Improve Online Shopping Experiences
    If you are like most online businesses, you invest a lot of time, effort, and money maintaining your online store. It is important to control costs related to credit card processing, online shopping carts, and website management, but every field, button, and step during the checkout process creates an opportunity for shoppers to leave. A 1-step checkout is ideal.
  5. Provide Detailed Shipping Information
    Your business understands the details and limitations related to shipping, but few online shoppers will be as well informed. Assume nothing and provide lots of shipping information to online shoppers. Anticipate shipping related questions and proactively share information such as estimated delivery dates and how to track the status of package deliveries. Deliver an FAQ after checkout with every order.

While there are some things beyond your ability to directly control—such as website visitors that never intended to buy, buyers who find a lower online price elsewhere, and shoppers who decide now is not the right time to buy—implementing these five tips can lead to more online shoppers completing their orders and significantly grow revenue for your business.

Imagine how your business will grow when you loose fewer sales?