How much does it cost to run this blog?

$15/year- Yes, you read it right. I just have to pay for the domain renewal each year. It could have been even lower if I switched to a different domain registrar.

I use GitHub Pages for hosting. It is free and reliable with great uptime.

My CMS (Content Management System) Jekyll, integrated beautifully with GitHub Pages. Thanks to the static files, The blog is amazingly faster than it used to be on WordPress. If you know how to use GitHub and MarkDown syntax. you will love Jekyll. If you are not very technical, just get a domain and use Blogger or Tumblr. Both of them are ad free (unlike WordPress.com) and reliable.

I use MadMimi for email marketing. I don't have a big list (You should subscribe though), so its free plan is enough.

Some other tools being used are Inspectlet, Google Tag Manager and Google Analytics. All of them are free (except Inspectlet) and recommended.

Factors to look for when choosing an Ecommerce platform

I work with a number of ecommerce softwares and platforms each day. Some of them are lovely and some of them are terrible.

A number of people ask which ecommerce platform or software is the best one. You can't recommend one without understanding the requirement of end user.

If I have to name an ideal platform for small or medium businesses (Large or enterprise business can ask their IT consultant), these features will be the available in it.

Factors to look for when choosing an Ecommerce platform

  1. Good Templates

  2. Standard Features

  3. Owner friendliness

  4. Affordable

  5. Documentation and Community

  6. Extensible

  7. Secure

  8. Scalable

Good templates

The software or platform should at least come with some well structured and responsive templates. It doesn't have to be out of the box design but it should be good looking, minimal, responsive and easily customizable. One can make the theme work by just doing basic editing .

Thus, a new user doesn't have to invest a lot of time or money to make a store which doesn't suck.

Shopify has always been at top here. Their templates are great and well designed from start. They are also easily customizable and provide good experience.

BigCommerce used to have ancient looking themes but they recently launched some really well designed themes and now they are back to business.

WooCommerce might need some work in here. It's basically a plugin and need a theme on top of it. I couldn't find any free responsive theme for Volusion.

Standard Features

Standard features just contains basic functionalities of an ecommerce store. A platform should have customer area, cart & checkout page, product and category pages, shipping and fullfilment and seo and marketing friendliness etc.

BigCommerce aces here. It comes with more feature than any other popular platform and they are important for marketing and other purpose. Shopify and WooCommerce both also has nice set of features but not as much as BigCommerce.

Owner Friendliness

The backend (Admin area) of the platform should be owner friendly. It should allow very easy interface to manage store. There should be a good looking a detailed dashboard to list important things and user experience to perform all management tasks should be not weary.

Shopify and BigCommerce both has excellent backend but I will give more points to Shopify. Shopify literately wows. WooCommerce has good backend too but again as a WordPress plugin you don't have much option.

Affordable

Affordability counts. You don't want to spend thousand of dollars to start. The ongoing cost should be minimum. There shouldn't be any hidden costs.

Shopify plans start from $29/month and BigCommerce plans start from $34.95/month. WooCommerce is self-hosted but a good VPS should cost you around $25/month.

Documentation and Community

Most of the small stores are one-man (or one woman, no discrimination) operations. Owners want to do most of the thing by themselves and proper documentation and community helps to learn.

Shopify's community is more rich. They have a ecommerce university, detailed documentation, popular blog and forum. BigCommerce also has engaging forum and documentation available. WooCommerce gets some points here too because of its WordPress dependency.

Extensible

Everyone wants assurance that their store can have more features in future if required. Built-in features are good but not sufficient.

Integration with other apps and services is also mandatory these day. Store is incomplete without Google Analytics integration. Email marketing is required for more sales. That's where extensibility comes.

Shopify and BigCommerce both has app ecosystem. Shopify's app marketplace is more rich and has useful application. BigCommerce adopted the marketplace model late but gaining. WooCommerce plugins are being development every single day.

Secure

A platform should offer security feature to both users and owner. The data should be safe and security mechanisms (Such as SSL) should be used by default.

BigCommerce and Shopify both has excellent security, Both of them offer free shared SSL. You can also opt for your own SSL for a price. WooCommerce is somehow less secure than these platform. It's not because of the WordPress but hosting a store by an unexperienced person attracts more threats.

Scalable

Scalability is important when you want to grow. Everyone wants to grow at some point and the platform should support it. You can add more contents and features, handle more traffic, target different demographics without any pain.

As a hosted platform, BigCommerce and Shopify both has different pricing tier. If you are growing, you just switch to an upgraded plan. Shopify recently launched a program called 'Shopify Plus' for Enterprises. BigCommerce also supports custom plan for enterprise needs.

Scaling with WooCommerce requires more efforts. You need to be more technical or hire technical guy to support scalability.

I hope from now on, you will think about these parameters before choosing an platform.

Track External (Outbound) Links in Universal Google Analytics

This solution is only helpful if you are using the new Universal Analytics. If you have a WordPress blog, just use the Google Analytics for WordPress plugin by Yoast and you are good.

We'll be using Event tracking here and the code automatically logs an event when there is a click on external links.

Steps for tracking external links, downloads, email links automatically

  1. Include jQuery in your site header.

  2. Download and host this file somewhere and then include it in site header.

That should work. It will create an event with 'links' category, 'click' action and the external link as label every time there is a click on external link.

Auto Link Tracking Event

You can find the clicks report in your Google Analytics under Content << Events << Top Events. Connect via twitter if facing a problem.

Affiliate/Referral Marketing campaign for Indian Retailers

No one has written about affiliate/referral campaigns targeting Indian retailers. So, I am adding my two cents here.

Referral Marketing

Note- I'll be using a/r as a short-cut for Affiliate/Referral in this article.

Do you need an Affiliate or Referral marketing campaign?

You might be wondering if your business needs such campaigns. You’re already spending a good amount of money into different channels. You're doing SEO, PPC, Re-marketing and Social marketing etc. Why invest time and resources in another marketing channel?

The answer is Yes. You do need a/r marketing campaign. If managed correctly, these campaigns might become an important asset.

Some facts:

  • Total Number of Affiliates have increased by 42% in 2012.
  • 'Online Affiliate' was voted #1 job of 2012 by a recent article from MSNBC.
  • A referred customer has a 16% higher life-time value (LTV) according to The Wharton School Business.
  • 83% of satisfied customers are willing to refer.

Advantages:

  • Pay for performance model helps for controlling costs.
  • More exposure and buzz helps brand to gain more recognition

Difference between an affiliate and referral marketing campaign

An affiliate has financial motivation. He doesn't know about the referred customers personally and uses a broadcasting medium to promote.

Referral marketing is based on the relationship between referrer and potential customers rather than financial motivation. A referrer recommends to his friends or family members using direct communication.

Businesses using a/r campaigns in India

I'm not really sure about the exact number but these popular stores are benefiting from such campaigns.

  1. Flipkart
  2. Jabong
  3. Myntra
  4. MakeMyTrip
  5. Yatra
  6. FreeCultr
  7. Via

And the list goes on.

Tools/Services which help for setting up a/r campaigns

There are a numbers of platforms/tools which can be used. Some of the businesses listed above use their custom software.

If you want to launch your own a/r campaign easily and quickly, you can use the services listed below.

ReferralCandy

ReferralCandy is a service which lets you create a referral marketing campaign. Plans starts from Rs 700/month and it integrates with almost every single ecommerce platform.

ReferralCandy Indian customers- Yatra & FersnPetals

iDevAffiliate

iDevAffiliate is hosted software for Affiliate Marketing and it integrates with most of the carts/platforms. It also supports Indian currency and its licences are available from $99.

iDevAffiliate Indian Customer - Hostgator India

OMGPM

OMGPM is an affiliate network used by popular merchants. It seems to be most popular affiliate network solution present now.

OMGPM Indian Customers - BabyOYE

Getting more from a/r campaign

  • Fix your Conversion Rate if you're willing to use Affiliate campaign. Affiliates hate low converting websites.
  • Test incentives and promotional materials to find out which drives more conversion
  • Connect with affiliates/referrers at regular basis. Teaching them a bit about marketing will benefit both parties.

I hope the article helps. If you have any questions or something to add, please use the twitter link below or contact page.

Reborn

If you are a regular visitor to this blog (I doubt it though), you might be able to spot some big changes. If you are a newsletter or feed subscriber, I request you to visit the blog.

Reborn

I am using Jekyll now. Before Jekyll, the blog was made using WordPress.

Why am I using "Reborn" term?

Because this really is a reborn for my blogging. I've removed old useless articles. I have switched to a new blogging platform.

Also, I have decided to share my experiences and learning in more personal way. You will find not only marketing/ecommerce articles here but life lessons or other valueble insights.

Why I switched to Jekyll

There is nothing wrong with WordPress. I still use WordPress for some other sites and love it. Then why the switch?

  • I took a monthly challenge to learn Rails and needed a live project. Jekyll is built using Rails and I thought it'll be good idea to use it.

  • I really liked how fast Jekyll was. All the posts and pages are in static html. So, there are no more server loads or plugin to deal with.

  • Jekyll seems to be more secure. I was hacked before and now I don't have to worry about the Database or the plugin vulnerabilities.

  • I can focus more on writing now. I used to spend a lot of time in changing themes, adding new features but with Jekyll minimalism comes for free.

What about the costs with Jekyll?

I'm using GitHub Pages. It's free and incredibly fast. I am using my Dropbox public folder to host the images.

So, I don't have to pay for the hosting.

Next step

I'll be adding some new articles in near future. Wish me luck for the Reborn!