Internet marketing is an umbrella term that includes many technologies, tactics, channels, and revenue streams. There is no shortage of ways to utilize internet marketing to your advantage and it would be impossible to cover every effective strategy in the always-evolving online landscape. Today, we’re going to turn our focus to affiliate marketing – one of the most misunderstood forms of internet marketing.
Too much is made of the internet “moving at the speed of light.” Anyone researching internet marketing is bound to find one warning repeated over and over again: the internet moves so quickly that in order to be successful you must be one step ahead of the latest tools and best practices. It’s true that being an early adopter can help you become very successful in the short term, but it’s also highly risky. It’s much more rewarding in the long-term to provide a product that is consistent, stable and practical. In other words: slow and steady wins the race.
This is especially true when it comes to affiliate marketing. Affiliate marketing is one of the cornerstones of internet marketing and it is largely built on trust. The best affiliate marketers are seen as authorities within their niche.
As a whole, affiliate marketing is an enormous network which helps businesses reach their target audiences and points consumers to the products that best suit their needs. In this regard, affiliate marketing has a lot in common with, and is closely linked to, search engine optimization (SEO).
Simply put, affiliate marketing involves two parties: the business and the affiliate. The business is selling some kind of product and the affiliate is promoting that product. It’s a form of commission-based salesmanship, with the affiliate rewarded based on their performance. Every time the affiliate helps to generate a sale, the business pays them a share of the sale. This graphic explains the relationship between Brands, Affiliates, and Ad Platforms.
While ad platforms used to play a very large role in affiliate marketing, more and more affiliates are finding ways to earn commissions that bypass these platforms altogether.
One way for affiliates to promote products is by creating a customer-facing service, for example a blog that reviews books, a series of videos explaining how to build furniture, or a website documenting the latest fashion trends. In the first example, the affiliate can provide links to buy the books from Amazon, in the second, the affiliate can provide a list of all the tools used in the video and link to buy them from Home Depot, and in the third, the affiliate can direct people to Revolve. Each of these companies has a healthy affiliate program and there are many other programs and networks to choose from.
The key to success in affiliate marketing is to provide an organic and high-value context in which to drive traffic to your partner(s) – consumers aren’t going to follow a link unless you give them a good reason to. First, you need to attract people to your site, which is going to require good SEO in order to rank higher in Google. Then, you need high quality content to keep people reading and keep them coming back. The more value and usefulness your content offers to your readers, the more business you’ll generate.
Affiliate Marketing Facts
- Affiliate marketing is one of the cornerstones of digital marketing
Affiliate marketing is a broad network used by every major online retailer. It’s a widely accepted form of digital marketing and a huge part of any retailer’s consumer outreach strategy. Affiliates act as an arms-length sales and marketing force, organically directing consumers to the products they want and need, and helping businesses to grow their customer-base.
- Affiliates DO sell a product
Affiliates are more than just a part of a business’ sales funnel – they provide a very valuable product of their own: good content. Affiliates are thought leaders and tastemakers that answer the questions consumers are actually asking. Whether customers want to know more about a specific product, want to keep up with the latest trends, or are getting into a new hobby, affiliate marketers are often the people they turn to for more information. The most successful affiliates are the ones who offer the most valuable (and most well-written) information to consumers in their niche.
- You CAN make money
Many people portray affiliate marketing as passive income, but that’s a little misleading. Starting an affiliate marketing site takes a lot of work – don’t expect there to be anything “passive” about it during your first six months. Affiliate marketing, like SEO, is built on trust. It takes time for consumers to trust you as a resource and it takes time for Google to trust you. Generate good content and network with other sites in your niche for at least six months before you expect to see a significant return on investment. Be patient: by your second year you could be making $10,000/month.
- You DON’T have to focus on a specific niche
What holds many people back is a desire to do something totally unique, waiting to find that hyper-specific niche that will make them one-of-a-kind. But there are two problems with this: first, for a very specific niche, you have to truly be an expert to regularly produce good content; and second, if nobody’s done it before, there’s a good chance that’s because there’s no money in it. By choosing a broad niche (such as fashion or home renovation), you can target a wider audience and tap into a wealth of existing information and resources.
Anyone can be an affiliate. If you already have a blog or website (and lack the time or the ability to create a whole site dedicated to affiliate marketing) you can still work with businesses in your industry by linking to products that you use yourself or that you think your visitors would enjoy, or just by including a banner ad on your homepage.
Did you know that Payza has its own Referral Program? Test out your affiliate marketing skills by helping people sign up for their free Payza Account. Once they reach a certain amount of transactions, you’ll earn $5 USD for your first 10 referrals, and $10 USD for every referral after that!
Join the millions of businesses and individuals around the world that use affiliate marketing to supplement your income, and if you have any questions about getting started, ask us in the comments below.
Bitcoin has a scaling problem.
When the cryptocurrency software launched in 2009, the nature of the blockchain technology on which it was built meant that there was a hard cap on the total amount of transactions that could be processed in a given amount of time. In the past eight years, the basic technology hasn’t really changed, but the user base has grown so large that the Bitcoin network is struggling to handle the transaction volume, and unless something changes, this issue will only get worse over time.
Blockchain technology was designed by the anonymous developer(s) of Bitcoin and has come to be a core technology in almost all cryptocurrencies today. The Blockchain is a public ledger where all Bitcoin transactions are recorded and bundled into 10-minute blocks which are limited to a maximum size of 1MB. The scaling problem is the result of this size limit; Bitcoin has become so popular that it can no longer process all the transactions made within any given 10-minute period.
To address this problem, developer Pieter Wuille has introduced to concept of SegWit, short for Segregated Witness. SegWit addresses Bitcoin’s scaling problem by “segregating” the transaction signature (the “witness”) from the input data. In short, signatures, which validate transactions, would be stored separately from the blockchain. This will free up more space within each block to store more transaction data and help streamline transaction processing.
Since signatures make up about 65% of the size of the input data, removing them can increase the effective block capacity by more than double. On top of that, SegWit also solves the problem of transaction malleability, a minor security flaw which makes it possible for hackers to change the signature of a transaction before the block is confirmed, which invalidates any later transactions in the chain.
The trouble with SegWit is that this still may not be enough to completely fix the problem. Bitcoin is growing so rapidly – now with over 10 million users making hundreds of thousands of transactions per day – that even doubling the capacity of a block is only a temporary solution. This was pointed out by the Bitcoin mining community, who took a stance against the developers, favoring a hard fork over the latter group’s proposed solution.
A hard fork is what happens to a blockchain when a new rule chain is introduced to the software that makes it incompatible with the previous version. For example, to upgrade the Bitcoin network in order to allow block sizes to increase from 1MB to 2MB would create a hard fork.
After some debate, the two parties have agreed to a compromise called SegWit2x, with the mining community agreeing to Segregated Witness in return for the execution of a 2MB hard fork within 6 months of SegWit implementation.
However, SegWit2x may be too little too late. Ironically, the sheer popularity of Bitcoin, which led to the scaling problem in the first place, meant that there were too many interested parties that needed to agree to the upgrade, causing the execution of SegWit to be delayed (it was originally suggested in 2015). Bitcoin competitor Litecoin recently executed the SegWit upgrade to their blockchain.
Litecoin, even though it is the 5th largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization, is smaller than Bitcoin and therefore in a better position to adapt to the latest technologies available. Franklyn Richards, Litecoin Foundation director, initially admitted that the implementation of SegWit could serve as a test for Bitcoin, but the announcement in late March caused such a renewed interest in the Bitcoin competitor that Litecoin’s value tripled during the month of April and has doubled again since then, growing from roughly $5 USD to around $30.
This success has led many to speculate that Bitcoin missed their opportunity to capitalize on SegWit, leading segments of the cryptocurrency community to abandon the most popular coin in favor of newer, more innovative options.
The Future of Bitcoin
Bitcoin was originally developed with the goal of creating a decentralized currency, free of influence from political forces and the banking industry, and grew popular because of those ideologies. While it’s necessary for the developers of Bitcoin to make changes in order for the currency to survive, many Bitcoin enthusiasts believe that the proposed changes give too much power to the Bitcoin Foundation, thus making the currency no longer decentralized. If Litecoin or another altcoin develops a better way to solve the scalability problem while maintaining decentralization, it may spell the end of Bitcoin as we know it.
The power of digital currencies in today’s economy cannot be understated, as more people and companies invest in cryptocurrencies and retailers large and small begin accepting them as forms of payment both online and in-store. To learn about some of the leading Bitcoin competitors, check out our Beyond Bitcoin series:
Visit the Payza Blog regularly as we will be following cryptocurrencies closely in 2017 and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for e-commerce news from around the web.
In Payza’s latest Bitcoin update, the company announced that members can now hold Bitcoin right in their Payza e-wallets. This has a big impact on merchants who want to be able to accept payments in Bitcoin and traditional fiat currencies. It’s also exciting news for businesses who need to make Bitcoin payouts to their affiliates.
As a merchant, there are several ways to take advantage of Payza’s new Bitcoin features. You can now accept payment in Bitcoin, you can even set prices for your items directly in Bitcoin instead of having to peg that amount to a fiat currency. Bitcoin you receive can now be held right within your Payza e-wallet. You can instantly convert those Bitcoin to fiat currency whenever you like.
To complete our new range of Bitcoin services, we’re also updating our APIs to help merchants who make regular Mass Payments.
Automate your Bitcoin payouts
Payza’s MassPay API and Payza’s SendMoney API already make it possible for merchants to send multiple payments in a single click to other Payza members. These payments can be made in any currency Payza supports, which now includes Bitcoin.
But what if you need to make Bitcoin payouts to affiliates who don’t have a Payza account? That will soon be possible too. Payza’s team of developers is updating our APIs to let you send Bitcoin to other Bitcoin wallets with just one action. This will help you automate your payouts, regardless of where and how your recipients want to receive their payments.
If you make regular payouts in both Bitcoin and fiat currency, chances are right now you are using multiple solutions to facilitate your payments. With Payza, you can soon make all of your payouts using just one system, saving you time and trouble. Your affiliates will love it too, thanks to Payza’s low fees for Bitcoin transactions.
When using Payza’s APIs to automate your Bitcoin payouts, you’ll soon have two options on where to send those bitcoins. You can either use your recipient’s Payza email address to send bitcoins right to their Payza e-wallet, or you can enter their Bitcoin wallet address to send Bitcoin to an external wallet.
Shipping and fulfillment are arguably the most labor-intensive parts of running an e-commerce business. The man-hours required to pack boxes, buy insurance, contact couriers, and track shipments are incredibly time consuming, even for a small business. And as time goes on, the challenge of scaling your logistics can become a critical barrier to growth. This is where dropshipping comes in.
Although dropshipping has been around for years, it’s only now beginning to break into the mainstream. Large retailers like Home Depot and Macy’s are starting to integrate with dropshipping to expand their online offering. Shoe Carnival and Pier 1 Imports have announced plans to start doing the same. E-commerce giants are taking note of this new strategy because it has now been refined and proven effective by countless online start-ups.
Dropshipping works by partnering with your manufacturer or supplier. Instead of buying your merchandise in bulk and warehousing it, once an order has been placed you instruct the wholesaler to ship the goods directly from their warehouse to your customer. In addition to outsourcing all your shipping and fulfillment needs in one fell swoop, dropshipping can benefit your business and your customers.
Advantages of dropshipping
Here are just a few of the benefits that dropshipping has to offer:
- Less labor, lower overhead costs: With dropshipping there’s no need to keep a stock of inventory, process shipping information, or pack boxes. That saves significant man-hours and overhead costs.
- Mitigated risk: Because you don’t need to maintain an inventory, you don’t face the risk of buying in bulk and getting stuck with products that don’t sell or are replaced by newer models.
- Wide selection: Now that you’re no longer limited to the amount of stock you can fit in your warehouse, you can offer an infinite shelf of products for your customers.
On top of these advantages, you also enjoy flexible product testing, fewer shipping challenges, greater scalability, lower initial investment, and more.
Even with all these advantages, there are still some downsides to dropshipping. The cost of the service itself is typically expensive, especially for small businesses with slim margins to begin with. As your sales grow and profit margins increase, this becomes less of an issue, but the expense can be a barrier to new businesses.
There are also risks and challenges associated with outsourcing your shipping and fulfillment, since you have no direct control over shipping and handling, and have no opportunity for face-to-face customer service.
5 dropshipping tips to help you succeed
To ensure a successful dropshipping strategy in today’s market, here are five tips you need to consider:
Find your niche
Because Dropshipping allows you to offer something for everyone, the temptation of an infinite shelf is hard to resist, but be careful about falling into this trap. While this may seem like a good idea, it’s not necessarily what customers want. One-stop-shops, while convenient, are also impersonal. Offer your customers what they’re really looking for: something custom tailored for them.
The bottom line is: Specialize!
Have multiple fulfillment options
When you’re first building your business, it might seem easiest to just partner with one wholesaler, but that opens you up to exactly the type of risk you’re trying to avoid. It should be part of your plan to store at least some stock in-house (such as your best-selling items) and consider working with multiple suppliers. This way you can still offer an inventory that is unique to your store while avoiding potential troubles associated with relying on a single supplier. You can also save some of the dropshipping costs by fulfilling a portion of your orders in-house.
Myth-busting time: Most people will tell you to hide the fact that you’re outsourcing your warehouse and delivery. Don’t.
You should be upfront with your customers about your fulfillment partner. Today’s consumers have become so comfortable with major marketplaces that dropshipping is not seen as a negative; the most important thing for most online shoppers is that their retailers are open and honest.
Use low-cost marketing and be easy to reach
Profit margins are slim enough for new retailers and dropshipping can make them even slimmer. Dropshipping can also limit your visibility and direct interaction with customers post-sale since you don’t have as much room for packaging customization.
Focus your marketing efforts on effective, low-cost strategies such as SEO and social media engagement.
Make customer service a top priority, as well as having open channels of communication. Often in e-commerce, the merchant who responds the quickest to customer inquiries is the one who makes the sale.
Have a complete e-commerce plan
Dropshipping is effective but it’s not a magic solution to every e-commerce need. Too many failed dropshippers have taken an “if you build it, they will come” approach to this business model, assuming that they can passively earn a living income by simply building an online store and waiting for sales to roll in.
Dropshipping can help you launch or expand your business, but it’s just one tool among many, and the most important tool is your own hard work and commitment. Don’t expect a living wage in your first year of business and don’t expect dropshipping to fix all your problems. But if you work hard, curate your inventory well and diversify your revenue streams, it can be one of the cornerstones of a profitable and sustainable enterprise.
Bonus tip: Offer your customers multiple payment options
Once you have set up your online store, you’ll need to provide simple and secure payment options. You’ll want a highly secure payment processor that is easy to integrate onto your website and supports a wide range of payment options, such as credit card, Bitcoin, and e-money transfers.
A Payza account makes it easy to accept online payments and there are lots of added bonuses, like free recurring billing, built-in fraud protection, and no hidden fees. With Payza’s Guest Checkout options, such as credit card and Bitcoin payments, you’ll make it easy for your customers to pay you instantly.
Despite Brazil’s recent economic downturn, the country’s e-commerce market continues to grow. Though not immune to the effects of the economy, Brazil’s 2016 e-commerce market was still the largest in Latin America and since 2014 has been one of the top-10 e-commerce markets in the world.
After hosting the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016, the country has invested heavily in their local infrastructure. Today, Brazilians are reaping the benefits of that development in the form of skyrocketing internet and mobile penetration rates. Even with less disposable income to go around, the online retail sector continues to grow 5%+ YoY and remains one of the best opportunities for cross-border e-commerce investment.
Unless otherwise noted, statistics in this article are sourced from:
Brazil is a country of 210 million residents, with 85% of the population living in urban areas. Nearly half of all Brazilians are between the ages of 25 and 54.
Brazil is a prime market to consider for cross-border e-commerce sellers; 38% of Brazilians purchase goods online from foreign retailers! But to take full advantage of this market, it’s important to tailor your strategy to suit local consumer habits.
Brazilians, as a group, outrank the rest of the world in total time spent on social media at 60% higher than the global average. Brazilian smartphone penetration has doubled since 2014 so this trend is likely to continue as mobile internet usage climbs. The most popular social media platform is Facebook, meaning retailers selling in Brazil should consider investing in Facebook ads as a marketing channel with high ROI potential.
Online consumers in Brazil are slightly older on average than consumers in most e-commerce markets, with more than a third of them over the age of 35. The rise of smart phones and mobile devices in Brazil may help to reverse this trend. When entering the Brazilian e-commerce market, a mobile-friendly website will be critical to reach younger customers, so consider your demographics when updating your website’s design.
The most popular online payment method is credit card, accounting for 57% of e-commerce transactions. Uniquely, paying by instalments is very popular in Brazil – only 4 out of 10 credit card purchases are paid for in a single transaction. The local payment option of Boleto Bancário is also popular, accounting for 23% of all payments.
In the last few years, 59% of Brazilians have experienced a loss in purchasing power. While this hasn’t discouraged them from shopping online, it has made them more cautious. International sellers can take advantage of this because of a component cost known as the “custo Brazil” – a combination of high taxes and duties coupled with a strict labor law – drives up the prices of domestic products. This “Brazil cost” makes it relatively easy for foreign merchants to undercut local competition.
Drivers and Barriers
Driver: Mobile Commerce
For the most part, domestic retailers in Brazil have not yet adapted to the rapid growth of mobile commerce among local consumers. Cellular network coverage in Brazil is at 100%, mobile traffic to e-commerce sites is 32%, and 7% of all online sales are made via mobile devices.
Providing a user-friendly m-commerce experience will give your online business a serious competitive advantage in Brazil.
Barrier: Economic Downturn
Brazilian consumers have less disposable income than they used to and the e-commerce growth rate has contracted significantly as a result. With average family income down, the nation’s retail market decreased by 2.1% in 2016. Though it is likely to remain the largest e-commerce market in Latin America, neighboring markets such as Argentina have experienced much higher growth in recent years.
Driver: New Infrastructure
With high-profile international events, such as the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016, Brazil invested heavily in local infrastructure. From new roads and airways to improved internet and cellular networks, Brazilian consumers are more connected than ever, and fulfilment is less of a worry.
Barrier: Regulatory Hurdles
Brazil is a highly regulated market. As a foreign-based retailer, you will be required to pay customs duties, which average almost 11%, and import duties, which can range from 10% to 35%.
While most of these duties will be borne by the customer, you should take care to be highly transparent about any additional costs that may be incurred.
Brazilian E-Commerce Facts
- The largest e-commerce market in Latin America.
- 19% of e-commerce sales in 2015 were mobile purchases.
- Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the largest digital shopping days of the year.
- 38% of digital buyers in Brazil make cross-border purchases.
- Credit and debit cards account for 57% of e-commerce payments.
- The US is the top destination for cross-border e-commerce, but its market share in Brazil is decreasing (71.5%), followed by China (55.1%), Hong Kong (18%), Japan (15%) and Canada (9.5%).
- The top-5 product categories by order volume are Books (14%), Appliances (13%), Fashion and Accessories (12%), Cosmetics and Personal (12%), and Telephone and Mobile (9%).
When considering any new territory, it is crucial to take the time to understand the local market and consumer habits. Due to the economic downturn, Brazilians continue to shop online but now hold preference for price over speed. Brazilian consumers issue returns much less often than counterparts in other countries, at a rate of 15.6% compared to the global average of 27.5%, so the competitive advantages held by domestic retailers hold less sway.
38% of local consumers already purchase goods online from international merchants and it’s easy to compete on pricing, which should make Brazil a strong contender for your next new market.
Expanding into a new international market is a risky venture, but a very rewarding one if done right. For the latest information about how you can build and maintain a strong e-commerce enterprise and keep it compatible with legislation and buying habits at home and abroad, subscribe to the Payza Blog and follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest industry news.
After the five *BRICS countries, economist Jim O’Neill identified a second group of eleven countries with a high potential of becoming among the world’s largest economies in the 21st century. One of these “Next Eleven” is Bangladesh, a South Asian country of 161 million people.
As the first and largest e-wallet provider to operate in the country, Payza has a close relationship with Bangladesh. We’ve invested heavily in the local e-commerce market and we are proud to say our investment has paid off for Payza and Bangladeshis alike. Today, the online retail market is growing more rapidly than ever and there couldn’t be a better time for international sellers to expand their business into this exciting country.
Unless otherwise noted, figures in this article are sourced from:
- Ahmed Saad Ishtiaque and Adib Sarwa; University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh
- Lh Jewel; Digital Marketing Bangladesh
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs Denmark; Bangladesh eCommerce Country Fact Sheet
- Internet penetration:5% penetration
- Mobile penetration: 23%
- Online shoppers: 5 million
- E-commerce sales: USD 38.1 million
- E-commerce annual growth rate: 200%+ (2013-2016)
Despite its relatively small size, Bangladesh is the eighth most populous country in the world, fifth in Asia, and third most populous Muslim-majority country. It’s also one of the world’s most densely populated countries with triple the density of neighboring India. The country’s primary language, Bengali, is the seventh most spoken language in the world.
If you visit Bangladesh today, you will not find the impoverished country it once was. Instead, you will step out of the airport to find a vibrant consumer culture, fresh from celebrating the 45th anniversary of Bangladeshi independence. Between 1990 and 2014, the country’s poverty rate went down by more than half, with the rate of extreme poverty dropping to 12.9% in 2016, a remarkable achievement in poverty reduction.
The new emergence of a consumer class in Bangladesh has led to a 72% growth in e-commerce transactions over the course of 2016, with business-to-consumer (B2C) accounting for 90% of all transactions. With over 60% of online shoppers between the ages of 25 and 34, the market is young and tech-savvy, though cash-on-delivery still remains the most common payment method.
Besides the usual success of online hotel and travel bookings, the most popular e-commerce categories for Bangladeshi consumers are electronics, books, clothing and, uniquely, food. Online food delivery platforms such as Foodpanda and HungryNaki have gained an impressive following in the last few years, while online grocery shopping platforms Chaldal and Direct Fresh are also experiencing strong growth.
Drivers and Barriers
Driver: Emerging Consumer Class
Today, only 7% of the country’s population is classified as middle or affluent class (MAC), but that number is rapidly rising. More importantly, consumer wealth is being dispersed regionally, with projections indicating that the number of cities with MAC populations over 100,000 will double within the next ten years.
Barrier: Debt Concerns
When markets shift out of poverty, there is always an increased level of consumer wariness. The new influx of disposable income in Bangladesh has made consumers optimistic – 60% expect their incomes to rise this year – but also wary of going into debt for fear of not being able to repay it.
While most transactions are still in cash, two-thirds of MAC consumers in Bangladesh own Internet-enabled smartphones, allowing them to make the leap to mobile payments. Mobile banking is already quite popular, as is researching products prior to purchase, allowing the opportunity for retailers to reach Bangladeshi consumers via m-commerce.
While brand loyalty is good for e-commerce as a whole because it brings in repeat customers and builds trust, it does make it more challenging for new market entrants. However, while Bangladeshi consumers cite brands as a top motivating factor for their purchases, they are also budget and quality conscious. Retailers new to Bangladesh can attract customers by undercutting the established competition or offering a better-made product.
Bangladeshi E-Commerce Facts
- One of the fastest-growing markets worldwide.
- Rapid upward mobility: over 30 million more Bangladeshis are expected to make the leap out of poverty by 2025.
- Total e-commerce transactions grew by 72% in 2016.
- Total m-commerce market value doubled in 2016.
- Two-thirds of all e-commerce traffic comes from the two largest cities, Dhaka and Chittagong.
- 49% of online shopping traffic comes from new customers.
What we are witnessing in Bangladesh is an example of the leapfrog effect. A young and newly affluent population is rapidly adopting e-commerce, primarily by leaping straight from cash payment to online shopping via their mobile devices. While internet and mobile penetration are still relatively low and poverty relatively high, both of those facts are changing rapidly and experts agree that the market potential of Bangladesh is one of the highest in the world. By investing in this growing market, retailers can get a leg up on the competition and start building brand loyalty.
Expanding into a new international market is a risky venture but a very rewarding one if done right. For the latest information about how you can build and maintain a strong e-commerce enterprise and keep it compatible with legislation and buying habits at home and abroad, subscribe to the Payza Blog and follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest industry news.
*BRICS countries: Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa.
There’s no question that today’s small business owners are highly tech-savvy, it’s basically a job requirement for operating any kind of online enterprise. With such a vast and complex e-commerce landscape, it can be challenging for one person to manage all aspects related to an online business. Although you may not know what API stands for, if you operate an online business, you use them every day.
Simply put, an API (application program interfaces) is an interface that allows two parties to communicate with each other, whether this is technologies, platforms, databases, operating systems, etc. It acts as a translator and organizer to facilitate the transmission of data across a multitude of systems. This allows us to overcome the fractured nature of today’s digital economy and stay connected to one another in spite of our different infrastructures and technologies.
APIs are one of the building blocks of the digital economy. They are little seen and often taken for granted – but by leveraging this technology in a smart and strategic way, your online business can be elevated to a whole new level.
An API is like an outlet. Plugging a lamp into an outlet connect it to the power supply – the outlet, like APIs, is what converts that power to something usable by the lamp. You, the user, benefit from the light source, and the utility benefits from being able to make its product useful to the user. Like other complex IT tools, the importance of APIs is often overlooked. This is because small business owners are preoccupied with the latest trends and sales platforms to consider more technical aspects in depth.
However, by shifting your focus toward optimizing your internal processes at a foundational level, you can increase your efficiency. Investing in API development and integration can optimize your operations, broaden your audience and automate many small tasks, freeing up your day-to-day to focus on growing your business.
How APIs Can Improve Your Business
- Introduce New Features
Developing a good API strategy can be a major competitive advantage. APIs are a powerful tool for increasing functionality, which can be used to offer new features to your customers. For example, you can use an API like Elastic Path to offer customers the opportunity to connect their smartphone to their account during checkout. This would allow you to then introduce any number of new automated features, such as sending notifications when an order has shipped, discounts for preferred customers, reminders when their product is due for an update, and many more.
- Improve the Post-Purchase Experience
APIs allow you to integrate your store, service or platform with any number of other platforms, from sales channels like Amazon, media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, and even logistics firms. The increase in sophistication in today’s APIs allows you to integrate your business across many different channels. APIs such as Outright can be used to collect and translate all of that data into a single, uniform format, increasing the efficiency of your back office.
- Serve Customers More Fully
While APIs offer a high level of automation, they also make possible a high level of personalization. The APIs listed above can be used to gather user data from many different sales channels and organize it into a single database. Then that data can be plugged into another API, like Gravity, which organizes personalizes your marketing content for each visitor based on the purchase history and behavior during previous visits. This provides you with the ability to understand your audience better and tailor your products and services to their needs.
Any online business can benefit from leveraging APIs in a smart and strategic way and making them foundational to your business strategy. Freelancers who want to advertise their services more effectively, online stores who need to build up their base of repeat customers, affiliate marketers who want to expand their network – there’s an API for that.
In e-commerce, for the most part, you have full control over customer experience; it is within your power to ensure that customers enjoy browsing your website and ordering your products. But once the product is bought and paid for, that doesn’t mean your job is over.
Delivery is just as important to the customer experience, and it can be uniquely challenging to manage. Whether you’re just starting an online business or you’re migrating your brick-and-mortar store to an e-commerce website, shipping and fulfillment is one of the pillars on which your online store needs to stand.
The rapid growth of e-commerce happened for two reasons: access and convenience. Access because it gives businesses the ability to offer their products and services to consumers almost anywhere in the world; and convenience because it empowers consumers to shop wherever and whenever they want and receive their purchases right at their doorstep. If orders are not fulfilled quickly and painlessly, access and convenience don’t count for anything.
This “delivery dilemma” can be challenging for small businesses because unless you have your own delivery fleet, large parts of your shipping and fulfillment process isn’t under your direct control.
Since the cost of owning your own delivery fleet is unrealistic for most small to mid-sized enterprises, let’s look at the elements that you can control:
Like most businesses, you’re probably outsourcing the transportation of your products to your customer’s door. In this case, packaging becomes even more important because it’s the only way you can guarantee that the product arrives in good condition. Delivery drivers don’t necessarily know (or care) what’s in any given package, so the responsibility is on you to make sure it’s packed securely.
Beyond simply protecting the product, packaging is also an important aspect of branding. As e-commerce has grown, so too have the standards consumers hold for the e-commerce experience. Packaging should be an extension of your brand – if your products look good when they arrive, your customers are more likely to feel good about their purchases right away and the more excited they’ll be to order from you again and again.
Since branding and presentation are within your control, it is in your best interest to provide that personalized touch that adds value and keeps your customers engaged.
High shipping fees are the number one cause of shopping cart abandonment, so spend some time and consider exactly how you’re going to charge for delivery and what impact that will have on your business. If your profit margins can bear it, offering free shipping is the best option.
Free shipping gives you a competitive advantage and you should see the effects firsthand: from increased conversion rate to returning customer rate.
If your current margins don’t allow for free shipping, there are other ways to make it possible. Some merchants factor the delivery expense into their prices, while others offer free shipping only above a certain order size to ensure they’re not taking a loss.
There are two alternate ways to price your shipping. You can charge at cost by integrating a real-time shipping calculator into your checkout page. This ad-hoc shipping markup ensures that you don’t take a loss and offers customers transparent pricing. Or you can charge a flat rate based on the average shipping costs for your orders.
Choosing the right courier
You can both keep pricing down and ensure the product arrives in perfect condition by being selective when choosing your courier.
Shipping is big business. Take time to shop around this highly competitive market and find the right fit for your budget as well as your needs. Remember as well to negotiate pricing with your courier often, as most shippers are only willing to offer custom pricing once you’ve built up a history with them.
Also, consider outsourcing the whole process by using a fulfillment warehouse. This involves renting space from a third-party company that will store your inventory and ship your orders for you. While this setup limits your ability to personalize your packaging and can be expensive you may decide you can accept these drawbacks after weighing the benefits. What you lose in cost per package shipped, you might make up for in time savings and less overhead.
When making these choices, it’s always important to take into account the nature of your business, your products, and your target market. Do your research, gather data, and test different methods to see how they affect your conversion rate and your bottom line. And be sure to keep an eye on the Payza Blog for the latest information and best practices on running your online business.
While the market shifts toward omni-channel commerce and the payments landscape becomes more diverse and less traditional, it has become a challenge for merchants to provide a functional and flexible way to handle transactions. To do so elegantly is key to customer satisfaction, and to do so securely is all the more important. This is where Know Your Customer (KYC) comes in.
The central element of business security is Know Your Customer. This broad concept was first coined within the financial sector, KYC is now standard practice in a wide range of industries. When identifying the security needs of your business, there is no better place to start than by knowing your customer.
In brief, KYC is the practice of collecting data about your customers for a variety of purposes beneficial to your business. For businesses seeking to add payments functionality for their customers, implementing a company-wide KYC policy could be the determining factor in consumers and business partners choosing you over the competition.
Knowing your customer has three distinct advantages:
- Fraudsters lie in wait for a company that doesn’t take KYC seriously. If that turns out to be you, your business could be facilitating fraud, identity theft, money laundering, and terrorist financing without you even knowing it.
- Regulatory bodies keep careful watch on payment providers and financial institutions. A KYC-compliant business will have a smoother and more profitable relationship with their payment provider and other business partners.
- The data you collect by knowing your customers is an invaluable knowledgebase for understanding your consumer base, developing your products, and marketing around their needs and desires.
One cannot understate the importance of KYC in today’s digital marketplace, especially when you conduct your business online rather than face-to-face. KYC is central to operating a secure and sustainable business and it doubles as a tool to offer a personalized, omni-channel customer experience.
Why Implement KYC
In most jurisdictions, there is a basic level of KYC standards enforced by law. This is most stringent in the financial sector, with banks spending up to 500 million USD per year on KYC.
Because of the benefits of a robust KYC policy, most financial institutions choose to go above and beyond the basic requirements. Simply put, KYC is the most effective security measure there is. The costs associated with a sub-par KYC policy, which allows cybercriminals to conduct illegal activities using your product, service or platform, are much higher than the expenses involved in implementing KYC.
Failing to maintain adequate security controls not only puts you at risk but your business partners, banking partners and all of your law-abiding customers as well. This could result in fines, legal expenses, and long-term reputational damage. The only way to create a sustainable online business is to practice top-of-the-line security right from the beginning and to know every one of your customers at least in terms of their name and place of residence.
How to Implement KYC
There are countless KYC practices that fall under four main categories:
- Customer Acceptance – Develop clear and explicit criteria for who you do business with and ensure that all of your customers are who they say they are.
- Customer Identification – Develop procedures for customer identification at every step of the relationship, from submitting personal information such as addresses and bank accounts to carrying out a transaction and shipping a product.
- Monitoring – Identify unusual and high-risk transactions, such as large or complex transactions that don’t fit the typical behavior of your customers, and subject them to an extra level of scrutiny.
- Risk Management – Internal audits and compliance screenings as well as company-wide training programs should be in place to minimize both the frequency of risky activities and the consequences of security breaches.
Knowing your customer is key to operating a successful business and to providing a good experience for everyone you do business. To find out more about best practices in business security, visit the Payza Security Center.
Payza maintains a strict KYC policy above and beyond the basic requirements of customer due diligence and KYC compliance. For businesses seeking to offer the most secure and flexible payments functionality to their customers, visit Payza.com to learn more.
Growth is central to the success and survival of any business. If you’re running your own small business, this is especially true. For a merchant just getting their business off the ground, one of the toughest challenges is going from the point where you’re fighting for every sale like your livelihood depends on it (because it does) to the point where the business takes off under its own momentum. Introducing an online component to your store can make all the difference.
Navigating the early stages of migrating your brick-and-mortar store to an e-commerce website can seem overwhelming, so we’re going to caution that not everybody should just rush out and open an online store. Ensuring that your physical location is solid can go a long way to setting you up for success in the online market. On the flipside, starting a web store while still establishing a physical location could be taking on too many tasks all at once.
In any industry, exposing your business to a wider audience is a key element of growth, and adding an online element may be the best way to do it. For merchants looking to add an e-commerce component to their physical business, here are some questions you’ll want to answer before launching your online store:
Do you have time?
Don’t open an online business just because all the cool kids are doing it. If you’re already putting in 50, 60, or 70 hours per week operating your store, don’t add to that. But if your brick-and-mortar location is getting steady, reliable traffic and turning over enough money to be stable and profitable without taking up all of your time, you can look into e-commerce as the next step.
Can you afford it?
It’s true that an online store has only a fraction of the overhead of a physical store, but there are still hidden costs to investigate. Delivery is the biggest one, so the type of product you sell is of prime importance in making this decision. Taxes, inventory, IT support, and packaging must also be budgeted for.
Do people want it?
Again, the type of product you sell is of utmost importance, as are the demographics of your target market. 64% of people still prefer to shop in-store, but they’re happy to shop online if and when it’s more convenient. Is your target market going to want to shop online? Is your product something that people are comfortable ordering from the internet?
What is your ROI?
The failure rate of online stores in their first two years is almost 50%. It’s a definite must for you to calculate whether or not you will be able to turn a decent profit during this period. Consider your brand awareness level, the size of your social media following, and the amount of non-local web traffic you receive to help you identify whether there is a demand for your products online.
Can you process online payments?
Compared to accepting payments in person, online payments are a different ballgame. Security concerns are certainly a factor in why people prefer to shop in person, but there are also costs and marketing concerns associated with payment processing. Ideally, to limit checkout friction and put customer security concerns at ease, merchants offering direct credit card processing through their own website will see better conversion rates.
E-commerce is one of the fundamentals of long-term growth in any industry. Expanding your business online can grow your customer base beyond your local area, allow for 24/7/365 sales and lower your overhead costs.
The keys elements to ensuring your e-commerce venture is a successful one are to establish a solid fulfillment strategy, to offer great customer service in as many formats as possible (via phone, SMS, chat, social media, etc.), and to provide a secure, reliable and frictionless way to pay. And once you get past the initial investment of launching an e-commerce operation, there is only growth ahead. Web stores are extremely scalable, so while your brick-and-mortar location may be limited by the size of a building, your online sales can keep on growing.
Check back often with the Payza blog for the latest tips and tricks on launching your e-commerce website and growing your online business, and be sure to follow us on: