How Your Online Business Can Avoid Costly Returns and Exchanges

by Gail Oliver, Small Business Marketing Consultant

A recent report from Walker Sands on the Future of Retail indicated that 64% of consumers are more likely to purchase online when the company offered free returns and exchanges.

Refund and return policy for online shopNow, if you are a small business, free returns and exchanges can be a tough offering as it does eat into your bottom line, especially when the Wall Street Journal reported in December 2013 that one-third of all Internet transactions are returned by shoppers.

So how can your small business avoid costly returns and exchanges?

1. Make Sure The Customer Completely Understands What They Are Buying

  • Highlight key product details in bullet point form
  • Include and encourage the use of size charts
  • Have photos that show close up details
  • Have photos that show perspective of size
  • Read customer reviews to understand what they are misunderstanding
  • Indicate what is not included if other items are shown in the photo i.e. lamp shade not included
  • Try to answer the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How

2. Make Your Return and Exchange Policy Clear

  • Give a limited time in which a customer can return or exchange, such as 30 days after date of purchase
  • Deduct original shipping charges from the refund unless the return is the result of your error
  • Offer free return shipping only if the customer is returning the item for store credit as opposed to a full refund
  • Indicate whether items can only be returned if they are unopened or in their original condition
  • Indicate whether gifts can be returned for refund or store credit only
  • Indicate how long it will take to receive a refund i.e. refunds will be processed 2 to 3 business days after item is received back

3. Indicate Items That Cannot Be Returned or Exchanged

  • Items that have had possible unhygienic body contact i.e. earrings, underwear, cosmetics, etc.
  • Items of a digital nature i.e. ebooks, printables, etc.
  • Items that have been personalized or customized
  • Items that have been washed or worn
  • Final sale items

With the holiday shopping season coming up, you may also want to indicate when you will be accepting and/or processing returns of holiday purchases. Most stores are so busy they won’t even entertain the idea of processing a return or exchange until after December 26th.

attentiongetting_marketing_graphicNeed More Advice for Your Small Business?

I offer a variety of affordable services especially for small businesses. Feel free to contact me about how I can help your small business, no obligation, at





Why Mobile-Based Small Businesses Are a Hot Trend

by Gail Oliver, Small Business Marketing Consultant

A lot of businesses struggle with bringing customers to their establishment, either a physical location or online, but have you ever thought about going to them?

mobile based businessesMobile-based businesses are becoming a hot trend, and with the baby boomer generation getting older and less mobile (no pun intended), and the younger generation over taxed time-wise, we might see the return of former ways, such as the door to door salesman, doctors making house calls and the milk man.

One industry that has really proven to be successful as a mobile set-up is the hairdressing industry. Older ladies absolutely have to have their hair done once a week and getting to a salon may not be physically that easy. A hair salon on wheels provides a great alternative. How perfect would this be for the wedding and prom industries as well?

I recently spoke with a company called Ground FX Flooring, that brings their flooring showroom right to you in their mobile trailer. The benefit here is you can bring the samples right into your home to see if they work and you don’t have to drag them back to the store. Customers are more likely to make faster decisions with this type of service.

Even the online marketplace Etsy is jumping on the mobile bandwagon with a traveling airstream trailer touring this summer through various Canadian cities filled with items from local artisans.

Maybe your business don’t need to go to someone’s home, but rather an area, the way a food truck does. There are a lot of rural and remote neighborhoods that do not have access to certain types of goods and services. Going to them gives you a captive audience and no competition.

Mobile-Based Business Ideas

I’m going to throw out some of my own original ideas, so take them for what they are!

  • A mobile spa offering manicures, pedicures and massages at office parks
  • A mobile physiotherapist showing up at sports facilities
  • A mobile pharmacy showing up at retirement villages
  • A mobile beer store that shows up to campgrounds or trailer parks
  • A mobile butcher frequenting a local neighborhood in late afternoon
  • A mobile laptop and smart phone repair service making visits to college campuses

Now obviously there are certain restrictions and special licenses needed for mobile-based businesses, but it offsets the costs of paying rent.

How can you make your business mobile?

Attention-GettingNeed More Advice for Your Small Business?

I offer a variety of affordable services especially for small businesses. Feel free to contact me about how I can help your small business, no obligation, at





Why Artisans May Want to Rethink Selling to the Low End Market

by Gail Oliver, Small Business Marketing Consultant

I have had a lot of very successful small businesses, who are technically having great success selling on popular online marketplaces, come to me and ask for advice as to why that despite this success, they are still not making money.

Screen shot 2014-07-16 at 3.57.31 PM

Here is the conundrum. When you try to sell to the low-end market (which these businesses are), you have to be able to produce significant volume in order to make any money because your profit margins are so thin. To meet this significant volume means you have to hire additional labor, which again cuts into your profit margins.

Independent artisans will always have a tough time competing in the low-end market if their products are labor-intensive, simply because they cannot afford the economies of scale needed to produce large volumes at decent profit margins the way large manufacturers can.

Case Study: The Low Priced Artisan

Take, for example, the person selling trendy knitted gloves. These gloves are aimed at the low-end fashion market and were originally selling for $25 but became such a huge fashion hit that more competition came in and drove the prices down to $15. The maker is getting tons of orders, let’s say 250 orders a day at her online shop. On the surface, that looks great. But let’s break it down a bit more.


She is grossing $3,750 a day (250 x $15). But there is no way she can make 250 pairs of gloves a day all by herself. So she needs to hire people to meet this demand. If one person can make 10 pairs gloves a day, then she needs to hire 25 people. And this is not to mention who is going to be packaging up and shipping these 250 pairs of gloves every day. So before she can pay herself, she has to pay her staff of 25. Let’s say she pays them each $125 a day, so that amounts to $3,125 ($125 x 25). Then let’s say that her material costs per pair of gloves is $1, so take off another $250. Then there is her packaging costs, which may be $.50 per pair of gloves, so take off another $125. Then there are her selling fees, which can be around 3%, so take off another $112. Then her transaction fees (credit cards/PayPal) also 3% so take off another $112. That leaves her with an overall profit of just $26 per day (and not all business expenses have not been taken into account). Obviously, this is no longer a successful business model. In fact, the irony is she actually makes more profit ($119) if she sells just 10 pairs of gloves a day.

So are artisans and indie sellers better off in the moderately priced, higher-end or luxury markets?

Case Study: The High Priced Artisan

Take the artisan, for example, who is making high-end leather bags. She charges $800 for a purse. It takes her several hours to make the purse, so most of her day. Her material costs are roughly $100. So if she sells one bag a day, she makes $800 less $100, less selling fees, packaging, etc., all pretty minimal. Therefore, she profits around $637 on the sale of one bag, in other words earning $637 for one day’s work. Not bad. If she sells only sells one bag every other day she profits $9555 a month or $114,600 a year. She has no problem meeting this quantity on her own and will never need to hire extra staff or take on more costs and she will still earn a great living and all she has to do is sell 15 bags a month.


Again, I am talking about labor-intensive products where you can only produce a few to several on your own a day.

I’m also not saying you have to go really high-priced, but you may want to consider the possibility of having two brands – a lower priced brand and a mid to higher priced brand, to tap into both markets and then decide which is more profitable for you.

Remember, you are in business to make money. If your business model isn’t working, you need to rethink it so that it does.  Otherwise you may find yourself working very hard to make little money.

Need More Advice for Running Your Small Business?

I offer a variety of affordable services especially for small businesses. Feel free to contact me about how I can help your small business, no obligation, at


Why You Should Be Pitching Your Products to be in Holiday Gift Guides NOW

by Gail Oliver, Small Business Marketing Consultant

I had to re-run this post I ran last year, but with a few updates. As you may know, print magazines typically work about four months in advance. So, right now they are planning their December issues (which go on sale in November), and a big part of any December issue is a holiday gift guide. So if you want your products to be included, you need to be pitching them to editors now.

Screen shot 2014-07-14 at 7.48.02 PMHow to Pitch

Email is still the best way to pitch to writers and editors. Keep it short and to the point, n one has the time to read a huge pitch. Include a link to the product but do not attach photos or you will send the email into spam.

What To Include In Your Pitch

  • Specify who the potential recipients could be, such as husband, wife, daughter, boss, teacher, the fitness fanatic,
  •  Specify the type of person who would like it, such as the Fashionista, the Fitness Buff, the Geek, the New Mom, the Guy Who Has Everything, the Home Chef, etc.
  • Specify the price as a lot of gift guides are categorized as such i.e. Gifts less than $25, Gifts to blow your budget on, etc.
  • Specify if the gift gives back (part of the proceeds go to charity, shop supports third world vendors, etc.)
  • Specify where your business is. This is a growing trend this year where you will see that publications want to support locally-made, American-made or UK-made products, depending on the origins of the pub

Screen shot 2014-07-14 at 7.44.32 PMOther Holiday-Related Stories You Can Pitch Products For:

  • Decorating – Do you have products that work for holiday decor?
  • Entertaining – All those holiday parties require food, serve ware and table decor
  • Travel – The holidays are high travel times and magazines are always writing about products that make it easier
  • Fashion – Maybe your products add to the perfect outfit to wear to a holiday party, Christmas day or New Year’s Eve
  • Cards – Holiday cards, as well as invitations to parties, house warmings, etc., are obviously in big demand this time of year
  • Photos – Everyone wants that family photo for the holiday card, so it’s a great time to promote any product that will enhance the photo i.e. special outfit for new baby, Santa hat for dog, Happy Holidays sign, etc.

Holiday sales are usually the biggest of the year for most businesses, so don’t wait until the last-minute to plan for it, or you may be too late.

cover2Download My Holiday Gift Guides Media Contact List

With my Holiday Gift Guides 2014 Media Contact List ($19.95US), I have done all the work for you and identified 105 major magazines, blogs and national newspapers that publish holiday gift guides. You get the contact information, email addresses, the categories they look for, the price point they are interested in, as well as a sample pitch. Don’t wait! The deadline to pitch to magazines is end of August/early September.



Why Polyvore is a Marketing Goldmine for Ecommerce Shops … and Not Just For Fashion

by Gail Oliver

Polyvore is a social media shopping site that has been around for a while, in fact, I have been recommending it to my clients for a few years. In its origins, members would create “sets” of fashion outfits typically on a certain style or theme. These sets include links to buy the items shown directly from the online shop they appear on.

Screen shot 2014-07-07 at 1.37.44 PM

Polyvore has grown significantly since its early days and now you will see sets for every type of product – beauty, weddings, entertaining, decor, home goods, babies & kids, vintage and even local shopping.

Polyvore Marketing Tips

The target market is definitely women, as females make up 74% of the readership, and they are shoppers as their statistics show that their readers are 84% more likely to have shopped online for clothes, shoes or accessories in the last 30 days than the average online consumer.

Polyvore marketing ideas

If your products fit into one of the categories mentioned, you should definitely set up a profile on Polyvore. Like all social media, once you set up a profile (which includes a link to your ecommerce shop) you can now follow other Polyvore members, like and comment on posts, and curate your own sets. But unlike other social media, Polyvore also has an editorial staff that posts original content, and this poses further promotional opportunities for ecommerce shops.

polyvore for small business

These opportunities include the inclusion of your products in their online shop as well as having your products receive higher prominence in editorial, streaming, and set creation by others. But to take advantage of these opportunities, you need to purchase one of their native ad packages.

polyvore marketing strategy

If you simply want to add your products to Polyvore for possible inclusion in curated sets, all you have to do is add their clipper tool or Polyvore button to your tool bar and then click it for each listing you wish to add. Some top retailers like Delias and Shop Ruche, have already added a Polyvore button directly to their listings, the same way as you have a Pin It icon.

marketing on polyvore

If members create a set that includes one of your products, it can drive significant traffic to your online store due to the fact that Polyvore has over 20 million unique monthly visitors, and its sets are a staple on Pinterest and other social media.

how to sell on polyvore

There is a lot you can do with this free product exposure by creating sets that are out of the ordinary or based on trending topics (such as 4th of July above), complete with magazine style headlines and textual content. As I mentioned in last week’s post, you could create sets that solve problems customers may be having, such as “How to Create a Nautical Theme Nursery?” or “Which Products are Best for Dry Skin?“. You can even try running a contest to get your customers to create sets on your behalf, or you could collaborate with sellers of complimentary but not competing products to create sets that expose your products to their followers and vice versa.

polyvore contest

Polyvore truly combines the best of social media, blogging and ecommerce, so it is definitely a marketing tool worth utilizing.

600BlogPublicityPlan-1Want to Get Your Products Featured on Blogs and in Magazines?

I will create a detailed, do-it-yourself publicity plan for your small business with a year-long PR schedule including story pitch ideas and media contacts – all at a price you can afford. Contact me at or click here for my Marketing Services for Small Businesses



You’ll Sell More If Your Product Photos Show Solutions to Customers’ Problems

by Gail Oliver

I have written before about how to Up-sell More of Your Products Using Vignette-Style Photos, and How to Make a Photo Sell Your Products, but I wanted to give you an example of a photo that got me to buy.

I saw these framed letters at Ballard Designs recently and thought they were nice, but felt that I had no need. Then I saw the second photo on their design blog. I had been looking for something to fill up a long narrow wall in my home and this was the perfect solution. But as a customer, I had walked away initially because I didn’t understand right away how I could use these letters. Not only does the second photo solve the decor dilemma I was having, but they just sold 4 instead of 1.

How to Take Effective Product Photos



Product Photo tipsHow to Get a Product Photo That Solves a Problem

As I have mentioned many times in my consultations and ebooks, not everyone is decorating savvy or fashion savvy or immediately understands why they need your product. Sometimes a visual that creates a need and/or solves a problem works a lot better than words. For example:

  • If you are selling décor products, think of a decorating dilemma (what to do with a long narrow wall)
  • If you are selling fashion, think of a fashion dilemma (what to wear to a wedding)
  • If you are selling kids products, think of a parent’s dilemma (is this product safe for my kids)
  • If you are selling vintage products, think of a buyer’s dilemma (will this work with my current décor or wardrobe)
  • If you are selling food products, think of a cook’s dilemma (how can I use this in tonight’s dinner)
  • If you are selling wedding products, think of a bride’s dilemma (will it make my wedding more unique)
  • If you are selling gadgets, think of a buyer’s dilemma (how will it make my life easier)
  • If you are selling pet products, think of a pet owner’s dilemma (is it durable enough for my big dog)
  • If you are selling beauty products, think of women’s most common dilemmas (will I look better)

And now think of a photo that will immediately capture the solution to this dilemma.

PLEASE NOTE: One of my clients, Shed, The Eclectic Home, also sells the above prints in her online shop.

My FREE Offer of the Day!

Tell me the product you are having trouble selling and I will give my photo suggestion for you in an upcoming blog post (plus a link to your business).



Is Your Small Business Targeting the College Crowd?

by Gail Oliver, Small Business Marketing Consultant

NY TIMES SMALL BUSINESSJust last week Target announced it would be setting up an online gift registry for college students. The service is not yet available in-store, but what it means it that parents can set up a subscription service online to send their kids any products off their Target registry – from toothpaste to sheets.

Target launches college registry

Now, this is a smart marketing idea in so many ways. The advantage to the customer is that parents can control what kids are spending by ordering the products for the student instead of parents giving their kids the money to buy these items on their own.

For Target, it is a great way to guarantee both repeat business and frequent business. They are essentially asking parents to make Target the sole supplier to their away-from-home college student. And by offering it as a registry (like a wedding registry), more people can buy for the student besides the parents (such as grandparents) and again, it’s all from Target.

According to Crux Research, last year US college students spent $13.1 billion on clothing and shoes, $7.6 billion on personal care products and $4.9 billion on cosmetics, so this a not a market your small business should be ignoring. Maybe you’re not large enough to start a registry service, but there are other ways to attract this market.

Ways to Target the College Crowd:

  • Offer a special discount card just for college students (as well as for parents of college students) even as much as 10% would be appreciated.
  • Offer students a free $10 gift card (for your store) for every friend they send your way.
  • Offer free shipping on their first purchase, if they are ordering from you online.
  • Offer a free service to a student in exchange for purchase. For example, if you are selling them a laptop, offer to do a free monthly backup if they bring the laptop in.
  • Offer discounts when more people buy. For example, a restaurant could offer a 10% discount off the bill if a college student crowd of 5 or more comes in for a meal.
  • Give an item for free that will promote your business to more students, such as a free “Do Not Disturb” door hanger that has your business name on it.
  • Give away a free download a future college student would appreciate, like an Applying to College Checklist, that, again, has your business name on it.
  • Give away a free download that a parent who has a student going off to school would appreciate, such as a College Supply/ Dorm Room Checklist.

College students and their parents are a lucrative market that is spending, so think of how they could be potential customers for your small business.

Special Offer Today Only!

selling home goods online ebookToday only I have reduced the prices on all 6 of my Small Business Marketing Ideas That Work! ebooks to just $5 (regular $8), so check them out at my Selz bookstore here.



Weekend Reading List: Small Business Links You May Have Missed

by Gail Oliver, Small Business Marketing Consultant


Interesting News From the Past Week:

600BlogVerbalConsulation-2Need Help With Your Small Business?

I offer a 30-minute marketing consultation by phone or Skype, where you can ask me any questions about the marketing of your small business and I will give you my advice, ideas and tactics to try.  The cost is just $49 US. You can order here.




3 Reasons Why Pinterest is an Amazing Marketing Tool and My Exclusive Pinterest Tip

by Gail Oliver, Small Business Marketing Consultant

If you are not using Pinterest for marketing your small business, what are you waiting for? I get more traffic from Pinterest than any other social media site, and my type of business is not one you would think would be Pinterest-friendly.

I am going to give you three reasons why Pinterest excels as a social media platform for business.

Screen shot 2014-06-18 at 9.07.05 AM

Pinterest Will Expose You to People BEYOND Your Followers 

Pinterest has public category boards, such as the Travel one above, which means that on occasion your pin may go to one of these public boards and expose you to new people other than your followers and your followers’ followers.

Pinterest Can Bring You Residual Traffic for Months on End

One popular pin can bring your site endless traffic for months, even years. For another business I have, I had the good fortune of one of my pins making a public category board.  In the 15 months since that pin first appeared (and has been repinned hundreds of times) it has brought me, to-date, 137,000 visitors and continues to still be my highest traffic source. Now, I am not saying that all of this traffic is potential customers, but I’ll take it.

Pinterest Boards Get Picked Up By Google Search

Having a hard time getting on the first page of Google? Try naming a Pinterest board with a popular Google search phrase and you may have more luck. I typed in “Cute Summer Outfits” and the first three searches that came up were Pinterest boards, ranking higher than some popular mainstream magazines and retail stores.

Pinterest marketing tips business

My Pinterest Tip!

The best time to pin is when the majority of your followers are active on Pinterest, so they have a better chance of seeing your pins so they will repin (in other words, your pins aren’t buried down lower under more recent pins from other people they follow).

Want to know when that is? Go to the far upper right hand corner of the Pinterest screen where it shows your name. Then simply click on the Notifications icon (which is the red, double pin icon) and you will see the activity of your followers regarding your boards. If your notifications indicates that the majority of your followers were active 12 hours ago, then that is when you should be pinning.

pinterest marketing tip

Need a Social Media Plan?600BlogSocialMediaPlan

I can create a detailed social media action plan that is right for your small business, and it is super affordable at $99 US.  I will detail exactly which social media sites I think your business needs to be on and give you specific content suggestions and detailed tactics to maximize your exposure on each. You can order on my  Marketing Services page.



Need a New Product Idea? Try Reinventing an Old One

by Gail Oliver, Small Business Marketing Consultant

Are you looking for a product idea for a business? Sometimes the easy way to find a new product idea, is to take a common everyday product we all use and make it even better.

Reinventing a Product

Let’s take soap for example. How do you improve upon soap?

Well, maybe you could:

  • make it last longer
  • smell better
  • clean better
  • look better
  • add some secret ingredient

pretty soap

OR you position it to a specific market segment:

  • soap for men
  • soap for kids
  • soap for sensitive skin

soap for men

OR maybe it is how you package it:

  • a bar
  • a loaf
  • a ball
  • in a pump bottle
  • in cutout shapes
  • on  a rope

how to make a product better

New Product Ideas Checklist

So, simply take a current popular everyday product, and then answer these questions. How can I make it:

  • look better
  • taste better
  • smell better
  • sound better
  • function better
  • more interesting
  • more useful
  • more fun
  • solve a current problem with the product
  • combine two products in one

If you need inspiration, I encourage you to check out and follow my Pinterest board, Products I Love, where I post everyday products that people took and gave a new, interesting and marketable update.

new product ideas


Need a Hot, New Product Idea?600BlogVerbalConsulation-2

Then you will love my 30-minute verbal consultation by phone or Skype, where you can ask me any questions about how to improve your product offerings, expand into new markets and get in on the hottest upcoming trends.  The cost is just $49 US and you can order here.




Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,453 other followers

%d bloggers like this: