Stop Killing Your Profit Margins with Special Packaging Customers Don’t Care About

by G.B. Oliver

Sorry if the headline is harsh, but I want you to make money!

I was doing a consultation on a very nice online jewelry shop, and the seller was making the same mistake a lot of other small online sellers seem to do. Every item is sent to the customer in a beautiful gift box. And for free. So I have to ask – why?

Designer Kate Spade charges a small fee for gift boxes
Designer Kate Spade charges a small fee for gift boxes

There are so many things wrong with this I am not sure where to start:

  • First of all, what if it is not a gift? The box is then a wasted cost and definitely not an incentive to buy.
  • What if it is a gift and the buyer doesn’t like the gift box you’re offering? They are just going to toss it anyway, so again, a wasted cost.
  • How much is it costing you to offer these gift boxes that the majority of its buyers don’t care about, eating into probably already slim profits?
  • How is this gift box affecting shipping charges, which without it could then be lowered, and low shipping charges are more of an incentive to buy.
  • What if the buyer orders 5 items? Are you going to send 5 gift boxes? That becomes a pretty large shipment.

In the last year I have ordered clothing and jewelry from many mid to high-end online stores, and guess what? Each time my items came individually packaged in plastic bags. It didn’t bother me. If it means my shipping charges are lower due to less weight and bulk, so be it. I don’t need any more boxes.

But there are cases when clever packaging can work. The other day I bought a pair of earrings at a popular retail fashion chain. The salesperson handed me the earrings, small as they were, in a mid-sized reusable cushioned bag with fabric handles that could be used for a lunch bag or small tote.  It seemed excessive considering how small the earrings were, but it was neon green with their logo taking up both sides, so it would basically act as free advertising for them anywhere I took it. Now, this is smart packaging. And the cost of the bag is essentially an advertising cost, not a packaging cost.

Now, by all means, offer gift wrapping or gift boxes as a value added service that you charge for, $2 or $3 to recoup your costs, or just offer it for free during the holiday season.  Plus, it is dependent on price. If you are selling a $600 necklace, then yes you should probably put it in a box. But for low to moderate priced jewelry, it’s not an issue.

And let your customers know that you don’t use fancy packaging (just protective packaging to avoid damage) because you want to save them these unnecessary costs and it’s better for the environment (well, not plastic). This way there are no surprises, they know how it will be arriving, and they will appreciate what you are trying to do as a small business person.

FINAL WORD: Small businesses need to maximize profit margins in order to offer competitive prices and still make money. Therefore, do away with any unnecessary costs that are not going to impact the buying decision.

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© 2013 G.B. Oliver. All rights reserved.

How to Make Your Online Store’s Sections More Appealing to Busy Shoppers

by G.B. Oliver

Last week I wrote about altering your shop sections/categories to make them more in sync with seasonal buying habits. For example, adding categories for Mother’s Day, Prom, Cinco de Mayo, Memorial Day, etc. (in case you missed it: Keep Your Online Shop Categories In Sync with Seasonal Buying Habits).

But there are also other ways you can help visitors zero in on what they really want to find in your shop, in order to maximize purchases. People don’t have a lot of time these days. A lot of the reason online shopping is so popular is because it is easier to find what you want, due to searching capabilities. So consider some of these shop categories used by popular online stores that might work for you:

Screen shot 2013-04-25 at 11.23.04 AM


Piperlime is an online clothing store with all the typical categories such as Dresses, Tops, Pants, Shoes, etc. But they also offer the visitor other ways to shop with categories such as Spring Trends, Girl on a Budget (Everything Under $100) and New to Sale. 

West Elm

West Elm sells home décor products. In addition to searching by categories such as pillows, furniture, etc., they offer other categories such as Most Pinned Products, Eco/Green, and the Monogram Shop. 

Screen shot 2013-04-29 at 9.45.13 AM


Screen shot 2013-04-29 at 10.01.56 AM

P.S. Kids Aeropostale

P.S. sells children’s clothing. They have interesting shop categories that appeal to moms who are looking for something specific, the convenience of already put together outfits, or a bargain, such as: Mix & Match 2 for $12, $5 Fun Finds and Shore Things (items for the beach).

Screen shot 2013-04-29 at 10.05.11 AM

Victoria’s Secret

Everyone knows what Victoria’s Secret sells. What was interesting in their online store is how they really push the deals, with shop categories such as 2/$40 Tops and Tees, 2/$60 Shirts, and 2/$40 Yoga Bottoms

YOUR NEXT STEP: Think about how your typical buyer shops. Do they want something for a specific occasion, do they want a deal, do they want style advice? This is an opportunity to really facilitate that buying decision and generate more sales. For more great marketing advice, download your copy of Small Business Marketing Ideas That Work!.

© 2013 G.B. Oliver. All rights reserved.

6 Sure-Fire Tips to Still Get Sales When Things Are Slow

by G.B. Oliver

I hear online businesses complaining all the time why people aren’t buying. There is definitely a slow down after the holidays as people have bills to pay and spending may be limited. There is also another slowdown around tax time for obvious reasons.


So if visitors to your store like your product, but dont’ feel they really need it, they won’t buy if money is tight. They may come back, but it you want to make the sale, you have to create a strong need to buy it now.

6 Ways You Can Still Make Sales in Slow Times:

  • Provide a Low Price Section – People always have that desire to buy something new, even when they can’t afford it, so have a category in your online store marked “Under $20” if you can. Even call it something like, “Inexpensive Pick-Me Ups Under $20”. Highlight it with a ★.
  • Offer a Freebee – Buyers love to take advantage of free offers, but it has to be a limited time offer, and that is key. “Buy any 3 prints today ONLY and get the 4th for free”. Screen shot 2013-04-29 at 10.38.39 AM
  • Offer One Day Only Free Shipping – Shipping costs can be a real deal breaker, but, again, if you say it is just for one day only, people will take advantage right away. While it might take a toll on your bottom line, the key is to get that initial customer which will lead to repeat business.
  • Buy Now, Pay Later – If you can, allow buyers to purchase items, but you will not process the transaction  (or send the items) until the end of month (which is typically when they get paid again).
  • Last One – Put a “Last One Available” icon right on the product photo. If the buyer thinks they can’t get it again, or not for a few weeks, they will act quickly. Screen shot 2013-04-29 at 10.24.58 AM
  • Sold Out – Have a sale, but mark certain items with a “Sold Out” icon. This indicates to buyers that your items are selling quickly and they have to act fast.

FINAL WORD: If times are slow to keep making sales you’ve got to pull out all the tricks and appeal to buyers’ need for a deal.

GB OliverABOUT ME: I’m G.B. Oliver, a small business marketing consultant and author of the new ebook series, Small Business Marketing Ideas That Work! – 145 Detailed Tactics. I also do private consultations for online businesses. Feel free to contact me at
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© 2013 G.B. OLIVER

4 Social Media Sites You May Not Be Using … But Should

by G.B. Oliver

NY TIMES SMALL BUSINESSWhen you think social media, the top sites always come up Facebook (750 million users), Twitter (250 million users), Linked In (110 million users), Pinterest (85 million users). But there are others that also host millions of users that might be better for your type of business.


DeviantArt  (26 million users) – if you sell any kind of art, photography, artisan craft, you should profile your business on DeviantArt. They allow you to post your products, include a detailed profile, link to your website, and will actually sell your creations for you. Now, you don’t have to sell on DeviantArt, they will let you link directly to your own shop to purchase.


BuzzFeed (15 million users) – BuzzFeed was founded by Jonah Peretti, who co-founded the Huffington Post, which is the most-read blog on the Internet. BuzzFeed is a magazine/blog with a variety of articles on different subjects, but there is a celebrity/lifestyle/politics/entertainment focus. You set up a profile and can post an article you write, images you like, products you like, etc. There is content already on the site written by their writers, but if the staff likes your post, they may put it on the main page exposing you to their millions of readers. For example, if you sell baby products could write a post entitled, “10 Crying Baby Santa Photos”. It has to creative and it can’t be blatant advertising. While you can include links to your shop, you cannot include links to your blog.


Indulgy (3 million users) – Indulgy is a lot like Pinterest. You add photos of things you love and it links right back to the direct source on the Internet. It is a little more streamlined than Pinterest with no categories to search on, just the main board or the popular category. Photos appear here with a board title listed, so you can click on the board to narrow down to something more specific. As I said, it is much more streamlined. Also, the sizing of the photos is more uniform than on Pinterest, making it easier to get noticed. Fashion and decorating photos definitely dominate the popular board, so if you sell these types of products, Indulgy may be for you.


Metacafe (11 million users) – This is a video channel, an obvious competitor to YouTube. I would definitely recommend it if you have a technie, geeky or gadgety type product as that seems to be the more popular posts. Also, pop culture such as movies, tv and music is big on this channel, so if you have products in that vein, ie. Fashion Inspired by Mad Men, your target market is definitely here.

FINAL WORD: New social media sites are always popping up and will continue to do so. To try and be on all of them isn’t the answer. Pick and choose the ones that are right for your target market and marketing efforts.

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© 2013 G.B. Oliver. All rights reserved.

Google Search Phrases On The Rise

by G.B. Oliver


I love looking at Google Trends and seeing which search phrases are popular, but also which ones are on the rise. The great thing about Google Trends is you can customize it by country and by time period (i.e. last 7 days), so it is a great tool to keep on top of the marketplace. So I entered some product categories to see what the top rising search phrases were, for the last 3 months, worldwide.


For the jewelry vendors out there, and I know there are lots, these are the top rising search phrases:

  • Cheap Body Jewelry
  • Hematite Jewelry
  • Amethyst Jewelry (amethyst is the February birthstone)
  • Bridesmaid Jewelry

For wedding products vendors, typing in wedding was too generic, so here are the top rising search phrases, worldwide, in the last 3 months for “Wedding Invitations”:

  • Fun Wedding Invitations
  • Coral Wedding Invitations
  • Country Wedding Invitations
  • Homemade Wedding Invitations

For vendors of baby products, again, typing in baby was too generic. So I tried “Baby Clothes”, and these were the top risers:

  • Baby Summer Clothes
  • Neutral Baby Clothes
  • Crochet Baby Clothes
  • Handmade Baby Clothes
  • Unisex Baby Clothes

For vendors of art, I typed in the phrase “Wall Art” and this is what resulted:

  • Kitchen Art
  • African Wall Art
  • Bathroom Wall Art
  • Beach Wall Art
  • Kitchen Wall Art (Kitchen seems to be in big demand)

For vintage sellers, these were the breakout rising searches for “Vintage”:

  • Vintage Valentines
  • Modern Vintage Boutique
  • Vintage Swimwear
  • Vintage Prom Dresses
  • Vintage Bridesmaid Dresses
  • Vintage Style Dresses

For sellers of home products, it is a little tougher to narrow things down. So I entered “Decorative” and these were the results:

  • Decorative curtain rods
  • Decorative baskets
  • Decorative bird cages
  • Decorative wall hooks
  • Decorative ceiling tiles

FINAL WORD: When you look at searches in lesser time frames, like the last 3 months, it helps you to see popular cyclical searches, such as Valentine’s, and also how far in advance people start searching for different events or seasons. For example, people are already searching for summer items. Use Google Trends to help you find where that next opportunity lies for your online business.

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© 2013 G.B. Oliver. All rights reserved.

Online Stores I Love – Harabu House

by G.B. Oliver

One of the things I try to do with my blog is frequently point out Marketing I Love and Products I Love, but today I am actually going to talk about an Online Store I Love. The store is called Harabu House and if you are looking for ideas to what makes an online store work, you definitely should check them out.

Screen shot 2013-04-29 at 10.41.45 AMHarabu House was launched in 2010 and is an exclusive online eco-boutique for contemporary and stylish global finds. Their mission is to find sustainable products that provide economic, social and environmental benefits to the artisans who create them, and they carry products from all over the globe.

What Harabu House is Doing Right:

  • Great Products – They carry truly unique, beautiful products for the home (as well as some jewelry and fashion accessories). From hand painted tea cups to teak measuring spoons, everything seems to have a mix of the exotic and the contemporary at the same time. Screen shot 2013-04-29 at 10.44.17 AM
  • Easy to Navigate – I personally do not like busy home/landing pages and Harabu’s is sleek and simple. They have a slide show running of various products with a caption such as “Find Me Under Dinnerware“, making it easy for the visitor to find the products on display. All the categories are neatly displayed at the top and the particulars such as contact info, FAQs, newsletter, and social media icons are tightly compacted in a barred off section at the bottom. I also love how that important upper right hand corner notifies customers of their free shipping offer on domestic orders over $75 with a hot pink elephant icon drawing the eye right to it.


  • Gift Guide – Another icon on the home page is their gift guide. But once you click on it, you are actually then given more options to narrow it down further, such as a gift guide for housewarming, baby shower, for him, for her. Another attempt to make the shopping experience easier for the customer.
  • Product Descriptions – The product descriptions are so well written, with compact narratives that tell you everything you need to know and create a need to buy. They are typically followed by a small write-up about the artist. I love the Tell a Friend feature, allowing you to instantly email the product to a friend, the Add to Wish List icon, and the Request More Information icon – three great Call to Actions to keep buyers engaged.
  • Category Highlight – A nice touch this online store has, is that when you are in a particular product category, the icon behind it colorizes, reminding you where you are. Screen shot 2013-04-29 at 10.47.55 AM
  • Photographs – The photographs are definitely top notch. Well-lit, various angles, magazine-quality set-ups, typically showing the product in use. I also like that for certain products, they include a photo of any magazine editorial that product has appeared in, which helps credibility with customers because it acts as an endorsement.
  • Shopping Cart Total – A cool feature about their shopping cart icon in the upper right hand corner, is that it will not only display the number of items (which is pretty common with most online sellers) but it actually displays how much you have spent so far. Love that!

FINAL WORD: So, if you want a good example of what a sleek, attractive online home products shop should look like, check out Harabu House.

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Are Your Keywords Covering All Aspects of the English Language?

by G.B. Oliver

When you are adding tags and keywords to your website, shop, product listings, and so forth, are you considering all variations of the English language?

As you are aware, the English language has slight differences whether you live in the U.S., Canada, the UK, Australia and other English speaking countries. You could be missing out on these areas being potential customers (if you do ship product to these countries) simply because you did include their more commonly used phrases and spellings.

In the UK these are baby rompers or bodysuits, not baby onesies.
In the UK these are baby rompers or bodysuits, not baby onesies.

For example, if you are selling baby onesies, no one in the UK or Australia will be searching for that phrase. Instead they will be searching bodysuit, playsuit, sleepsuit or romper. So, if you want to sell to this international market as well, it couldn’t hurt to add these keywords to your tags.

If you sell pants, no one in the UK and Australia that will looking searching on that word either, (unless they are looking for underwear) but rather, they would be searching the word, trousers.

Words that are different in the U.S. and UK:

  • Overalls are dungarees
  • Toiletry bag is wash bag
  • Swimwear is beachwear
  • Sweater is jumper
  • Backpack is day pack
  • Pillows are cushions
  • Message boards are notice boards
  • Cupcake liners are cupcake cases
  • Cookies are biscuits
  • Underwear is knickers (women’s)
  • Ring bearer is pageboy
  • Stroller is pram or pushchair
  • Crib mobile is cot mobile
  • Diapers are nappies
  • Birdhouse is bird box
  • Sleepwear is nightwear
  • Subway is metro

Not to mention slight spelling differences:

  • Personalized is personalised
  • Jewelry is jewellery
  • Wedding favors are wedding favours
  • Organizer is organiser
  • Color is colour
  • Center is centre
  • Pajamas is pyjamas
  • Gray is grey
  • Mustache is moustache

So simply by adding a few extra keywords that cater to other English markets, this will help expose your products to even more customers.

Want more advice on keywords that will attract your target market? You’ll find that, and hundreds of other innovative ideas, in my marketing guides, Small Business Marketing Ideas That Work! as well as other helpful marketing tools in my Etsy shop.


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