Jigoshop Black Friday Sale: 50% off WordPress eCommerce software

Jigoshop is a free, open-source WordPress eCommerce platform which has been available for around two years now, allowing you to set up an online store quickly and easily on any self-hosted WordPress installation.

They’re been a client since originally launching, and are now used by tens of thousands of businesses around the world. And we also use Jigoshop as a platform for other great clients such as BargainBikerBrands.

It’s great for small-to-medium online eCommerce businesses, and for quickly and easily being able to set up a shop to test demand for products. You only pay if you want to extend the functionality with additional payment services (PayPal standard, FuturePay and WorldPay are built in), or add on other tools to make your shop more effective.

They’re currently holding a Jigoshop Black Friday Sale, with 50% off a massive range of products, including themes, 70+ extensions, and more. Which means you could save a lot if you’re setting up a store.

Jigoshop_Black_Friday_Sale

So if you’ve got an idea or a plan to sell any products or services online, it’s a good time to pick up everything you’ll need for an effective eCommerce website. You’ve got until 9am GMT on Saturday, November 30th to complete your purchase with the discount code ‘blackfriday2013

And if you need any help, or you want to improve the marketing of your Jigoshop website, we can help!

Good service, bad service and social media

I went for a quick shopping trip at Bluewater yesterday, and it once again highlighted how important it is to align the whole customer experience of your brand, including your products, service levels and marketing. A comparison of three retail and social media experience sum it up nicely:

Store 1: Uniqlo:

I’ve heard various things about Uniqlo and browsed their stores, but this was the first time I’ve intended to make a purchase, having seen numerous mentions of their selvage jeans (Selvage refers to the method of stitching, if you’re not a denim geek). And the level of service was great – first someone was able to help me find the one pile of the right jeans amongst the masses on display, and also explained that they offer a free alteration service when I struggled to find the right leg length.Then the young lady manning the fitting rooms was also friendly and helpful when arranging the alterations and pinning the jeans, and the till staff maintained that. After 40 minutes I came back and my jeans were ready.

Store 2: Ed’s Easy Diner:

I’m a big fan of good burger joints and Americana, so Ed’s should have been perfect. But it was average for various reasons. Partly the quality of food doesn’t quite justify the price (the bacon on my burger was burnt and rock solid, the strawberry milkshake was mainly vanilla, and the chips were undercooked). And partly because the three waiting staff between them were disinterested at best. Having invested in something slightly overpriced and with a hefty amount of competitive restaurants nearby, seeing our food and drinks slammed on the table or being ignored when we tried to pay the bill really didn’t make up for the food. Especially when I’ve experienced alternatives including the constant favourite Byron Burger in London (for example).

Store 3: Soletrader:

The actual service in Soletrader wasn’t bad – reasonably quick, friendly and helpful. The problem is that they were totally hampered by the store infrastructure. I’ve received a voucher for the store, which can’t be redeemed online. I want a specific pair of trainers, which are never in stock in my size. And although I can order them to a physical store, I really wanted to try the two closest sizes to check the right fit. It’s the sort of problem which turns a normally docile and compliant customer into one who will cause any amount of hassle to get rid of his voucher and never go near the store again.

How about the social media marketing:

When I came back online, I decided to tweet about the 3 different levels of service – good, average, and hampered by store policies.

Interestingly, Uniqlo didn’t need to respond or acknowledge my recommendation, but various friends echoed the fact that instore it’s a great experience (Although apparently their email marketing can be pretty overwhelming). That’s fine as I’m quite happy to follow their Twitter account.

Ed’s Easy Diner didn’t respond which is consistently disapointing. I’d hoped to be reassured that my experience may have been a one-off, but can only assume it wasn’t.

But the most interested in the fact that Soletrader did get back to me on Twitter. I got an acknowledgement and an apology for the hassle, although yet again, someone attempting to offer service and customer care couldn’t actually provide a solution, although they did say ‘we’re looking into a way gift vouchers can be used online in the future’.

More effort needed:

Recent stats show that customers expectations of service and feedback via social media outstrip the expectations of companies to monitor and respond. That has to change, and it has to go just beyond monitoring mentions and passing on details.

I wouldn’t necessarily expect Ed’s to respond with any offers or compensation (though I wouldn’t have complained if they did), but at least acknowledging their was a problem with the service offered and finding out more about my experience may have helped them identify a way in which they could improve their business in a location with a high level of competing restaurants and a fairly captive market. It certainly wasn’t busy when we ate, and yet we still ended up on a table with a jukebox out of order.

And Soletrader really need to move more quickly to solve their infrastructure problems, or empower staff to sort a solution out. I hate to quote the Zappos example yet again, but it’s appropriate for a footwear company. If the marketing team on Twitter wanted to turn an annoyed customer into a loyal one, they’d just need to grab a pair of Onitsuka Tigers in blue/red in size 7 and size 8 – send them both to my home address and allow me to send back the pair which didn’t fit. I can give them the voucher code in advance, and they can deal with the hassle of it not being valid for an online order. But having checked the Soletrader site, it appears of 13 different shoes, they have 3 in stock in size 7 across the UK.

The financial risk would be the outlay on posting one reasonable sized box (About £10), and the risk of losing one additional pair of trainers (Retail £70, so under that). I wonder what their current cost is for customer acquisition, and what value they put on their marketing and advertising expenditure, but without being too engrossed in follower numbers, the fact that I personally have twice as many as their official account means that it would probably be a cost efficient exercise overall – and the fact that I also have a number of sneaker addicted friends (including a couple of sneaker collectors) would surely pay off.

Compare that to the knowledge that if I’d just paid for trainers I’d get free postage and returns to store. But by receiving a voucher which ties me into that store I lose all the benefits and service, and instead gain additional hassle.

Two of my favourite things – Jigoshop and Genesis together…

I’m a big fan of WordPress eCommerce solution Jigoshop, having worked with the team for a while to get the word out that there’s a free open-source eCommerce plugin which is easy to use, quick to set-up, and isn’t limited to requiring a qualified developer to get it running – even I’ve managed it on a test site in about 10 minutes.

I’m also a big fan of the StudioPress Genesis Framework for WordPress, and their child themes. To the point that I spent a significant amount for the Pro Plus package to have access to all of them. All my new sites run on the various StudioPress child themes, including ResCogs. And in fact, OnlineRaceDriver and FPSPrestige are actually running on the pre-Genesis Metro theme from StudioPress.

So I’m really pleased that Genesis Commerce is now available as a theme to combine the Genesis Framework with Jigoshop eCommerce.

Genesis Commerce combines Jigoshop and Genesis Framework

Genesis Commerce combines Jigoshop and Genesis Framework

I’m really proud to be working with Jigoshop because it allows you to own your store, rather than relying solely on someone else setting and running everything, whether it’s Etsy or eBay. I’m never against using those sites to promote or sell, but it’s the different between having a market stall on someone’s pitch, or owning your own store outright. And being able to use Genesis makes an easy set-up even easier, plus adds some additional SEO benefits and other cool features.

The future of print is in the hands of small retailers

I was in St Albans yesterday for an interesting meeting with someone I can’t name about a project I can’t mention. But afterwards I had enough time to pop into Chaos City Comics, a small comic shop which has apparently been going for a couple of decades.

It’s a really nice friendly shop, and having overheard the owner go through the world of comics with someone buying on behalf of someone else, we ended up striking up a bit of a chat about the comic shop business, a forthcoming reboot for DC comics, and the future of print in a world of tablet computing and curated discovery.

It made me think a lot about the future of print – apparently the combination of high profile movies and new formats has encouraged new business into the shop for print comics. But will this continue when superhero movies may not be moneyspinners for the studios, and when more and more people might be reading everything on a screen to the exclusion of anything else?

One thing we did talk about which I think might have potential for comics in particular is a curated experience which is already being offered by some specialist record retailers. Rather than visiting a storefront with the rent and expense that incurs, you’re able to visit a small office in which you pour out all your musical preferences and interests, and in return you get an expert providing you with a suitable selection to sample and enjoy before parting with your cash for the ones you want to take away.

So what about the same for comics? As someone who has less time than ever to keep up with the latest news and issues, I’d love to be able to go to a friendly expert on a regular basis who could not only suggest and advise what new titles I should try, but also be able to provide the complete story arcs I should be reading on a regular basis…

A selection of comics

Image by KickTheBeat on Flickr (CC Licence)

 

Small retailers need to do more…

The other thing that stood out is that I had a great experience in store, but I’m not a St Albans regular, and coming home and finding the Chaos City website has been a little frustrating, as it could definitely be offering more – it’s a basic news service about the store at the moment, without any way for me to part with any money for starters.

And that seems to be the case with so many great little specialist shops – great owners and staff, great knowledge and expertise, and no really good way of being able to access it when you’re not in the shop itself.

And there’s no legitimate excuse for that in an era when print is in decline, and the likely future will be one of niche publishing in specific areas of interest. There are lots of not only effective, but also efficient ways to increase turnover and provide more ways to interested people to spend cash with you, in addition to building customer loyalty and improving customer service. And considering the amount of free and open source options available to create a really good web presence, it doesn’t have to be expensive – especially if you deal in comics and know someone susceptible to payment in back issues as well as cash 😉

Musical serendipity in a digital world….

My former Absolute Radio colleague Adam Bowie recently wrote about serendipity in music and books, and it’s been stuck in my head like a particularly determined earworm for a while. I’ll wait here while you go and read it.

'The Record Shop' courtesy Nicoze on Flickr (CC Licence)

Adam’s experience is that record and book shops provide an element of serendipity missing in online retailers, and this is also a familiar comment on news services, and information via social networks which connect you with friends likely to share your world view.

It’s interesting because of a crossover – Adam is fairly adept and accustomed with technology in various forms, and is certainly a user of most new tools for music and audio-visual entertainment. He’s also a very keen photographer, which itself is an interest rooted in technology and gadgets.

At the same time, I’ve had the type of trainspotter passion for music which was celebrated by the likes of Nick Hornby, with records and cds filling rooms, filed in alphabetical and chronological order. Music magazines ranging from the NME to Guitarist filled my teenage bedroom, the ‘Evening Session’ was required listening, and the hint of a good band appearing on a TV music show would require sitting through the other 27 minutes of tedium in barely-contained excitement. And 10+ years after I’d programme the family video recorder to tape ‘Raw Power in the early hours of the morning, I couldn’t stop myself mentioning to my friends that I’d shared a lift with presenter and then Mojo Editor-in-Chief Phil Alexander.

'Serendipity' courtesy Tojosan on Flickr (CC Licence)

So how does musical serendipity work without record shops?

So how has digital serendipity led to a time when long train journeys to London just to visit Berwick Street record shops (and possibly get served by Martin Belam years before we ever met), transform me into someone who didn’t buy any records during 18 months actually working round the corner at a radio station and yet has such a surplus of music to hear that it probably isn’t achieveable in my lifetime?

No Media – websites, blogs, radio, TV, books:

Strangely, despite the huge wealth of niche blogs and websites available, I rarely read them. Mainly because there’s already an overwhelming amount of tech and marketing stuff to read, plus a huge surplus of books recommended by bloggers and friends. The exception is when they appear as a result of a search for someone I’ve heard about but haven’t been able to locate. I do occasionally read and re-read books about artists and genres, and search out records mentioned – the majority of which are at the back of the highly recommended Sweet Soul Music by Peter Guralnick.

Instead, the Related Artist rabbit hole:

I’ve often tweted about the fact I’ve fallen foul of the biggest risk when working from home – falling into the Related Artist rabbit hole on Spotify. Although it tends to be flawed when dealing with big mainstream acts, the old rule of six degrees tends to mean you can soon start finding songs and artists you haven’t encountered, or hadn’t yet listed to. The Spotify inventory is still a bit patchy, particularly when you get into more obscure and niche genres, but I’ve had some pleasant discoveries, including some slightly esoteric research into Peruvian punk music, or moving from punk through to psychobilly and punk/country crossovers.

And when Spotify fails, there’s the backup of Last.fm, which I’ve long held to be the musical Wikipedia, more than any type of online radio service. There’s a far wider range of the genres I tend to end up exploring, and enough of a sample of most to let me know whether to search further. Even if autoscrobbling can lead to embarrassment when I end up playing songs for my partner or son and they end up recorded forever on my profile because I never remember to delete them. Plus, despite it’s abject failure as a social network, Myspace is still pretty useful for finding a huge number of bands.

New services:

I occasionally use Blip.fm, which provides extreme randomness in the manner of a crowdsourced electronic John Peel. I’ve occasionally get some mileage from Soundcloud. But it’s actually Mixcloud, which for me might as well be renamed ‘HeavySoulBrutha radio‘.

Digital + People:

Like most people, I’ve got at least a few friends who are heavily into their music (@mattcharge happens to be an excellent DJ for example, and @pjeedai may be the whitest expert on obscure British hiphop before you stray into Tim Westwood territory). Only recently I discovered a very professional and respectable journalist I’ve known for years happens to have an obsession with Scandinavian Death Metal, whilst one chat with a marketing agency descended into an hour of the merits of hair metal.

And all of these people distributed geographically and professionally are able to share their recommendations with me regardless of whether they can be bothered to send me a C90 tape recorded from the radio, or want to risk their prized blue label Stax 45s in the mail.

But the funniest thing has been impromptu sound-offs. Recent Jodanma meetings were disrupted by my suggestion of an official Jodanma entrepreneurial soundtrack (available here on Spotify – add your own suggestions), and two days in client offices have involved ‘name that movie theme’ and ‘cheesiest rock’ competitions. Everyone in each situation was able to pull up their streaming service of choice, their digital music collection, or a quick Youtube video and jump in.

The prospect of DRM was long feared as ending the ability to share music. Despite the fact that some artists chose to allow their music to be distributed via Creative Commons, the other result was an ‘iPod sharing/swapping’ trend in playgrounds around the world.

'Mother & Daughter Flashmobsters' courtesy drewleavy on Flickr (CC Licence)

And retailers?:

I’ve occasionally had recommendations from particular record shop experts, or spotted something interesting when browsing, but I’m not sure the actual amount of discoveries has been much different to seeing the various related items on any ecommerce site. Adam’s right that the personal recommendations are based on previous purchases, so aren’t going to recommend something from an unconnected genre, but those tend to come from the sources mentioned above.

Considering I’ve had record shop assistants express disbelief at my seemingly random selection of CDs – “No, none of them are presents, and yes, I can enjoy thrash metal, Irish folk music and obscure 70’s funk”, I’m not sure an algorhythm could ever hope to cope.

Which is probably why the serendipity of music in the digital age has to come from the same place it always has – from other people exposing you to their music and sharing it. Whether it was mixtapes and bootleg cassettes with photocopied inlays being swapped around, or a friend’s dad enforcing a course of Pink Floyd indoctrination every time he gave us a lift to school, that method remains the same, but the potential pool of influencers is much enlarged, just as every aspect of our social circle is enlarged.

Footnote:

None of this means that I don’t still enjoy browsing record stores, although my sole purchases these days tend to be particularly obscure vinyl. By the same token, I still have an addition to visiting the likes of Foyles and far more esoteric bookshops, such as one devoted solely to motoring books. But the serendipity effect of a generic mainstream retailer such as HMV or Waterstones has been completely replaced by digital encounters for me, and judging by sales figures and the precarious state of most of them, the end of the mainstream High Street entertainment shop probably isn’t far away.

Negative reviews – Proof that responding works!

Back when I was Products Editor on motorcyclenews.com, I received a steady trickle of emails and phonecalls on the same theme. Each one was from a product manufacturer or retailer who had received a negative review or forum post and wanted to know what they could, and should, do about it.

Five+ years ago, the answer was mix of the insight and common sense that I possessed at the time. Unless the review or post was libellous (in which case the legal requirement was to remove it), the best thing that company could do would be to respond publicly with a polite and reasoned answer for what may have caused the problem, and if possible, potential solutions. That way they not only reached the complainant, but also the huge audience who would view everything without necessarily posting. It also ensured that the situation was likely to be defused straight away, rather than building up steam.

Photo courtesy Lars Plougmann on Flickr (CC Licence)

If only I’d had the 2011 ‘The Retail Consumer Report’ from Harris available at the time. (h/t Mediapost and Mack Collier). The survey of 1605 U.S online adults reveals:

  • 68% of consumers who posted a complaint or negative review on a social netowkring or reviews site got a response from the retailer, which led to 18% of them becoming loyal customers and buying more.
  • Receiving a response meant 33% went back and posted a positive review, and 34% deleted their original negative review.
  • And given that a big part of making sales and getting loyal customers is based around surprising them with things that make them happy – 61% of consumers would be shocked if a retailer responded to their nagtive comments on the social web.
  • Plus, nearly a third of consumers research on social networking and reviews sites when they’re shopping online.

I’ve finally got some empirical evidence to back up my conversations all those years ago! Funnily enough, the evolution of those conversations was a questions and answers section named Ask An Expert, which asked representatives from suitable companies to be available to respond to reader questions. I’d prefer you didn’t mention the amount of interest and funding sites like Quora have generated more recently!

But it’s actually an even more important approach to me now as a business owner, not only do I continue to advise clients to respond publicly to negative complaints in a polite, responsible, and most importantly, active way, but I also have a responsibility to monitor and respond to comments and reviews of the two businesses I’m running to make sure that we do the best by our clients and customers. And if after all that, you’d rather ignore my advice, Harris research and any negative reviews, then I guess pointing to the example of Craiglist and Craig Newmark won’t change your mind. I can only hope you’re not a client, and you happen to run a marketing or web design and development business!

Dominos: Rewarding fans or cheap affiliate deal?

Interesting to note how Springwise reported a new Dominos widget which lets you refer people to order a pizza and earn cash. In the headline, ‘Domino’s recruits fans’, but in the first paragraph ‘lets consumers serve as affiliate marketers’.

The agency behind it, BLM Quatum, describe is as a ‘Social Affiliate‘ tool.

But let’s be honest.

It’s not recruiting fans or being social. It’s a nice affiliate marketing widget which pays 0.5% of any order for every person you can shoehorn into buying a pizza.

Without knowing what the average cost of an order is at Dominos, I can’t tell you whether or not it’s a good deal. Someone ordering a £13.99 medium pizza would earn you a little under 7p. Or 100 medium pizzas would earn you £6.99 for example. Apparently about the same as you’d get for an hours work delivering pizzas.

I’m not against affiliate deals – I often refer people to Amazon for example (See, did it there!)

You’ll find varying percentages for varying products, and unless you work very hard at it, none of them will make you rich, so I’m not necessarily querying the rate of reward. Although it does seem a little stingy when someone pays £100 on pizzas via your widget and inherent recommendation, and you earn a shiny 50p out of it.

But what I am questioning is whether this is ‘rewarding fans’ or a ‘social affiliate’ when it’s a shinier way of putting a tracking code on a hyperlink.

Social networks helping me shop – a quick example

Social networks are an invaluable part of my life now, and having just amazed myself by leaving work, catching a tube, rushing to a shop, catching another tube and still making my normal train home, I felt like sharing it as an example.

(as a side-note, the train has already been delayed by 15 minutes as it’s apparently ‘lacking a driver’)

A debate on Twitter about a news story which mentioned cycling reminded me I needed to purchase a new bike pump as the Presta valves on my tyres make it almost impossible to inflate with my old hand pump – and a quick Google confirmed that there was a cycle shop at Holborn, which is on my tube route home.

But how did I know which one to buy, which one was the best value, and what to do with it once I got home etc?

Traditional option: Phone store and speak to person with possible vested interest in selling me anything they can.

New option: Send a message to one of my network on Twitter who happens to be a keen cyclist.

The new option has given me hourly updates from someone who recommended the type of pump I needed, the brand and model he uses, and what to do with it to ensure correctly inflated tyres.

And anyone else that has seen our conversation is able to join in – plus it’s archived for anyone else searching on the internet, possibly saving other people time and effort.

Which is probably a long-winded way of saying thanks to @CliveAndrews as reinforcing the fact that I now use Google for researching facts like business contact details and location.

But I use social media for quickly getting opinions from trusted friends on almost every subject. If Clive hadn’t recommended the right product to me, I can guarantee I wouldn’t have made my train, and probably would have struggled with two flat tyres for the next couple of days at least.

And just for the record, I now have a Topeak Joe Blow Sport ‘Track Pump’ which is £5 off at Evans Cycles at the moment.

And it looks like:

image

The comedy payoff for reading this far is that I underestimated the actual size of it slightly, and now have to try and carry a 2-3 foot high pump home on my bicycle!

Is the media having less effect of my purchasing?

You might want to sit down, but I’ve just spent some money on physical entertainment media. Or to put it another way, I bought some books and DVDs for the first time in ages.

I’d actually been looking for a work-related book which doesn’t seem to be available in bookshops, so that will be an online purchase, but in the meantime, I though I’d treat myself.

Interestingly, I’d spent a while choosing the unavailable book, so was at a bit of a loose end, and ended up coming out with three purchases – and as far as I’m consciously aware, I hadn’t seen advertising or media reviews etc of any of them:

Buyology: How Everything We Believe About Why We Buy is Wrong by Martin Lindstrom was bought mainly on the strength of the topic, and the foreword written by Paco Underhill, whose book on Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping I’ve previously read and enjoyed.

Code: Version 2.0 by Lawrence Lessig was purely chosen on the articles I’ve read by him and interviews I’ve watched with him.

And from the non ‘tech geek’ world, I also picked up:
Lukas Moodysson Presents (4 Disc Box Set) [DVD] – I’ve already seen three of the four films, but wanted to watch the fourth, and revisit the first two (Lilya 4-Ever is a well-made film, but is the most relentlessly bleak film I think I’ve ever seen). I’m also using it to improve my Swedish language abilities, and be able to lend ‘Show Me Love’ (the original title is better but far more offensive!) and Tilsammens to the rest of my family – and they all understand DVDs!

I thought I was all done, but there wasn’t any peer recommendation to prove this whole social media thing.

Until I got home.

The first I heard about the Xbox Live only release of Battlefield 1943 was via two friends of mine as we chatted. I hadn’t been online on the Xbox for a while due to the work/commuting/family combination, and as a result, I hadn’t been looking at gaming sites.

And within 10 minutes, I’d paid 1200 Microsoft points (About £10 or so), and downloaded the game.

It’s having a number of server issues at the moment, but the basic game is pretty good, and the online distribution of a ‘full’ game is interesting.

It’s being followed up today by the release via Xbox Live of 1 vs 100, which is an online gaming show with real prizes, which should be interesting.

Peer recommendations and loyalty aren’t new, of course. But generally they’d be prompted for me by either an event (my plumbing has broke, who can fix it?), or by media awareness (this game is coming out, is anyone else buying it?).

It seems as if the weighting has now changed, and the peer/loyalty aspect is what then might result in someone sharing a helpful media review, or just leading me straight to a purchase.