Cart Design suggestions from E-Commerce Times

This article had a few interesting suggestions – I liked the idea of reminding customers – in a subtle way – of earlier searches they made. They also flipped it around and gave tips to consumers – including “double check shipping and return policies.” As a vendor, this should be a trigger to you to double check your site to ensure your policies are clearly and accurately documented.

Are you an anonymous seller? Three Trust Builders

The Internet Merchants Association blog had an interesting post about how eBay sellers are forced to reduce prices to overcome the reluctance of suspicious buyers. Conversely, Amazon’s high trustworthiness allows them to charge a premium. How can the individual shopowner avoid being forced to give an “eBay discount?”

Probably the simplest way is to add trust-builders to your site. Easy to implement trust-builders are:

  1. Post an address and telephone number on every page.
  2. Make the telephone number particularly visible during the checkout process; encourage customers with questions to pick up the phone.
  3. Provide a “FAQ” page to answer common questions about the fulfillment process and an “About Us” page to describe your credentials and expertise.

Once you’ve taken these three low-cost steps, the next thing you might want to consider is buying a security seal.  These have been shown to be trust-builders, but they come at a much higher cost than the three steps above.

Getting the most out of PayPal

Some are critics of PayPal; I’m a fan. My business simply could not run without it. And with just a little effort, you can get a better deal than most:

  • As soon as you start making money, sign up for the Money Market fund. It’s the link labelled “Money Market” at the bottom of the PayPal page after you log in. Instead of having your PayPal funds be dead money, they start earning interest at a rate comparable to most other Internet banks.
  • The month after the first month you make $3000, apply for Merchant Rates. This reduces your transaction fees. It’s a bit tricky, though, so be careful:
    • Don’t do this until you have made $3000 or more in the previous calendar month. If your application is rejected because you didn’t bother to count, you are not permitted to reapply for 30 days. They will not waive this rule, so don’t break it. 🙂
    • You must actually apply to get this rate; you don’t get it automatically. To apply, look at the bottom of the PayPal page, and find the “Fees” link. Click this, and then click one of the links under “Premier/Business Account” on the row that says “Receive Payments.” At the bottom of the page is a link to an application form you must fill out.

Don’t have a Merchant Account with PayPal yet? Click here to get one!

The Mashable gang has even more ideas for using PayPal.

Sign up for PayPal and start accepting credit card payments instantly.

From networking individuals to networking experiences

I really enjoyed last week’s Stanford Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Podcast, which featured the principals of The Experience Project. The Experience Project is a re-imagination of social networking, which instead of using people as the network nodes uses experiences as the network nodes. People then self-describe according to these experiences and network on that basis. So if you’re a cancer patient who’s also a single parent who runs a small business, you can network with other people who have one (or all) of these experiences in common with you.

China, Risk, Investing and Financial Literacy

This story just floored me: several thousand rubes investors in China lost their shirts investing in ant farms. The ants were going to be harvested to create an aphrodisiac potion. It’s not clear whether the venture was a complete ruse or just a Ponzi scheme, since it had paid out dividends in the past. But a couple of interesting ideas do come out of this story:

  • Chinese investors are currently prohibited from buying foreign stocks, which make abuses like this easier to perpetrate. Mr. Paulson, are you speaking to this point?
  • Clearly the level of financial literacy in China is quite low; can a business be created to address this? Is this an opportunity for American firms? Mr. Paulson, are you using this argument to help US firms get a foot in the door?
  • Government complicity in schemes like this is a well known fact:

    Investors said the group’s good relations with the government and its commercials on state television had convinced them Yilishen was legitimate.

    “It has been out there for eight years and the government has given the company and the manager so many honors. We thought there mustn’t be any problem,” investor Li Dechun told Reuters.

  • So which comes first: the cleanup of government or a popular uprising? The current system appears unsustainable.