Category Archives: Ecommerce Business

Getting the Most out of Magento Imagine 2018

Author: Karen Baker  |  April 17, 2018

In my experience, years ago IT professionals were not a particularly sociable bunch. I recall once attending a work IT event in London and remarking to a female colleague friend that we should have gone for a degree in Marketing as I’m sure it would have been a lot more fun!

But things change – geek is the new cool and luckily in the Magento Community there are a truly diverse set of individuals. Not just programmers, but marketers, salespeople, managers, social media types, devops, entrepreneurs, merchants, etc., etc.  Which is really what makes Magento Imagine a great event.  It’s not yet been totally taken over by the corporates, the high rollers or the VC guys, its still got some soul. Maintaining that soul is a challenge but as with any event you find your group, and luckily with 1500+ people attending, there should be enough variety to keep you amused! Imagine 2017 photo (powering tomorrow)

What Makes Imagine Special?

I attend a lot of events around the world, including IRCE, Shop.org and dev events such as RailsConf.  My personal take on what makes Imagine special is that it’s small enough to be intimate, but large enough to be interesting.  The money is available, nothing is skimped on, nice lunches, great evening events, and great keynote speakers.

This intimacy allows several things to happen:

  1. You can find like-minded people who have similar stories/histories as you
  2. People are open and friendly – you get a good dose of American hospitality and it’s truly infectious
  3. Time to relax and rewind – many of us work extremely hard at our companies, the event really allows you to sit back and consume
  4. You don’t feel harassed – it will be interesting to see if this changes this year, but in previous years even though there is an exhibition hall, it doesn’t feel like you need to avoid all eye contact when walking around!

In my mind all of this is invaluable as you get this rather unique opportunity to meet new people, make new associations and connections. Some of them may be direct leads, but in my experience, I’ve found peers who have become friends, people I can turn to when I need a listening ear, or just guys to have a chat with on Twitter or the forums.  When you are back in your little office it makes you feel like you belong to something bigger and thats a great feeling.

What are Your Goals?

Before you attend any conference you should understand what you want to get out of the event. They’re expensive; its not just an excuse to party and your company will want you to get the most out of it.  It’s extremely important to be prepared. In particular, set up meetings in advance and make sure you know the agenda if you have a lot to cram in, otherwise it turns to chaos. We bring along my PA Jane who manages the whole team and their schedule throughout the event, thats how crazy it gets for us (after 6pm she is allowed to party though!!).

When we first started doing events we had little understanding on how many business cards we could pick up. Now we schedule time for networking, time to be together as a team, time to switch off, etc. We do set our goals out in advance – what we want to achieve, what people we want to speak to, what we want to understand about the product, the roadmap, etc.  This drives our schedule.

My Advice for Newbies

I’ve been attending Imagine since its inception in 2011 and this year we are Gold sponsors.  I think if you are attending Imagine for the first time it can be a little daunting, especially now as a lot of people know each other. I can see that it can be hard, especially if you are more of a shy kind of person.  So here are some tips:

  1. If you are bringing a team make sure you get some ‘team time’ – I always take the team on a team building exercise. One year we went buggy riding before Imagine and then afterward spent three days in Zion National Park. It was great to just say thanks to the guys and also allow a triple-continent team spend time ‘bonding’.
  2. Don’t be afraid to walk up to people – I think of it a little like speed-dating and a lot of people at the conference will do it. But it’s not all about work; use it as an opportunity to learn from others and listen to their stories. You never know who you will meet! And if you find no commonality then just shake hands, swap cards and move on. I’m sure neither side will be offended.
  3. Keep the booze under control – Remember it is a work event and anything you do will be noted and remembered and shared – especially with the advent of live streaming. I’d say just be aware of your actions.
  4. Attend the events around the edges of the conference – PreImagine is a great one as its a community run event. You often find little parties going on here and there away from the main event, and even a few after-after-parties.
  5. Sleep well in advance – It’s a very hectic few days. If you plan to make the absolute most of it, then be prepared to be up at 8am and going to bed at 2am.
  6. Find quiet time – Sometimes during the day I just escape to a place in the hotel away from the noise and chill for a bit. Personally I love it after 12am – most people have gone off and you can wander down to the tables and have some fun with the die hard crew.
  7. Forget Email – You just need to put on the out of office, have faith in your team and forget about outside life. Trying to juggle is nearly impossible and you will miss out on a valuable experience. Just immerse yourself and trust your colleagues to hold down the fort.

If you are a Merchant

For Merchants attending Imagine I’d encourage you to do a few things:

  1. Try to speak to as many merchants as possible – Attend the Merchant-to-Merchant sessions and try to connect. The snippets you can share with each other will be invaluable and its my experience that many merchants go through exactly the same experiences, highs and lows, so connect up!
  2. Be open to new experiences, new ideas, new ways of thinking – Let go of your day-to-day work for a few days and open up to the possibilities. Yes there is a reality bump at the end but its okay to think outside the box for a few days, it won’t harm you and it may help drive some new thinking.Imagine 2016 Booth Photo
  3. Have some key things you wish to achieve and then search for those people to help you – Whether that be  needing help with shipping, payments, marketing, a design agency, etc.
  4. Ask people for referrals – It’s all very well and good going around the exhibition hall, but referrals count for a lot. Ask around. There is a big community of people there, many of whom are very familar with the Magento space. If you need a particular capability or want to know the best design agency that will fit your needs, budget then ask. I’m sure you will find people to advise you, or if they can’t,they will point you in the right direction.
  5. Understand Magento – Its path, where it’s going, what the roadmap is – this helps you in your decisions not just today but 12 months down the line when next year’s Imagine is ramping up. Attending the Keynotes is a great way to get/stay in-the-know.

And lastly, if you can’t make it follow @ShipperHQ & @WebShopApps on Twitter. We’ll be keeping you informed with live updates whilst we are there.

If you are attending then have fun, enjoy this time. You are in Vegas – there is ‘free’ food and drink, you are with people that are like you.

You can find our team at Booth 307, and we’ll be available for meetings throughout the event. If you have any questions around shipping you should set aside some time to chat with us. You can set up a meeting with Karen and the team to learn more about how we can work together to make shipping simple.

See you there!

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How US Sales Tax Works

Author: Mark Faggiano  |  November 8, 2017

When selling online you should understand the laws around sales tax throughout the United States. From products to shipping costs, there are rules and regulations around taxes that differ from state to state and item to item. Our partner, Tax Jar, has written a piece to share their sales tax expertise.


coins-currency-investment-insuranceFor a variety of reasons, the United States has managed to build one of the most complex and downright confusing sales tax systems in the world. And as an online business owner, it’s important that you wrap your head around this system so you can at least keep your head down and collect the right amount of sales tax from the right customers.

This quick sales tax 101 guide will explain the ins and outs of U.S. sales tax for online sellers so you can get back to doing what you do best – running your eCommerce business.

Sales Tax is Governed at the State Level

It’s a common misconception that all tax in the U.S. is administered by the IRS. In fact, the U.S. has no federal level sales tax, and no overarching governing body. Instead, sales tax is governed at the state level.

This means that each state gets to make their own rules and laws about things like sales tax rates, which merchants have to collect sales tax, and what items are taxable. It also means that as an online seller, if you have to deal with sales tax in more than one state, you’ll probably find that each state is quite different.

Online Retailers Don’t Always Have to Collect Sales Tax in Every State

One thing online retailers are often surprised to learn is that they aren’t generally required to collect sales from every buyer. Instead, in the U.S., online sellers are only required to collect sales tax in states where you have “sales tax nexus.” Sales tax nexus is just a legalese way of saying “obligation to collect sales tax in a state.”

Each state gets to decide what creates nexus. Common factors that create nexus are having a location, employee or inventory for sale in a warehouse in a state. You can read what each state says creates sales tax nexus here.

Sales Tax Rates Vary from Place to Place

Sales tax is a percentage of a sale that is collected by a retailer and then remitted to a state (and sometimes local areas). Those state and local governments use sales tax to pay for budget items like schools, roads, and fire departments.

Sales tax rates vary from state to state and between local areas.

States set a statewide sales tax rate. Then most states allow local areas – cities, counties and other special taxing districts – to also set a sales tax rate. This means that most areas have a combination of several sales tax rates.

To see how this breaks down, let’s look at the sales tax rate in Marion, Illinois:

6.25% Illinois state sales tax rate

1% Williamson County sales tax rate

1.5% Marion city sales tax rate

8.75% combined total sales tax rate

In other words, if you were buying a toothbrush in Marion, Illinois, you’d pay 8.75% in sales tax on your purchase.

Though there are a few exceptions, as an online seller, you generally charge your buyer sales tax at the sales tax rate of their ship to address. (I.e. if you sold that toothbrush to the buyer in Marion, Illinois, you’d collect 8.75% in sales tax from them.)

Product Taxability Varies from State to State

In the U.S., most “tangible personal property” is taxable. But there are some exceptions, which can vary from state to state. Items like groceries, clothing, medical supplies and textbooks, among other things, are sometimes nontaxable in some states.

For example, clothing is not taxable in Pennsylvania, textbooks are not taxable in Kentucky, and groceries are not taxable in most U.S. states.

Things can get even more complicated. For example, clothing in New York is non-taxable, as long as it’s priced at $110 or less. And while the New York statewide sales tax rate is not applicable clothing priced under $110, some local areas still consider clothing taxable. As another example, groceries in Illinois are taxable, but only at a reduced rate of 1%. Fortunately for online sellers, automated sales tax collection engines can take all these state rules and laws into account so you don’t have to worry about accidentally charging sales tax to the wrong customer in the wrong state on the wrong item!

Shipping Charges are Taxable (Usually)

As an online seller you, of course, get your items to your customers by shipping them. And many online sellers charge a small fee for shipping. It’s important to note that more than half of U.S. states consider shipping to be a taxable charge.

Let’s say you sell a Nintendo Switch for $300 plus $10 in shipping to a buyer in a state like Michigan, where shipping charges are taxable. You’d be required to charge your buyer sales tax on the entire transaction cost – $310.

But say you sell that same Nintendo Switch for the same price to a buyer in a state like Missouri, where shipping charges are not taxable. In that case, you’d only be required to charge sales tax on the $300 item price and not the $10 shipping charge.

You can see which states require sales tax on shipping here.

Sales Tax Administration Varies from State to State

If you deal with sales tax in more than one state, you’ll probably notice many differences from state to state. However, there are a few general rules of thumb.

First, most states want you to file sales tax returns either monthly, quarterly or annually. (Though some will want to hear from you semi-annually or on a fiscal annual basis.)  Usually, the more sales tax you collect from buyers in a state, the more often the state will want you to file and pay sales tax.

States also set their sales tax deadlines on different days of the month. While more than half of the states set the sales tax filing deadline on the 20th of the month following the taxable period, others have due dates on the last day of the month, the 15th, the 23rd, or some other date.

And about half the states with a sales tax even provide sales tax discounts to filers who file and pay on time. This means states will let you keep a small percentage (usually 1-2%) of the sales tax you collected from customers. It’s free money!

I hope this post has helped you wrap your head around the sales tax system in the U.S. For a whole lot more about U.S. sales tax, check out our Sales Tax 101 for Online Sellers guide, or start the conversation in the comments!

TaxJar is a service that makes sales tax reporting and filing simple for more than 10,000 online sellers.  Try a 30-day-free trial of TaxJar today and eliminate sales tax compliance headaches from your life!


About the Author

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Mark Faggiano is the Founder and CEO of TaxJar – a service that automates sales tax compliance for over 5,000 eCommerce businesses. Mark has built a career around his passion for using technology to solve complex problems that hamper growth for small businesses. He previously co-founded and grew FileLater to become the web’s leading tax extension service for both businesses and individual taxpayers before it was acquired in 2010.

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Capturing More Leads Through Your Ecommerce Website

Author: Robert Rand  |  June 20, 2017

We know the process of capturing a sale begins much earlier than once a customer reaches the shopping cart and checkout. So, we have invited our partner, Rand Marketing, to share their expertise on earning more sales through your ecommerce website.


Just because your primary objective is to make immediate eCommerce sales does not mean that there aren’t additional opportunities to communicate with shoppers in order to earn more sales. Think of it like a physical store: there are benefits to having salespeople readily available to help customers. There are also upsides to making it easy for a customer to request to receive ongoing communications from your business.

In the world of eCommerce, there are two major types of leads that you may run into.

Hot Leads

These are shoppers who have questions and are hoping to get specific feedback or answers. You can capture these leads through some of the following methods:

Phone: It’s recommended to have your phone number easily accessible. Often they are located in the header and footer of the site as well as your Contact page.

Contact Forms: Whether a simple Contact Us, more detailed Custom Quote Request or Wholesale Account Request form, making it easy for shoppers to submit inquiries 24/7 gives you an opportunity to capture their information.

LiveChat: Shoppers may be multi-tasking, or may otherwise not be interested in speaking with a representative (there’s a whole new generation for whom texting is a mainstream form of communication). Chatting with an operator right through your website helps shoppers on their terms. It also gives you an opportunity to pop out and offer assistance, much like a traditional sales clerk might. Services like Oct8ne help you to act like a personal shopper, showing recommended items on the client’s screen, and helping to add to the cart. If you don’t have the resources to man the lines, newer services like Proonto offer a wide selection of chat operators that you can select and train. Other services like AltoCloud can help connect you via Text Messages, Facebook Messenger, and a variety of other mediums.

Address: If you have a physical address that’s available to the public, some shoppers may opt to see items in person. Since not all eCommerce sites have brick-and-mortar locations, making it clear that you do can be beneficial and can also help establish your brand as being more public and rooted in some ways.

As a fringe benefit, some shoppers that won’t ever call you for one-on-one assistance will appreciate knowing that they could if they needed to, making it more likely that they’ll make a purchase while browsing through your site.

The Long Game

While leads that are ready to “buy now” are of course the most prized, there are direct and indirect costs to getting shoppers to your site, and opportunity costs to letting them leave empty handed. To solve these situations, you can consider efforts such as:

E-mail Marketing: Collecting Email Addresses is a great way to stay in touch. While you may not make an immediate sale, you’ll get more chances to do so by keeping your store “top of mind” with consumers. If a shopper has left an item in their cart, you may even be able to follow up with an Abandoned Cart Email, making it easier for them return to the shopping cart on your website and finish placing their order. For some websites, this can also extend to sending offers via Text Messages, Direct Mail, and other mediums.

ReMarketing & ReTargeting: By using cookies and Email addresses, you can target consumers who have visited your site with ads. These ads may appear on sites, like news websites and blogs, as they traverse the internet. It’s a great way to reinforce your brand, and remind them to come back and complete a transaction. This can be tapered so that it’s done tastefully and reasonably.

Social Media: When a user follows your business on social media, they can become privy to posts that you make in those social media accounts. Like email marketing, this can be a great way to stay in touch long-term, and let shoppers know about new products, discounts, and other opportunities.

Mobile Apps: If you offer mobile apps, getting consumers to download them to their smart devices can provide multiple benefits. They will see your logo while scrolling through their apps, which is great. You also get opportunities to send them push notifications with new offers, like sales.

If you’re not sure how to best optimize your website to capture both eCommerce sales and leads or need help with digital marketing campaigns to stay in touch with shoppers, consider requesting a free consultation from an internet marketing firm. Such teams can discuss how they can help you meet your long-term goals of improved conversion rates.


 

About the Author

Rand Marketing Headshot resizedRobert Rand is the Chief Technology Officer at Rand Marketing in Fort Lauderdale, FL. Educated at NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering, Robert has managed the development and marketing of hundreds of websites and helped to lead Rand Marketing to become a Google Premier Partner Agency, an INC5000 Company, and a long-standing A+ business with the BBB. He’s best known as one of the foremost experts in eCommerce strategies in the USA and is proud to work side by side with one of the industries best teams of designers, developers, and digital marketers.

 

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How to Work with Your Digital Agency to Divide and Conquer

Author: Robert Rand  |  April 26, 2017

Having a strong internet marketing strategy in place to coincide with your shipping strategy is important if you want to secure sales and keep loyal customers coming back for more. So, we have invited Robert Rand, CTO of Rand Marketing, to provide tips and examples of how your internal team should work with your digital agency to conquer internet marketing tasks.


Hiring service industry professionals often come with a degree of freedom, allowing you to benefit from the help that you need, without paying for work that you’d prefer to do yourself. For instance, if a car dealer offers to sell you a car wash with your oil change, you might decide that you could just as soon have your kids clean your car for you.

In the world of internet marketing, you can take similar measures to have experienced professionals assist with what you need while working in tandem with your other resources. It all depends on how much time you and your co-workers have, how many people you want to hire, and your level of comfort in addressing issues without an outside marketing guru involved. Below are some examples of how you can leverage an outside team while retaining specific tasks internally:

email

Email Marketing

It’s common for businesses to approach their digital agency to help to design emails for use with an email marketing platform, integrate the coded designs, and test. An agency can also help to upload your lists, help to sync email signups from your website automatically, and set up advanced features for tracking, drip email campaigns, segmentation, and more. While these kinds of tasks can be split between the agency and business, it’s very common for the business to then schedule at least some of their email blasts, such as monthly messages about new products and sales directly. As email marketing platforms get easier and easier to use, more and more businesses are stepping up to the plate to manage more of their own email campaigns.

pr

Press Releases

While you can have an agency write a release, and submit it to a major press release distributor, if you have someone on your team that’s familiar with the formatting and content standards for press releases, you could just as well write it, and pay the agency to submit it for you. A good agency can address particulars like SEO tagging for you as part of the submission service.

affiliate

Affiliate Marketing

Much like email marketing, once you’re set up with an affiliate network, and have designed any collateral, such as banners, you could have an agency help with ongoing management, or you could choose to self-manage, allowing you to reach out to publishers directly in order to make them aware of the opportunities to promote your goods or services in exchange for a commission on sales that they directly help to generate.

affiliate

Search Engine Optimization

If you have a great web developer, an agency can provide feedback on how to improve your website’s organic rankings by addressing on-site code related issues that your developer can then address. You can also play a big role in content creation, writing blog posts, articles, and other pages of content to help with SEO efforts, allowing your agency to focus on link building, optimizing the content that you provide, and other more specific tasks.

affiliate

Pay-Per-Click Marketing

While an agency may help to build and optimize your paid digital advertising, if you have a good graphic designer with experience in designing captivating banner ads, you may choose to supply your own banner ads to your agency.

At the end of the day, each situation and relationship are different. The #1 task that businesses normally take on, is related to content. Whether it’s text, photos, video, or other collateral, you know your business and industry really well, and will often be the best the sources of content. This includes for platforms like social media networks, where it’s important to share new developments in your business, like new products that you’re launching.


About the Author

Rand Marketing Headshot resizedRobert Rand is the Chief Technology Officer at Rand Marketing in Fort Lauderdale, FL. Educated at NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering, Robert has managed the development and marketing of hundreds of websites and helped to lead Rand Marketing to become a Google Premier Partner Agency, an INC5000 Company, and a long-standing A+ business with the BBB. He’s best known as one of the foremost experts in eCommerce strategies in the USA and is proud to work side by side with one of the industries best teams of designers, developers, and digital marketers.

 

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PreImagine 2017: A Celebration for the Magento Community

Author: Ashley Overton  |  March 1, 2017

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If you have attended Magento’s Imagine conference in previous years, I’m sure you’ve heard stories or maybe even had a chance to experience the Magento community celebration, PreImagine. If not, I highly recommend you look for #PreImagine on Twitter to get a taste of the excitement around this event in the community and to see what’s to come this year.

PreImagine is always held the day before Imagine and sets the mood for the conference by giving you the chance to mix and mingle with members of the Magento community in a fun and much more casual environment. While PreImagine has always been a chance for long-time Magento community members to reconnect, this is an open event so don’t be shy about attending if you’re a first-timer. Especially if you’re new to the community, PreImagine gives you the chance to get to meet in real life the people you probably already have seen (and maybe even talked to) virtually on Twitter, in blog posts, or elsewhere on the internet. Even for the old-timers in the community, there are always people to connect with that maybe you just haven’t had the chance to talk to yet. With the help of the many generous sponsors over the years, PreImagine is completely free so that finances aren’t a barrier to connecting with the others in the community.

Our team has eagerly attended PreImagine since it began 6 years ago, and we are more than honored to be organizing the event this year! We’re also proud to be sponsors again this year. Sponsors have always been key to making the event successful by keeping it free for attendees, collaborating with fellow PreImagine sponsors to get the word out, and to show support for the Magento Community that has always been critical to the success of the platform and the hundreds of thousands of retailers worldwide who use it.

Aside from PreImagine being amazing itself and serving as the pregame for the Imagine conference, it is located in Las Vegas. Magento obviously knows location is everything! You will find tons of fun things to do outside of the conference, so you may want to plan to come in a day or two early or leave a day or two later to have a chance to enjoy everything going on outside of the hotel walls. There are plenty of bars and restaurants around the hotel and, as you would expect, loads of casinos. Many Imagine attendees come in a bit early to take part in things like hackathons, MageRun, and, of course, PreImagine.

No matter the reason you decide to attend PreImagine: the great networking over complementary food and drinks, awesome swag, a fun time at a cool location, or to be involved as a sponsor, you will be more than pleased that you did. PreImagine is truly a party you don’t want to miss!

If you will be in attendance this year, be sure to find the ShipperHQ team to connect and grab some swag. We are psyched to see everyone this year and would love to meet some new friends. 

PreImagine 2017 will be held at the Wynn Hotel, Sunday, April 2nd at 5PM. See you soon!

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ATX Magento Meetup: Magento 2 Blocks & Widgets and Success with Magento!

Author: Ashley Overton  |  August 15, 2016

Brett on Magento 2 WidgetsThere has yet to come a time when I have left an ATX Magento Meetup without learning new and valuable information. Last Thursday’s ATX Magento Meetup (held at Capital Factory in Austin, TX) included talks on both Magento 1 and Magento 2. Attendees were incredibly diverse and ranged from those just researching Magento’s capabilities to long-time Magento experts. Within these events you will receive valuable information in a relaxed environment that allows the audience to fully interact with those who wish to present. 

Last week we discussed how Magento’s features can save you time and money when taking on new projects, and how you can find success with Magento. Read on for a recap of what was discussed!

Save Money and Time with Magento 2

Bret Williams, author of “Mastering Magento 2” wowed all attendees with a talk on Magento 2 Static Blocks and Widgets. He explained how you can easily use Magento 2 to turn a lengthy and complicated processes into a 3 minute project. “Widgets are an underused, powerful tool,” Bret explained, “it allows you to concentrate on the heavy lifting parts [your clients] really need you for.”

In his talk, he shared an example where his client presented him with a project that required putting Javascript code on two pages. He walked through two solutions, one using Static Blocks and Widgets and another without. By utilizing Static Blocks and Widgets, he was able to turn a project that most would charge $1000 to complete into a $20 job. Within this short talk and demo, attendees learned how they can save time while saving their customers money. 

Success with Magento

Magento 2 widgets talkWe also heard from David Sheeley, a Magento developer that shared his journey to Magento and a company’s success story. The key take away from his talk was to do the research before committing to any platform. He walked the group through what statistics he found useful to not only understand why his site wasn’t seeing the growth he wanted before switching to Magento, but also what to look for when researching potential platforms. As a B2B retailer, they sell products that were larger in size and had a large catalog of products. The look of the site and the ability for the platform to handle the complexity of his products were the most important components in his search.

He found that Magento was able to fit the product catalog and complexity of the products while giving the front end of the site a complete make over. He was able to use Magento and third party extensions to make the site more user friendly and in result has seen a measurable increase in traffic and sales on the site.

More to come

We host the ATX Magento Meetup every 6 weeks at Capital Factory. The ATX Magento Group covers discussions over eCommerce development and design strategies, SEO Marketing, and related topics.

We encourage all who are interested in learning about Magento and/or those who want to share what knowledge they have to come and mingle with the group. You can find Magento Meetups worldwide with a network of over 4,500 members. So even if you aren’t in the Austin, TX area you may find one in your area or in a city you’ve always wanted to visit.

If you are interested in speaking at a future event in Austin contact us!

 

 

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Prep up for Magento Imagine 2016

Author: Karen Baker  |  March 16, 2016

In just under a month the best of the Magento ecosystem will reconvene for the Imagine Conference in Las Vegas. As a veteran of the event I thought I’d share some tips for people attending for the first time.

When to Get There

The Sat/Sun are fully of pre-Imagine events, I’d definitely advise get in Sunday morning/lunch at latest so you can ease gently into the Imagine ‘experience’, trust me it get’s busy!

The community runs:

  1. PreImagine with KalenHackathon – Starts Saturday, wonderful place to learn, meeting all types of developers & exchange ideas/learn/code
  2. Great Dam Run – I seem to have volunteered for this event for some mad reason, please sponsor me as I aim to do a 5K for the first time in many years!!
  3. Pre-Imagine Party – Infamous and sponsored by the wonderful Magento community this is THE event to attend at Imagine, its intimate, a great way to network especially if you are new to the ecosystem, full of very intelligent people where everyone is an equal and everyone is your friend

Formal sessions at Imagine start Monday morning, evening reception is unlike any other conference and the first keynote is Tuesday morning.

Where to Stay

I assume most of you have booked already. If you haven’t then suggest you either stay at the Wynn, or very close by.  You will do a lot of walking around and the schedule is fairly tight, with the last keynote in the evening really being a pretty much straight run to the evening reception, so staying close by allows you time to go get changed, take a break and just chill for 5 minutes!

Footwear

This deserves it’s own section! Be prepared to walk. A Lot.  You can reasonably expect to be doing 5 miles per day, I reached 10 miles each day last year, you need some decent footwear! If you are working on a booth it’s an absolute must to wear shoes that are worn in, and with plenty of padding. Personally I go with the sneakers, there is no way I’m walking in uncomfortable shoes for 3 days.  The Wynn is very large, and breakout rooms tend to be spread out, another reason for staying there.

Food

You won’t have to worry too much about food during the conference, it’s laid on for you.  I’ve found tho that because of all the networking (& drinking) it can be easy to just miss the evening dinner completely, so just bear in mind. I tend to go have Keynotebreakfast meetings in the Wynn restaurants (which always get packed) and use that as the alcohol recovery time 😉

Sleeping

It’s a bit like having a baby really, make sure you sleep before.  It does depend on your personality type of course, and just how stupid you want to get, but its been known for people to be on the tables gambling until the extreme early hours before. But given the need to get to the keynotes would def recommend try to get some sleep in where you can. Ultimately we are all there to do business so everything in moderation…Actually sod it just enjoy the time lol.

What to Wear

Business Casual, if you are a dev you don’t care anyhow.  Women tend to get dressed up in the evening in my experience, but it really does vary a lot.  Definitely need changes of clothes for day/night tho if you can.  Weather will be warm and all the evening events are outside (unless we get an unexpected storm roll thro like in 2013 I think it was), so prepare for that. Dancing does happen on occasion.

Meetings

It’s best if you can to arrange meetings beforehand if you need to have longer chats with partners/friends/foes/etc.  The event really does flash by extremely quickly and if you are not organised you can miss having vital conversations, especially with people that are much in demand (like the Magento team for instance).  Make sure if you are having lots of meetings that you schedule in some free time, otherwise the event can just overwhelm you. Make sure you have space to just enjoy it.Wynn

Sessions

The keynotes at Imagine are legendary. The Buzz Lab are an external company that do a lot of work alongside the Magento team around video production, staging, etc and what they produce is just amazing. Every year is different, and its definitely fair to say you leave the keynotes feeling invigorated, ready to fight another day and just buzzing. Thats the Imagine effect.  So don’t miss them!

Schedule beforehand which breakout sessions you fancy if you can, and don’t overload yourself. Make time to go see the exhibition stands, and of course come see us at ShipperHQ. We were previously flying under the WebShopApps banner, trust me its the same team, just with an amazing new product that absolutely nails what merchants need for shipping rate management in the next 4-5 years.

Lastly on Wednesday afternoon there are some amazing Barcamp sessions where you will see subject matter experts giving hopefully useful technical detail around subjects chosen by the community.  I’ll be speaking here about building shipping extensions in Magento 2 so please come along and see my talk!

Networking

Always difficult, and as Imagine has gone on it’s so much different now, there are much larger teams, people are more closely aligned, a lot of the community are very close friends, etc etc.  What I can say from personal experience is that this is probably the most friendly commNetworkingunity of people you will ever meet at a conference. It’s not like IRCE or Shop.org, its a much more intimate affair, and 99%+ of the people there are open to conversation, thats why they are there.

So let me say this. If you are in the event and spot someone on their own, or a couple of people looking at their mobiles constantly then go say hallo, introduce yourselves and just spend a little bit of time getting to know their story. You never know what you have in common, I’ll tell you this, you definitely have Magento and thats a good start. And if you do find events awkward then come find myself & the ShipperHQ team, we are more than happy to extend our welcome to you.

And Lastly

Just enjoy it.  You have the opportunity here to meet amazing people, learn about whats hot in the world of Magento and Commerce generally today, plus just get a break to expand your mind and think bigger for a little bit. Put on that out of office, turn the phone on silent and immerse yourself in what is still the greatest conference in the calendar.


 

About Karen & ShipperHQ

Karen Baker is the founder of both WebShopApps & ShipperHQ.  The wife of a small merchant, in 2008 Karen decided to take her software engineering skills learned in the corporate IT space and apply it to eCommerce.  She decided she could do things better around how shipping is calculated/displayed and manipulated in the checkout.  8 years on WebShopApps has over 17K paying customers, with many now having transitioned or transitioning to the ShipperHQ platform which brings together all the WebShopApps capabilities into a single cohesive offering.  ShipperHQ are Gold Sponsors of Magento Imagine, and have been Gold Technology Partners with Magento since 2011.  ShipperHQ is proud to be a 100% founder/staff owned company based on the key principles of hard work, passion, innovation and customer service.

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Bigcommerce – A platform to pay attention to

Author: Karen Baker  |  January 30, 2016

My first experience of Bigcommerce was arriving at their offices in San Francisco to be greeted with this totally frantic environment. There were some seriously smart people around, it was like your typical tech startup scene you see on TV, with Star Wars trophies, people drinking beer, industrial feeling.  What I sensed most tho was the sheer passion of the team. They were in a hurry to build something great, they had hunger.

I’ve had many experiences with Bigcommerce since that time, including now living near their Austin offices which have a very different feel to them.  I’ve seen the arrival of Brent Bellm as CEO (who I greatly admire) and a gradual steadying of the fast growing ship, an order to some of the inevitable chaos you get when you expand so quickly, but whilst retaining that wonderful innovative hunger & passion to succeed. 

When we at ShipperHQ showcased Bigcommerce our shipping rate management platform what I saw then for one of the first times in eCommerce was an understanding from technology product managers of the value we provided. They totally ‘got it’, they understood the pain points of merchants and they saw that our product could solve it.

With everything in technology its hard to meet all merchants needs all of the time, I don’t think I speak alone as a company founder when I say we have a mountain of things we would like to do to make it easier for people, to improve, to simplify. We are extremely focused as a company in meeting merchant’s needs, you are our bread and butter, its all about you.

My experience of Bigcommerce thus far is that this is a platform that is still growing, changing, expanding. And for many merchants it suits them very well, it offers flexibility, is simple to get up and running (and very fast) but with an ever-growing list of great well-thought out integrations that add real power, plus some superb development in-house to innovate the platform. A great example of this is the recent Stencil addition. Stencil is a theme framework which allow developers to, amongst other things, develop locally, create fully customizable themes utilizing the latest technologies such as handlebars,js, SASS, SCSS.

Bigcommerce is really starting to show that SAAS doesn’t mean inflexible.  This is also true within ShipperHQ. We are bringing you what is without question the most flexible rating solution in the world today. Dimensional shipping, promotional rules, estimated delivery dates, rate shopping, dropshipping, all of these and much more. We hope later this year to switch on the other features in ShipperHQ such as Store Locator/Pickup, Calendar/Time Slot delivery, Address verification. We are also working extremely hard now to partner not just with carriers but with other solutions across the labelling space in particular, to make it easier for you, to make it faster for the merchant to get their product out, with less cost. 

I’m mightily impressed in Bigcommerce, this is a company with drive and passion.  As Integration Partners we have an extremely close relationship, I would say not a day goes by without some form of interaction with the Bigcommerce team, and at all levels from the support engineers upto the senior execs. This says a lot about the company in my mind. 

No product suits everyone, we all know that, my view Bigcommerce packs a punch and I believe they have the team and the technology to continue to be a formidable force in the eCommerce platform landscape, and the ability to hit the mid-level market very effectively in 2016.

About Karen & ShipperHQ

I’m the founder of ShipperHQ. My husband was a small merchant, I got into this space in 2008 to help make his life easier.  I’m located in Austin Texas where I live with my husband and 2 kids. Originally I’m from England, I came here in 2013 to build up the global business and stop having to work in the evenings so much! ShipperHQ is bootstrapped, we work hard, we hustle, we care about our customers. We aren’t faceless. Contact us via phone, email or chat if you want to know more about our product.

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Magento 2 Shipping – ShipperHQ

Author: Karen Baker  |  January 8, 2016

We are (more than) excited to announce the release of ShipperHQ for Magento 2.

Included in this extension is the MatrixRates capability, maintaining our commitment to the open source community by releasing for free the most popular shipping extension on Magento Connect today.

What is ShipperHQ?

ShipperHQ is a highly flexible carrier agnostic rating focused solution for eCommerce.

Or put otherwise watch this video.

 

ShipperHQ takes over shipping rating in your checkout. With our capabilities you get the most advanced rating engine in the world today. I’ve not seen anything like it, we feel its unique in its proposition, and when teamed with Magento you have an extremely powerful capability. We are delivering beyond enterprise level functionality to the mainstream.

Key Features

There are many capabilities in ShipperHQ, I’ll list the main ones:

  1. Live Rating via Small Package with new carriers being added weekly
  2. LTL Rating with carriers such as Echo, Estes, YRC, UPS Freight®, FedEx Freight, ABF, Con-way, Old Dominion pre-integrated, support for accessorials, freight classes and more
  3. Support for International Shipping via Pitney Bowes
  4. Multi-origin capabilities to allow for accurate rating in a Dropship environment
  5. Time in Transit – so delivery dates, calenders, estimates on # days to arrive – a truly enterprise level solution, not just a date picker
  6. The most intelligent Shipping Rule Engine in the world – need to stop free shipping to AK, HI, or add a handling fee on oversize items, or add a packing weight to the calculation – all covered
  7. Dimensional Shipping – A unique solution thats propriatary to us, we have customers who were losing over 50K per year now making a profit on shipping with this 1 capability
  8. Address Validation/Residential Selector
  9. Backup Carriers – What happens when FedEx goes down?  We solve this issue
  10. Support for advanced Custom Rates. Forget ProductMatrix, we take it to a whole new level
  11. Shipping Analytics
  12. Store Pickup/Collect from Store
  13. Local Delivery within radius
  14. Same-Day Delivery
  15. And much more

What we have seen over the last couple of years is consumers want to know more, they want their goods sooner, and they love a promotion. ShipperHQ delivers on all.  With us taking on Amazon is a reality.

In phase 1 of the Magento 2 release we deliver the base capabilities that do not affect the checkout user interface.  We will be adding all the UI features such as calendar, split checkout, address validation in later releases, with the final component set to drop on April 1st 2016.  On Magento 1.x all these capabilities are already available.

Why ShipperHQ?

Back in 2010 we were getting a lot of requests from people for shipping functionality. We often couldn’t meet their needs, even with the many shipping extensions we had.  So we built out, we built more extensions, and we tried to bolt more on. Even back then I was very aware that this was not a cohesive solution because shipping is big, its moving fast as an industry and its complex.  We ended up with 100 git hub repos, 60+ demo stores and customers in over 80 countries.

At some point you have to change as a company.  I knew Magento 2 was coming, I also had demand from other platforms for our services. SAAS was the way forwards.

Some people look at an extension and think its a small body of work. Well in ShipperHQ we have over 100K lines of code just on the rating api side.  Let me assure you that what we do is not just a carrier, or an api hook, there are complex mathematical algorithms around logic such as Carrier Rules, Dimensional Packing, Time in Transit, Origin selection, etc etc.  To sit all that code inside PHP on a platform that moves and shifts, is different from site to site, well its just not possible, its not the way you progress as a company or a technology solution.

By building out ShipperHQ we have managed to do a number of things:

  1. Progress the technology and shipping features whilst waiting for Magento 2
  2. Reduce the time to market of a complex product set
  3. Bring you a single cohesive merchant friendly solution that allows you to move platforms, versions, etc and keep your configuration isolated from that
  4. Use Enterprise grade solutions – We use Java for our server API which gives us many advantages over a PHP based application. I used Java when writing Foreign Exchange trading systems 10 years ago, it’s mature and it works

Who is ShipperHQ For?

With over 70K people using WebShopApps shipping codebase and over 16K paying customers we have worked with many organisations over the years. Currently on ShipperHQ we serve from the smallest Mom/Pop store right upto sites such in the Alexa top 10K. As an indication one of our clients alone had over a million rate requests to ShipperHQ in December.  We regularly work with Enterprise merchants, ShipperHQ has been live now since 2014 and the majority of our initial customers were at the Enterprise level – they helped architect this system!

I firmly believe in localised staff that speak your language.  We have staff in the UK/US and Australia that do exactly that. We are available on the phone, via email and via chat. Shipping is not always easy, buying software is often more about the company than the code. The savings you make from shipping are very clear, our product pays for itself in minutes for many sites. 93% of customers on a site consider shipping as part of their purchase, thats how important shipping is. So don’t neglect it.

Agencies/Developers

As part of the release of ShipperHQ we are also announcing the formal release of the ShipperHQ API, together with a test bed for agencies/developers.  If you want to use ShipperHQ but would rather write your own Magento 2 integration or if you want to use ShipperHQ on another platform entirely then our REST API allows you to do this.

Next week we will be providing access to ShipperHQ via github.  In this way you will be able to obtain the very latest code when you need it.

We are improving our consultancy services, plus also offering training for agencies in ShipperHQ.  You then have the choice for your merchants, if you want us to do end-2-end configuration we can, if you want to provide we can support you. We will have further details on this shortly.

Our committment to open source and Magento means over the coming months expect many free extensions from the ShipperHQ team. We will be providing free shipping capabilities across the board and hopefully continue to contribute to this great and wonderful community.

Who is the team behind ShipperHQ?

I think its important people understand who we are and why we care.  ShipperHQ is a bootstrapped company, I started it back in 2008 almost by accident, my husband was a small merchant and I built his first website on Magento 1.0 when it came out. The shipping didn’t work so I fixed it. Luckily I have an extensive background in software development so Magento wasn’t a major struggle.  This company was born from that experience.  We aren’t some faceless VC-backed company, this is a company of blood, sweat and tears.  I have a fantastic team around me, a team made up of unique individuals who each bring something great to the table. Its a privilege to work with them.

My goal for WebShopApps back in 2010/2011 was to be the largest shipping extension provider on Magento. My goal now as a company is to revolutionize shipping in eCommerce. I believe it can be less complex, should be simpler, and will be easier to manage, thats my goal. We still want to tackle many key areas, but with our partnerships with heavyweights such as UPS® and Pitney Bowes, together with our deep relationship with Magento I believe we will do this. Are you ready to join us?

How do I get it?

You can download direct from our site.  We will be listing on the new Magento Marketplace as soon as it becomes available.

And lastly

I’ll leave you with this. We are the only rating solution on Magento that is a UPS Ready® provider. We work with UPS® on a daily basis to make merchants lives easier.  Its a fact our rating is more accurate than Magento’s. And we have the support contracts with UPS® to back it up.  This is ShipperHQ by WebShopApps. Come talk to us.

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Magento’s Imagine eCommerce 2014 Conference

Author: Daniel Ziegler  |  May 28, 2014

It’s been two weeks since Imagine 2014 wrapped and the WebShopApps team is back at their desks hard at work making shipping as simple as possible for eCommerce merchants and web developers. However, we recently took a little while to reflect back on Imagine 2014 and put together a slideshow of what we did before, during, and after Imagine. Most of our team arrived on Saturday and we had a few hours for relaxing, planning, and, for several of our developers, stopping by the Magento Hackathon.

Imagine StageTransformingOn Sunday morning we headed out of the city for a team-building exercise. After the thrills of driving a buggy across the beautiful Nevada desert, consider the team built! We had enough time to clean the sand out of our hair before we headed over to the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino to get the party started. The pre-Imagine events were a great time to get to know many key members of the Magento community in a more intimate setting before the majority of attendees arrived on Monday. WebShopApps was proud to sponsor the #PreImagine Tweetup event.

Once Imagine began in earnest, our team split up with some of us going through the breakout session tracks; others spending time at our stand meeting customers, friends, and partners; others spent time meeting face to face with people we interact with regularly via phone and email. We were spread out during the day but gathered for the engaging keynote sessions. We were pleased to see so many WebShopApps customers and partners on stage throughout the event and we inspired by many of the keynote speakers.

ShipperHQSwagatStandOf particular interest to us was Malcolm Gladwell‘s talk on the tipping points that allow for transformation. He focused on shipping and, specifically Malcom McLean whose development of the standardized shipping container revolutionized commercial shipping. Gladwell left us with the encouragement to “Stand up and re-imagine your business.” That’s exactly what we’re doing at WebShopApps.

Following Imagine, our team got together again at Zion National Park in southern Utah for a few days of strategic planning, further team-building, and, of course, good fellowship, food, and drinks. We even had time for several hours spent hiking the Narrows or Angel’s Landing. This gave us time to start processing all that we had learned and experienced during Imagine.

There’s no doubt that Magento and the community that surrounds it is on the cutting edge of eCommerce. Because of this, it felt entirely appropriate that Imagine 2014 was the venue where we introduced the world to the revolution in eCommerce shipping: ShipperHQ.

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