International Freight 101: Navigating the Waters

Author: John Edmonds  |  August 8, 2017

Shipping internationally via freight can get a little tricky, so we’ve invited our partner, Freightos, to share steps and tips on the end to end process of International Freight.

If importing had a Facebook relationship status, it would be “It’s complicated.” But that doesn’t mean importing should be off the table.

Nutmeg is the proof. Seriously.

In the 15th century, you could buy 125 pounds of nutmeg in the Indian Ocean’s Banda Islands for the equivalent of $3,000 dollars today. Back in Paris, it would sell for $2.1 million dollars (markup, baby!). International trade is all about supply, demand, sourcing costs and transportation. So when a seller can source cheaper overseas, why not?

And here’s the good news. Importing has gotten easier since the 15th century. Here’s the basics, brought to you by Freightos.

Avoid Product And Packaging Shipwrecks

iStock-585514502_1200x800Not everything is import-perfect. Sourcing overseas literally opens a world of opportunity but don’t forget to do your due diligence for each product:.

  • Make sure that Customs, the FDA and other agencies haven’t imposed restrictions on the product. Even products like cosmetics, wood or aluminum can be a problem. Check out the product on an HS lookup table (basically a standardized global product lookup table) or with a simple Google search.
  • Make sure that your products aren’t subject to hefty anti-dumping duties (colored pencils are!) or defined as hazardous for air or ocean shipping.
  • Intellectual property, copyright and trademark all impact importing matters. If the product is a big brand product (or uncannily similar to one), read up on it first.

Packaging is tricky – too little and your product arrives in pieces, too much and you literally pay the price, as overzealous packaging makes freight costs skyrocket. This is particularly true when shipping by air, where size and weight matters far more than ocean freight. Here’s some more hints:

  • Get your supplier to use the smallest possible boxes and make sure they fit well on pallets. 
  • If you have a say on product packaging, get creative product packaging ideas that look great but are the right size to minimise costs.
  • Try to only palletize goods after US customs clearance. Why pay to ship pallets around the world?
  • Double-box fragile products to add extra cushioning. Use bubble wrap in the first box, unless you are sure that your warehouse permits styrofoam peanuts. Head’s up – Amazon doesn’t!
  • Clearly mark carton count, gross weight, net weight, country of origin and tracking labels on every box and carton.

The Sales Agreement: Your Voyage Starts Here

Factor in freight costs from Day One of working with your supplier. International freight relies on eleven incoterms, categories that define freight responsibilities for your and your supplier. Like the tax law, they’re important, complicated and boring. So, either read the regulations, follow this concise summary for beginner importers…or go safe and opt for FOB or EXW.

What do they mean? Free On Board (FOB) is when the supplier pays all costs to get the shipment loaded at port, including customs on their end, while you arrange everything else, including international transit.Ex Works (EXW) means you’re arranging, paying and are liable for the entire shipment from their warehouse. Depending on the supplier’s negotiated rates, this could vary so check out  this freight rate calculator when deciding.

Let A Forwarder Be Your Navigator

As appealing as it may seem, never try to import alone – ship happens. A (good) freight forwarder that can arrange and troubleshoot international shipments is what you need. But finding the right one can be hard…and Yelp won’t help. Typically, it’s come down to a combo of relying on word of mouth and luck but new solutions, like Freightos online freight marketplace,help find the right forwarder for each individual shipment.

When you do find a forwarder, make sure you:

  1. Have your supplier copies of the packing list and commercial invoice – you’ll need them.
  2. Decide if you’re shipping by air or ocean. Air freight is quicker, and not necessarily more expensive for a smaller shipment.
  3. Sending to a fulfillment center requires can require inspect and prepping – make sure you know if you need your forwarder to help with that.
  4. Get cargo insurance –  it’s an absolute must, as default carrier insurance is pitfully low.
  5. Calculate your total weight and total volume (this should be on the packing list).
  6. Write down the precise product description from the commercial invoice or ask your supplier for the HS code.
  7. Find your US company tax ID, which you’ll need for customs records.

Navigation From End To End

There’s roughly one trillion international freight documents which you’ll discover along the way but you’ll probably encounter the Bill of Lading (or airway bill of lading), commercial invoice and freight quote first (you can see a list of key documents here). More importantly, get ready to triple check the data on the forms you provide to your forwarder – even tiny discrepancies can lead to costly delays.

Here’s a simplified process of what your forwarder will be arranging:

  • Trucking to pick up and deliver your shipment to a consolidation center.
  • Load consolidation (if you’re shipping less than a container load, your shipment will get put in a container with other shipments)
  • Trucking to port.
  • Customs clearance.
  • Loading by port authority.
  • International transit (ship or air) …
  • the same steps in reverse in America.

Speaking of customs, you’ll need a customs bond to import. Ask your forwarder whether you should get Continuous bond or Single Entry Bond (plus ISF bond for LCL ocean freight) – this will depend on how often you’ll be importing.  Also, if you are planning on importing regularly, set up your own Customs account. It’s quicker and easier in the long run.

The Bottom Line

Just to make sure you were paying attention, here’s the things to watch out for on a typical shipment:

  1. Check import, carrier and IP restrictions when selecting a product.
  2. Check out packaging restrictions (and opportunities) too.
  3. Think incoterms when negotiating your sales agreement.
  4. Gather information before requesting quotes.
  5. Once you have a forwarder, get them to take you through the shipment process.
  6. Double-check all documentation.
  7. Make your shipment hassle-free for Customs, so that Customs is hassle free for you.
  8. Leave delivery to your international forwarder.

And, of course, check out the Freightos Marketplace, which makes the process much easier, with a one-stop shop for comparing instant quotes from 30+ forwarders, online booking, shipment management and 24/7 support…hold the nutmeg.

About the Author

John Edmonds is a logistics expert who loves writing about freight (who doesn’t) at Freightos. When he’s not, he enjoys Miso soup, cats and cricket (the game, not the insect).

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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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The Importance of Packaging in The Ecommerce Experience

Author: Phoebe Haig  |  June 13, 2017

We have invited our partner, JH to discuss what an important role packaging plays in winning back current customers and how to complete your customers’ ecommerce experience with shipping.

Not only does packaging protect your product, it’s the first thing that your customer sees in person from your eCommerce business, and so it’s absolutely crucial to get it right.

A massive part of building a sustainable brand is bringing customers back, time and time again. Often relatively ignored by marketers who’re more usually focussed on gaining the attention of new customers, it’s almost always less expensive and more powerful, to get a current customer to purchase again, than it is to go out and try and attract new ones.

In a survey from Dotcom Distribution they found that 52 percent of consumers are likely to make repeat purchases from an online retailers that deliver premium packaging experiences.

Customers as Brand Advocates

The report by Dotcom also found out that 39% of the respondents had shared a picture or a video of new purchases, most commonly using Facebook (84%), Twitter (32%), Instagram (31%), YouTube (28%) and Pinterest (20%).

Personalization in packaging adds a level of excitement that allows you to create a genuine relationship with customers, and people are hardwired to want to share great experiences, which is why social media is filled with people sharing their news. When your product features on your customer’s news feed, you want to make sure it’s for all the right reasons.

When customers receive a product with premium packaging and a personalised note thanking them for the purchase, the feeling of trust and satisfaction is amplified.  It turns customers into brand ambassadors – one of the strongest assets a company could have. They become advocates of your brand and they’re the people that will create word of mouth, which is an age-old promotional tool businesses can’t prosper without.

Packaging as a Marketing Channel

The sky’s the limit on how unique and memorable you want your customer’s experience to be. Though the use of packaging, you can create a unique experience that acts as a marketing channel in itself.


Paul Smith like to think outside the traditional box and use cylinders and other shapes to surprise and delight their eCommerce buyers, when they buy smaller items like ties and socks.

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Thelma’s make ice-cream cookie sandwiches (yep, how divine!) and they’ve become well known for their quirky and kitsch oven boxes. The packaging cleverly serves to remind the customer of their brand promise: “Our cookies are made fresh and delivered warm right out of the oven.”


Our all time favourite though, is from bike manufacturers Vanmoof who realised they could use packaging to solve a problem. When bike sales moved online, manufacturers had to think of better ideas of making sure their products arrive safely with their customers.

What did Vanmoof do? Instead of putting a picture of a bike on the box they printed a picture of large flatscreen TV instead and saw instances of delivery damage drastically reduce.

What to Consider

When Amazon’s boxes with their “grinning” A-Z logo show up, everyone knows their Amazon delivery is here. How can you make sure your packaging is just as recognisable to your customers, and creates the same sense of excitement? Here are the elements you’ll need to think about.

  • Box – The first thing to consider is the main shipping box. And size matters due to shipping costs, so be strategic.

  • Tissue Paper – Wrapping your products in tissue paper adds a sense of premium around your product. Custom-printed tissue paper, even more so.

  • Filler – Traditional filler types included styrofoam packing peanuts, foam inserts, air pillows or bubble wrap. All protect your product, but also can add a sense of luxury when done right too.

  • Sticker – Branded stickers be used to fasten tissue paper – for their price they’re a pretty inexpensive way to add a quality feel.

  • Custom Note – It may be difficult to scale, however, for smaller companies, a customised note – handwritten being the ultimate – will always be gratefully received.

  • Free Gift – A small gift can be a great way to surprise and delight customers as well as increase the overall experience.

  • Sample – Based on your customer segmentation data, you could also consider including a sample that is likely to cross-sell the customer by introducing them to new products.

Creating a memorable experience at this crucial part of the customer journey, can help to give your business the competitive edge, by seeing customers come back again soon for more of your products.

About the Author

Phoebe Haig is the Marketing Manager at JH. She blogs ( regularly on tips and news for the world of eCommerce.

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A BBQ Restaurant Eliminates Their Shipping Pains and Increases Efficiency with ShipperHQ

Author: Ashley Overton  |  June 7, 2017

This success story highlights a ShipperHQ merchant selling a wide array of items online including perishable goods and how they transitioned from using a custom shipping solution to become more efficient.

rudysRudy’s BBQ and barbeque in general is known as a staple of Texas and many other states of the south. Rudy’s began its journey as a gas station and general store near the University of Texas, shortly after opening they decided to expand and offer great homemade food for a modest price. They have since opened in multiple states throughout the South and even have an online menu so all their fans around the US can enjoy their meats, rubs and sauses.

The BBQ company expanded to the ecommerce market in 2001 only selling sauces and rubs. In order to handle their shipping needs, their developers built a custom shipping solution. In 2011, things got a bit trickier in the Rudy’s BBQ shipping world as they decided to add meats to their online menu. When shipping meats they had to put specific rules in place that would only allow the meat to be in transit for a limited amount of time and to only be delivered to certain areas. With their custom shipping solution, they were able to implement the shipping options they wanted along with the rules they needed, but the build and maintenance was very time consuming and it wasn’t the most accurate way to develop the shipping rates they showed at checkout.

After running a custom shopping cart for 9 years, the Rudy’s team decided it was time to find a solution that would allow them to implement the rules they currently have set up, easily make updates when needed, and help them to accurately pack their products.

Rudy's BBQ

Less Time Shipping, More Time Selling

Prior to ShipperHQ, the addition of a new product or changes in restrictions would call for tons of manual work involving their team to update custom code. Just a simple change could cost the company a lot of time and money.

Creed Ford, owner of Pictoric Media, explains their initial shipping challenges:

Our team would build out rules and it was open source, so we could build any rules that we wanted, but it was extremely hard to support and update. It was a big capital expense and was even expensive to update.

Rudy’s BBQ was introduced to ShipperHQ about a year ago and were happy to hear that they would no longer have to worry about their shipping! They decided to take advantage of the customization service which allowed our team to completely handle the ShipperHQ implementation and made for a quick and smooth transition. And now, the team can easily make changes to their configuration in minutes.

Creed on using ShipperHQ:

The shipping options we use now are very similar to what we had before since we had a custom shipping solution and had it where we wanted it. And, having the ability to create and use Shipping Rules has made ShipperHQ worth it. We no longer have to spend hours or days making changes to our code when we have a requirement change or add an item to the menu.

Improvements Their Team & Customers Can Enjoy

After further use of ShipperHQ, the team found that they are not only saving time with shipping, but they now have better access to the data they need and can produce more accurate shipping quotes.

Efficiency and savings was the number one metric and goal which was hit!

Creed on reaching their goals:

We have the ability to have data come through the systems and not have it go through code which was painful for our team. Having a system intelligent enough to pack product into correct boxes has also helped us to give more accurate shipping quotes.

By utilizing the Dimensional Shipping and Date & Time features they are able to charge their customers the correct amount for shipping. So, their customers aren’t faced with higher than expected charges, and Rudy’s can rest well knowing that their shipping costs are covered every time.

The Future is Looking Bright

Rudy’s is still pretty early on in their transition from their custom shipping solution, but they are looking forward to a bright future with ShipperHQ. Now that the team can more efficiently ship what they sell online, they have even more time to focus on their company goal which is to provide great tasting, homestyle food at reasonable prices. With shipping in order they are able to hold their online store to that same standard, and remain extremely competitive in the BBQ industry. We are excited to see what is instore for Rudy’s within the next year!

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5 Tips to Get More Accurate Shipping

Author: Ashley Overton  |  June 2, 2017

An order comes in, you know what you wanted to charge the customer for delivery, but then you realize what they paid was actually a dollar less than what the shipment will cost! Now what? Majority of the time you end up eating that cost, unless you want to be that guy ringing up your customers notifying them that you need to charge them a little more than they initially expected.

One dollar or ten cents may not seem like a lot when you take in one order, but imagine bringing in thousands of sales. At this point you are losing out on hundreds or thousands of dollars just in shipping. Or, you are spending tons of time sorting out each order and contacting customers. Either way, in the end you are paying the cost.

This scenario only shows two of many reasons behind the importance of calculating and showing accurate rates and options at checkout.

The Importance of Accurate Shipping Rates

bad good
Undercharge and you are left covering the cost Consider the dimensional weight of products and apply surcharges when necessary.
Over charge and risk scaring customers away Apply discounts or pull the negotiated rates you receive from the carrier. Considering dimensional weight can be helpful here as well.
When the checkout isn’t transparent and you leave customers guessing about charges Show time in transit or estimated delivery date and name each option accurately to describe what it is.
Show too few options and lose a chance for upselling Try offering a standard option, expedited option and free shipping if possible. Consider showing estimated delivery to upsell faster options.
Show too many options and risk confusing customers Try rate shopping so that only the lowest, most attractive options are shown.

Control your shipping, don’t let your shipping control you

You should have complete control over the rates you are charging your customers. You made an educated decision on what you charge for the product and the same should happen for your shipping. This way you can make a business decision on whether you want to to charge more or less than what the service provider you use is charging you. If you want more attractive shipping, you may want to undercharge for shipping and build that cost into the price of the products. Or, you may want to overcharge via shipping to cover the cost of packing. Whatever you decide, you should be in control and should not be reacting to what your rates decide to do.

Show the services you actually use

The options you show at checkout should reflect the services you are actually using. This doesn’t mean you need to display the exact carrier and service name to your customers, but you should indicate what the service is or does.

For example, if you are using LTL freight to ship your larger items, you shouldn’t show a small package or ground shipping/standard shipping option in your checkout. Not only will this scenario require you to add a surcharge to cover the cost of the shipment, you could also confuse your customers.

This holds true for other services as well. You don’t want to charge customers for same day delivery when they believe they are paying for a slower service. The customer will think they are being overcharged and many times this can lead to cart abandonment.

The more transparent the checkout the better. You don’t want customers questioning why they are being charged more than they would expect from the service they selected. And it can be quite shocking to find a freight truck in front of your home when you are expecting delivery from a small package carrier.

Use Dimensional Shipping

ShipperHQ Dimensional ExampleWhen you ship a product you are charged for on the billable weight which is the higher
value between dimensional weight and actual weight. Dimensional weight is (length x height x width)/166, but keep in mind that the divisor can change. So if you are delivering something large but light and only calculate the items actual weight, you are undercharging the customer for that shipment.

A great example is Shipper the Bear. He is extremely large (close to 8ft tall when standing) but light in weight for his size; his billable weight would come from his dimensional weight, so you would want to stuff him in the smallest box possible and minimize the width, height and length of the package. You should account for the product’s size and pack densely.

With that said, it is important that you are shipping items in proper boxes. You could save a lot of money by ensuring you are not packing small items in large boxes and leaving tons of extra open space in the box.

Rate from Multiple Warehouses & Dropshipping

Having functionality that supports rating from multiple origins is crucial for those who ship via multiple warehouses and for dropshippers. If you ship from two or more different locations it is important to show the rates for the correct origin, or warehouse, each time. When you only rate from one location, it is very likely that you are overcharging or undercharging customers that receive orders from your other locations.

If you have one warehouse on the East Coast and another on the West Coast but only use the West Coast warehouse for rating, you are overcharging customers on the East Coast that receive their shipments from your east coast warehouse. This is because your checkout believes it is shipping the order across the country, when in reality it could only be shipping across state or city.

Now think larger scale, if you have warehouses in different countries your rates will look incredibly different than how they should. Other options you should consider are whether you want your orders to ship from fewest warehouses or from nearest. Sometimes it is cheaper for sellers to ship multiple items from one or two If you are just getting started and want to understand more about how dropshipping works, you should checkout this guide on dropshipping.


Know when to Surcharge and Discount

Adding discounts and surcharges is a simple way to account for fees that are not automatically reflected in the rates pulled from your live carriers, handling additional charges that apply to select products, and reflecting negotiated rates.

Many times merchants need to add padding, dry-ice or other material to boxes which adds to the box weight and in turn increases the amount you are charged to ship certain items. This is where you should apply surcharges to the rates you show at checkout, so you are covering all costs for shipments. This can also be useful for international shipments that have duties and fees attached to the delivery cost.

To avoid overcharging customers who do not fall within these categories, you will want to ensure you have rules in place that allow you to only charge surcharges on certain items, when certain boxes are used, or for deliveries that ship to certain locations.

In contrast, you may find that you need to apply discounts to your rates. Discounts can allow you to provide more attractive shipping or reflect negotiated rates from the carrier. This way you are not overcharging for rates and can even build some of the shipping price into the product’s cost.

Make use out of Date & Time

Date & Time is a great tool for merchants who sell perishable goods, products that can only ship in specific boxes,
hazardous materials or products with regional restrictions such as Alcohol. Imagine not only having the ability to show your customers when they can expect their package, but having the power to control the max time in transit for groups of products that have time sensitive shipping requirements.

Date & Time includes time in transit and estimated delivery date which makes it easy for merchants selling perishables to only charge their customers for expedited services when it is necessary. If you have a customer in the area that can get a ground shipment within 2 days and this is within the maximum allowed time in transit,  you can allow them to use the cheaper/slower shipping service.

Or, on the other hand, you can hide the slower, ground option from your customers that reside outside of a specified area; this way you don’t have customers choosing the slower services when they really need the faster and more expensive options.

date-time-calendar-@3xDate & Time also give you the ability to up sell your expedited shipping options and provide transparency to your customers. As we get closer certain holidays you will find that many customers are more likely to shop from sites that show when their order with arrive.

Taking Back Control

Now it is time to pull this all together, develop your shipping strategy and find a solution that fits your business’ unique needs. Whether you are looking to take action on one or all of the above, you should do your research so you fully understand how you want to ship. Consider what options you should or shouldn’t be using based on your customers’ needs along with your own and imagine how you want those carriers to look at checkout.

I would recommend investing in a Shipping Rate Management Software like ShipperHQ when you decide it is time to execute your shipping strategy. This type of software can be tailored to fit the needs of businesses small to large and will help to simplify various shipping barriers. With this solution, you can show the options you want and decide who can see them and when. It is intelligent enough to calculate the most economical box choices based on your product size and boxes you use, and reflects the shipping rules you put into place. Talk to our team to see how you can get more accurate rates and options.

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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 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.


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 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.


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.


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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An Agriculture Technology Startup uses Shipping to Increase Ecommerce Customers by 22%

Author: Ashley Overton  |  April 19, 2017

This post starts off our Customer Success Story Series. This success story highlights a ShipperHQ merchant on Bigcommerce that was able to break through the challenges they faced as they expanded to the ecommerce market in order to keep up with customer demand.

Bright AgroTechVertical farming came about as a way for farmers to avoid costs associated with growing food. Since then, the vertical farming space has become quite noisy. Bright Agrotech, an agriculture technology startup, chose to address the increase in demand for these farming supplies by expanding to the ecommerce market. In doing so they knew their situation was unlike most ecommerce merchants’ and they would need to conquer their pretty unique shipping challenges in order to beat out their competition and successfully sell online.

Bright Agrotech guides modern farmers to plan, build and operate successful businesses and ultimately build a new, local food economy based on transparency and trust. Their approach is to Equip, Educate and Empower. With these 3 E’s, Bright Agrotech gives modern farmers the hardware, software, and services they need to make a positive impact on local food economies.

The company expanded to the ecommerce market around 2014 and immediately knew that they would face challenges delivering their unusually large and bulky items to their customers. They were dealing with multiple packages per product, dimensions that resulted in balloon charges (or that exceeded carrier requirements), and freight shipments. After their first few months as an online store, they migrated to BigCommerce in hopes that they would be able to find a solution.  

Putting Your Shipping Strategy to Work

Bright Agrotech started their online journey knowing what they wanted to show and offer their customers at checkout. But, they faced issues when it came time to relay this to their customers on their frontend. Initially the team used BigCommerce’s builtin shipping options to apply flat-rate shipping on their larger items to cover what they thought their average costs would be.

Perry Baptista, Chief Operations Officer describes what challenges the company faced:

Without a shipping calculator that was prepared to handle all of the above, we were frequently unable to charge accurate shipping rates. Nearby customers ended up largely overpaying for shipping, and we had to eat the cost on more expensive shipments. Our customers had limited shipping choices or less-than-complete information about how their shipment would arrive.

Trust me – having a freight truck show up at your house when you’re expecting UPS is a jarring experience that usually results in a number of additional costs for both the customer and us.

The team quickly realized they would need a more powerful shipping calculator to handle their shipping needs. Knowing that building a custom solution would turn out to be extremely costly, they began their search for an application that would fit their needs and were led to ShipperHQ.

Shipping large Items

Increase Conversion through Improved Shipping

June 2016 was the beginning of change for the Bright Agrotech team. They found their solution, now it was time to put it to action and see the results. 

Directly after the implementation of ShipperHQ and other process improvements, they noticed an increase in their ecommerce order fulfillment efficiency.

Perry Baptista explains the effects of their improvements:

I am pleased with the results we’ve been able to achieve. If I compare March 2016 through December 2016 to the same period in 2015, we’ve had a 17% increase in our conversion rate.

Prior to adding ShipperHQ, Bright Agrotech only offered one shipping option, which was “Standard Shipping.” If you take a look at their current checkout, they are now able to offer up to 5 different carriers and 3 shipping speeds. And, they can now incorporate multi-origin shipping information into their shopping cart and shipping quotes. Not only do they have more options to satisfy their customers, they are able to meet increasing demand by reducing the amount of customer service and internal time spent on shipping arrangements.

Bright Agrotech Checkout

Perry Baptista further explains their improvements:

Before ShipperHQ, we’d actually call customers if they had been massively undercharged for shipping. Customers weren’t happy at the additional charges, we weren’t happy about the high costs, and we were both out a ton of time – the most expensive part of all!

Now, even with a 22% increase in ecommerce customers this year, they have not needed to increase their fulfillment or shipping staff. By making use of advanced features such as Dimensional Shipping, LTL Freight and Carrier Rules, Bright Agrotech was able to tell ShipperHQ exactly how their large items need to be handled and what they want their customers to see based on zone, product size and more.

Perry Baptista explains how ShipperHQ has made shipping large/bulky items easier:

Bright AgroTech & ShipperHQ

First, ShipperHQ allows us to assign multiple shipping boxes to a single BigCommerce product. Many of our large items, like the ZipGrow Farm Wall, ship in two or more boxes, and BigCommerce’s basic shipping calculator could only calculate real-time quotes on one box per product. Using ShipperHQ’s dimensional rules feature allows us to accurately quote the correct number and size of packages in real time.

Second, ShipperHQ can quote shipment of an item via freight carriers, which was needed for our large ZipGrow Commercial Bundles. This is one of the only shipping programs on the market I’ve seen with this functionality. Many of our products can only ship cost-effectively via a freight method, so being able to pull real-time freight quotes improves Bright’s bottom line while giving our customers an accurate representation of how their items will arrive.

Finally, I love that ShipperHQ can restrict carriers and zones. For international customers, we only use USPS, so it only makes sense to limit an international customer’s options. Within the US, we prefer to ship only UPS on large items from our warehouse. Being able to clearly define via ShipperHQ what a large item is and restrict its shipping methods is amazing.

Bright Agrotech Free Shipping

The Boundaries are Endless

The company has been able to expand their checkout in ways they were unable to imagine before. With additional options and the ability to control what their customers see at checkout they have been able to broaden their reach, opening them up to thousands of potential customers and are able to cover their shipping costs. Now, they rarely have a shipment they can’t send. Even if they are unable to serve a location, a customer will be informed that they can’t automatically ship to them via the website, which has allowed them to save tons of customer service time.

As always, we are happy to watch Bright Agrotech grow and expand new horizons. We are excited to see what is in store for the company’s future and what more they will be able to accomplish.

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How to Boost Your Conversions with a Customer Friendly Shipping Process

Author: David Wain-Heapy  |  April 4, 2017

Online Shipping that converts

We have invited David Wain-Heapy, a Director at Best Response Media, to share advice on important actions you can take to boost conversion with shipping on your ecommerce store.

The shipping process should be the cornerstone of your business. Without a well-structured, integrated system in place, your company could face serious problems further down the road. Failing to convert customers is the death knell for small businesses.

Encompassing checkout, delivery, the returns policy, and carrier options, the shipping process should reflect your values. To convert prospective customers into revenue streams, your company must symbolise security, flexibility, and quality. The easiest way to showcase a total lack of these things is with a poorly planned checkout-delivery process.

However, with an average landing page conversion rate of just 2.35%, advertisers seem to struggle getting past simple sales barriers.

Give your customers ordering flexibility

The average consumer sees choice as part-and-parcel of modern retail. Moving online, this choice becomes integral. Think about this: 46% of customers will choose one retailer over another because they have multiple delivery options.

Behind the smoke-and-mirrors of modern marketing tactics, flexibility plays an enormous role in converting sales.

Apart from avoiding pushy salespeople, the internet gives consumers the power to sit down, process information, and compare products and services at their own leisure. Keeping payment, delivery, and returns options open and transparent will help customers reach an actionable decision about your brand.

Making this action a conversion comes down to choice and control.

With basket abandonment costing the UK economy £6bn annually in recent years, it’s important to analyse consumer trends.

Major causes of abandonment are:


Unexpected shipping costs

Solution: keep costs transparent and offer alternatives like click-and-collect, fixed date delivery, and free shipping


Being required to make an account

Solution: give customers the option to checkout as a guest


Worried about payment security

Solution: give people multiple payment options

The power of returns

Want to keep up with competition? Offer returns.

67% of shoppers check the returns policy before making purchases.

Making things truly customer friendly means extending flexibility beyond the landing and product pages. Giving customers a sense of control and freedom during the ordering process is more of a Call-to-Action in itself than clever marketing tactics or your product range.

Keep things flowing

In fact, customer experience is expected to overtake pricing and products as the main company differentiator by 2020. If providing customers with options is key to converting, optimising the shipping process for multiple channels is a close 2nd. The UK currently leads the world with 65% of ecommerce traffic from mobile devices.

So, how can ecommerce sites use this to their advantage?

Web designs must work across popular devices without sacrificing clarity. The easier a user can navigate and understand information, the better the customer experience.

Offering huge functionality is pointless unless the ordering process is tailored to a customer’s preferred device.

With the average conversion rate being almost directly comparable to screen size (desktop: 3.09%, tablet: 2.64%, smartphones: 1.51%), this confirms product image size plays a role in generating sales. Advertisers could be optimising their sites better for mobile devices:

Make images larger and shipping options clearer.

Planning for the future

71% of customers are willing to switch retailers because of a bad online experience. Far from looking for brands to be loyal to, the average consumer is extremely unforgiving. Even if traffic is converting now, there’s no guarantee that these conversions will lead to future sales. A disappointing sales experience can stop the cumulative growth of repeat customers.

Customer retention is a vital KPI. Compared with new visitors, repeat customers have a higher conversion rate (4.5% vs. 2.4%) and a lower bounce rate (24.4% vs. 34.8%).

This should make it clear why the stages following the ‘order’ button are so important. Investing time into creating happy customers will reap greater benefits than pushing conversions through aggressive Calls-to-Action. A responsive design with simple visual cues, large images, and multi-channel functionality will serve customers better than needless complexity. The trend towards minimalism in recent years is a direct response to consumer analysis.

It’s important visitors to your website feel their needs are being catered to. Simplicity can positively impact customer experience by revealing the functionality of underlying systems. Going into the future, these things will become the make-or-break factor for online businesses.


About The Author

David W headshot

David Wain-Heapy is a Director at Best Response Media.

They are an eCommerce agency and provide innovative Magento ecommerce and digital marketing solutions from their offices in Central London.

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PreImagine 2017 Sponsor Spotlight: MageMojo

Author: Ashley Overton  |  April 1, 2017

MageMojo built their hosting company specifically and only to host Magento stores. They specialize in doing one thing and doing it really well so they are able to offer faster performance, deeper support, and lower prices. “We’re making Magento great again!” says Eric Hileman, Co-Founder of MageMojo.

The MageMojMageMojoo team has been a part of the Magento community since 2009. In addition to providing the community with great service, they are very active in showing their support. This will be their second year attending and sponsoring PreImagine and they are also organizing Meet Magento NY this year and plan on going big!

Eric sheds some light on what it’s like to be both a guest and sponsor at PreImagine and how to get the most out of your evening there:

Why did MageMojo decide to sponsor PreImagine this year? 

We love to support community events in Vegas, especially since the Wynn is expensive.  PreImagine needs all the support it can get in order to put on a great event (and open up that bar!).

How would you describe your past PreImagine experiences?

As a sponsor Good! ★★★★☆

As a guest Excellent! ★★★★★

What is your favorite memory from past PreImagines?

Favorite memory was thinking how beautiful it was out there on the Sunset Terrace in the evening surrounded by Magento community members from all over the world.  That was the first time we’d seen people whom we’d only known from their twitter profiles, IRL.  It was a feeling of inspiration that really energized us for the next couple days.

What are you looking forward to most this year?

We’re looking forward most to spreading the word about the Magento Security Council we co-founded and the free malware scanner the Council put out.  We’re also giving free 3 month memberships to Nomad Mage for continuous learning.  Spreading education about security while also learning from our Peers is exciting!  We’re ready to collaborate on more initiatives with other community members!

What would you list as the biggest benefit of attending PreImagine?

PreImagine is the eye of the hurricane. Everyone is crazy busy leading up to Imagine.  We all arrive in Las Vegas and have that one day where everything is calm.  PreImagine sits in that calm window and gives everyone a chance to take a breath, say Hello to old friends, and relax for a little while before the whirlwind begins again Monday.

Do you have any advice for first time attendees? 

There’s no need to be shy. Find the people you recognize from twitter, stackoverflow, etc, just walk up and introduce yourself.  We’re all here for the same reason and you’ll find you have a lot in common with everyone, if you open up!

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PreImagine 2017 Sponsor Spotlight: Avalara

Author: Ashley Overton  |  April 1, 2017

Avalara, Inc., is a leading cloud-based software platform provider that delivers a broad and growing array of compliance solutions related to sales tax and other transaction taxes, such a value-added tax. Avalara helps make sales tax compliance simple and automatic for businesses of all sizes.

25980220464_ce0f8f9905_zTheir end-to-end suite of solutions automatically determines taxability, identifies applicable tax rates, accurately calculates taxes, prepares and files returns, remits taxes, maintains tax records, and manages tax exemption certificates. The Avalara team has been a member of the Magento community for 5 years. They are proudly sponsoring the PreImagine event for a third year, but this will be their first time attending.

Although Amiee Keenan, Partner Marketing Manager of Avalara, will be joining us at PreImagine for the first time this year, she was happy to shed some helpful knowledge she gained from attending other conferences and what she is looking forward to this Sunday:

Why did Avalara decide to sponsor PreImagine this year?

This is a great show. It is a great way to kick-start the conference.

What are you looking forward to most this year?

Personally, this is my first year at Imagine so I look forward to learning, networking, and being in the booth.

Do you have any advice for first time attendees?

I have attended many conferences. There is a lot of walking so good, comfortable shoes are the key to get you through.



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