Welcome to Curious Business

Every Friday, I post a small insight into running Curio City and/or Blue Hills Editorial Services. My most recent posts are directly below. You can also start with the first post, or use the subject labels to the right to home in on particular topics. Feel free to comment on anything that interests you.
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Friday, November 07, 2014

The Eternal Limited Time Offer

I tried something new this week: Free shipping on all orders over $75, no coupon necessary. Newsletter subscribers got a coupon lowering the threshold to $50. I've long been able to run such a special, but my old template gave me no way to tell visitors about it. Surprising somebody with free shipping is useless...you have to dangle it in front of them. 

The new template's slideshow looked like a near-perfect solution (a popup that follows visitors around would be better, since most visitors land at Curio City without ever seeing the front page). I could swap graphics every few weeks to keep the site fresh and to plug different products and offers. Then I realized that returning visitors will always see the same graphics unless they clear their browser cache -- and who ever does that? Not only will they miss future promotional graphics...they will keep seeing whatever outdated offer was running when they first came. 

So much for that stroke of genius.

In the end, three Switchables customers spent $260. Would they have bought anything without the promotion? Did they pad their orders to reach $75? Who knows? The customer who got free shipping on $200 worth of Panther Vision beanies was pleasantly surprised; he never saw the front page. I ended up giving away $21 worth of postage. The week's sales are running about 40% below LY, which is apparently the new normal after my website upgrade.

I'm going to try this once more before Christmas, with a $100 minimum.

My first newsletter in five months got 114 opens (28%, vs. an 18% industry average) and 27 clicks (24%, vs. 14% average) resulting in no sales. Since I've been paying Constant Contact $16 a month that whole time this newsletter effectively cost me $2.96 per click. More frequent mailings would obviously improve that rate, although that's pointless if the clickers don't convert to buyers. 

Since turning Bing ads back on I've bought 68 clicks for $16.36 with zero conversions (assuming that their conversion tracking code is working). I'm reminded why I bailed on Microsoft in the first place: Dozens of my keywords have quality scores of 2 or 3/10, supposedly due to low landing page relevance. "Falcon kites" goes to my falcon kite page; "eagle kites" goes to my eagle kite page; "LED lighted caps" goes to my Panther Vision caps page. How much more relevant can you get?

Fine, whatever. It's easier to delete keywords that score below 5 than to write awkward phrases into my product pages for Bing's benefit. Less money for Microsoft.

So yeah, it's Christmas. Between now and Thanksgiving I should be doing $200 a day. I'm only averaging $147. And yet I keep buying new products as fast as I can process the orders. This week I dropped a cool $1,600 on new Metal Earth models (chiefly Star Wars and Star Trek), making them my biggest bet of the year even though I could only afford a fraction of what I wanted. The good news is that I'm nearly done ordering, and a month from now I'll know how my bets turned out. 

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