Notes from our thrilling journey down the silk route

You need to be able to convert the event of online shopping into an entire experience for your buyers. The experience of buying should be smooth and comfortable even before they receive the purchased items. Remember when Seth Godin talked about ordering the x-ray glasses as a kid?

It wasn’t the glasses that were fun, but the 4 week anticipation and day-dreaming that came before it. That anticipation alone was worth the dollars those kids spent on the glasses.

Quite in the same way, every time someone places an order on your site, that person goes through a similar period of anticipation and excitement – regardless of whether they are buying for themselves or gifts. The anticipation remains. Now, if you break their excitement by making the process of ordering painful, then you’ll in effect be breaking their experience. A broken experience is always remembered and will come back to bite you. We want to talk about the importance of creating seamless experiences for your online shops.

The experience starts from the moment an interested buyer enters your website, to the moment he/she receives the purchased items in mail. The better the experience, the more they will like you. The more they like you, the more they will buy from you. The more they buy from you, the more they will refer you to their trusted friends. The more references you get, the more products you’ll sell. Although it is theoretically a simplistic model, a lot of good bloggers don’t pay it enough heed.

Think about it from the buyer’s perspective. If ordering a new necklace is an event in your life, then your experience will begin as soon as you enter the website to place the order, to how the shipment packaging looks like when it gets to you. Does it arrive on time? Is it exactly like it claimed to be? Does it come with a thoughtful note? The smoother the flow, from the start to the end, the more memorable the experience will be.

So the idea is to turn this into an experience that everyone would want to remember and feel special about. Now, alternatively, if I visit a great website or blog frequented by a lot of people… but to buy something I have to click on a Silkfair/Etsy/Artfire widget that leads to another site altogether – you’ve lost me as a customer. Because my experience is broken the moment I’m redirected somewhere else. The moment I get to the other site, I forget what I was looking for and often get distracted by other options and stores.

Your store should be right there when someone is looking around for products that you offer. Because that’s when they have their credit card in front of their keyboards and are mentally prepared to make a purchase. How would you feel if you go to Barnes & Noble and when you’re ready to buy a book, the person behind the counter says “oh, for that you’ll have to go to another store 5 blocks away”? Not so peachy, I’ll bet.

Every time you sell something – it’s like a small event that takes place — each event needs to reinforce your brand and identity. It’s sad to see how people keep on offering broken experiences without giving thought to their brand story. Today, let’s talk about ways of building brand stories for your store. Whether you are selling products or services… the essence is always the same – does the brand make people WANT to associate themselves with you?

You need to have a story that ties everything together. People remember stories. When they are buying or selling items, they’re selling stories. The story should be genuine, but it needs to be articulated properly for people to remember it.

Your key differentiation:
Before anything else – understand your market. Who is your ideal customer? What are their needs, thoughts and requirements? How is your product filling those needs? Once you know what sets you apart from all other offerings in the market, you’ll automatically highlight those aspects of your brand on your site.

Your story:
When you know what sets you apart, it’s simple to build a story around it. For example, your story could be: “we were buying jewelry for our daughter’s wedding and couldn’t find good economical and elegant designs. Either we came across fancy expensive designer wear, or ill-finished handmade ones. At first we kept looking around… but then we decided to take things in our own hands and custom design them. They turned out so great and everyone at the wedding complimented her. Fast forward 5 years, and we now have a small jewelry design business and are catering to unique custom orders in an affordable way.”

When you are ready to share your story with your community, just tell them the exact story and let them absorb it. Never push anyone to buy from you, let them get lured themselves. Not only will people remember your story, they will talk about it with their friends when they wear your jewelry items.

Reinforce your brand:
Make it easy for people to share your story with their friends. A great way to do this is to have it on a small printed card that you can send with all shipments (with your logo on one side and the story on the other). Refer to your story on your blog to keep it fresh in their memories – e.g. “you know how we all started out… with the wedding a few weeks away and no good jewelry options…”.

Don’t break the experience:
Don’t ignore your customer’s messages, queries and emails. Don’t add unnecessary steps just for them to get the information they are looking for. Don’t delay the shopping cart processing. Don’t add extra annoyances at checkout. Don’t under-deliver the value that they expect from a product. Don’t send prospects off to third party sites, unless you have absolutely no choice.

Keeping these factors into consideration, we have built ways in which anyone can setup an online shop in minutes – without requiring any programming background. The shop looks exactly like your site, thus making the experience of your site visitors smooth and comfortable. This is an exciting time for us, because the feedback we’re getting so far is incredibly positive. Everyone is excited about owning their own stores, where they can display their own brand. Their visitors don’t even know how the store is running in the background. All they know is that when they want to buy something, they can do it immediately without a hiccup. If you’re interested in opening a shop on your site, get in touch with us today.

Meanwhile, here is an example of a creative user who has put together her own shop at her own site for her own audiences. B Johnson Jewelry. Enjoy!

customshop-sample2

1st_blog_award

Bettina Johnson from BJohnson Jewelry made us a great surprise by awarding us the “One Lovely Blog” award. She creates and sells gorgeous silver and copper jewelry pieces that take your breath away. Thank you so much for this award!

You can give this award to some of your favorite Blogs as well and award them, here how it works:

♥ Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award, and his/ her blog link.

♥ Pass the award to other blogs that you’ve newly discovered! Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen.

Here they are (not newly discovered but so lovely, we couldn’t skip them away):

Nathalie and her eco-friendly lifestyle . She blogs about her life,  shop specials, and new items in the shops Recupefashion and Recupefashionnstuff.

Jolene aka Pixei from a Garden City Singapore. She blogs about crafts, design, and everything nice that inspires her.

And last but not least, the award goes to all Silkfair bloggers, because they are all lovely and unique online stories of great minds and amazing pieces of craftsmanship.

It’s been a busy few weeks. We have a few great surprises that we’re going to launch for our customers in the next few days. Hint: as a store owner or business-person you will be able to empower your own personal brand.

Everything that we’re going to offer is special – you will soon find out about it.

Join us on our event:

A lot of our users have wanted to meet each other on a more personal level. There is so much value in finding out who the community members are, who lives close by, who has the same interests as you, and so on so forth. For that, we’re having a nice little cozy meetup on May 20th (7:30 p.m. EST). It’s an invite only virtual event hosted on Silkfair’s live chat room. If you want to be a part of it, please email teams@silkfair.com to ask for an invite.

We’ll talk about the special news in the event as well for the early birds :)

There was a time a few decades ago when traders traveled for months along the silk roads from one place to another, with their little trinkets and tents. The eventual destination wasn’t important, what mattered more was the journey to get there. On this journey, they would take camp, meet new people, barter, trade, and exchange notes.

They were true story-tellers. Every trinket they sold had a deep and exciting tale behind it – about how it was passed on for generations, or how they had to brave fearful adventures to get it. When a trinket was sold, the buyer bought the ‘stories’ behind it, not the object itself. He would buy it and repeat the story to everyone else he met on the way. Perhaps he would even keep the trinket and tell his grandchildren about those stories. These warm encounters are what made the harsh weather and stony paths all worth it.

With time, infrastructural innovations, capitalization, commercialization; things have changed a lot. But the thing that I want to tell you today is an important message.

Those silk-road journeys and stories were what made their lives interesting, exciting and eventful. They are a good depiction of human nature. Everything that we do online should be an extension of the same nature. If you’re selling online, keep the story-telling aspect in mind. If you’re buying, remember that what matters more than the product is the feeling you get from it. You don’t buy jewelry, you buy how it makes you feel when you wear it… you don’t buy a gadget, you buy the convenience that it offers you.

With Silkfair’s community, we happen to come across such wonderful stories every day – which we feel the world should know about. This blog is dedicated to our community of buyers and sellers who understand that online sales is something much more than an exchange of money – it’s a deeper connection. Not only are these notes about our online journey together, it’s also about sharing ideas and tips that we can all benefit from.

Feel free to offer suggestions or leave feedback. We really want to have you onboard this journey with us. Thank you for your constant support.


SilverFrogJewelry just recently won the 2009 Bride’s Choice Award hosted by WeddingWire, the nation’s leading wedding technology company.

In its inaugural year, the Bride’s Choice Awards recognizes and honors vendors from the WeddingWire Network that demonstrate excellent quality of service, responsiveness, professionalism, value of cost and flexibility. This year’s recipients represent the top three percent of WeddingWire’s vendor community, which includes over 100,000 wedding vendors from across the US. That means SilverFrogJewelry is one of the very best jewelers.

Unlike other awards in which winners are selected by the company, the Bride’s Choice Awards are determined exclusively by recent newlyweds through surveys and reviews.

“We are excited to launch this annual award program to honor high-performing vendors based solely on the experiences of our WeddingWire community,” according to Timothy Chi, WeddingWire’s Chief Executive Officer. “This year’s recipients have set the bar high, exhibiting excellent service and expertise in the wedding industry.”

SilverFrogStudio would like to thank our past clients for speaking on our behalf and helping us win the 2009 Bride’s Choice Award!

Just came across this neat table on TryHandmade.com comparing Silkfair with other options for sellers. It’s an interesting comparison, check it out below.

  fees in USD
  per month per listing per sale forum?
1000 Markets 5.5% + 50¢ yes
Amazon $39.99 varies ?
artbreak 7.5% yes
ArtFire $7.00 yes
BigCartel $19.99 yes
DaWanda (English) 5% yes
Etsy 20¢ 3.5% yes
Made It Myself 10¢ – 20¢ 3% yes
Shop Handmade no
Silkfair 3% yes
Smashing Darling 18% no

Batgirl from Craftsters.org just highlighted Silkfair as the 2nd best venue for art and craft communities. 

Despite being the only non-crafts-specific site, we still got a place on the top. Its humbling to see how nicely our little community of buyers and sellers is growing. We have people come in with beautiful hand-made crafts or carefully stored vintage items from even the most remotest of cities.

Being able to provide a place for people to mingle with each other, share ideas, have discussions, buy unique items, sell their products, and build relationships is priceless. There is a lot of joy in seeing people build their personal businesses from scratch or seeing small companies grow their market outreach. 

It’s wonderful to be recognized and acknowledged by the bigger craftsers around us as a go-to place to sell handmade goods. The credit goes completely to our community of ardent right-brained and artistic minds. So kudos to all of you!

You can read the whole post here.

I was so glad to come to work and see this tweet by a member of our amazing community of buyers and sellers:

@Silkfair I heart you guys! You’re so sweet, any time I have a question, ur quick to answer, plus ur just mega cool, big hugs!

Its incredibly humbling to see a website grow beyond the code and the servers and the wiring and become something as rich as a community, a gathering of like-minded talent and a group of people who all want to share and celebrate in each other’s success.

A great example of this is the “Tell & Win” competition – we started it in the middle of December but going in, we didn’t really know how the community would react to it. Essentially, we were asking our community of sellers to promote and evangelize a lot of the other sellers on our platform…. sounds a bit strange doesn’t it?

But this is really the type of things that makes a crowd into a great tribe to be a part of… it’s been incredible watching people from within our platform – who are small business owners, work from home entrepreneurs or hobbyists making crafts, handmade gifts, jewelry and more – take out time to help each other and invite more people to become a part of our family.

So today we’re happy to announce the winners of our first Tell & Win Competition – they are:

Lets take some time out to get to know our winners and see their amazing products!

Read the rest of this entry »

Some great features that I thought I should introduce again for our new visitors and readers – which of these have you used before? Let me know in the comments!

  • Bulk Listing & Images Upload facility supporting Adds/Deletes/Changes of listings and pics
  • Store Custom Category Tree
  • A new forum category available just for sellers!
  • Sellers can now be notified when any non buyers post comments in your listing or rate your items!
  • You can now duplicate a listing
  • Use the new Text Search Interface
  • Pick one of two versions of mini store widgets!
  • Silkfair Chatrooms can be found under the Community tab where you can stay connected
  • Blog owners will be notified when someone posts a comment, subscriptions to forum posts are available, and individual posts to blogs are now accessible!
  • Registered users can choose the “Remember Me” option when signing in
  • Hardcopies of your order in pdf formats are now available!

The Mini-store widget at Silkfair.com is going strong, and I thought I’d rewrite our original announcement for it from back in May.

Silkfair is so excited to share this news with you. There is a
mini-store widget now available for Silkfair sellers. What is it? It
is a widget you can add to your blog and social networking site
profiles. The mini-store will allow you to highlight your items so
where ever you put your widget, people will be able to browse through
your products and then go right to your store all in one place.
Perfectly sized, you can put this widget not only on blogs and social
networking sites, but in some of your emails to friends/families too.

Also, if you have friends/contacts that blog, ask them if they’ll add
your widget. The possibilities for using the widget are endless.

Note: Current store members can accessed their widget codes by going to their Store Home page.

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