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

Unemployment and loss are the two epidemics plaguing not just a country or two, but the entire globe. But of course not all avenues of money making have been barred: the internet stands forth in the current scenario of recession, as the only ray of hope. More and more people are switching to generating online revenue. In the cyber world, expenses are greatly cut down: no bills to pay, no rents to disburse and not to forget, less salaries to dole out, and making online revenue generating streams all the more appealing — Especially, at a time of such economic blockage.

Producing income online is as diverse as the internet itself. There is a wide array of possibilities out there. Advertising has been the source of profits. Having a decent amount of traffic directed to your web page will attract more people, meaning a wider audience to view the message of the company, thus rendering you a position to charge a decent amount. Same goes with cost-per-click and cost-per-thousand-impression. The catch here is that you are required to develop a website with content of a high caliber which is able to generate authentic traffic. And for many beginners, coming up with such a website may be a hassle. Also web advertising has suffered 5% in the US. So what path should youo adopt now?

A lot of people are turning to online selling as a source of side income. There are sites and portals that have a massive amount of regular traffic of people seeking to purchase items – implying more chances of your product being sold. You can work as per demand; not having to buy bulk raw materials allowing you to save the investment costs…  and not to mention, your targeted audience is global. The more accessibility — the wider the market base — the more the potential revenue.

The pertinent input in all the above mentioned cases is valuable meaningful content. Useless content will not get you authentic traffic or even increase your search engine ratings. Even with online stores, you need to sell your self in the most eloquent manner. As long as you are able to lure people in to what you’re selling, revenue will keep flowing. The avenues are open and while the outcome may take time to pick up momentum, online selling has been one of the major sources of revenue for a lot of work from home people this year.

Be active, take the plunge, earn some side bucks.

You don’t have to look like every other person on the street or office. Sometimes, defining your own style and going bold helps build your own “personal brand”. One way to do that is to wear stuff that you know NOBODY around you would have – and it doesn’t have to be expensive… just different. Check out this Naughty Monkey‘s reconstructed, reversible tank top with appliques, lace and sequins. How many people would be wearing this to your next night out with friends? How many people would excitedly ask where you got it? Come on – dare to be different.

Ron Boschi of MTMSports recently had some great advice (during a Silkfair virtual meetup) for people trying to sell their products online on e-commerce stores:

“The most important thing I can reiterate to anyone is if you are passionate about what you’re doing you are already successful. If you blog and network your passion, people will reciprocate and you will get the traffic in your store you need. Do not sell your items, sell your self, and the people who want to see you succeed will support you. The best things about selling your passion, you always know what to say you just need to say it.”

Three things to take away from this:

1- Let Passion drive your business

This is the key thing that a lot of people tend to forget and ignore – if you’re truly passionate about silk painting then it will show in your scarves, but if you’re just trying to earn some quick bucks, then the scarves won’t be as pretty and popular. Without passion you won’t survive the temporary troughs, disappointments, and setbacks most businesses have to face before they become successful. Without passion you won’t find the energy to stay up at nights and eat your own dog food. Without passion you won’t have a visualized goal and a sense of dedication towards reaching it.

2- Don’t refrain yourself from networking

Never.Stop.Networking. If you’ve decided to run a business – whether part time or full-time, whether big or small, whether separate or home-based – you need to talk to people. Networking opens avenues and opportunities for growth, acquisitions, partnerships, mutually rewarding relationships and more. Sometimes, it’s just good for getting reassurance and a pat on the back. In any case, business owners need to that external contact to keep going in the right direction. Also, networking adds perspective: if you stay in your basement for a whole year, you might focus on the wrong aspects or features of your business.

3- Talk about yourself and your passion, not your products

When you meet someone, talk about your business and its values instead of the specific products – when you talk about the market gaps and the customer needs and the rationale behind your business, people will respond more to you. Then when they see your store and products it will all automatically complete the picture in their minds – you have to let them do the math themselves.

sf-mothersday

This is a special day for us to sit back and think about our lives. We came into existence through our mothers. She gave us life, she gave happiness – she protected us when we couldn’t protect ourselves. She took care of us all through our lives. She spent nights and days worrying about our health, education, problems. Who made moms that way? Why are they so relentless in their efforts and unconditional in giving their love? What is it in their hearts that make them that way? Who added that dab of pink in our lives to beautify it for us?

Do we give them back even a fraction of what they gave us? Do we even give them the gift of time and company? Sometimes, we get so warped up in our day to day lives that we forget about the most important people around us.

Mother’s day isn’t just meant to be a single day in the year to appreciate our moms. It’s meant to be a wake-up call. It’s meant to be a reminder of all that we ignore and take for granted.

If you ignore the excessively commercialized aspect of Mother’s Day and instead take some time out to think about your mom and other important women in your life, then you will have understood the true purpose of the day.

Make your day beautiful and appreciate the people who are always there on your side.

Happy Mother’s Day ~ today and forever!

We’re sure you must have heard about Starbuck‘s investment in fair trade to help support all of the stakeholders down their supply chain. It’s great to see how companies like these are stepping up and doing their part in becoming more socially conscious. Up until now they had abut 10% of their coffee under fair trade certifications, and now they are bringing their numbers up further with their $20 million Small Farmer Sustainability Initiative (SFSI).

“The SFSI will allow Starbucks and the Fairtrade organizations to have an even greater impact than before, benefiting both coffee farmers and the coffee industry worldwide. Small-scale farms will have greater access to capacity-building resources in the areas of agronomy, technical support, and capital investment. Offering cooperatives increased access to credit and quality improving resources will enable farmers to increase income, improve family livelihoods, and promote sustainable community development. The partnership directly impacts the social, environmental and economic well being of farmers and will help increase their participation in the global specialty coffee market.”

This represents an interesting trend in sustainable businesses and effective corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts. With the world going awry, the least we can do is find ways of helping with poverty alleviation programs, sustainable living, equal opportunities, environment conscious decisions. We may not always have everything in our own hands, but we definitely have the strength of doing our own little bit in helping to make this world a more peaceful place for our future generations.

If you’re someone who is selling handmade products – at no matter how small a level… are you making sure that your suppliers of raw materials or your artisans (if you are getting things built by them) are compensated properly? If you have a supply chain in which you get stuff made from hired contracters, let’s not ignore the fact that we are as dependent on them as they are on us.

Just selling your product at a reasonable price is not the best way you’ll get a reliable customer base. The art of selling requires you to truly value your customer. Following are a few tips for the online sellers that will help you in making a wide customer base that is bound to get more customers for you, in turn earning you respect and reliability as a seller.

1. Follow up with your customer, after the transaction. Just providing a warranty card is not enough to build your customer base. Ask your customers regarding their buying experience; the service, the quality of the product, any difficulties faced by them with regards to the transaction. Such conversations with your buyers are the first step towards building a healthy rapport.

2. The second step that you can adopt is of sharing tips regarding the products that you have sold, with your customers. For example, if your customers have purchased an antique item, say this Victorian sterling silver ladies watch pin, you can share tips on how to maintain the sleek look, what chemicals to use, what not to use. The dos and don’ts of it all.

3. Another tactic that you can adopt is to keep reminding your customers about your store in subtle ways. You can send them greeting cards on special occasions, such as Easter or invite them to gatherings related of their interest.

4. Keep them updated on the latest happenings, your latest products, special offers. Notify them about deals that they might be interested in.

5. Encourage them to send in their feedback and reviews. Value their feedback. Try to solve out any discrepancies that they might feel are present in your service/products.

In short, try to make the transaction an experience for them, not just a simple game of trade. Satisfied customers will lead you to have an even bigger customer base, since your power tool is the word of mouth marketing. Personalizing the buying experience for your customers is a great way to build long-term relationships with your customers.


April 2009 has been an important month in more ways than we know. With the economy taking a downturn, the new elected bodies, more power to the voice of the average citizens – it seems that issues of global conscientiousness have finally taken a different face.

This year, more bloggers are talking about issues of political-interest-driven-wars… more people are signing up petitions against global environmental concerns… more intellectuals are debating over ways of enhancing resources… more people are turning to greener ways of living… more consumers are adopting frugality and practicality… more buyers are turning to handmade or recycled items as opposed to mass-produced things. More kids are aware of reducing carbon footprints. 

It’s great to see such awareness around us. It gives us a feeling of oneness with the rest of the world, no matter how dire the global political situations.

We just wanted to thank all of our friends and members who have been promoting greener living for the past few months, by doing what they do best: sharing ideas and products that can encourage others to take the leap as well. Going green is not just a fad philosophy anymore, its the need of the day. It requires us to think prudently about our future generations and the world that we want to leave behind for them.

Starting today, you can make wiser buying decisions. You just need to have the will.. and the right mindset. Happy Earth Day to all silkfair members out there. Thanks for doing your part in helping to make the world a better place for everyone.

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.

Seth has the magical art of saying deep deep things in the fewest of words. He said in one of his interviews once “..my book is short because I couldn’t have made it shorter..” (rephrasing). He has some nice things to say here:

Holiday shopping guide:

The decisions you make with your hard-earned money this year will have more impact than ever before. So put your money where your mouth is.

Here are a few ideas to consider:

1. Buy handmade items from people you like.

2. Don’t buy gift cards. It’s lazy and sort of dumb.

3. Don’t buy from big brands or big stores that don’t care about you, or that act in ways you don’t applaud. There are very smart alternatives in almost every category.

4. When in doubt, buy digital items. Even better, give a donation and make many people happy.

5. Realize that when you’re going to buy from Amazon, buying from a lens with a red ribbon on top will earn significant money for charity with no effort on your part.

Hugs are an underrated substitute.”

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