Great News! Notifications are here to stay.

After over 1 million notifications sent and more than $1mm in sales generated for the merchant community, we’re excited to announce that notifications are out of beta and live for all Merchants to use to grow their business.

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Notifications are a very clear and simple way for you to promote to your followers. By creating a simple promotional post, you’ll trigger an email and app notification to your followers.

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Here’s how they work:

+  Any post you create with one of the following promotions – 25% off or more, free shipping, exclusive sale, storewide sale – will trigger a notification (email and push).

In the end, the more followers you have, the more notifications will be sent.  Posts are your way to communicate directly with shoppers thereby triggering notifications that help drive sales.

Go make a Post.  Send a Notification.  Ship an Order.  Grow your business.

Need more info on Notifications? Read this Merchant Help article.

February is here! + Tips for the Weekend

February is here. (well, kinda)

Put your best foot forward in February by making the most out of this weekend. Start the new month strong by taking part in Groundhog Day and Super Bowl fun.

Saturday, February 1

  • #salesatsunrise – Calling all early bird merchants! Early Saturday morning, create a post targeting early bird OpenSky shoppers using hashtag #salesatsunrise.
  • #samedayshipping – Market your products to shoppers looking for quick-ship peace of mind. Guarantee you’ll get orders out to shoppers the same day they order using #samedayshipping
  • Free Sample Saturday (and Sunday!) – Have sample sizes of your products? Offer to throw them in with any purchase to drive new orders today and repeat purchases in the future. Use #freesample in your post.
  • Image Makeover – Spend time this weekend giving your product images a makeover and reposting them so followers get a fresh look at older favorites. On desktop, try downloading Fotor for Mac. It’s an easy application that allows you to quickly edit, crop and enhance photos. On mobile, give Moldiv (iOS) (Android), PicLab (iOS) (Android) or Aviary a shot. These are great photo editing tools that allow you to enhance photos in a few easy steps. No photo designer required.

Sunday, February 2

Groundhog Day! And the Super Bowl!  Here’s how to participate in the fun.

  • Groundhog Day:  We put our faith in Punxsutawney Phil year in and year out, but interestingly enough he’s only right 39% of the time (crazy, right?!?). So this year, we’re asking Merchants to cast their own vote with a hashtag and a product post. Use #earlyspring or #latewinter and share a product that best reflects your prediction. Make it more fun for shoppers with free shipping or a discount for the day.
  • Super Bowl Flash Free Shipping: From 6pm – 12am ET, OpenSky members will have a reason to shop during the game with flash free shipping.  Suggested Hashtag: #SBFreeShipping

Meet your New Merchant Help Center

Meet your new and improved Merchant Help Center.  Your one-stop shop for the help you need, whenever you need it.

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New Features:

Keyword search gives quick access to specific help content

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New help articles for easy troubleshooting

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New How-To articles that help unlock the full potential of your OpenSky

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There are a few ways you can access the new Merchant Help Center:

  1. Click on the Help Center icon in your Merchant Toolkit
  2. Navigate directly to http://www.opensky.com/merchant/help
  3. Click on the Help Center link found at the footer of all merchant email communications

If there are help articles you’d like to see added to the Help Center, please email merchantsuccess@opensky.com to share your ideas!

Introducing #FastShip

Introducing FastShip

Come December, the expectations for accurate and timely fulfillment are at an all-time high. But if you’re able to comfortably and confidently ship products late in the shopping season, take advantage of FastShip on OpenSky. Give shoppers piece of mind to shop late in the season by providing a shipping cut-off deadline on all your products with one click.

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Enable FastShip in your Toolkit

  • Visit the Promotions tab in your Merchant Toolkit to enable FastShip.
  • Choose a shipping cut-off date for your products. By selecting a date, you guarantee anything ordered on or before this date will arrive in time for Christmas.

fastship

FastShip Banners

  • Once you save your FastShip settings, all your products will receive a red FastShip banner, visible to all shoppers.
  • We’ll also display a FastShip banner to the right of the Add to Cart button on product pages.

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Auto-Updated Product Details

  • Your product pages will get auto-updated with a shipping deadline for shoppers to reference.
  • For example, the details will now include messaging that reads “Order by Mon, Dec. 16th and you are guaranteed to receive this product by Christmas day.

Once FastShip is enabled, create a post using #FastShip to give shoppers the good news.

Enable FastShip

An Interview with OpenSky Merchant ShopLuLu

The Lean Retailer recently interviewed OpenSky Merchant Jill Ehrlich about her business, and OpenSky store. Here’s her story.

13873_10153332440355319_1985458540_nI’m Jill Ehrlich and I have a brick and mortar store that I operate two days a week during the Amish Market in Pennsylvania. I also operate my own e-commerce website from our HQ in Wilmington, Delaware – and I use the OpenSky Platform too!

Getting Started Online

Lulu’s got its start almost as a hobby for me.  I had grown up working in retail in my father’s chain of Retail Lighting Stores but I then got into a career in Human Capital Management.  About ten years ago, I left that work and began importing handbags and selling them online. Things went so well that I decided to pursue it more seriously founding LuLu’s online in 2003. I built my own site on Yahoo. At the time there were less off-the-shelf e-commerce sites available but with my tech background, I felt confident enough to make it happen.

I think the thing I love the most about the online environment is that it is so flexible. With a brick and mortar store, it can be hard, time-consuming and expensive to make sure your stock and environment are reflective of the latest trends.  Online I can play with themes and make sure that when Fall comes, my site and my stock are reflective of the latest trends in no time at all.

Getting Customers Online

Customer acquisition is also more flexible when you’re online. In literally thirty seconds you can figure out a new keyword that will pull in a new customer on any particular day. E-commerce is, however, incredibly competitive.  When you type in ‘Fall Scarf’ into Google, imagine how many people want to be at the top of the results for that search? You have to be creative and flexible with sourcing traffic, especially if you’re using your own site rather than something like OpenSky.

Keeping Customers Coming Back

20131008_113307 (2)I like to inject my personality into the online space using Social Media. For example, one day I came in and saw my dog curled up on one of our scarves.  I put a quick snap on our Facebook page and it ended up being a really successful post.  That kind of thing creates a sense that there is a real individual behind this business.  It’s about taking a customer and engaging them so your brand becomes less like a faceless vendor and more like a trusted friend.

Driving Sales

Discovering OpenSky has been a huge boost for my business. Because they host a wide range of goods, they get a lot of web traffic. As a result, if OpenSky promotes one of our products to their whole audience, we know we’re going to see a huge spike in interest. It’s a very powerful platform.  In fact, I actually get up every morning at 6.30 and the first thing I check is to see if we’re featured on the homepage because I know it’s going to be a busy day if we are!

Building a Following

OpenSky has definitely helped me to reach new customers and build a new online following.  I know a huge number of my brick and mortar customers by name. I always remember when they were in the store last and what they bought.  We chat all the time and I often joke that I know when all the women in town are pregnant before their husbands.  It’s exactly that kind of close relationship and tight-knit community that I want to reproduce online. OpenSky is the perfect place to make that happen.

The Good and The Bad of going of using a Third Party E-Commerce Platform

The Bad

One piece of advice I would give is to be careful to ensure you are running a diversified business.  On a few occasions, I have gone ‘all-in’ pursuing a particular online sales channel only for circumstances to change and the sales to fall off a cliff. For example, very recently I started using a E-commerce plugin for Facebook that proved really successful.  In fact, I was getting such a high volume of demand that I employed someone pretty much full time to run things.  Of course, almost as soon as I had done that, Facebook changed something in their Terms and Conditions and the demand disappeared.  I think part of the lesson here is not to put your eggs in someone else’s basket.

The Good

It’s really important to take advantage of the diverse range of e-commerce opportunities out there. When one business struggles, you have another revenue stream to keep things going. The key is to learn about which channels and which strategies are working for you and which aren’t.  I’ve been lucky enough that when my brick and mortar store has struggled, i’ve been able to rely on the online business.  It’s nice to have that sense of having options.

Best Practices: A Week of Posts

Use OpenSky to organize and coordinate posts across your social networks. Posting good content on a regular basis keeps your followers engaged in your business.

A Week of Posts

Plan your week to include a mix of posts that sell ($) and posts that engage to build your brand (+).

Monday – Post a promotion ($)

Promotions are exciting and reward members’ loyalty. Start with a new photo or video of your product. Experiment with discounts, free shipping, or both. Create urgency by reminding them of time limits.

Once you’ve mastered the basics, expand your repertoire to include a mix of limited supplies, free inserts, gift wrapping, and customizations.

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Tuesday – Post a reminder ($)

Most purchases happen at the beginning and end of a promotion. Remind your followers when time is running out, so procrastinators don’t miss out on the chance to shop with you. Cross-post to your other social networks to bring new followers to your OpenSky.

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Wednesday – Engage with your community (+)

Show your fans that they make a difference. Thank followers for helping you reach important milestones. Ask for – and reply to – feedback and suggestions. Ask followers to help by tweeting, posting, and sharing your store.

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Thursday – Offer help and tips (+)

Post a recipe. Use video to share styling tips or create a look. Explain how to simplify your products’ care and maintenance. Suggest new uses and pairings. Share your passion.

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Friday – Give an inside look (+)

Share an authentic peek behind the curtain, so your fans can see the elves at work. Showcase your people. Name names. What does your workspace look like? Your process?

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Saturday – Spotlight a product ($)

Post a new photo and remind shoppers of an overlooked gem, a fan favorite, or a seasonal special. Bundle your products into new listings. Describe special features and details. Use hashtags so more people can discover you on OpenSky as well as other social networks.

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Sunday – Share inspiration (+)

Post a quotation or inspiring image related to your brand. Tell us what gets you up in the morning. Remember the big picture. Have fun.

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Along the way –  Message your fans ($, +)

Your greatest asset is a personal connection. Reply to comments. Welcome new followers and merchants. Have public conversations and encourage participation. Use @name mentions to directly connect with people.

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OpenSky for iOS & Android. Manage Your OpenSky On-The-Go.

Get connected to OpenSky when you’re on the go.  With the launch of OpenSky’s new App for Android, along with updates to the iOS app last week, you can now keep up with your OpenSky on the go – whether it be on iPhone, an iPad or an Android powered device.

Here’s a run down of the OpenSky Apps. Click to download if you don’t already have them installed!

iOS: iPhone & iPad App

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Click to download.

Key Features for Merchants

  • Post On-The-Go. Share with your followers by posting on-the-go with OpenSky’s iOS Apps (note: broadcasting posts to Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn is not currently supported by the iOS app; for that functionality, please post from our mobile site, m.opensky.com)
  • Push Notifications, Respond to Customers, in Real-Time. Once the App is installed, you’ll begin to receive push notifications so you can get real time updates on your OpenSky business. The moment a potential customers follows, loves, comments or orders, you’ll get an alert and be able to jump into OpenSky to engage with them. Read more about Notifications here.
  • Merchant Toolkit via iPad. Manage your business via OpenSky’s iPad App.  Visit your Dashboard, make posts, add new products, updated your account, and access your orders. (note: the Merchant Toolkit is not currently available for iPhone – it’s tough to fit all the info into that tiny screen!)

Android

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Click to download.

Key Features for Merchants

The first version of OpenSky’s Android App launched last week, which means it’s our initial basic, beta version. To start, Merchants with Android devices will enjoy regular browse functionality, Commenting and Push Notifications.

  • Commets On-The-Go. Use the App to post comments – share with your followers or respond to questions from the community.
  • Push Notifications. Once you have the App installed, you’ll begin to receive push notifications so you can get real time updates on your OpenSky business. The moment a potential customers follows, loves, comments or orders you’ll be able to jump into OpenSky and engage with them.  Read more about Notifications here.

Announcing the OpenSky-FedEx Alliance

The team at OpenSky is excited to announce that we’ve partnered with FedEx® to create an exclusive offer that saves you money.

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Starting today, you can save up to 30% off select FedEx® services whenever you ship an order – – and that’s whether you’re a current customer of FedEx or a newbie that wants to give it a try.

Save Up to 30% off select FedExExpress® U.S. shipping
Save Up to 20% off select FedExGround® and Express international shipping 

Use Promo Code: VJ8HDM on the following link and start saving!

Try Shipping with FedEx via the OpenSky/FedEx Alliance

10 Ways to Stand Out & Drive Sales During the Biggest Shopping Weekend of the Year

Black Friday kicks off the busiest shopping weekend of the year.

Shoppers experience ‘sale’ messaging overload between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. They’ll see deals everywhere they look. Stand out with sales that are clear, creative, drive urgency, provide value and most of all, make sense for you. Combine interesting sales opportunities with customer service, showcase your product expertise, and focus on your core competencies as a business.

Here are the 10 tactics you can use to set yourself up for success.

1. Market your sales before they launch

All too often, shoppers learn about a sale once it’s already launched, or even worse, when it’s already over. Why? They weren’t given any time to prepare for what’s on the way by the Seller. Use the time leading up to Black Friday to begin marketing sales you’re planning for the weekend. Big Box retailers have been doing that in newspapers forever. As a shopper, you know the doorbuster for Black Friday before you head to the store, don’t you? Replicate that strategy online. Try to get shoppers to schedule a visit to your shop over the holiday weekend by sharing teasers for what you have planned.

2. Create Doorbusters#doorbuster

The name of the game is getting traffic (or visitors) to your OpenSky page between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Create a few doorbusters that help catch the attention of someone browsing for a great deal. Regularly, doorbusters exceed a 50% discount,  include a GWP (gift with purchase, more on that below), and are available in a very limited quantity.

3. Create Time Sensitive Promotions

Create urgency and drive engagement by creating limited time offers.  Black Friday and Cyber Monday are perfect candidates for 1-Day Sales. But don’t be afraid to push the envelope – how about 4 Hour Sales throughout the course of the day? Or a sale every hour? (if  the size of your catalog permits).  Take shoppers on a journey throughout the weekend – make it fun. Make it a game.

4. Offer Free Shipping

This weekend, you aren’t just vying for sales against online sellers – you’re competing with the brick & mortar stores that don’t any charge shipping whatsoever. Solve this by offering Free Shipping for the weekend. Take this variable off the table completely, making it a non-issue for any prospective buyer.

5. Advertise the price after discount

Don’t make a shopper work to figure out the actual cost of an item after a discount. If you’re offering 30% off, tell shoppers what the cost is as checkout.  An $42 item with a 30% discount ends up costing the shopper $29.40.  Sounds a lot cheaper than $42, doesn’t it?  Use that final price as an asset in your messaging.

6. Create Buy 1, Get 1 Deals#bogo

Commonly referred to as a BOGO offer, buy one, get one sales are a great way to communicate clear savings to a shopper. Buy one and get one for free.  Can’t get much clearer than that.  But be careful – not every item is a candidate for a BOGO sale. Do people really need two navy blue winter jackets?

7. Create Buy 1, Get 1 Half OFF Sales

The cousin of BOGO is the commonly used Buy 1, Get 1 Half OFF sale.  It has a similar effect on the shopper and is a bit kinder to your margin, but remember – this weekend isn’t the time to hold back. If you’re going to drive sales, it’s time to get aggressive.

8. Gifts with Purchase (GWPs)

This is a BOGO deal in disguise, and with more possibilities.  Think for the shopper and give them the opportunity to buy one item, and get a little something extra as an added bonus for buying.  If you sell Pancake Mix, throw in some Syrup for free. If you sell a necklace, throw in an affordable pair of earrings for free.  Give shoppers the nudge they need to buy in the moment.

9. Launch New Products

What better weekend to create some intrigue for your existing customer base?  Add some new products to your store and advertise them. Exclusive launches of new products perk of the ears of your previous customers, driving clicks, traffic and sales.

10. Create Bundles with Savings

Tis the season for gift sets, gift baskets and bundling.  Create an easy way for the shopper looking for the perfect gift.  Think for them by creating bundles that make the shopping experience stress free.

Make sure you’re tuned in over the next 9 days, as we’ll be sharing new features, updates and community wide marketing initiatives that can help land you sales and exposure over the holiday weekend.

New Feature: Tiered Shipping

Reward Shoppers with Shipping Discounts

This week, we’re excited to announce a new feature that will help you provide a better shopping experience for Members.  It’s called Tiered Shipping.

What is Tiered Shipping?

Tiered shipping is a way for you to provide shipping discounts for every additional item a shopper adds to their shopping cart. Tiered Shipping is set up when you first create a product, and can be edited at any point via the standard Product > Edit functionality in your Merchant Toolkit. Tiered shipping has two elements that you must enter on all listings – a Primary Shipping Cost and an Additional Item Cost.

  • The Primary Shipping Cost is the amount a buyer pays when the item is shipped on it’s own.
  • The Additional Item Cost is the amount added to the cart of a shopper when items are purchased and shipped together.  Additional Item Costs apply when a buyer purchases multiples of the same product or different products from you at the same time.

Setting up Tiered Shipping

If you don’t want to offer a discounted combined shipping cost, you won’t need to make any changes in your toolkit.  But if you’d like to start extending this discount to your shoppers, head over to your toolkit, choose to edit a product and navigate to the ‘Shipping’ section for that item (review the image below if you’re unfamiliar)

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How does Tiered Shipping work?

Here’s an example of how Tiered Shipping works:

  • Item 1
    • Primary Shipping Cost = $8.00
    • Additional Item Cost = $2.00
  • Item 2:
    • Primary Shipping Cost = $7.00
    • Additional Item Cost = $1.00
  • If Item 1 and Item 2 are purchased together, the total Shipping Cost to the buyer is $10.00. We use the highest primary Shipping Cost and it’s specified Additional Item Cost.
    • Primary Shipping Cost: $8.00 (higher of the two items)
    • Additional Item Cost: $2.00 (specified Additional Item Cost associated with the Primary Item)
  • If three of of Item 2 are purchased together, the total combined shipping cost to the buyer is $9.00. Here’s how it breaks out:
    • Primary Shipping Cost: $7.00
    • Additional Item Cost: $1.00 (2 items ordered) = $2.00
    • Total Shipping Cost: $9.00