First Look: OpenSky’s New Branded Distribution Program

Friends,

I’m proud to share with you an early look at the first OpenSky branded distribution program that we’ve launched with LivingSocial.

This initiative is core to our mission of helping OpenSky entrepreneurs grow their exposure and sales–both on and beyond OpenSky–with the OpenSky Dashboard serving as your single, simple platform that you use to grow your business.

Distribution opportunities will be available exclusively for all active OpenSky brands only. Qualifying brands will meet our quality, fulfillment, and activity guidelines. I believe this opportunity has the potential to be substantial for those that are invited to participate.

We’ll be sharing more details with the whole community as the third-party distribution programs roll-out over the coming weeks, but today, please take a look at the first OpenSky brands on Living Social (you’ll see the friendly OpenSky logo in the right hand corner of these goods).

USB Surge Protector by Satechi
Always Cool Memory Foam and Gel Pillow by Comfort Revolution
FlipBelt Fitness Storage Belt by FlipBelt

In the coming weeks, we will roll-out another exclusive OpenSky distribution program with a national retail platform in multiple categories. The next partnership, called OpenSky Fresh Finds, will consist of a curated assortment of products from OpenSky merchant brands shared on a weekly basis. The assortment will be merchandised to a national audience via email campaigns, on the retailer’s homepage, and ultimately in-store in exclusive OpenSky Fresh finds displays.

-john
Founder & CEO

Overstock on OpenSky

This month, OpenSky will host the first ever Overstock on OpenSky Sales Event.

This event is designed to give Merchants an opportunity to to move through overstock inventory, past season items, or clearance products.  The goal: help you free up some cash flow on some slow-to-move inventory so you can reinvest back in your business.

As for shoppers – well, this sale will be a nice limited time event where they’ll be able to score some big time savings on a select group of limited inventory.

It’s a win-win for everyone.

Interested in participating? Here’s what you need to know:

  • When: Begins May 19th
  • Official Hashtag: #overstockonopensky
  • Criteria to Participate:
    • Discount: must be 60% off, or more.
    • Quantity: no minimum, although items with greater quantity will receive additional consideration for email placement
    • Submission: Products must be submitted and approved for inclusion by the OpenSky team. Apply to have your products included in the events by filling out this form (select “Overstock” as the promo type)
      • Submission Deadline: Wed, May 14th at 11:59pm ET

 

7 Ways to Ensure Exposure on OpenSky

The exposure of your brand on OpenSky is directly tied to a few very specific factors. Learn them, and make sure all the boxes are checked.

Product Requirements

Quality product images 

OpenSky sets a high bar when it comes to images, and that’s because it’s critically important factor in your success. We’re lookin’ out for ya.

Members respond to quality images – they drive more engagement (loves, comments, smiles, purchases) and also help to boost the equity of your brand.

Have a look at the Most Popular section on OpenSky – it’s full of products with amazing images because that’s what shoppers respond to.

Learn more about images that help you sell here.

Inventory 

Inventory is another factor the impacts your exposure. Products with little to no inventory have a high potential to sell out quickly, which isn’t a great experience for the shopper browsing OpenSky.  A best practice would be to get your inventory levels set to 5 or more so your product can drive multiple sales when given prime real estate in OpenSky’s shopping experience. When your product dips below 5 units, be sure to update/order/make/create inventory. It’s always a good rule of thumb to have 5 units available on OpenSky.

Product Type – Choose Wisely

OpenSky’s product creation wizard allows you to set up products in a few different ways. Be sure to choose the right option when you create a product to so it can get the exposure it needs to succeed.

Products that have multiple colors or sizes should be set up as a product with a variation.

Products that require free form input from a shopper should include a customization option. To accomplish this, check the box that reads: “Allow customization and special requests.” when creating your product. This adds a required free form text box to the product page that allows a shopper to include additional information that you need to complete their order. For example, perhaps you’re selling an item that requires a custom name or initials – if so, this option is for you.

Pro Seller Tip: If you’d like a shopper to select from a few different predetermined choices, be sure to create a product with variations and steer clear of trying to accomplish this by including a customization option.

Product Descriptions & Details

Product descriptions and details are a critically important part of the shopper’s purchasing process. In fact, products with clear and in-depth information convert at a much higher rate, which is why OpenSky boosts them on the platform.

OpenSky’s product creation wizard allows you to bubble up very specific product information in two ways:

  1. Product Descriptions – a summary of your product that inspires the shopper to buy.
  2. Product Details – the nuts and bolts about your products. This section is great to include very specific info like size, weight, materials, care instructions, etc.

When it comes to creating Product Descriptions and Details that help drive sales, it’s important to share info that’s easy for a shopper to parse through.  A quick copy/paste of a chunk of disorganized copy will help get info on the page quickly for you, but won’t be the best way to ensure the shopper’s experience is hassle-free. Don’t cut corners. Take time to make it the best it can be.

Categorization

Take time to categorize your products properly. Otherwise, they won’t find their way to shoppers that are most likely to love or buy them.  In the end, this could be the make or break between the amount of exposure your product receives.  Make sure to complete this very simple and easy requirement as soon as possible. Here’s a post about why Categorization is so important to your success on OpenSky.

Brand Requirements

Logo, Cover photo & “Our story”

Your logo and cover photo are similar to the window display in a brick and mortar store. Without these creative assets, shoppers will have a hard time identifying with your brand, let alone trusting it as a place to spend their dollars.

Here’s an example of a business that’s made the most of their storefront, using the brand elements (cover photo, logo, welcome message) to create an inviting atmosphere to follow and shop.

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Use the “Our Story” section of your profile to share details of your company with the community – where you’re from, how you’ve built your business and what makes your products so special. Add content like videos, photos or press accolades so shoppers can build a relationship with you and your brand.  With these assets in place, your store has a higher likelihood of being boosted into emails and into site placement.

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Financial Info

OpenSky prioritizes merchants that have filled out the Payment section of their profile. This info is critically important to making sure fulfillment and payments can happen without a hiccup for the sake of the shopper. Without this info, you cannot qualify for placement in emails, or on the site.  (And you also can’t get paid in a timely way. And we really really want to pay you on time, and without hassle.)

If you haven’t filled out this section of your profile, please take time to do that today by visiting the Payments section of your store profile.

Thats it… 

After you’ve checked all these boxes, OpenSky will begin to work your brand into site placement and emails more frequently.

From there, you can impact your exposure with regular activity that drives the popularity of your brand and products.

Activity includes things like:

  • Number of Follows
  • Number of Published Products & the performance of those Products (loves, comments, purchases)
  • Number of Posts & the performance of those Posts
  • Participation in our rewards and free shipping programs

To learn more about how to get exposure, see what the best merchants are doing here.

Use Notifications to Spread the News & Drive Sales

The team at OpenSky has developed a variety of ways for brands to communicate promotional information to their followers. We ensure that your promotional activity reaches the shoppers that are most likely to engage with it (and buy) without drowning their inboxes and mobile phones with an overload of messages.

Learn the different forms of notifications (both email and mobile) and how you can trigger them to reach followers and drive sales.

Storewide Sales

There are many factors that come into play regarding storewide notification sends, however the most important is the discount amount. In order to trigger a storewide sale notification, offer up the best discount possible, as the savings you provide to shoppers weight heavily in the sending algorithm.

Power Seller Tip: OpenSky sales data shows that shoppers tend to respond (opens and clicks) to storewide sale notifications of 30% off or more, so be mindful of the value you’re providing to your followers.

Promotional Notifications

There are a variety of promotional notifications that reach shoppers on a daily basis. You can reach your followers via notifications by setting up promos with discounts, free shipping, exclusivity, limited quantities, and more. For example, run a sale over 40% off and we’ll tell your followers that there are big time savings to be had. Or run a sale on one of your best sellers, and we’ll be sure to let followers know.

Site Upgrades: Homepage & Follow Stores Widget

This week OpenSky released two upgrades that will improve the site experience for shoppers.

  • A new Homepage
  • A new Follow Stores widget

Not only do these changes benefit members, but also give brands (you!) more exposure on OpenSky.

Placement on the new homepage and Follow Stores widget is based on the same algorithm that’s used to populate items/stores in browse, trending, and emails. Factors like the quality of images, activity, followers, and loves are all taken into account. *Read this post to learn how to be a top merchant.

1) Homepage

Our redesigned homepage gives the shopper a variety of ways to uncover trending products and new brands on OpenSky. Users will find a variety of entry points in to our site experience, whether it be by collection category, trending problems, theme, etc.

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A few of the sections users will now find on the homepage include:

  • Recently Loved
  • Most Loved
  • Fresh Finds
  • Recommended Products
  • Recommended Stores

Haven’t seen the new homepage? Have a look: OpenSky.com

2) Follow Stores Widget

The Follow Stores Widget is located on the left side of the feed and provides OpenSky members with the a quick and easy way to follow multiple brands.  The number of Followers a brand has is directly correlated to the exposure their products get, and in turn the sales they drive. The hope of the OpenSky team is that the Follow Stores widget drives more follows for you, and as a result, more sales.

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#MarchMadness

marchmadness

marchmadness

March 13th marks the start of OpenSky’s 2014 #MarchMadness Sales Event. Use this four-day event as an opportunity to give your sales a boost.

The Details

When: Thurs, March 13 – Sun, March 16th
Official Hashtag: #MarchMadness
How to participate: Visit your posting tool and schedule a #MarchMadness post. That simple, that easy.

How to Participate + Merchandising Tips

Create a #MarchMadness post.

Post about any of the products you’d like to showcase in the sale by selecting the #MarchMadness option in your posting tool. By selecting this option, your post will automatically be set to run during the set duration of the event and include the qualifying hashtag. Creating a post this way ensures that you’ll be included in the main hashtag page where most shoppers will be trafficking the site during this event. It also increases your chances of being included in emails promoting this sales event via our automated exposure algorithm. Read more about hashtags here.

Start scheduling your #MarchMadness posts today to increase your chances for additional exposure. Early bird gets the worm.

Offer a discount of 30% (or more) off MSRP

During the #MarchMadness sale, shoppers will have an eye out for value – so do your best to give it to them. Understandably, this kind of promotion may not apply to all merchants, but if you can swing it, take advantage of the opportunity to drive sales.

Merchant Success Tips

1) Try discounting from the MSRP of your product, and not the current sale price. This will give you a little more wiggle room with pricing and margin, while still providing value to the shopper.

2) Can’t afford to discount all of your products (and inventory) at 30% off MSRP? No problem. Pick one of your best products and run a sale at 30% off, but only offer limited quantities at the sale price. This way, you can limit the losses and risk, while still ensuring participation, even if at a minimum.

Don’t worry about Rewards Credits

During the #MarchMadness event there won’t be any major credit event that coincides with the sale. Yes, there will be select shoppers who have previously unlocked credits or new members who join and receive credit, but by and large that’s a small subset of OpenSky members. That being said, don’t spend too much time factoring rewards credits into the equation.

Best of luck giving your March sales a boost!

Here’s what the most successful OpenSky merchants are doing

The secret to success on OpenSky?  Well, it’s a combination of a few specific tactics that help to simultaneously drive followers, exposure and sales. Take a page out of the playbook of the most successful merchants by following the pointers below.

Product imagery. First and foremost, ensure that your product images are high quality.  Top selling merchants invest in high quality imagery. As an online retailer, you don’t have the luxury of a customer walking into your store and engaging with the product in person. Your images need to do the work for you. On OpenSky, quality images correlate to clicks, page views and loves. That yields more followers and in the end, more sales. Consider giving your brand an image makeover, whether that be through free photo editing tools (referenced in this previous post) or via more traditional paid methods.

Activity. The most successful merchants visit OpenSky every day–whether it be to make a post, share a comment or smile at a shopper. Carve out time to stop by daily to engage with the community, and you’ll see an increase in followers, fans and shoppers.

Promotions.  On OpenSky, shoppers often start their visits looking for new promotions. Yes, shoppers browse and buy full price products, but sales are usually where they start their shopping journey. Best selling merchants don’t go against the grain on this–they take time to figure out a sales strategy that works, and incorporate it into their regular OpenSky activities. Consider doing the same. 

Rewards Program.  Participating in the Rewards Program gives you more exposure on the highest selling days of the month (credit events), making it no mystery that participation will help your brand get in front of more people with purchase intent.

If you’re focusing your time and energy on what’s listed above, you’re setting yourself up for success.

Good luck!

Give Your Marketing Plan a Makeover

If you’re planning an event based promotion – perhaps a new product launch or a sale, it’s important to create a sound marketing plan that covers all phases of the promotion – the before, the during and the after.

Marketing: Before Your Event

What you do in the week leading up to your event will have the greatest impact on its success. During this time, do your best to exercise all channels of communication to raise awareness. The goal is to get as many people to “show up” for your event as possible. Here are some tactics.

  • Create an official hashtag for your event. Get this squared away immediately and choose something that’s short and easy to remember. Try to keep hashtags to one word, and less than 15 characters.
  • Create a bank of posts (aka marketing messages) that you’ll have at your disposal during your event. Create 10 differnet social communications and rotate them throughout the week. This way, aren’t scrambling for content on the fly and can guarantee the language is consistent and thoughtful.
  • Post daily on Social Media to prepare your audience for the event. Try a post early in the day, and a post in the evening.  Do your best to cast a wide net, targeting different times that your network is most likely to engage with your content.
  • Engage users through interactive posts. Ask your network to RT (retweet) or share your post if they’re excited for the event. Engage them. This prompt will help drive awareness to the people they’re connected to—your second degree social connections. Each time your network shares one of your posts, you’re exposed to new group of potential customers.
  • Leverage email. Whether it be via your newsletter or a personal email to your contacts, email is a great tool for driving awareness. However, do keep in mind that email overload can easily turn off users. If you’re creating a week-long plan, try sending one email on Day 1 and another on Day 6 to space things out; and be sure to keep your communication fresh. Sending the same email twice in a week isn’t very fun for the recipient.

Marketing: During Your Event

During your event, it’s all about awesome event kick-off messaging early in the day, and then continuing to engage users throughout the whole period of the event.

  • “The Rule of 3 Hours.” Marketing consistently throughout the day is key. Provide updates and reminders of your event every 3 hours. Mix up your communications with inspiring images or videos.  And share on different platforms. For example, Facebook tends to provide a better click-thru and conversion rate when sharing a link with a compelling image in comparison to other social platforms.  Similarly, Pinterest can be useful for long term marketing since content is accessible for a longer window. On the other hand, twitter —although easy to use— tends to be a better place to provide updates and news, and less of a real-time traffic driver. A lot of the consumption is done on the platform in a flash— it comes and goes; so use Twitter to converse about your event with fans, or deliver reminder messaging.
  • Share Social Proof. If you receive comments from shoppers, share them with your network so others are tuning in to your event and shopping with you! A simple RT (retweet) can accomplish this.

Marketing: After The Event

  • Thank your network. Share a thank you to fans, friends and followers across social media for tuning in to your event and sharing it with their friends.
  • Share Social Proof that your event was a success! Try sharing content that sums up your event and shows your followers how it worked. Perhaps a photo of boxes you’re shipping to happy customers, a note about the bestseller of the day or an update on the status of the giveaway you’re running.

Marketing: For the Future

  • Be sure to take a step back and review the performance of the tactics you used during the event. This will help you optimize your time in the future.  That means spend more time doing the stuff that works, and less time doing the stuff that doesn’t.

Try employing these tactics for any events you have planned this week – especially for those participating in the #WinterBlowout. This is a great opportuntiy to put a marketing plan into action that helps drive awareness and sales.

#WinterBlowout. Don’t miss out.

winterblowout

winterblowout

January 29th marks the start of OpenSky’s 2014 #WinterBlowout Sales Event. Use this three-day event as an opportunity to move through your seasonal merchandise. Or use it to give your followers a fun way to shop in January. The choice is yours.

The Details
When: Wed, January 29th – Fri, January 31st
Official Hashtag: #winterblowout
How to participate: Schedule a post to go live on Wed Jan 29th using #winterblowout and a discount off MSRP of 40% or more.

How to Participate + Merchandising Tips

Create a post using  #winterblowout

Post about any of the products you’d like to showcase in the sale and include #winterblowout in the comment section. This ensures that you’ll be included in the main hashtag page where most shoppers will trafficking the site. It also increases your chances of being included in emails promoting this sales event via are automated algorithm. Read more about hashtags here.

Start scheduling your #winterblowout posts today to increase your chances for additional exposure. Early bird gets the worm.

Offer a discount of 40%  or more off MSRP

We all know how end-of-season sales work — you buy the end of season goods (that trendy winter jacket you saw back in Oct) because the discounts are so good you can’t ignore them. During the #winterblowout, shoppers will have an eye out for value – so do your best to give it to them. Understandably, this kind of promotion may not apply to all merchants, but if you can swing it, take advantage of the opportunity to drive sales. (there will be more sales events to participate in soon) And remember — try discounting from the MSRP of your product, and not the current sale price. This will give you a little more wiggle room with pricing and margin, while still providing value to the shopper.

Merchant Success Tip: Can’t afford to discount all of your products (and inventory) at 40% off MSRP? No problem. Create a doorbuster so you can participate. Run a sale at 40% off or more and offer limited quantities at the sale price. This way, you can limit the losses and risk, while still ensuring participation, even if at a minimum.

Don’t worry about credits

During the #winterblowout, there won’t be any major credit event that coincides with the sale. Yes, there will be select shoppers who have previously unlocked credits or new members who join and receive credit, but by and large that’s a small subset of OpenSky members. That being said, don’t spend too much time factoring rewards credits into the equation.

Best of luck finishing January strong. And good luck during the #WinterBlowout event!

New & Improved Navigation

nav_featuredimage

Today, OpenSky launches a new header that gives users an improved way to navigate the site.

nav1_header

Key upgrades include:

  • Browse is now the central exploration hub for all members
  • Single drop-down gives easy browsing functionality in list format
  • Browse gives more exposure to the wide breadth of shopping categories, along with new and improved icons for category recognition (which all users will begin to see throughout the site experience)
  • Quick access to trending products, stores, or hashtags.
  • Easy access to “Search” for the user looking for specific products or stores.

nav2
new navigation on a desktop
mobile_browse
New navigation on mobile

The navigation also includes improvements for Merchant navigation. With this update, Merchants can access separate user and storefront specific drop-downs. The Storefront specific drop-down includes shortcuts to highly frequented sections of the Merchant Toolkit, along with badge alerts for dashboard notifications and orders.

nav3

The changes to OpenSky’s navigation are the first of few site experience improvements we’ll be rolling out. Stay tuned for more exciting enhancements!