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Mobsters & Ecommerce Tips: MivaCon 2013

March 12, 2013

Miva Conference 2013 has come and gone, and we're left with a few impressions not only about how awesome ecommerce as an industry is, but also about how to make an ecommerce conference interesting… but we'll get to that second part later.

This year's Miva conference, entitled Extraordinary Ecommerce, was held in Miva's hometown of San Diego, and Shipwire was in attendance. Hundreds of merchants, partners, and speakers got together to talk shop and exchange tips about ecommerce and shipping, and the result was impressive. Miva also gave out several awards for best new site, best design, etc., which was a great way to recognize the effort that sometimes may be overlooked. The winner for best new feature, for example, was SCOTTEVEST's x-ray product view.

Overall there were a couple major themes we observed at the show. After listening to the talks and speaking with many awesome merchants, the main ones that stood out are as follows:

Shipping is big
Brands are starting to realize that squeezing a few percentage points out of shipping rate discounts is a losing game. You could feel the frustration level in the room rise when I asked about the GRI. Eyes roll. Merchants are realizing that locating inventory closer to the end customer is the way to go, especially when shipping rates increase 5-6% every, single, year. When you have that pressure from one side, and customers expecting free shipping from the other side, the solution is more than just getting better discounts and tweaking your conversion rate.

Shipping is a big topic and there are as many questions as there are merchants. That those questions are being asked is a huge leap forward.

Shipwire at Miva Conference
Global markets matter
There's a level of excitement about the prospect of easily reaching customers in new markets. At MivaCon I met brands that were saying they want to reach customers in Canada or Australia or China, but it's always been a hassle because of brokerage fees, customs, delays at the border, and more. Merchants are ecstatic when they find out that you can store a handful of products in Canada or the UK and fulfill regional sales, all without brokerage fees ever leaving a customer unhappy. There were many importers and exporters for whom having an inventory staging point in Asia or in Europe could save a lot of money, and provide a new level of competitiveness in ever-changing markets. The ability of this model – which Shipwire helped pioneer for small- and medium-sized enterprises – to help brands can't be overstated enough.

Merchants are feeling the pull of new global markets and reaching them is easier than it's ever been.

The conference also gave us a slew of top ecommerce tips. Here are some of the top ones:

1. Small details matter
SiteTuners CEO and author Tim Ash said that your ecommerce site doesn't have to be brought down by one big problem or disaster. It can just as easily die "a death by a thousand cuts." Basically, details matter. During his presentation he put the audience in the shoes of someone looking for a sofa online. The demo went step-by-step through the sometimes small, sometimes large issues that buyers face when they already know they want and are just looking to make the purchase. There were many flaws across many sites (including huge marketplaces) that included missing links, miscategorized products, incorrect descriptions, inaccurate shipping quotes, and so on.

He also had an amazing name for his breakout session, which involved him doing an on-the-spot site analysis and review and was titled "Your baby is ugly". He joking called it "consulting by insulting".

Shipwire at Miva Conference
2. Pay attention to schema.org for the future of SEO
The folks over at Search Engine Land brought this up as an upcoming vital part of ecommerce SEO. schema.org provides markup formatting guidelines that help ecommerce site owners make their site more easily indexable to search engines. There are lots of important things to note on new schemas, but keep a keen eye on guides for product reviews, locations, special offers, and product descriptions.

3. Tips to make your ecommerce site better
These tips came from a few of the speakers and people that we chatted with on the floor, including Tim Ash and Neil Patel. Actionable tips are always better than abstract ones so here are just a few interesting highlights:
-E-commerce orders from Pinterest average $80, compared to only $40 from Facebook.

  • Buyers are most likely to recommend your product right after they've purchased it.
  • Make purchasing simple, and don't overwhelm with options during checkout.
  • Cross-sell right in the cart when the purchaser is checking out
  • There's plenty of low-hanging SEO fruit: Get rid of titles that are duplicate, missing, or too long. This seems like nit-picking but keep in mind it's a robot that ranks your post on SEO, not a human
  • If you're going to use popular memes on your social pages, make sure they're relevant to your product. Don't forget to include a call to action, as well.

4. If you want your conference to be a hit, hire a mobster
Miva decided to hire legendary mob boss Michael Franzese to deliver a quick talk at the dinner event. He will be the keynote speaker at next year's conference, and I think the 15 minutes he gave us already won everyone over to buy a ticket for MivaCon2014. Definitely look him up on YouTube.

Photos from the event
Check out photos from the whole conference on Leslie Kirk's photo stream.

Dimitri Onistsuk

Dimitri Onistsuk is the marketing director at Shipwire, and is in charge of figuring out what knobs to turn in order to spread the word about the leader in order fulfillment. During his years working in ecommerce, shipping, and fulfillment, he has helped countless merchants sell stuff to their global customers.