New Sales Tax Ruling for Online Retailers

A new ruling on collecting sales tax for online purchases has recently been put into effect.

According to the MSN website:

U.S. states could reap billions in online sales tax revenue and buttress their budgets after the nation’s top court ruled Thursday (June 21)  that e-commerce companies could be required to collect the money, even if they have no physical presence in a state.

This decision overturns a 1992 “Quill” Court decision stating that sales taxes were collected on a purchase only if a company had a physical presence in the state where the purchase was made.

The new Supreme Court ruling may affect your online business, but each state must pass a similar law first.  Nolo website explains:

If you are selling on the Internet to states around the country, you now will need to be aware of which states have enacted laws requiring the collection of sales tax by online sellers. In order for a given state to require you to collect sales tax, that state must pass a law allowing it to do so.

How is this going to affect online retailers?  According to Forbes, each state will need time to implement the policy:

At the event, a panel of tax experts predicted that states likely would act within the next year or 18 months to expand their collections requirements. Some states may be able to set a collection regime by the end of this year.

It is my understanding — although not all the information is in for all 50 states — that not all online retailers will be affected by the new ruling.  The New York Times revealed the following example from South Dakota:

South Dakota responded by enacting a law that required all merchants to collect a 4.5 percent sales tax if they had more than $100,000 in annual sales or more than 200 transactions in the state. State officials sued three large online retailers — Wayfair, Overstock.com and Newegg — for violating the law. Lower courts ruled for the online retailers, citing the Quill decision.

The ruling is still muddy as lawmakers are looking at standardizing the tax collecting process.  Otherwise, the ruling would cause a nightmare for online retailers trying to figure out how much to collect from what states and what is required for reporting to each state.

Forbes explains further:

While this is a great first step, it could create a patchwork quilt of state laws that could become convoluted for smaller sellers to navigate. While technology has advanced significantly since the 1992 ruling, and there will be ample solutions available to sellers to clarify the process, it will still be a situation that is in constant flux and will need close monitoring as individual states change their laws. I believe a federal solution is still the most desirable outcome for the industry as a whole – but this ruling is still certainly a step in the right direction.

Guess we will need to wait and see how this enfolded in the next months or year.

 

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Promoting Your Website

Promoting your website, along with your products or services, is a number one prioirity for small business.  In the sea of wholesale/retail, a small producer can get lost among the ‘big boys’ of retail.

Long gone are the days of ‘build it and they will come’ with websites and online marketing.  Back 14 or so years ago when I first went online with my wholesale and retail business, a good URL, a few keys words, listing in the Promoting Your Websitesearch engines was all you really need to drive customers to your shop.  Not anymore!!

Listing tips to marketing your website now can easily fill a book!  But instead of a book, I want to share Alyson Stanfield’s article:

20 Ways to Lure People to Your Website

Add some of these ideas to your marketing mix for more eyes on your art (and creative products).

Best, Basic Practices

1. Write a newsletter article with a hook, which requires recipients to visit your site to read the end of the article.

2. In your emails and social media posts, tell people why they should click. What’s in it for them? Why should they interrupt their focus and visit your site?

3. Give something away to people who visit your site and sign up for your list.

4. Mention your website address on your voicemail.

5. Add your website address to the back or underside of your art (or on your label)! If an attached piece of paper disappears, the website will still be with the piece….

6. Blog regularly. People are more likely to return if they know there is going to be fresh content…..

Alyson’s list goes on to suggest Social Media Stradegies and other excellent suggestions.  Make sure to read the full article.

Other techniques I use to promote my website, in addition to Alyson’s suggestions:

  • Adding my URL to my email signature.
  • Posting appropriate information on industry facebook pages and groups where I am an active member (notice I said ‘active member’!).
  • Setting up a LinkedIn account with my website contact info.
  • Cross promoting with my ‘competitors’ (which are mostly my friends in the industry).
  • Handing out my business cards (which include my website URL) at industry related events and shows.
  • Offering personalized services where possible….

Of course, the list is endless, but there should be a few suggestions you can implement immediately!

Note:  If you do not have your own website, let me encourage you to set one up as soon as possible.  I consistantly use 3DCart for my product based businesses.  Here is my review of the software:

Amazing E-Commerce Shopping Cart Software

Building Your Own Website

 

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Submitting Press Releases

I am not an authority on press releases.  Malcolm, my husband, takes care of most of our press releases as he worked for a local paper many years back and knows the ropes.

The expert on getting your products in printed media outlets is Andreea Submitting Press Releasesand her wonderful Media Leads program.  Andreea is responsible for successful helping producers feature their products in magazines such as Oprah, InStyle, Real Weddings, Home and Cabin and many more.

Check out her Media Leads program.

Should you decide to write and submit your own press releases, especially  if you are looking for local coverage, Carolyn Edlund from Artsy Shark recently published this article:

5 Mistakes that Get Press Rejections Every Time

Mistake #1: You have no clear idea whether you are truly relevant to the publications you contact. Instead, you try a “scattershot” approach of sending an email out to a mailing list of press members to see if you can get any bites – from anyone, for any reason.

What to do instead: Start by researching your niche to find publications and blogs that are an excellent match for what you do…

Mistake #2: You begin your email with a greeting like “Hi there” because you don’t even know the name of the person you are trying to contact.

What to do instead: …Make it a point to learn who to contact – their name, title, and what they do. Then, completely customize each and every email you send out to that person. …

Mistake #3: You wait until the last minute to attempt to get into an article or promote an upcoming event.

What to do instead: Learn the lead time needed with different publications, and use that as your guide….

Mistake #4: You don’t have excellent images of your art, process or yourself, so you cannot provide them or end up scrambling at the last minute.

What to do instead: This is a huge problem that gets artists rejected all the time. …. Have your work professionally photographed for purposes of press coverage. …

Mistake #5: You got busy and forgot to follow-up with materials or needed information on time for publication. Oops!

What to do instead: If you fail to produce what is needed on time, you will likely be blacklisted, and for good reason. When you pursue press coverage, you are committing to following through on any projects you work on with the writer. …

Great tips to check out before submitting press releases.

Read her full article

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Are Customer Testimonials Important?

Customer testimonials listed on your website and shared on social media validate your product and services!!

According to the Arts Business Institute

Testimonials are a form of “social proof” that is an important source of referrals. Today, people are far more interested in what others have to say about a business or a product than they are in advertising. And they are far more likely to believe testimonials.

A testimonial is a statement about the value of your product, the experience of the customer, and their satisfaction level. It recommends your handmade work and endorses you. And, because testimonials are freely given, it makes them even more powerful.

If you have a website, including customer testimonials aid in the success of your business.Are Customer Testimonials Important?

Think of it this way:  Julie consumer is looking for Widget A and decides to search the web.  Website X features the product she is looking for, but she is unable to tell is it is durable enough for her needs.  Julie scrolls down the page, looking for more information, but there is none.

Now, Website Z,who offers a similar product, lists some stories from satisfied customers.  Which website do you think she will buy from?  Of course, the one with the consumer feedback.

Amazon features and encourages testimonies from their customers.  Every time I buy a book, a week or so later, I receive an email asking me what I thought of the book and would I post my comments.  Since Amazon is one of the leading sellers on the internet, whatever works for them would be a technique I would use on my website.

But how about face-to-face sales?

Fair booth owners frequently share with potential customers what other consumers have said about their products. This is the perfect opportunity to share ideas with potential consumers while they are deciding on a purchase.  For example:  “Most people who buy Widget A really like how Widget B works in combination with it.”  Just a sales technique using a third person testimonial.

When I was a traveling road rep, store buyers frequently asked me about this product vs. that product.  Which is the best-selling huckleberry jam, for example, was a common question.  Of course, this is just another form of a testimonial as I shared what I had learned from previous store buyers!

Can you see the value of testimonials to add to your website and share with your potential buyers?

If you want to find out how to solicited testimonials, check out the Arts Business Institute’s article: The Power of Customer Testimonials.

 

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Building Your Own Website

Even if you have a successful business on Etsy, Ebay or Amazon (or another marketplace platform), you still need to build your own website!

If you follow my blog and/or articles, you have probably heard this before!!

Malcolm and I set up our wholesale and retail websites back in 2004 — before the Building Your Own Websiteexplosion of Etsy style marketplaces.  I admit, I watched and wondered …. and saw may people become successful using this type platform.  But, on the other hand, I also heard the horror stories from folks who lost their site and could do nothing about it!  (Check out my article:  Etsy Shop or Your Own Website).

Over the years, more and more experts are suggesting selling on both platforms, rather than the either-or mindset.

Cassie and Carrie from Hand Made Success also agree with this strategy:

Yes, creating your own website IS worth it

Here are a few reasons why…

I love Etsy and my business wouldn’t be where it is today without Etsy, but Etsy does have it’s downfalls. Etsy is an unstable marketplace that you do not have complete control over. Etsy features can happen one week causing an unmanageable influx of orders, get pulled 2 weeks later causing a dry spell when you just hired extra help, they change their SEO and format constantly, and their traffic can change with no warning or explanation. Zenned Out has been subject to each of these uncontrollables, with mixed results.

Need some more reasons?

  • A website is a more powerful extension of your brand
  • Customers and retail buyers (especially) will take you more seriously
  • You can have a blog
  • You can capture customer emails with proper opt-ins
  • You have COMPLETE control over everything. No one can change your website or suddenly change your traffic without your permission.
  • Oh, also, those pesky Etsy fees, you won’t have to pay those anymore! Side note, building a website might cost you some $ eventually, but in the long run you’ll be saving, why not start now?

Setting up your own website is not too difficult — even if you have limited knowledge with technology.

Building Your Own Website with 3DCartPersonally, we tried a few ecommerce platforms and hated most of them!!  That was until we found 3DCart!

NOTE:  If you are interested in my review of 3DCart, you can check it out here: Amazing E-Commerce Shopping Cart Software.

The important take-away here is to make sure you have your own personal website, even if your products are on Etsy (or other similar platforms)

More article on the subject:

 

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