Many happy returns: tips for spring cleaning your sales tax filing process from our partner Avalara

With the April 15th filing deadline looming, the timing could not be better for a few well timed tax tips and solutions from our partner Avalara.   In the event that a hot button or two is triggered, please contact the KalioCommerce Customer Support Team and we would be happy to arrange an introduction with the Avalara Team.

And without further ado…

Tax is not what most businesses do. But taxes still have to be done. Registrations must be obtained and returns must be filed, correctly, and on time—or pay the fine. Maybe it’s the taxes that make April the cruelest month, and not the juxtaposition of death and life. T.S. Eliot got it wrong.

The challenges of filing and remitting sales tax returns vary depending on the jurisdictions and businesses involved. For a small Mom and Pop store with one location, limited inventory, and no online presence, filing returns could be relatively straightforward; in certain jurisdictions, however, it could be a real headache. As a general rule, the bigger or more complex the business, the greater the tax pain. An Internet retailer with customers in multiple states? A subcontractor that sells goods and services both wholesale and retail in multiple jurisdictions? Cruel indeed.

With April 15 looming, now is an ideal time to review the state of your sales and use tax returns. We’re all buried in taxes, anyway, so we may as well give ourselves an audit. Think of it as a sort of spring cleaning. Dealing with sales and use tax mandates plenty of elbow grease and a certain amount of discomfort, but it’s for the greater good. And frankly, it’s best when you’re not in it alone. Or better yet, when you can get someone else to do it for you.

Sort out your issues
Every state puts its own unique imprint on rules and requirements, and every seller has to comply. Compliance triggers pain points ranging from confusion over who needs to register when, to differing filing due dates and requirements. The first step is figuring out what you need to do to improve your routine: which processes need to be kept and which can be improved.

You’re not in this alone. State tax authorities know filing sales and use tax is a hassle. To help beleaguered taxpayers, many state departments of revenue (including California, Connecticut and Maryland) list common tax problems and solutions on their websites. Examples include:

Problem: I do business in a state but have never registered or filed sales tax there.
Solution: Register ASAP and file past-due returns.
Problem: I withdrew items from my resale inventory for my own use.
Solution: Report and pay use tax on the purchase price of the goods.
Problem: I have unsupported sales for resale.
Solution: Retain old resale certificates and update resale certificates regularly

Take this time to figure out the problems that most concern you. Here are 5 common sales tax registration and filing errors that plague many companies. Be proactive. As with anything, waiting always makes the mess worse.

Streamline your process
The fact that departments of revenue recognize the pain involved in sales and use tax filing and offer solutions is a positive first step. But it doesn’t quite get at the heart of the matter:
Problem: I don’t want to spend the time, energy, or resources required to properly manage sales and use tax compliance. My time is better spent elsewhere.
Solution: Avalara sales tax automation software. Time to roll up your sleeves, clean house, and put a system in place to facilitate sales and use tax filing and remittance.

April may be the cruelest month because of tax returns. But with Avalara handling sales tax calculation and filing, you can look forward to spring—and many happy returns.

HYPERLINK http://bit.ly/1VijMVy

Repost from Avalara

Year-Long eCommerce Research: What Channels Drove Revenue?

Significant differences show how the same channels can speed up or slow down growth for mid-sized and large online retailers

Year after year, organic search, paid search, and email make up a vast majority of revenue. Noteworthy reports such as Custora’s eCommerce Pulse mentioned that 20% of holiday revenue came from email. After measuring the largest channels, the next step was to figure out if each channel actually helped increase overall growth. Did the medium hurt business even if the medium’s share of revenue increased? Did channels such as organic search detract from, maintain, or improve an online retailer’s livelihood? What did the top performing retailers do differently? Curious to see if your marketing plans look similar or are very different from our year-long benchmark of results from online retailers? Read on.

eCommerce Growth Attribution

The most successful retailers made frequent, profound site-wide changes to enhance the shopper’s experience. While net new traffic is still important, the improvements made to the sites focused on the quality of conversion and how the site-wide experience touched each of the highest performing marketing channels.

Organic and Paid Search

The profits on organic search were much greater than the returns from paid search. How did online retailers make out with search marketing?

    • Top retailers saw traffic from search engines play a significant part of their marketing activities. High performing businesses made modifications deep into the HTML page structures far beyond surface level display changes and leveraged the power of navigation. Not only did eCommerce sites see direct organic search benefits, the gains from remodeling structural elements reached across multiple channels. Improved page structure yielded the best organic and paid search ROI especially on the product, sub-category, and results pages. There are many interesting navigation questions to test and optimize, for example: Should the most frequently accessed or seasonally popular sub-categories or products come first? How does your shopper and search engine know where to go next? If there are dozens of results, would an additional category page make sense instead of a filter?
    • On another note, attribution is challenging if your shopper interacted with both organic and paid search to browse and refined their results. Often the last touch gets more credit for the sale, even if the past ten interactions provided more value to the shopper. One way to better balance attribution? Add session length statistics to counterbalance single-sided conversion metrics.

Direct Traffic

Did your site engage or lose shoppers who directly entered your site?

    • The fastest growing eCommerce sites continued to optimize usability post-launch, whereas the slowest growing businesses launched but failed to continuously improve the site after putting out a new feature or design.
    • The average retailer in between the two extremes most likely saw the minor erosion of direct traffic give away to shoppers who searched for the brand’s name instead of directly typing in the URL.
    • Usable, not just responsive: a redesigned responsive eCommerce site without usability in mind can be a recipe for disaster. After going live with a responsive site, there’s constant refinement and testing to improve the formula for usability and conversion. There could be a significant drop in post-launch revenue if the checkout process did not get much attention as it should have during a responsive redesign. One retailer even started their responsive web design project from the end of the conversion funnel. The story of how Shawn Lowe, Web Administrator, helped Agri Supply grow 20% may inspire you to explore how continuous steady improvements can help business growth.

Email Marketing

Email had the highest channel ROI; and we saw creative methods for existing shoppers to refer new shoppers via email.

    • Retailers who saw higher revenue gains ran more email tests and had a fuller calendar of relevant promotions. Rather than offering flat discounts on single items, businesses achieved success by promoting trending products, offering discounts on larger orders or higher margin products, and provided free expedited shipping on items that required more urgency.
    • Triggered emails continued to be a significant part of email marketing. Sophisticated marketers tested the conversion rate of re-engagement emails to determine how to best position a series of nurture emails in various situations such as abandon cart, post-purchase, pre-purchase research, and the win back of inactive customers. Retailers also built address book and calendar functionality to work with their orders and email confirmations for multi-recipient shipping which helped convert shoppers in the busiest seasons.

Referral Marketing, Display, and Social Marketing

    • Referral partners performed well for retailers across the board; high performing retailers were not doing less to drive referrals, but rather other channels contributed more to growth.
    • Display advertising has been challenging for conversion; marketers may see it as more of a brand awareness medium rather than a direct revenue generating channel.
    • Social media is a fascinating channel for retailers to engage fans. However revenue-wise, social is still not a top player. Social loyalty programs made a dent in conversion, yet online retailers did not see Facebook or Twitter as a primary revenue generator. We are curious to watch over the next few quarters if social marketing will be a mover and shaker in the industry.

Figuring Out the Right Multi-touch Combination

In our research, there isn’t a channel that completely dominates growth for the top performing mid-sized and large retailers. If you’ve found a mix of gold and silver bullets that’s worked for your eCommerce business, please do share the details in the comments below. The right digital retail marketing mix is a sophisticated concoction; unique for each businesses situation, and ever-changing due to external forces from the industry and internal resources available for investment. The results over the past 12 months rocked, and we are looking forward to seeing more online retailers grow much faster than the industry average. 

Are eCommerce Shoppers Buying More and Earlier as Predicted?

Black-Friday-Cyber-Monday-Revenue-Graph

Online retailers experienced robust revenue gains, 16% growth over the 6 core days of Thanksgiving sales, from the Wednesday on Thanksgiving week to Cyber Monday. Shoppers purchased significantly more during and after Thanksgiving week. Analysts in the industry previously gazed into their crystal balls and foresaw that the holiday shopping season would begin earlier. Articles even projected that ¼ of Americans will start their holiday shopping before Halloween.

Before Thanksgiving Week: Are shoppers buying more? Are they buying earlier?

Yes, no, and yes

Browsing for holiday gifts might not equate right away to sales. The revenue and transaction trends from 4 Mondays before Cyber Monday looked like this:

Weeks-Before-Black-Friday-Cyber-Monday-Graph

Huge spikes

What could have caused these big sales days were solid weekday promotions:

  • 3 weeks and 2 weeks before the week of Thanksgiving, offers were sent out earlier in the week. On average, online retailers experienced days with more than 18% surges in revenue every week.
  • Revenue far beyond outpaced transactions in the week before Thanksgiving. Retailers improved their marketing strategy, and average order value rocketed. This implied that businesses created high-value offers or bundles rather than discount on smaller purchases. In the same week, traffic rose substantially through Thursday and Friday.

Same budget, wild behavior

KalioCommerce to Power Pear Tree Greetings, Invitations by Dawn, and Ann’s Bridal Bargains

peartree-announcements-blog-04

We’re excited to announce today that 3 new brands will utilize our on-demand eCommerce platform to deliver state-of-the-art online shopping experiences.

Pear Tree Greetings, Invitations by Dawn, and Ann’s Bridal Bargains provide a fresh and simple way to share life’s moments that matter through compelling web experiences, stylish and affordable products, and exceptional customer service.

Stephanie Bottner, General Manager at Pear Tree Greetings, says, “the KalioCommerce platform was vetted thoroughly against 30 other eCommerce vendors and consistently came out as truly best-in-class.”

“Responding to customers’ ever-changing wants and needs is always top-priority…The KalioCommerce platform allows us to do so with ease,” says Tara Sikel, General Manager for Invitations by Dawn and Ann’s Bridal Bargains.

We look forward to seeing these sites launch on KalioCommerce. Watch for more news to follow and read the full press release for more details.

Oops! – 5 Common Mistakes When Optimizing Your Conversion Funnel

ecommerce-buy-button
Photo Credit: www.gotcredit.com

The conversion funnel is one of the most vital components of a successful eCommerce strategy. One step can mean the difference between encouraging a customer to convert, or the customer abandoning the cart. Our eCommerce optimization, Matt Beischel, took a few minutes to discuss some common mistakes when optimizing your conversion funnel.

1. Not Looking At the Impact of Each Step On the Full Conversion Funnel

A common mistake during the testing process is that testers become hyper-focused on the specific KPIs and fail to notice other metrics that may be affected by the components being tested. If the only metric you are focusing on is revenue, you may miss that you are losing a number of orders, and that may impact your success in the long term. It is imperative that you track as many relevant metrics as possible, both broad and specific.

Beischel notes, “You have to evaluate holistically, but test in segments. You only test a single location at a time, but you have to form an understanding of how what you’re testing may have an effect further down the line in the funnel. You watch that by tracking all the metrics beyond the point that you’re testing.”

Continue reading Oops! – 5 Common Mistakes When Optimizing Your Conversion Funnel