Happy New Years!
Wow! It has been a very fast and exciting year for ChrisLands!
We finally added staff so it is not just me anymore, we added new features, upgraded some current features, and increased services. See our Year in Review at the end of the newsletter for a summary. Maybe you missed a feature you want to use!
I've been pushing very hard to get ChrisLands back on track, working 12 hour days, 7 days a week and I still have much more to do. Have I done everything absolutely right? No. Was everything perfect? No. But we keep moving forward and things are coming around.
I wasn't sure how to order the topics in this newsletter, so I decided to start with what I'm calling the Independent Revolution!
Fair Warning: This is my longest newsletter to date, I think! Lots to cover.... Read on!
Over all the years that I've been doing this, I've heard a lot about big corporations, their fees, and you being just a number. Much of what I heard was not very nice except for one thing, you get sales from those sites. Recently I started thinking, why can't a small independent company like ChrisLands put something together that can provide similar services at a dramatically lower cost to you!
Why can't we start an Independent Revolution, create an Independent Army, if you will! ChrisLands has the resources to put various sites online and, to my knowledge, you are all independent! Even if everything we do is not that original, together we could still make it great for all involved! Together we can make a difference.
With this in mind, we are working hard to put together some new sites. We are starting with the following.
ChrisLands' Search is a referral site. Someone finds your store or your product and goes to your store to complete their purchase. This has been around for a while but we never really pushed it. We are revamping the entire site and adding great new features! Here are a few.
- Listing your featured products throughout the site.
- Feature your store with description and logo, if you like, in various locations.
- Related Items on the Product Detail Pages.
- Better page presentations.
Once we complete revamping ChrisLands' Search, we are going to push it as hard as we possibly can, post links to it everywhere, put the search form on any page we have control over and that makes sense.
This is where you can help. If you need an item, once the site is updated, search there first. Help out your fellow independent business! This is the only way to get the Revolution on track. Working together! Help your buddy!
This is an entirely new site. At this site you may choose, if you want, to highlight your premier listings. We will only list a few items per day so that those items get the most exposure possible. There is a lot more to it but that is the gist of the idea.
We intend to foster a great reputation for this site so customers will come back again and again. So there will be some standards to list items. Nothing too stringent, probably nothing you don't already do anyway. Here are few:
- Minimum price to list an item.
- Obviously, you must have the item on hand.
- You must have four images of the appropriate size for the item.
- You must be available to ship the item. For instance, don't list the item and then go on vacation.
- Failure to ship an item after a valid payment is not acceptable.
- You can only list one item at a time on the site.
This site will be a complete store site, with a shopping cart and a checkout. ChrisLands will process the payment, at cost, for any product sold and transfer monies as required after shipment.
This is still in production, so I don't want to add too many more details as they might change some. I just wanted to give you an an overview.
We are putting together a community site. Yes, I know, many of you don't want to join another site. You won't have to join this site, your store administrator login will get you access plus there are a lot of benefits:
- Another place to feature your products.
- Another place to feature your store.
- One place for us to post tutorials.
- One place to communicate.
- A place for us to start improving the manual, finally.
- Maybe I can write more often, shorter articles. That would be nice.
- And more....
None of these sites are complete yet, but they are farther along then you think and will start coming out soon. We will post a formal announcement everytime one comes online. All of them will be Opt-In. You may choose to use them or not. It will be entirely up to you!
Obviously, to participate in any of these new services, you must have a ChrisLands' site. As for fees, there will be fees involved, referral fees and the like. These fees will be no where near what you pay at other sites. I've often been told that I'm too lenient with my fees (at least for current store owners). I guess I won't be changing anytime soon. Anyway, the idea is to help you sell more items, not wipe you out with fees.
It is time for a Revolution! Be part of it!
Recently Viewed Items
You may now choose to display Recently Viewed Items on your Shopping Cart page.
If a customer looks at a product on the product detail page, this will be saved as a recently viewed item. Then when they view the shopping cart page, such as when they add an item to the shopping cart, recently viewed items will display below the shopping cart.
To enable Recently Viewed Items, as the Store Administrator, at your store do the following:
Login -> Administration -> Orders (top menu) -> Recently Viewed Configuration (left menu)
I've waived the fee for January's stock data usage because its not fully integrated yet. However, stock data, beyond images (title, author, publisher, etc) is now displaying on the product detail pages.
I've had some comments about images not matching up with everyone's inventory. Here is all I can say about it. We have title, author, publisher, binding, edition and a partial description for 11,832,047 ISBNs. Of those, we have images for 11,207,717 ISBNs. I don't know how many ISBNs there are but I'm sure that there is more than 11 million.
Once we get into the new year, I intend to contact the data supplier to see if there is something I'm missing. Why some of you are not matching up with the data we have. ChrisLands is paying an arm and leg each month for this and if you all do not intend to use it, then I'm going to have to let it go. I don't ever see making any revenue on this but it would be nice to get close to breaking even.
Anyway, if you want to see more about Stock Data and Images, you can see more at your store, as the Store Administrator, do the following:
Login -> Administration -> Inventory (top menu) -> Stock Data (left menu)
More in 2014
We are still on track to have responsive, seo friendly, modern designs available for your stores in the first half of 2014. We are still shooting for sometime in May. We are doing our best to code this in a way that allows you to select the new design without much effort on your part to fix it up after you select it. Hopefully, we will accomplish that. However it is a big change.
What is responsive design? This is a website that adjusts gracefully and looks good in any sized monitor from small mobile phones displays all the way up to desktop sized monitors.
At the time we launch the responsive designs, maybe before that, we are including product variation options. This will allow you to specify options such as size, color, price variances for products. Then on the product detail page, the shopper can choose one (or more) of those options if that product has any options specified.
Credit Card Processing
I know what the cost of credit card processing does to your bottom line. I've been doing some research for ChrisLands as our fees are terrible. So, thinking about your costs, I've been looking at a company with the lowest fees I've seen (not that I'm an expert). No monthly or annual fees, no minimum and the lowest per transaction fees I've encountered. Plus support for your country.
I realize that not only do you need sales but you need to keep as much of those sales as possible. With that in mind, I'll be adding this company's credit card processing to the sites as soon as I can.
More to follow......
Customer Support Cha Cha Cha Changes.....
Andrew has been with ChrisLands for eight months and tried really hard to do a great job. However, he has been offered a job that pays more. ChrisLands cannot afford to match the offer. So Andrew has moved on to bigger and better things. We thank him for what he was able to do and wish him the best of the luck in the future.
But this got me thinking. In order for me to do the best job for you, I need to write code and work on hardware. That is just the reality. I have some great young talent writing code, but I'm still the resident expert. If I'm answering emails and doing all the administration tasks, I'm doing a disservice to you.
So, as they say, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. With that, I have coerced my son, Landry, into coming to work for ChrisLands full-time (below market I might add, yippeeeeee). He is going to do customer support as his number one priority, but as he has time, he is going to assist me with all the administrative tasks required. This will allow me to focus more on development and hardware.
He had a rough start back when the company transitioned back to me, but not to worry. He will be sitting right next to me all day, everyday (almost everyday). I will have him by the scruff of the neck and ensure he is learning and solving your problems as quickly as possible.
You may have noticed delays or even lack of responses during this transition. For this I am sorry. Unfortunately, Andrew is gone and Landry's last day at his old job is January 10th. So we have a few more days to go. I'll do my best to keep up with support and Landry will be helping me when he can until the 10th. However, once Landry is on board full-time, we will ensure he is totally up to speed and helping you as quickly as possible.
Funny, he is actually excited about working for his old man. He looks forward to the challenge of solving your problems and helping me with ChrisLands in general. He is already pestering me with questions. I hope he learns fast before I pull out all my hair!
Make It or Break It
As I already said, I'm working hard to get ChrisLands totally back on track. That includes stretching the budget as far as I can, upgrading hardware, adding stock data, and hiring staff. However, we do have some large obligations coming up this year. Honestly, I misjudged the tax liability. I know taxes right!!! Anyway, I'd hate to have to reduce staff hours or worse, go back to working alone to make these obligations. So along those lines we are taking three steps.
Other Than Stores
Very soon we are launching a service to host static, non-store websites. These sites will be ideal for businesses, individuals, or organizations that do not sell products. They are more service oriented. Our long experience hosting ecommerce websites, makes us ideally suited to host traditional websites as well.
Technically we are prepared to offer the service now but, of course, the website supporting this new service is not quite done. We are about 99% done but I'm not satisfied with it. So I'm waiting to officially announce this new service.
In order to facilitate this, we researched Content Management Systems (CMS) and have chosen a well developed and well resourced system. We chose to do this rather than write the CMS ourselves as I did not want to take my developers away from the work they are doing for store sites. The cool thing about this CMS is that you can login and right in your browser, on the page you are viewing, edit it. It is very slick.
More to follow (soon)....
We have been given a simple idea for a simple service that is easy to develop. It might be a fun little site or it might be a complete flop. Thats about all I want to mention now. Sorry. I don't know why I'm even adding it here. Most of you will not use it and some of you might even laugh about it. I guess I'm just reinforcing to you the effort we are making and our commitment to staying around awhile.
Monthly Fee Processing
As mentioned above, ChrisLands credit card processing fees are terrible. So we are changing credit card processors very soon. Within weeks actually. This will save us quite a bit per month. I was amazed when I realized the difference.
Some of you may remember the fiasco we went through back in May when we transitioned from the previous owner's processing to ChrisLands' processing. I remember it. But yes, we will have to do it again. Shortly, I will be asking you to update your monthly payment information, your credit card information, with ChrisLands again.
As you may know, for security, ChrisLands does not save credit card information locally. It is saved at our processors. Of course, they won't transfer that information to our new processsors without a very large fee and several month wait. Somehow that does not feel right. Anyway, I'm hoping that you will help me out by updating your payment information when I ask. This will save ChrisLands time and money. Do not do anything now!. I will let you know.
More to follow soon....
2014 - The Year to Make It or Break It!
As you can probably tell, due to cost, we won't be venturing out very far this year to get to every Book Fair possible. Hopefully, we will get to a few that are close but certainly not as many as we would like. We would like to get to more. But that opens up an opportunity for you!
Our Book Fair Offer
If you give us enough advanced notice of when you are going to a book fair, we will send you professional flyers, with a personalized promotion code just for you already printed on the flyer.
If you then use those flyers, we will credit your store $30.00 for each new store who signs up using your personalized promotion code. Any store over two, I will personally write and mail you a check for the additional credit.
For example, if ChrisLands gets five new stores using your personal promotion code, we will credit your store for $60.00 and I'll personally write and mail you a check for $90.00!
As always, I truly appreciate your help and support!
Please note: This offer is only available to current open stores who are up to date on their monthly service fees. The credit applied to your store's future fees can only be used towards your store's monthly service fees. They cannot be redeemed or traded for anything else.
Year in Review
I'm sorry, I don't think I can write much more so here is a very, very quick review of 2013.
It has been a very busy year!
Once again, a very long newsletter. I'm sorry. I actually leave this sentence from the previous newsletter as it is always the same!
We've had a very busy and, often times, great 2013! With all the effort we have put in this year, I believe we have the foundation established to turn the corner in 2014! Make It or Break It!
I'm really excited about 2014! Lots coming out very soon!
Happy New Year!
Jaymes H. Sorbel