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Is your ecommerce business prepared for the busiest time of the year?

With Black Friday at the end of November and Christmas a month later, everything is lined up for your business to finish the calendar year on a high.

But, though the stars may be aligned, there’s still a lot of work to do if you want to see those sales figures reach their full potential. At the time of writing, we’re halfway through October and now is the perfect opportunity to get set for the busiest time of the year. Throughout Boxtopia’s history, we’ve worked with all kinds of ecommerce businesses, so we’ve picked up some tips and tricks on how to succeed in the winter season that we want to share with you.

Marketing campaigns

What’s the point of doing anything for the holiday season if no one knows about it? There are three key parts to setting up a strong marketing campaign that will raise awareness of your winter efforts:

1. Decide on the goal

What are you aiming to draw people into with your Black Friday and Christmas marketing efforts? Is it a blanket 10% off all products? Is it an offer on a particular range or category of products? Or are there individual items that you’re doing great deals on?

The offer at the end of the marketing funnel should deliver on the messages that people were initially drawn to. If you’re offering a site-wide discount, invite people to explore and find hidden bargains. If the discount is on specific products, shout about those and make sure they feature prominently on your homepage or other key landing pages. Getting to the goal of the campaign should be the sole focus of the larger strategy.

2. Promote your business with paid advertising

Seasonal marketing isn’t exclusively pay-to-play, but paid advertising will almost always help your cause. Now isn’t the time to go into setting up paid search or social accounts - although we will say that almost any company could benefit from doing so - but we can give some tips to bear in mind for your existing ads.

The most important thing is to make sure they’re up to date. If you have a campaign running for a product that’s going to be discounted, make sure you tell people! Wherever you can, update your ad titles, copy and extensions to shout about the offers that you’re running, though bear in mind that if competitors are also advertising and have higher discounts, you may lose out. This is why it’s important to set your offers with care.

Another top tip is to look out for the countdown timer ad extension. Adding a countdown gives sales a sense of immediacy and exclusivity that your competitors may not have, giving you that all-important edge.

3. Make the most of organic visibility

The slower, incremental gains of SEO (search engine optimisation) aren’t as well suited to seasonal promotion as paid campaigns, but there are ways to make your existing organic visibility do some of the heavy lifting prior to Black Friday.

Every site will have a handful of pages that perform very well organically. For smaller sites, that’s normally the home page and one or two category or service pages. The trick for Black Friday and Christmas is to make these pages gateways into your wider site. Consider implementing a banner, sidebar or popup for these pages that lets people see your deals and get to them with one click. The easier it is to navigate to different pages of your site, the more pages people will view. That’s true at all times of the year, but it’s particularly important when you have specific deals to draw attention to.

Stock levels

Even ecommerce stores with no physical shops sell material products (unless you’re offering downloads of some description). If this is the case, you need to make sure that your stock levels can cope with increased demand. Why? Having the right stock levels in advance of Black Friday or Christmas makes it easier to deliver on customer orders in a normal timeframe, which gives them a much better impression of your brand and makes them more likely to return. For the holiday season to be truly successful, you need to bring in new customers who will return in the future.

However, predicting the stock levels you’ll need is easier said than done. If you’ve run seasonal campaigns in the past, you may have some idea of how much you can expect your sales to increase. If you haven’t run anything like this before, your job will be somewhat harder. In the absence of a reference point, one solution is to stock a large number of the products that you expect to sell well and make your deals ‘while stocks last,’ increasing the exclusivity of the sale but saving you from struggling to cope with unanticipated demand.

Preparation for delivery

This time of year is one of the best opportunities you have to reach new customers. Being prepared to give them excellent service is essential, as is the impression your delivery methods and packaging will give. From the moment the order confirmation email hits their inbox, customers new and old will expect good delivery times and their products to arrive in excellent condition. This is true whether you run your own store, or operate primarily on another platform, like eBay or Etsy.

We believe that having the right packaging in place can make a big difference to customers' experience of your brand, which is why we encourage many of our own customers to use our box calculator to create exactly the right box and why we have a branded printing service to help you make your packaging more distinctive. The trick is to be memorable for all the right reasons, which is only possible if every aspect your service is thoughtful and high quality.

Depending on your delivery method of choice, it could be tricky to keep up with demand. If you use a courier service, informing them that you may be sending more packages than normal around this period may be helpful, though they’ll undoubtedly know this if they regularly deal with ecommerce businesses. If you think you’ll struggle to deliver within your normal time frame, then make that clear to customers on your website. The most important ground rule in the holiday season is to deliver on the expectations you establish early on. Under-promising and over-delivering are vastly preferable to disappointing new customers.

With Black Friday just 6 weeks away, set yourself up for success by starting your preparations now. It’s too good an opportunity to miss out on.

How is cardboard recycled?

We love cardboard at Boxtopia, and not just because we use it to make our boxes! Cardboard is one of the most widely recycled materials in the UK, with every local council able to collect and recycle from homes and many businesses.

With today marking the start of Recycle Week 2017 in the UK, we thought this would be a great opportunity to look at what is an incredibly important topic for the packaging industry.

Recycling cardboard is better for the environment in every way than making cardboard from new materials (‘virgin’ trees). Estimates vary on how much energy is saved by manufacturing cardboard from recycled materials, but the general consensus is somewhere between 25% and 50% saved. In addition, recycled cardboard means using between 70% and 100% less virgin material, and even up to 99% less water.

When manufactured in the UK, making cardboard from recycled material also saves on emissions from importing materials from overseas. The UK’s landmass is only about 12% forest and we can’t produce enough wood sustainably to manufacture the amount of paper and cardboard that we do. Recycling circumvents this problem, the materials already being in the country.

The cardboard recycling process

So what happens to the cardboard that you throw into the recycling bin once your bespoke Boxtopia box has done its job?

1. The cardboard is sorted and shredded

Cardboard needs some preparation before it can be recycled. The first step is sorting the different boards, with a distinction being made between boxboard (single-layer, like a cereal box) and corrugated (the kind we use for our single wall, double wall and die-cut boxes - two or more sheets sandwiching a creased layer).

Sorting is important because not all cardboard is created equally. Different types are made from different materials and processes, and those different types are only suitable to be recycled into certain products. Once it’s been sorted, the cardboard can be shredded into smaller pieces that work better in the later stages of the process.

2. It is mixed with water and pulped

The shredded material is poured into big tanks and mixed with water. This process, known as pulping, softens the cardboard and starts to make it into something that can be used as a material for new products.

3. The pulp is filtered

Waste cardboard is rarely 100% board. It nearly always gets mixed up with foreign materials like tape, staples and plastic packaging. A centrifugal systems are used to separate the various materials, based on weight. Magnets also help to remove metal items, however small.

Only after filtering is the pulp suitable to be stored for such a time as it is needed to make new cardboard in the future.

4. More water is added

When it’s required for manufacturing, the pulp is mixed with water again, pressed and stirred. This process helps get it to the right consistency for use further down the line. The length of this stage will depend on the kind of cardboard being manufactured and the materials being used. At this point, chemicals can be added to give the mix additional characteristics, like water-resistance.

5. The mixture is rolled and dried

At the start of this stage, the mixture can contain up to 90% water, so it has to be treated before it can turn into anything more useful. A range of techniques can help at this stage, including vacuum rollers, vibrating conveyor belts and steam heating.

Ultimately, pressing the sheet through rollers helps to turn the sheet into something starting to resemble paper. The rollers are also used to add additional layers to the cardboard, depending on how thick it needs to be.

6. Sheets are converted to new cardboard

The result of the process is huge reels of brown paper, weighing several tonnes. These can then be cut to size and layered to make thicker cardboard.

In the case of corrugated cardboard, the sheets for the central sections are taken through rolls with teeth rather than smooth surfaces, which gives them that crinkled, ridged shape, that will go on to provide additional strength to the kind of board that we use for our boxes.

The recycling processes can vary depending on the recycling plant and the paper factory, but the basic steps remain the same: sorting, shredding, pulping, filtering, drying, pressing and rolling.

We hope that gaining a little insight into how cardboard is recycled stops it being a mysterious, magical process and turns it into something that has a clear goal and benefit, both to the environment and to British industry. If your business doesn’t already recycle its cardboard, it’s never too late to start!

My Ebony Box making great use of die-cut boxes!

My Ebony Box use black die-cut boxes (FEFCO 0427) to send all kinds of products to their subscribers every month!

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"My Ebony Box is the UK's first lifestyle subscription box for women of colour, the box was set up to help women embrace and celebrate themselves. Each month we wanted to provide our customers with a high box containing beautiful monthly self-care gifts that they were able to cherish and enjoy," explains Jenaitre Farquharson, managing director at My Ebony Box.

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"When we launched we really struggled with finding a black mailer box we could be proud of to deliver to our customers until we discovered Boxtopia, their boxes are high quality, sleek and very strong. The quality of their boxes is incredible while still remaining very affordable in price. We are really pleased with Boxtopia and use them every month because not only are we happy with the quality but we are also extremely pleased with their fast turn around, friendly and professional customer service team."

If you're inspired by My Ebony Box and interested in our die-cut boxes, get in touch with us today to see what we can do for you!

Make more money on eBay with these 4 marketing tips

Our four eBay marketing tips are based on what former Harvard business school professor Theodore Levitt once said of marketing, that it views “the entire business process as consisting of a tightly integrated effort to discover, create, arouse and satisfy customer needs.” If you can put these tips into practice, it won't be long before you're making more money with the ecommerce giant.

Whether you sell products on eBay as part of a much larger ecommerce strategy, or just starting out as a hobby to make some extra cash, you can improve your chances of success by following these four marketing tips based on Levitt’s idea. 

1) Do your research

Whatever you’re selling, be it car parts, children’s toys, or anything in between, research what’s out there and what’s selling well. Thankfully, the level of specificity in eBay’s categories makes it easy to start. As you look for what’s already around in your niche, make a note of the kinds of titles and descriptions that you’re seeing.

Those two examples are typical of the results in the category ‘TaylorMade Cart Golf Club Bags’ - a very specific category, but important if that’s your industry. As you can see, the titles contain the brand name, the product name and the colour, while the descriptions go into a lot more detail on the various features.

To go back to Levitt, the research phase is about discovering existing needs. Another way of doing this is to go beyond the existing listings and look at the sold listings. Looking at the sold listings for TaylorMade bags, we can see that the vast majority of recent sales were second-hand bags from non-professional sellers that tend to be in the lower end of the price range that we saw in the current listings.

For sellers, sold listings crucially help you to learn more about what your audience wants to buy, so they can’t be ignored when you’re researching how to present your products on eBay.

2) Don't ignore advertising and promotion

In order to create needs, your audience needs to see products before they naturally arrive at your listings. This is how you reach a wider group of people than you might already. There are a number of ways to do this, and which one you choose depends on your available time and money.

If you’re selling as a hobby and you don’t want to put any extra resources into your activity, a good thing to do is simply to talk about your sold items on your social channels. Simply sharing on Facebook is an easy way to put your items in front of hundreds of people, and as they’re your friends they’ll likely pay more attention than they would to a regular ad. Keep it natural and unobtrusive (i.e. don’t post again every hour), and more people will naturally see what you’re selling.

If your eBay selling is an ecommerce business in itself (or part of one), it’s worth considering and trialling advertising. eBay’s product promotion works on a pay per sale basis, so it’s pretty low risk, and it increases the exposure of your products on the site. If you’re promoting a lot of products and increasing your sales as a result of the ads, the extra cost will be offset (if you’re not selling more, it’s not worth continuing). You can find eBay’s overview of their promotion service here.

3) Optimise your listings

If advertising is about creating needs in your audience, optimisation is about turning them into sales. By the time someone’s looking at your product listing they’re in a position where they’re willing to buy, and the quality of the listing is going to be a big factor in whether or not they part with their cash.

Your title, image, price, postage options and description all come into play when customers are making up their mind whether or not to buy. This is why it is so important to do your research and position yourself competitively in the first place.

Your descriptions are the easiest things to play around with. They should give the customer all the information about the product in a way that is interesting and compelling. Remember that you’re not only selling the product, but yourself as a seller. On eBay multiple sellers are competing to sell the same things, so let your viewers know why they should pick you. Are you offering fast or cheap postage? Do you have great reviews? Are there other deals they could get? These are all variables that you can leverage to convince viewers to buy your products right now.

4) Pay attention to existing customers

Returning customers are important sources of income that are often ignored. Sure, it’s important to attract new customers, but if existing customers have a good experience with your brand they’ll want to come back again. That’s why satisfying needs, Levitt’s final point, is so important.

At a basic level, it’s an absolute necessity that customers get what they’re expecting. Your product should be exactly as advertised in the listing. Beyond that, what can you do to make the customer feel valued, or to make your business feel different?

Something as simple as a handwritten thank you note is a nice touch, and who doesn’t love a freebie? You can often add something extra to a package without increasing the postage cost.

The packaging itself is also a crucial part of this side of marketing. Make sure your packaging reflects the quality of your brand - it should be the right size and strength to protect the product adequately, and it’s fun for customers to receive a package that looks nice.

If you give customers any reason to come back to your products, they will. That’s why satisfying the needs that you discovered back at the start of the marketing process is an essential part of increasing your long term success on eBay.

Where To Buy Cardboard Boxes?

 

It doesn't matter what you're shipping, we understand that finding the right shape, size, and type of box is just as important as the custom design. If you're at a loss as to which box you should use, don't panic. Here at Boxtopia we offer many options. If you don't see it, we can almost certainly create it.

 

The first step is working out whether you need a single walled box or a double walled box. We sell all of our main styles (see below) in both board thicknesses, but why would you choose one over the other? Simply put, single walled boxes are cheaper and lighter, making them useful for smaller products, whereas double walled board is better suited to heavy products or irregularly shaped items that might punch through thinner cardboard. With that in mind, what are the different styles of box?

The 0201
These boxes come to mind when you think of a traditional shipping box. With the right packaging materials, they can be used to ship almost anything. They require tape to seal along the middle at the top and bottom. 0201s are the boxes of choice for a variety of different jobs.

 

The 0203
Also a great choice, each flap folds completely over the other. This is ideal for those extra heavy items, as these boxes won't bend as easily. 

The 0411 5 panel wrap

 Another popular choice, 0411boxes are great for shipping items such as pictures and books, shelving and other long/shallow items.

 
Next Step: Take Your Packaging To The Next Level
We can offer our value in-house branding, making your boxes stand out from the crowd. The best part is that we have no minimum order quantity!! There are a few pointers to remember when choosing this type of print, but we think its great value for money.

 

In-House Printing

 

  • Buy printed boxes in any of our 0201, 0203 or 0411 styles.
  • Our black only, in-house printing for two sides of the box (with the same size dimensions) is additional 10p per box or for four sides: 20p per box.
  • Maximum print area is 210mm x 70mm, allowing for 65mm before the first print
  • Print set charge is an additional one-off payment of £35
  • £35 is chargeable for each additional re-sizing of the logo.
  • £10 is chargeable for each additional box size where the logo remains the same size.
  • Artwork is to be provided by the customer.

 

Still confused about standard custom shipping boxes? Don’t see what you need? Want more information? Try our bespoke box calculator to get a quote for your unique boxes, or give us a call or drop us an email, and we’ll find the shipping box solution that works for you.

 

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