Have I ever helped you ?

If I have ever helped you out with any form of osCommerce service;

  • Coding
  • Makeover service
  • Or if you bought a Template
  • Or if you bought an eBook

I’d really appreciate it if you would take a minute to post your thoughts about my service/products on the oscommerce forum, here.

Thanks all.

Shop To It and osCommerce

One of my North American clients required the ability to add their products to Shop To It.

What is Shop To It ?

Shop To It is pretty much a shopping comparison service used almost exclusively by Canadians. Vendors can upload their products, prices etc and buyers can hunt down the items they need, click through to the vendors site and make the purchase.

There is no addon made for Shop To It that works in a proper fashion, and so I emailed a canadian colleague to enquire as to whether he had already created something – no response.

I set out to create a new Shop To It feed creator from scratch. Within a half day I had the basics sketched taking hints from the Shop To It developers area – and another half day to clean up the code led to a system where I grab all the required data, insert it into a CSV file, which is uploaded into Shop To It.

The CSV file contains all sorts of product data, including name, price, stock, sale price, options and attributes, description, short description and more. It takes around 12 seconds to create a CSV file for 3000 products (remembering that most of these products have multiple attributes to deal with). Not bad.

Conclusion

So, now for less than a minutes work once per week or so, the Shop Owner can upload a feed into Shop To It, keeping on top of all his products without fuss. This stunning little script has already paid for itself, just by getting a couple of new clients spending money at his shop.

Sell into the Canadian market?

Do you sell into the Canadian market? Want to purchase the Shop To It feed module? Contact me.

Twitter Cards for osCommerce

Twitter Cards are a new(ish) service from Twitter. In a nutshell, they give far more info than the standard 140 characters, including image, product name and other information. This is going to be BIG for promoting your products on Twitter.

How does it work ?

You add extra code (* see below) to your product pages. When someone tweets a link to one of your products, instead of seeing the URL only, they actually auto-post a “card” detailing your product! Everyone who follows the tweeter gets to see the card…

In this way you can present your products on Twitter far more professinally.

Here is a typical “Card”

tw-card

I’m looking for a couple of Test Guinea Pigs

I’ve coded this up as a 2.3.x Header Tag Module, and am now looking for Testers. In order to be a Tester you need to know the following:

1. Your thumbnail product images must be at least 280px by 280px, or you must create a special Twitter image of 280 by 280 for each product in your shop.
2. Once installed and tested, you must apply for authorisation via Twitter. Which means you have to have a Twitter account. Authorisation takes weeks.

It’s a 2 minute install, but you will need to amend your images or make new images. Interested? Email me.

Better Together Admin from Scott

My friend Scott over at That Software Guy is the go-to guy for discounting modules, and he has put together an Admin package for his “Better Together” system.

Better Together offers the following discount possibilities:

  • Two for one on product X
  • Two for one across category X
  • Buy product X, get product Y at a discount
  • Buy an item from category X, get an item from category Y at a discount
  • Buy product X, get an item from category Y at a discount
  • Buy an item from category X, get product Y at a discount.
  • Any of these may be configured using Better Together Admin for osCommerce. Why not try it!

You can even try it out before you buy it at the author’s admin demo site. The demo site is a Zen Cart site, but the admin panel itself looks the same in osCommerce. Click here to go to the demo site, and login with credentials test/test. The click on the Tools menu and scroll down to Better Together Admin.

To purchase Better Together Admin for osCommerce, contact Scott directly at help@thatsoftwareguy.com along with your osCommerce URL and version number, to dicuss pricing etc. Better Together Admin works on osCommerce 2.2 and 2.3.

Offline shop, online shop + point of sale

I’ve been thinking lately about EPOS system for stocktaking for this scenario;

– offline retail shop in the high street
– online shop

The need is there to ensure that we don’t oversell in the online shop. To this end, what is needed is some type of EPOS (point of sale) system that simply allows to scan the barcode of the product which reduces the stock by 1 in the online shop.

There are LOADS of suppliers of EPOS systems, but getting to speak with someone technical is really difficult – it’s all about the BS salesmen, then once you’ve bought they allow you to get more technical. No thanks.

image_stock

So, I had the thought to make a “home made” EPOS system (solely for stocktaking), and here is my initial thoughts;

1. Have a notebook or similar computer hooked up in the shop (perhaps under the desk of the checkout).
This computer would be online all the time in shop hours, and have open a page.

2. Plug a USB hand held scanner into the computer
These are very cheap to buy, and should be able to work by inserting the barcode into a input box
Barcode scanners can be programmed to “enter” after the scan.

3. The page that is open would be the “reduce stock” page
This page is a simple form where the input box is populated by the barcode scanner, which also “enter”‘s to action the form

4. Logic then takes over and reduced the available quantity in the online shop by 1.
If the available quantity hits zero, the product is placed “out of stock”.

In thoery, what can go wrong? Would be pleased to hear any comments.

Also, it would be easily possible to add stock by making a “add stock” page. Same system as the reduce stock page pretty much but instead of reducing stock by 1, it increases stock by 1.

Of course this all depends on the product already being in the database, with the correct bar code number – which would have to be a manual task. I suggest using the products_model for this, or better, perhaps use a new input field entirely.

Introducing a dedicated osCommerce Email Support Service

After much deliberation and asking many questions of my clients and potential clients, it’s come as no surprise to me that there are a number of business owners who want a more dedicated service than the osCommerce forum can provide.

This is where my new Email Support Plan comes into it’s own.

  1. The Plan is a monthly subscription.
  2. The Plan allows you to email any questions about your osCommerce shop. I will answer them within 1 working day.
  3. This plan does not include any coding or installation of existing addons. If I recommend you need an addon, I will quote for making it, or for installing an already made add-on. You can then choose whether to go ahead or not.
  4. In effect, the Plan is simply to offer a priority “answer my question” service.

The idea is to offer this at very low cost, a “beer fee” each month. If you are interested in learning more, please email me on oscshops AT gmail DOT com.

Making the Search Function more useful

Some time back I attempted to make the osCommerce native search function a little more useful by coming up with code to allow the search result to offer alternatives if the product being searched for cannot be found.

My idea was in case of mis-spellings. I gave up as I could not get much of anything to work well, without some major coding. Fast forward about 3 years to now…and a forum post gave me an idea to try…

How it is now

Go to http://demo.oscommerce.com/advanced_search.php and search for the DVD movie called “Beloved”. But deliberarely mis-spell as so; belovd

What is the result?

With my changes, the result would be like this

As you can see, the “Beloved” DVD is returned in a “recommendations” box, even though the search was mis-spelled. This allows the user to easier find what they are looking for.

Another example is the mis-spelling “matrex” – is the person looking for “The Matrix” or “Matrox G200”? Try it at the osCommerce Demo Search Page – no result!

And now watch the video showing the “belovd” search and the “matrEx” search;

I’m still working on the codebase, so if anyone has any input let me know. Should this “fuzzy” search also give results when an exact match IS found? Eg, if a search is made for Matrix, should the Matrox products also show in the search results?

Updated Video, based on Isa’s idea for similar searching

The Buying Funnel

A bit of a conversation yesterday in the comments of my last post, which hopefully sparked something off in readers of the blog…

As shopowners, we surely exist to sell products. Nothing more and nothing less. If that is the case, then I pose a question to you all;

What are you doing to ensure that your customers buy a product from you?

Shop Owners who run osCommerce seem pre-occupied with the checkout system. Reducing it from 5 clicks to 1 click and so on, in order to save the customer 30 seconds pressing next a couple of times. I have not seen many shop owners concerned about the buying funnel.

The Buying Funnel

What is it? It’s the process of directing a potential buyer to the product they are looking for or alternatives to that product. It happens as soon as they reach your site and ends when they press the button to enter the checkout pages.

How can you direct a potential buyer to a product?

It can be as simple as a “featured product” on your homepage. This is a simple modification that most stores have.

What about if a buyer is actually looking at a product? Then what we have (in stock osCommerce) is “customers who bought this product, also bought…” which is useful to a degree, but can come up with “interesting” combinations. If some customer in the past has bought a mincemeat machine and a dog from you, you can assume that they are not going to mince the dog – but the “also purchased” module does not know this. It needs to be placed elsewhere, I’ll come up with an idea for this later on in this post.

On the product page

Let’s agree that if a potential buyer is looking at a product, then the likelihood is that they are thinking of buying the product or a close alternative. Therefore, link similar products – the “turbo” version or the “lite” version of the same product for example. On the product page, the idea is to link similar products.

Once they have found the product they want, they press “buy”. Next the buyer is directed to the shopping_cart page, or they stay on the product_info page (depends upon how you have it set up in your admin area). In either case, whichever redirected page, we now use the also_purchased module to show products that are complementary to the product just bought

The whole idea is to give the buyer alternative ideas, but not to confuse them with too many choices. Think about YOUR site and what you can do to create a buying funnel.

Project for Today 11 June 2012

Todays project is a “to do” list of small changes on a clients site. These range from simple 2 minute things such as changing some language defines to larger modifications like adding (my version of) SEO Meta Tags / Description.

In all, it’s about a days work and will be good to revisit a shop that has been successfully selling using 2.3.1 since it was ported over. There is nothing I like more than being given a list of changes to make on a store and being told to “make it happen” – given carte blanche to do those changes as I see fit (which is always the best way to have changes done) means the shop ends up with the absolute best code available and the shopowners end up very happy.

This shops owners have some excellent ideas about what they need and are somewhere near the forefront of cutting edge. It was for this shop that I created the Pinterest module for osCommerce, and this has worked stunningly well for them.

CSV Manifest Import to update Orders

Completed this past week a CSV (Comma Separated Values file) import facility which scans through a CSV line by line and updates the order_status_history to add the postage tracking number and sends an email to the buyer to let them know their order has been shipped. The CSV is produced by the dropshipper, so I had to;

1. add in an upload facility to grab the Manifest CSV (for this I used uploadify)
2. bespoke code to scan through each line of the CSV to see if the order ID has 3 letters attached to it (these 3 letters are the dropship code to say “shipped”).
3. if any line with those 3 letters are found, then grab the contents of another cell (tracking number) and insert into the order_history.
4. send email to the customer to let him know his package is on the way and his tracking number

The CSV could contain many shipped items and many not-yet-shipped orders. So all this had to be done on a multiple basis. This meant a foreach loop to update the DB and send the email.

My client now can update ALL the new shipped orders in one shot, rather than have to manually scan each Manifest, find the order, edit it, copy/paste the tracking number and so on. This takes the workload down from perhaps 30 to 60 minutes per day to just a few seconds!

Conclusion

All in all, a very interesting project, and one which will be of immense value to the site owner long term. By saving a minimum of 30 minutes per day, that’s 3 working weeks over the course of a year – 3 weeks in which the site owner can concentrate on other important things such as customer service, SEO, finding new products or whatever.