Category Archives: house of rave

A Traffic Tour Through the Years

I though it’d be interesting to take a look at all the Google Analytics since I installed them on House of Rave somewhere around the beginning of 2006. I’ll only use Google Analytics because they are probably far more accurate than my server’s reports (which I believe counts viewing an image as a full unique visit which may distort the number of TRUE visitors to the site):

2006:
I had to put this report on a weekly view rather than daily so the rest of the years analytics even show. There was an “event” that caused hits to go from a few hundred per day to about 50,000 one day then 25,000 the next day. That was great, but it really screws up viewing the yearly analytics.

HoR has always been a very “sticky” website, and 5.41 pages per visitor is a pretty good stat I’d say.

2007:
Some funny activity in the beginning of the year was most likely attributed to this very blog. Whenever I talk about the business in a way that interests people, I can see little spikes in traffic. I don’t particularly care because those visitors from my blog rarely buy anything from HoR…so it doesn’t make me any money. In fact simply talking openly about this business has caused a slew of people to copy. Why on EARTH anyone would want to copy a business model I did back in high school is beyond me… If I could do it over again I would’ve preferably picked a much larger niche.

Judging from this chart, HoR was pretty stagnant or even declining during 2007.

2008:
I ended up doing all sorts of improvements to HoR in 2008 in my own sporadic way. I suppose it helped as traffic went up. Traffic may also have something to do with this blog. Once again, traffic doesn’t necessarily = income. Although I’m sure it doesn’t hurt.



2009 (Up till Sept. 1, 2009):
Here is a snapshot of 2009 thus far. These stats don’t account for 4 busy months of the year, so I’m not sure how trusting I am of them yet. Looking at the stats I notice the Avg. time on site is lower than it was 3 years ago. I suspect 3 years ago people had slower computers and less web savvy. Or maybe the site just sucks and people aren’t staying as long. Who knows.

Site traffic seems to be consistently growing a small bit. Based off my estimates (with information not presented here) it should overall grow to a new high.

From the information presented I need 102,689 more visits this year to equal the traffic of the heavily inflated 2006 sample. Based on the 2008 sample, a yearly avg. for monthly traffic would be 27,303 uniques per month. Multiply that by the extra 4 months in the year and that comes to 109,214 which would put 2009 as the highest traffic year. That 27K average is also probably a low average, since generally the 4th quarter is a higher traffic time for almost every business in the United States.

In addition HoR has an ancillary rave blog that gets 200+ visits per day…those are not included here.

Effects of recession:
I always get asked if this recession has had any effect. Well…yea.
Anytime you get people making less money, lots of money fear etc. etc. people will buy less…especially stuff in the party/retail sector. Also, with lots of big corporations in extreme money-saving mode, most of the really large orders I would get from them have disappeared along with those fat-ass budgets.

This business also sells stuff people don’t really need. We actually have managed to grow believe it or not, but not by the 4X factor we were hoping for late last year. What hurts the most is the indirect effect the recession has taken. HoR sells “hard to find light up stuff“…and “hard to find” roughly equates to “not manufactured that often.” It takes LOTS of money, time and resources to manufacture/store/ship/distribute a single product, and lots of the cool products we once used to carry have gone bye-bye (much to my chagrin). If anything, this has been the single most destructive part of the recession to the business.

Well, recession or not, cheers to a decent 2009! *clink*

I Hate Chargebacks

I read Adam’s post about a large chargeback a while ago and could completely relate to the pure helplessness felt when dealing with these.

A chargeback is when someone files a claim to get their money back from you. This is a great consumer protection device, but it can be abused.

It’s almost obscenely rare that the merchant will ever win one of these disputes. I’ve tried many times to no avail. I fully understand that this is simply a cost of doing business, but I’d still like to send a message:

As you know I own a business called House Of Rave and over the years we’ve had to deal with chargebacks. Since customer service is good and everyone gets handled properly, legitimate chargebacks are quite rare. However the occasional piece of fraud slips through the system, and it really sucks losing even $1.00 to these people.

I’m not in position to change how this entire system works, but I’d like to do something to help. Whenever I see a suspicious order, I’ll basically just Google the name, address, email etc. to see if I can find results. Based on this I can often make a judgement to send the order or not.

Inspired by Adam’s post, in the archives of the House of Rave Blog I’ve created the Chargeback and Fraud Warning Page:

We don’t get many chargebacks, but I listed two of them we’ve recieved in the last five months. I’ll list more if they come along.

This way if any other merchant Google’s some of this information, it will give them a hint that this person/address has done this before. They can make their own judgement call from there.

If you own a store or have the resources to make one of these pages, I’d suggest you do. I’m not sure if it’s worth it, but if this manages to stop even one jackass from ripping off someone else’s store, I’d be happy.

2009 Goals

Flashback to January 2007 I decided to try not having any yearly goals. Well that didn’t go well as planned (or…unplanned)?

I like how Earl Nightingale put it:

Think of a ship with the complete voyage mapped out and planned. The captain and crew know exactly where the ship is going and how long it will take – it has a definite goal. And 9,999 times out of 10,000, it will get there.

Now let’s take another ship – just like the first – only let’s not put a crew on it, or a captain at the helm. Let’s give it no aiming point, no goal, and no destination. We just start the engines and let it go. I think you’ll agree that if it gets out of the harbor at all, it will either sink or wind up on some deserted beach – a derelict. It can’t go anyplace because it has no destination and no guidance.

While 2007 was a good year, it was also a relatively stagnant year. At the end of 2007 I wasn’t much further along as I should or could have been with clear cut goals. It’s a pretty gross feeling.


Bad idea.

Somewhere in the February to April part of 2008 I once again started focusing and making very clear cut goals on yearly/monthly revenue and other things. It worked great. Making month to month comparisons was especially helpful because you can literally SEE yourself slipping or getting lazy in numbers:

Before I made my 2009 list of goals, I made sure to really think about each goal first. I used this criteria:

  • Is this goal something I REALLY want?
  • Am I willing to put in the time and effort to accomplish this, or is it just something I’d “like” to accomplish?
  • Will this actually benefit me?
  • Be specific.

Here are some of my top level biz goals for 2009:

  1. Have first $83,333 revenue month at House Of Rave ($1,000,000/year equiv) by 4th quarter 2009.
  2. Spend around one full month with the House Of Rave drop shipper to re-vamp and improve processes.
  3. Make and upload two HoR product picture/video reviews per week.
  4. Keep a more aggressive track on month to month income, taking a few minutes on the 1st, 10th, 15th and 25th of the month to make sure monthly goals are being met…and if not, ways to meet them by months end.
  5. Start preparing for holiday seasons & mini-seasons 3 months in advance. One month for product additions, two months for tweaking.
  6. Any changes made should be measured. Don’t simply make changes and see they improve things, actually measure what was improved. How did each specific change effect traffic, conversion rate, or revenue (and other metrics)?
  7. …tying in from #6: Keep a close watch on month-to-month trends and numbers. Print out charts and keep in a folder like I keep my daily to-do lists.
  8. Maintain and increase current year-to-year growth rate of House Of Rave: If I compare House Of Rave revenue from X-month 2007 to X-month 2008 there was a minimum of 177% increase and a maximum of 504% increase. I’ll post the numbers at some point. Profit was increased by 307% from 2007 to 2008.


SOME PERSONAL GOALS:

  1. Start buying proper furnishings.
    For some reason I hate owning a lot of big stuff, especially furniture. It has nothing to do with money, but everything to do with portability and freedom. Previously I’ve lived in furnished apartments which provide all the furniture (and it’s nice furniture too). When I started living in a house I absolutely detested the idea of having to BUY a bed. It took the combined force of my mom and my roommate (who owns the house) to make me buy a bed. My mom literally stuffed hundreds of dollars in cash into my palm saying I had to buy a real bed with it…and my roommate said he wouldn’t let me live there if I slept on anything but a proper bed.

    I can sleep on the floor with a thin sheet for all I care, so a bed seemed like a ridiculous notion to me (I know I know….I sound like a homeless person).

    Anyhow, a few months ago I think I officially became an adult when I…….bought new pillows. Under my own will power I went to Bed, Bath & Beyond and bought a king sized pillow and a body pillow. It was a big step. It was the first (non-forced) purchase I’ve ever made that benefited my own physical comfort. This is the first cautious step into slowly becoming somewhat of a grown up.

  2. Spend a few short minutes every morning for some thinking time.
    I used to take yoga classes and after an hour of intense positions you’d just lay there. Those few moments made all that work worth it. Like clockwork this sudden feeling of mental clarity would hit me. My mind would slow down to a halt and this euphoric sensation would take over. It’s hard to describe, but very cool.

    I would try to duplicate this some mornings without the hour of yoga preceeding it, and I found that simply sitting in a comfortable meditation-like position (but not comfortable enough to fall asleep), would yield a similar clarity, but without the brain-shutting-down part. This means I can think about my plans, goals and objectives for the day in a clear state. I also tend to get some great ideas during this time (although about 50% of my ideas still come to me whilst showering).

    Doing this morning exercise every day would feel great and be very beneficial.

So far these are the only goals I have that I know I can stick to. They can always be modified or added to during the year.

Anyhow, have a great 2009!

Improving HoR – Day 24

Today for improving HoR I added a new section and some products to populate the section. I added this Costume Accessories section:

If you look closely, the image on the far left of the banner is me in a picture I took from this post two years ago!

The products in this section don’t necessarily fit in with the “Light-Up” or “Rave” theme of the site, but it seems like they could sell well during the holiday times (especially Halloween).

We shall see.

Improving HoR – Day 23 – Updates

In an effort continually improve House Of Rave today my contribution was mainly adding several products, going through and selecting sub-products and I even added some pictures and video (which I made yesterday) to the Lightcubes and Rainbow Orb Ball.

One of the more significant things is I recently sent out the first real House Of Rave Newsletter which went over pretty well. Open rates were in the 20% range and click-through rates were on average 10-14% which is quite good. So far this initial email has been sent to about 2,000 people.

I wrote about attending a Vertical Response event and ended up going this past Thursday. It was more of a low-level introduction to email marketing, but I must admit Vertical Response did a bang up job of presenting their product. Some people were already existing customers, but I almost garauntee at least 90% of the people at the free event will soon start using their service. That event really helped associate a “face” with the company, and they even had the CEO and top engineers at the event so you could ask difficult questions about their service. I also got free breakfast, lunch and 500 email credits.

Posted 4th of July Thing:
HouseOfRave started getting into seasonal retailing to capitalize on the increased spending during those times. I added this seasonal Uncle Sam “thing” that looks like it’s peeking out of the website to attract attention to the 4th Of July section:

It looks a little cheesy, but it seems to do the job!

Updated Shipping Prices:
This was another big step. My supplier has some shipping formulas which my Shopsite shopping cart system doesn’t allow me to perform. I’ve been struggling trying to keep my shipping prices consistent with the supplier but so far to no avail. I finally took a good look at my shopping cart system and found a way to be within just cents of their shipping prices.

So far it’s working well. This is good news for me because I don’t have to absorb the cost of higher shipping anymore. Unfortunately this does raise customer shipping prices (which have gone up a lot with gas prices).

Improving HoR – Day 22

Today for improving House of Rave I went through adding some products and correcting some templates. However the more notable thing was I sent out the first proper email blast for HoR.

The newsletter basically looked like the original one I made:

I added a few things and removed a few things, but it was essentially pretty similar to what’s above.

I was originally going to send out the newsletter to the first 4,000 people on the email list, but I realized I could definitely improve the email blast, so I decided to slice the email list up and send out several different versions. Yesterday (Monday 5-19-2008) I sent out the first email blast to 500 people. Today (Tuesday) I sent it out to the next 500 people on the list. I plan to do these 500 person email blasts for the rest of this week.

The reasoning behind this is I can make small changes to each email blast to see what works and what doesn’t. So far I only have 24-hour old statistics of the email blast sent out on Monday:

*QUICK NOTE*
The 500 email addresses sent in this initial first-500 test were collected several years ago, so I suspect this will be the lowest performing group.

Anyhow, within 24 hours 20% of the recipients had opened the email, and 13% of the entire 500 actually clicked on links which direct them to HouseOfRave. This equates to roughly 65 extra visits to the site from potential customers.

Far as email campaigns go, I believe these click-through rates are on the high side, especially for several-year-old email addresses. As for how many sales this generates, that’s a difficult metric to measure.

One of the cool things about email campaigns is you can see which links were clicked to access your site. The links which got the highest number of clicks on the first campaign were images, in particular the animated images….especially this one:

So for the next week I’ll be doing more email blasts and improving upon each one. With decent results so far, the HouseOfRave Newsletter may become a regular monthly thing.

Improving HoR – Day 21

Today I added a Party Packs section to HouseOfRave along with several products to go under it. I used to have a Party Packs section a while back and it did very well, however after the switch to a new supplier HoR no longer carried most of those products and the section was removed.

Anyhow, in an effort to bring it back I’ve re-done the Party Packs section:

Currently it just has DJ lighting kits on it, but I eventually want to put customized kits on there. This means grouping together popular products and offering a discount for buying so much stuff. It seemed to prove pretty popular before.

Improving HoR – Day 20 – Server Stuff

I’m starting to get all this newsletter stuff in place, but realized I didn’t have any form on HouseOfRave that allows passer-by’ers to signup for the newsletter.

I’ve gone ahead and inserted a Vertical Response email form which automatically adds the contacts to my existing list:

Also I’ve upgraded to a new server this weekend. My old server had been continuously running for 4 1/2 years….about due time for a hard drive failure. It’s also outdated compared to newer servers, so my hosting company bumped me up to a new server gratis.

They simply imaged the current drive and put it in a new server, and 99% of everything on there worked just fine after the transfer. However HouseOfRave had some problems since the paths on the new server were different.

I tried fixing it myself this entire weekend but to no avail. I don’t have a yearly service contract with Shopsite, so I ended up paying $245 to get a technician to look at the problem. The problem was fixed within 10 minutes of my service request.

It really reminded me of a story I once heard:

A nuclear power facility was having trouble diagnosing why the reactors were getting dangerously hot. The engineers exhaustively examined every piece of equipment and couldn’t find any faults or possible causes for this. This was a very dangerous situation so they resorted to hiring a consultant who charged $10,000 per day.

The next day the consultant came to the plant, grabbed a cup of coffee and casually walked around for a few hours lightly inspecting the machines and looking at gauges. After about 3 hours, the consultant took a can of red spray paint and drew a big red circle around one of the machines. He then told the engineers, “Replace this machine and the reactor will return to normal,” and he proceeded to leave.

As he was leaving, the engineers couldn’t believe he was charging $10,000 for only 3 hours of work, and demanded he give them a detailed invoice. He took out a pad and pen, then wrote:

Red spray paint: $1.00
Knowing where to spray: $9,999.00

So anyways…HoR is back up and taking orders. The site itself didn’t go down, but none of the add-to-cart or checkout buttons parsed properly to the cgi scripts (a.k.a. you couldn’t buy anything this weekend).

On the plus side, the new server is much faster than the old one. I’m getting a roughly 4X faster response rate across the board:

Even simple things like logging into the FTP and server backend are much, much faster which is always appreciated.

Speaking of appreciated, Happy Mother’s Day!

Improving HoR – Day 19 – Newsletter

HouseOfRave has thousands of registered users on the mailing list and yet I’ve never sent out a newsletter or mass mailing with new products, news yadda yadda. It seems I’m missing out on a decently large opportunity here (well, I sent a ghetto one before which was a total disaster).

I’ll be using Vertical Response to send out this upcoming newsletter as I’ve had some experience with it before. Today I designed, wrote and formatted the pictures for the upcoming newsletter.

I’m actually waiting to send this email blast for a little while, because coming up on May 22, 2008 Vertical Response is having a free workshop @ the Driskill in Austin which will teach a bunch of tips, tricks and recommendations for email marketing. I’ll be going if anyone here in Austin wants to join me for the free food workshop.

Anyhow, currently this is what I’ve come up with for the Newsletter:

It looks a little plain, but hey, it’s only the first day I’ve worked on it. I also have a feeling the final product that goes out will look much different than this initial composite.

I’m sure the upcoming workshop will have a bunch of recommendations on what works and what doesn’t. I’ve heard little tips like giving away a 15% of coupon in the email is good, but it never works good as offering free shipping….little things like that can make or break a campaign (so I hear).

I’ll be sending this initial test email to 4,000 registered customers, and it’s crazy to think of that percentage wise.

  • If only 2% order something, that’s 80 extra orders.
  • If only 1% order something, that’s 40 extra orders.
  • If only .5% order something, that’s 20 extra orders.

I’m wondering if that’s just wishful thinking, or if this email marketing stuff really works that well. Anyone here had any success with it?

Improving HoR – Day 18 – Yahoo Shopping Feed

A few days ago I setup HouseOfRave to send an XML feed to Google, now to further expand HoR’s reach I’ve submitted a product feed of 350 HouseOfRave products to Yahoo.

I had to format the product list myself since my software doesn’t automatically do it, but Yahoo makes it simple, so anyone relatively familiar with Excel could figure it out.

For BodyMonkey.com I use Yahoo Stores, so all my products are automatically listed on the Yahoo Shopping network. That business is rarely updated yet still makes some orders solely from Yahoo Shopping Network listings.

What I like about the Yahoo Shopping Network is that when people click your product, they are usually ready to buy. However since HouseOfRave is not hosted on Yahoo Stores, I’m curious to see the actual buying habits.

Unlike Google’s Froogle, inclusion in the Yahoo Shopping network costs money. I added $50 to my pay-per-click account and am anxious to see the results in the coming month. If an investment of $50 brings in <$50 in profit I wouldn't have had before, then the campaign will be a success and I'll increase my Yahoo spending. If not, lesson learned.