Category Archives: house of rave

Improving HoR – Day 17

I recently wrote about improving the shopping cart layout and flow for HouseOfRave, and it’s definitely much better than it used to be.

I added upon that and started making new checkout buttons that stay congruent with the main site. Previously all the buttons looked like this:

There was nothing really wrong with the buttons, but they didn’t fit the color scheme of the site very well. I went ahead and re-designed some of the buttons to appear like this:

The changed buttons were basically transposed from the “Add to cart” and “View Cart” buttons customers see on all the products.

Now I realize the “Continue Shopping” and “Checkout” button have not been changed. I actually DID change them, but reverted them back. I’m trying to make the buttons congruent with the site, but that was the problem, the new buttons blended in too well with the site. I think the checkout button should stand out a little more, and I’m still trying to find/make a good one. Even Noah commented on this saying checkout buttons should stand out.

I do like how it looks at the moment. The “Remove” “Empty Cart” and “Recalculate” buttons are routine user operations, and the associated buttons look completely different from the main site functions (Continue Shopping and Checkout”).

An extra backend function that was added to the site courtesy of the recent Shopsite upgrade is I can track user store searches. So whenever people search for something, I see the results in the backend. This feature was just implemented this feature very recently so there’s not much data yet, but it’s another metric I can use to improve the overall ease of use for House Of Rave.

Improving HoR – Day 16 – Disco Time

Today for improving HoR I added a bunch of cross-sell items to the products in the Disco Ball section of HouseOfRave.

Another improvement to the disco ball section today is the addition of a “how-to” page. Every once in a while I get calls or emails asking what is needed to create a full disco ball setup. I’m sure if a few people are emailing and asking about this, a lot more are wondering.

Come to think about it…it isn’t very intuitive. People who want a whole disco ball setup in their house, apartment, game room, business…whatever, need three things: A disco ball, a motor and a light. There are different types of disco balls, different motors for different sized disco balls and different types of lights. To cure this confusion I decided to make a simple graphic that explains this:

….that’s not quite enough to explain it, so when clicked, it brings visitors to the “How To Setup A Disco Ball” page which I made today. I’ll admit this isn’t the neatest tutorial around, but it can help clear up some confusion to the novice disco ball buyer.

How To Setup A Disco Ball

In the tutorial are several steps on how to setup a disco ball and it also shows HouseOfRave’s offerings. It isn’t overly complicated, but it gives people a better idea of what’s needed.

I wrote the tutorial, snapped some quick pictures, cropped them and posted them in a new page. Hopefully this little addition will help improve the quality of the Disco Ball section.

Upgrading HoR – Day 15 – Shopping Cart

On Noah’s recent trip to Austin I introduced him to a friend who’s a huge player in the viral marketing field. Now he runs a big media company yadda yadda, and showed us some of his tactics.

One of the things he’s absolutely fanatical about is optimizing his checkout forms. Whether for buying a product, filling out an email form….basically anything with a customer text entry box…he does massive amounts of multi-variate testing to see which layout, which font, which words, which images, which checkout flow, which spacing etc. results in the highest amount of successful transactions.

Now his market and sales are much different than mine on HouseOfRave, but something can be learned from this.

SO I decided to take a page from his book and for the first time EVER….optimize the checkout form on HoR.

I was actually quite horrified at how bad it was. The colors made me wanna throw up, there were no links to see the products you were buying, there were some confusing forms, some unnecessary fields and more simple fixes that had remained untouched for years.

Thanks to the recent upgrade of Shopsite I have the ability to change my forms a lot more. I realized that a lot of these names are strange to people and they have no idea what they’re getting when they press “Checkout.” Fortunately I can now add links and images on the shopping cart, which lets people know what they’re getting. Now when someone adds something to the shopping cart it looks something like this:

When people checkout they now see something like this:

There’s a lot of very minor changes in this new form such as the addition of writing “Optional” on the ‘Address 2’ field. Despite most people knowing this is where you’d enter an apartment number or office number, some people not familiar with online commerce scratch their heads wondering why they need to enter a 2nd address. Clearly writing “Optional” instead of simply denoting it with an *asterisks* should help.

I also want people to give suggestions in the comment box, so I wrote that. I want to change it soon to include something like “Why are you buying these products?” so I can more clearly understand what market I’m catering to (Hint: hardly anyone actually buys from the site for raves…it’s kind of counter-intuitive).

There were also little things like lining up the text entry boxes correctly so it looks neat.

If you can spot any confusing parts of the form or have suggestions, please let me know. I also plan on doing this sometime soon:
Allowing all the readers of this blog to place test orders on the site and send me feedback on what they thought was confusing or could be improved. I’ll try to get that test out sometime this month.

There’s still a lot of work to do, but simply paying some attention to the things I’ve overlooked for so long has already made a world of difference.

Upgrading HoR – Day 14

Today for updating HoR I added a few more products to the site to various sections, nothing particularly crazy but a necessary step in the improvement process.

I also took advantage of a feature in the recent upgrade of Shopsite: Google Sitemaps. The new software automatically populates a sitemap specially designed for Google and submits it via the Google Webmaster Tools.

On another note, a very small change that has been particularly helpful lately has been the percentages metric I added to my accounting sheet. Little did I realize how many of my products had a much older version of the shipping metric on them.

It becomes especially apparent on large orders where my percentage should be 30+ percent. Before I would get a large order, and after the numbers were entered, a nice profit sum would be spit out. This profit seems nice until you realize it should be nearly a third higher. What a big difference such a small metric can make!

Improving HoR – Day 13

I did the $325 upgrade for my shopping cart software, and I am proud to announce something:

It was the first installation of new server software in the history of mankind where nothing went wrong.

On another not I got the 4th of July section relatively done, populated and have put up a small denotation for it in the left navigation bar:

I’ve also got the Froogle feed setup…another thanks to Adam’s post about this. It went pretty smoothly thanks to an automatic Google Base submit feature in the newest version of Shopsite I just upgraded to.

Improving HoR – Day 12 – Percentages

When I get an order for HouseOfRave there are two numbers I plugin to get my profit count for the day: the amount of money brought in by the order and the cost I pay the supplier to send it.

It’s a very rudimentary calculation of IncomeCost. With this system some orders would have a high profit, some would be low. Sometimes an order would make me $25 another order of similar value would make me $5. This shouldn’t be the case.

When an order goes way below my margin rate, that means something is funky on my end. So to more obviously identify what is going on, I added a simple income/profit percentage rate calculation. Now with this simple percentage I can more easily pinpoint problematic orders and fix them immediately.

Check it out:

That first problem order was for $49.25, yet I only made $2.33 in profit….less than a 5% margin, yikes! However, orders of roughly similar value bring in at least $12 or more.

So now I can see something is wrong and fix it. With that particular order, the person ordered with 3-day shipping, and my formula for 3-day shipping on the products they ordered was wrong. Easily fixable.

That order isn’t the only problem, in fact almost every order has some small issue. Every order should have a margin percentage rate at or above roughly 30%.

So this set of shown orders brought in $1,168.02 and profited $274.38 for a profit margin rate of roughly 23%. If there were no problems with my shipping table and all prices matched the supplier, then this set of orders would have brought in about $350 instead.

One of the real culprits here is the shipping prices. My software can’t do the same type of calculations as my supplier, so they are always a little off. Hopefully the upgrade can help solve this issue soon.

One of Bob’s Rules really is true:
Anything that is measured and watched, improves.

Improving HoR – Day 11 – Cart Upgrade

Today for HoR I further populated the 4th of July Section which I want ready by month’s end, however the most important thing today is I bought a $325 upgrade for Shopsite, the server-side software I use for HouseOfRave.

A few of the goals I previously set out that will be now be possible with this upgrade are:

  • Upselling commonly bought items at checkout.
  • Integration with Google Analytics.
  • Automatic Google Base XML feed submission (thanks to Adam’s post for jump starting this idea).
  • Free shipping coupons.
  • Analyzation of in-store keyword searches.

There’s a couple more features the upgrade has, but the main ones I bought it for is the checkout screen upsell feature and auto Google Base XML submission.

In the coming days I install it, I’m sure there will be a little learning time for the new features, plus maybe a problem or two. Murphy’s Law ya know!

Improving HoR – Day 9 – Tattoo Experiment 2

A while back I did a business in a box inventory experiment. It’s been almost a year now, and even on a small scale I realize that I really don’t like maintaining an inventory, and especially don’t like physically sending out orders.

This is why HouseOfRave has always continued to be a dropship model.

Since I’ve done this little experiment in selling the tattoos I’ve had to re-order inventory twice, buy more packing supplies (aka envelopes and stamps) and this time I ordered a little more stuff, which was perhaps a mistake, but a learning experience nonetheless.

So to keep in conrguence with the “small, lightweight, can-be-sent-in-an-envelope” theme I also ordered some of these tattoo sleeves from the supplier:

(Yes, that is my arm with the tattoo sleeve)

I did a quick photo shoot of them and made them a new product on the website. Additionally, the supplier was out of the standard 8″ tattoos I ordered before, so they sent 5 1/2″ tattoos instead which I had to make a new product for. So now on the tattoo page you can see the two new products.

For the smaller tattoos I decided not to sort them into individual products as that gets tedious to maintain inventory, but to sell them as an “assortment” which means you get random styles. I still had to photograph some of the different styles using the same method I did for the first tattoo experiment:

You can see all the final images on the 5 1/2″ tattoo page.

Every time I get an order for a temporary tattoo I:

  • Get the “business in a box” from my room (aka the Aldo shoebox)
  • Address an envelope
  • Insert the tattoos (or sleeves)
  • Send the “package” when I check my mail.

Relatively simple yes, but it still involves work which is best suited for a properly prepared supplier with a warehouse. For example, if someone wants the tattoos with Express shipping, I have no way of doing this without a trip to the post office. Fortunately this doesn’t happen often, but nevertheless I might remove these products at some point if I have to ship them myself, despite their (minor) profitability.

Improving HoR – Day 8

Improving HoR today dealt mainly with making the Glowstick section more congruent.

I changed a lot of the prices (as they have been raised), properly calculated shipping prices and calibrated all the product layouts to the new top cart. I also added some new 10″ high intensity and 10 ” Ultra high intensity glowsticks to the section.

When I tell people about HouseOfRave they usually say, “Oh, so you sell a lot of glowsticks?” It’s an understandable misconception…but in reality I don’t make much money on glowsticks. However I do make money every once in a while on the big, bulk glow orders.

Another thing I started doing today was preparing for a HouseOfRave email blast. I’ll be sending this particular blast out sometime towards the end of the month using Vertical Response. It’ll be to 4,000 emails (a group of customers who haven’t ordered in at least 6 months from the mailing list). I could send it to more, but this seems like a nice test size to run some numbers.

This will be my second email blast ever for HouseOfRave, the first one was a total disaster:

  • It looked horrible
  • It had a long load times for the images
  • If the address wasn’t capable of HTML it just showed code
  • I simply sent it using Outlook
  • I put the addresses in the “To” field instead of “BCC” field, therefore IIFFFF the email was even opened correctly, it showed 5 long pages of email addresses before the content began.

Quite embarrassing! I also (understandably) got a lot of angry people emailing me back saying, “I can’t believe you openly shared my email…” I’ve got much more experience with email marketing since then, and will hopefully send out a successful, nicely designed, customer friendly email. I’m curious to see the order impact it will have (if any).

Improving HoR – Day 7 – Getting Seasonal

As a high school then college student running HouseOfRave I never understood anything about retail.

Later in life I learned that seasons can make or break retail outlets. It’s well known that many retailers often clear half their yearly sales from November to December alone.

Luckily I’m with a supplier who’s much wiser and long understood that, and plans retail holidays months in advance. About a month ago, for the first time ever on HouseOfRave, there was a seasonal based product section. That was the St. Patrick’s Day section:

It’s kind of annoying adding so many products just for a short holiday, especially since many of them don’t tie into the “Light Up Stuff” theme of HouseOfRave….but I’ve found some other long-term value benefits to these sections:

  • It makes the site look up to date.
  • Makes the site look “bigger”
  • Holiday supplies are often good upsellers.

I realized most people ordering the St. Patty’s day stuff ordered different items first, saw the St. Patrick’s Day section then said, “Oh, that would be nice to have this weekend” and added the product.


With that said, Spring is here, the weather is warmer (Austin weather is unbelievably beautiful right now) and people will be doing more outdoorsy stuff.

Products I carry that are congruent with this are the Bubble Section and Fans. Apparently these items do really well this season.

So for improving HoR today I added some fans to the Play Stuff section…although it doesn’t really fit there (just needed some place to stick em for the moment). I also added a couple of bubble products to the Bubble Section: