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Niche Site Project Part 5

Day 23

Our three packaging samples all arrived on the same day, with some good and not so good results. The main one we wanted (a faux leather case with chain) was fantastic, so we’re really happy about that. We’re not sure how to properly brand it yet, but it’s definitely good enough as-is to get started with.

The tin was also good, but we’re not sure it fits with our branding.

The faux leather display box was actually better than expected, and it’s now something that we want as a premium upgrade. The problem is that the actual sample we received was not good enough quality to use as a premium upgrade. Something to look into for the future.

Fortunately, we have enough to launch our brand….once of course we get our product photos and descriptions…

Day 24

Just randomly did a google search for our primary keyword “pocket watches”, and found our “Contact Us” page on page 9. Top 100 without any products – that’s a great sign!

Day 29

Photographer is still going. With only one day to go, it’s coming down to the wire as to whether or not we’re going to have a ready-to-sell site by tomorrow. All because the photographer was delayed, and then an employee forgot to shop them. I guess this highlights how using a team can sometimes be a double-edged sword. If we had just done it all ourselves, we easily could have completed the site in three weeks from start to finish – but while this would be a good idea for someone starting out, it’s also important to remember that our team is also growing and running many other stores at the same time. Something that would be very difficult for Tess and I to do without a team supporting us.

Day 30

The photographer uploaded the photos before he went to work today (he’s also a paramedic), but unfortunately he only uploaded low resolution versions that we can’t use. Our product description guy is busy writing titles and descriptions though, which is great, but we can’t get the image editors to work because they need the higher resolution photos. Oh the drama…

Day 31

So we now have the titles and descriptions of all pocket watches, and all of the edited photos. Except that they forgot to cut out the watches so that they are on a pure white background. Sigh.

After much “to-ing and fro-ing”, we’ve started our product manager adding the products to the site without the images, with the intention that they can add the images afterwards. Unfortunately the images weren’t finished in time for the product person to add them, so I had to do them myself to meet my deadline.

First Month Summary

It’s easy to look back and say that if it wasn’t for the product photography hiccups, we could have had the site up and running (at a marketable level – it will take years to perfect the site and product range etc.) in two weeks, but in our experience there are always hiccups. Truth be told, we had it very easy when it came to the product side of things (I don’t think that part could have gone smoother), which normally takes a lot longer.

One of our biggest advantages to getting something like this up and running so quickly is our experience, and our team. Interestingly though, it was also our team that caused the biggest delays. If we had just done the photography ourselves, we could have finished the site in 2-3 weeks. We also have many other things going on in our lives however, and not using a team would make having multiple sites impossible. I also have to take ultimate responsibility here as well. I really should have checked at the end of the day to confirm that the watches had been shipped off to the photographer. The positives of having a team definitely outweigh the negatives. But a team needs good leadership too.

It would be easy for anyone new to this game to dismiss this entire project based on our experience, team, and the perhaps our level of finances. My response to that would be this. No matter what niche you enter, someone is going be your competition, and you have no idea what level they will be at. If you aren’t willing to get to this level (and beyond), you probably shouldn’t start. I don’t mean to be harsh, it’s just a logical progression of thought. Business is the ultimate competitive sport, and while you have to start at the beginning, you should strive to one day be the best at what you do in your niche.

One of the other reasons we were able to get to this level in a month is because we gave ourselves a month. I know that seems strange, but if you give yourself a set time-frame in which to do something, then tell others, you’ll end up moving heaven and earth to make it happen. You should have seen the emails flying around in the last few days just so I could get those products up. Ultimately having to put some products up myself late on the final night of the month. After our dinner guests left. While battling the flu.

Now would anybody have really cared whether or not I had finished the site one day later? Probably not, but I certainly would have.

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Niche Site Project Part 4

Day 12

The pocket watches arrived! We did a quick inspection of a few watches and overall we’re very happy. Next step is to SKU them up (add model numbers eg. FAC-001, FAC-002 etc.), and get them off to the photographer. I called him up to let him know they’d be on their way early next week, and he said he’d be able to start them on….Friday. That’s a whole week away. For some reason I’m finding that very frustrating, as even once he has them, it might take him a while to take photos of over 100 pocket watches, and it’s hard to do much else until we have those photos. Editing, product descriptions, and finally getting them online all have to wait until those photos are taken. Aaaargh.

We’ve also struggled a bit with getting packaging. We have a few samples on their way for the actual watch cases/boxes, but they could take weeks to get here, and we still need to source a nice gift bag to put everything in. Aaaaargh.

While we have bag suppliers that we’re talking to, I’m thinking of going down the path of buying some small calico bags off ebay and also getting a stamp with our logo on it, just so we can get this project moving again. In fact, that’s just what I’ve done.

Day 15

Waiting.

Forgot about getting branded address labels, so organised that today.

Day 17

Watches have been SKU’ed and should be on their way to the Photographer. Also gave our product description writer a “heads up” to let them know that they can expect to start getting photos in a few days.

Day 18

Unbelievable. Received an email at 4pm from our staff member who was instructed to express ship the watches to the photographer yesterday, but still hasn’t shipped them. This means that they won’t get there until Monday. Everyone we lined up now has to not only be pushed back to next week but the week after! Furious? You bet. Such a small lapse in judgement has caused more than a week’s delay for our products to get up and going. This is part of the downside to outsourcing (although this was technically “insourcing”).

The temptation in these situation is to think that we should have just done it ourselves (and if you’re just starting out – you should), but this is not “big” thinking, and if we were still doing everything ourselves, our lives and businesses would be so much smaller.

What I should have done is checked in on Wednesday to make sure that they had been shipped.

It’s times like these you just need to sing “Let it go” from the movie Frozen, and move on.

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Niche Site Project Part 3

Day 8

Received an email from the supplier to say that the order was on its way, so hopefully it won’t take too long! Time to get the site a little more “ready”.

We really like to start with around six images on the home page to begin with, although this can vary by niche. Our experience has shown that people seem to gravitate towards clicking on nice imagery rather than using the menus, so it’s important to give them a pleasant experience on the homepage, as well as giving them some ideas, and helping them to filter out the products that they might not be interested in.

Because we don’t actually have any products to take photos of, I had a look at a few stock image sites to see if there were any images that might work. Doing this is difficult, as stock images don’t always contain the products you’re trying to sell, and even if they do, the images can all be in different styles, or difficult to add text to. If you can use them though, it’s an easy an relatively cheap way to get your site going. In our case, we did okay – not perfect – but good enough. Perfectionists need not apply!

Doing this also forces you to figure out what product categories you’re going to setup. Sometimes (if you’re lucky) your keyword research will help guide you. In our case though, while there are a bunch of scattered keywords (all under 100 searches), it really comes down to our primary keywords like “pocket watches” and “fob watches” which isn’t too helpful (as they are the same thing). We’ve got “Nurses Watches” as well that we’re going after, so this is an easy win for a category. While I don’t get too hopeful about any searches under 100 being that useful, without any other information, we’ve used some of the following keywords to round out our categories:

All Pocket Watches / Fob Watches
skeleton pocket watches / fob watches
black pocket watches / fob watches
half-hunter pocket watches / fob watches
full-hunter pocket watches / fob watches
nurses fob watches

These will be our initial homepage banner categories, although we’ve added a couple of others as well:

gold pocket watches / fob watches
silver pocket watches / fob watches

Day 9

Contacted the photographer to let him know that the watches will get to him probably early next week. Also gave him examples of what kind of photos (angles etc.) that we want so that he can start getting ideas of how to make it happen.

Day 10

The “Nurse Watch” discussion. As previously mentioned, while doing keyword research for pocket watches, we found the two search terms “nurses watch” and “nurses fob watch” (2900 and 720 searches per month respectively). Give the additional number of searches, and the similarity of the product, it seems crazy not to add this as a category to our site.

What we’ve found while searching for the actual product is that while there are a few classy designs that will fit well in our higher-end classic feel that we’re going for with fobandco.com.au, most of the nurses watches available seem to be cheaper silicon style watches, that would not fit at all into our branding.

They would however, make for a great site of their own. The searches are high enough to stand on their own as a niche, the competition suits our criteria, and while we couldn’t charge a particularly high amount for this style of watch, we do have the ability to sell more than silicon case at a time (the little watch piece snaps into the silicon cases), and brand it amazingly. Tess of course is now super excited about it, and it will be impossible to stop her from doing it anyway now that she can picture it – so I guess we’re starting another niche!

We’ll still be trying to rank fobandco for those same terms (the classy “nurse graduation present” nurse watches will still be best for this branding, but won’t work for the colourful, fun everyday nurse watch style site), but it should be a lot easier to rank the dedicated nurse watch site due to its much higher relevance, and ability to have way more designs. It will be an interesting experiment, as we’ve never tried to rank two sites for the same terms before (although we’ve often thought of it).

Packaging

We also need to think more about what will go with the packaging. We’re struggling to get any calico bag suppliers to get back to us, despite sending multiple emails, but we’re going to keep trying. It will take a while before our other pocket watch case samples all arrive too, so we’re playing the waiting game there as well. It’s starting to look like it will be the packaging that might stop us from getting this site up as quickly as we want to, as even when they finally arrive, there are no guarantees that any of them will be good enough for what we need. In many ways, packaging is even more important than the product when you are trying to get a higher price for your items.

We also like to include some extra inserts with every order. It doesn’t even matter what they are in a way, it’s more about the customer feeling like they have lots of “stuff” when they get the delivery. It has to be nice stuff though, and not too “salesy”. Things like care instructions, warranty cards, what to do if the item is not your liking etc.

For this niche, we’ll need to do the how to use instructions, as well as some kind of warranty card. We like to use business cards to do this, as they are small, can be done with class, and are easy to get printed fairly cheaply (we use vistaprint).

The suppliers we’ve been in contact with all seem to have the same instructions for the watches, so this will be a good place for us to start.

I’ve now whipped up two cards and ordered them. One is an instructions card about how to use the watches (based on the supplier’s information) and the other is a “thanks for purchase, please contact us with any problems” style card.

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Niche Site Project Part 2

Day 1

Domain Name:

The first item on the agenda was what we would name the business. While in the past we would have wanted to include the primary keyword (pocket watches) in the domain name, we lean more towards branding these days. For some reason, the name “Fob & Co” came into my head. This is almost certainly because I grew up in a town called Toowoomba, and they have the “Cobb & Co” museum, which is about the history of a successful stage coach company in Australia which operated from the 1850s to the 1920s. Given that “fob watches” is one of our primary keywords (just another name for a pocket watch), the era and the feeling it engendered seemed right for the brand.

I had a chat to Tess about it, and she liked it as well, and so I went and registered the domain name fobandco.com.au. I also looked at the searches in New Zealand, and while there weren’t that many (maybe 1000 if you included the top three keywords), it’s very easy in future to duplicate our site, and change the text to create another stream of income, given that NZ is so easy for us to ship to. While we won’t do this straight away, we registered fobandco.co.nz in preparation.

Logo:

Once we had the name and domain, it was off to fiverr.com to order a logo. I did a seach for “vintage logos” and went through the examples given by many of the providers before finding one that I thought would work. I ordered the gig, with a 2 day estimated time for delivery. I wanted to get it as quickly as possible, as we wouldn’t be able to order packaging, warranty cards, or do a lot of the web design until we had that logo.

Product:

It wouldn’t be much of an ecommerce store without product to sell, so it was straight to Aliexpress to see if we could find what we wanted. Based on our competition research, I really wanted to get started with at least 100 different pocket watch designs. Fortunately, unlike some other niches we’ve started, there seemed to be a couple of particularly strong options, with great feedback, and lots of designs. I started contacting some of them to get a current stock list of what they had. While we could have ordered straight from Aliexpress, we always ask a question first to see how long it takes them to reply, and how good their English language skills are, as this can affect how a long term relationship might play out.

One in particular got back very quickly, and was particularly helpful. We found that some of their designs had other brand names on the watch face, and we didn’t want any of those (as we want to build our own brand eventually). So we asked the supplier to send through a list of all of their higher quality, metal, mechanical pocket watches that didn’t have a brand name on them.

Research:

We also started researching the product itself. Was there a difference between pocket watches and fob watches? What was a half hunter pocket watch versus a full hunter pocket watch? Could many of the searches actually be nurses looking for a nurse fob watch? What was a mechanical watch versus a quartz pocket watch? It doesn’t actually take that long to learn about any given product, and become more knowledgable than most. If you want to dominate a particular niche, you need to know more about the product than your customers – this is what makes you an expert.

Day 2

Packaging:

Never having packaged a pocket watch before, it was time to figure out how we would do it. It is kind of an awkward shaped product, but presentation is everything if you want to get that higher profit margin. We first went to a jewellery packaging supplier in Australia to see if we could get something quickly, but they didn’t have anything that would cater for this product specifically. They did have a bracelet jewellery box though that might do the trick, so we got a sample on its way.

Next stop was Aliexpress to see if there was anything there. We found a metal tin, a leatherette box, and a very cool looking leather look pocket watch case from different suppliers, and we bought one of each to get them on their way too. I would have preferred to get them express shipped, but the express shipping cost was exorbitant, so these might take a while to arrive.

Hosting/SSL/Website:

Time to get the “bones” of the website up and running. We organised hosting as well as an SSL certifcate for the site, and installed WordPress from the cpanel. We also setup email addresses for the business (we use Google Apps for Domain, so it involves changing mx records in cpanel).

Once this was done, it was time to login to WordPress and start installing plugins. Here is a list of what we installed on this day:

Woocommerce;
ithemes security;
w3 total cache;
updraftplus backup;
Yoast SEO;
ninja popups;
Favicon Generator;
404 redirect to homepage;
Stripe;
Paypal;
Contact Form 7;
Insert HTML Snippet;
Kwayy HTML Sitemap;
Mailchimp for Woocommerce;
Woochimp;
QuickieBar;
Recover Abandoned Cart;
SEO Smart Links;
SSL Insecure Content Fixer;
Woocommerce Email Customizer;
Woocommerce Infinite Scroll and Ajax Pagination;
Woocommerce Paypal Express.

There will be a few more to come later, but these were enough to get started. We also started playing around a bit with colours for the site, but until we have logos, banners and products, it’s difficult to do much more to the site.

Content:

We tend not to waste too much time generating content that people won’t ever read, but given that there is a lot of history behind this product (and that history is an integral part of the branding), we also organised someone to research and write a 1000 word article on the history of pocket watches, including sections that involve all of our primary keywords like pocket watches, fob watches, and nurse watches, as well as some other interesting topics like the origin of hunter and half-hunter pocket watches. We gave the writer a deadline of the end of the week (which would be Day 5).

Email List:

To setup the Mailchimp plugins (we use two, woochimp to automatically subscribe during checkout, and a second to sync up our popup list with customer list) we first need to setup our lists in Mailchimp. At this point, we just setup the lists, so that we can use the Mailchimp API to connect the plugins to the correct email lists.

Website:

We also started setting up some basic elements like main product categories, contact us page, About Us page, main menu, home page with some text and a title with our primary keyword in H1 header tags. We also added a footer with some basic informational text.

SEO:

In addition to the H1 tags and text on the homepage, we also added a title to our homepage (Pocket Watches, Fob Watches, Nurse Watches by Fob & Co.). We also setup SEO Smart Links, so that any time our primary keywords are mentioned thoughout the site, they link back to the relevant categories on the site. The only exception being “Pocket Watches” and “Fob Watches” which both link back to the homepage (as these are what we want the homepage to rank for).

Day 3

Abandoned Cart Sequence:

After setting up the Recover Abandoned Cart plugin yesterday, I went to work on doing our standard three day abandoned cart sequence. If someone adds an item to their cart, then goes to checkout and enters their email address, but doesn’t complete the order, here’s what will happen:

24 hours later they will get an email saying that we miss them, and also asking if their were any technical problems with completing their order. They’ll also be given a link directly to their abandoned cart to complete it.

3 days after abandoning (if they didn’t complete the order from the previous email), they’ll receive an email that offers them a smaller discount to complete the order within 24 hours of receiving this email.

7 days after abandoning (if they didn’t complete the order from either of the previous emails) they’ll receive an email that offers them a final larger discount to complete the order.

These emails will also eventually include testimonials once we have them.

Logo:

The provider asked if they could have one more day to complete the logo which we agreed to reluctantly.

Products:

We finally came up with a list of the products that we wanted, including express shipping to Australia. It came to a total of 118 products. Normally we would organise a sample first, but in this case their feedback was so good (including feedback from Australians and New Zealanders – our target markets), that we started with a larger order. The other reason we were happy to do this is that they were happy for us to make the order through Aliexpress, which keeps the payment in escrow until we receive the order and are happy with it. We’ve never lost an Aliexpress dispute, so we consider it one of the safest ways to buy product from a new supplier. They also gave us around 30% off their Aliexpress prices without even asking, which was also great. With the product chosen and paid for, we had our initial range on its way. Fingers crossed it’s as good as it looks!

Analytics:

Setup Google Analytics for the site (using Enhanced Ecommerce Tracking).

Day 4

Logo:

The logo has arrived finally, and it’s… okay. It’s maybe a little “busier” than we’d hoped, so we simplified it a bit ourselves and are happy with it – for now. We showed the provider and ordered the revised logo as a vector image. The vector image (usually a .eps or a .ai file) is a type of image that you can increase the size of without losing any quality, and is usually required for printing the logo onto packaging and other printed materials. The provider delivered this almost immediately.

Photographer:

While the initial order isn’t due for another week (even with express shipping, there is still the product handling and inspection time), we gave our photographer a heads up that they were on the way, and started the conversation about what style of product shots we want. That way as soon as the products arrive, they can be sent to the photographer and be sorted as soon as possible.

Product Descriptions Writer:

We also reached out to a writer to see if they would be available/interested in writing the product titles/descriptions. We also mention that they would need to be done quite quickly to give them a sense of urgency.

Bags:

Armed with out new logo, we also sent an email off to get a quote for 100 calico bags with drawstring (with the new logo printed on it). We’re a big fan of using calico bags as they can still give a “vintage premium” feel, and don’t get crushed in the post like paper/cardboard bags do.

Popup Email Series:

The new logo also means that we can setup our popup email series. This is where when someone comes to the site for the first time, there’s a 15 second delay before a popup comes up that asks them if they’d like $20 off their first order. If they sign up, they immediately get a coupon code via email, then get a reminder email 24 hours later.

Customise Emails:

Woocommerce’s default emails look pretty average, so we use an email customiser plugin to make them look prettier, which we can now do with the new logo.

Marketing:

Now that we’re waiting for everything else, it’s time to start thinking about a marketing strategy. We don’t like to start PPC (like Google Adwords and Facebook Ads) until we’re relatively confident that we can convert the traffic well, otherwise you just burn through money. SEO on the other hand, we can get started as soon as product is on the site. We just need to start figuring out who will give us blog posts about pocket watches…. that might be a bit more tricky.

Day 6

Put the article up “Pocket Watches – A Brief History”

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Niche Site Project For 2017

Welcome to our niche ecommerce site project for 2017! Tess and I decided earlier this year that we’d start another ecommerce store and record day by day what steps we had taken. This will be to give you an idea of what we do to start a niche, as well as the order in which we do it.

While we already had a niche in mind, we made the decision to not start anything until the 1st of May. So no domain registration, no talking about it, no looking for product, or packaging, and no further research beyond what we had already done to determine what niche we would choose.

Speaking of this, choosing what niche to go into is still such a vital part of the process, that we need to talk about it before launching into the “blow by blow” events that began in May.

The niche we have chosen is “pocket watches”, and as we are in Australia, we are focusing purely on the Australian market initially. The search term pocket watch gets approximately 3600 searches per month in Australia, although a second primary keyword was identified, as “fob watch” (another name for a pocket watch) also gets 1900 searches. A third term “nurses watch” was also found, as it has 2900 searches, and refers to a style of pocket watch worn by nurses (“nurses fob watch” also has 720 searches).

From a profitability standpoint, other competitors in Google.com.au sell pocket watches in the $150-$1000 range, and we believe we can hit our preferred price range of $50-300 fairly easily, with a product cost of around $10-15. Until we see the quality of the products we would be getting however, this has still yet to be properly determined. It’s definitely a product that with the right branding and packaging can be given a high perceived value.

As far as the product itself, it does have a lot of moving parts, which is not ideal. On the plus side though, traditional pocket watches are fully mechanical, which means that they are hand wound, and have no electrical parts. Given we are going to brand ourselves as pocket watch “snobs”, we won’t be including any battery operated watches unless customers demand them for some reason (they may be required for the nurse watch category, but we’ll see).

We’ve also spoken to the supplier about adding gold plating to some watches (to create a premium range) and they have the ability to do this, but would require larger quantities, so we’ll wait a bit before going down this path. Gold plating is quite cost effective these days, and adds a huge amount of perceived value to any item.

As far as SEO competition is concerned, the primary two metrics we look at is the Domain Authority (DA) of our competitors and the relevance of their sites. Ebay ranks #1 and #2 for this term, which is a good sign in our opinion, as we outrank ebay in all of our other established niches. While it has a very high DA, ebay as a whole has very little relevance to pocket watches. Position #3 is a small store that just happens to be located only 45 minutes from where we live. It’s a clock shop, so has reasonably high relevance as a whole to the keyword, although they sell a wide variety of goods, not just pocket watches. It has a DA of 23, which is not particularly high, although it will take quite some time to beat. It definitely falls below 30 though, which makes it doable. Looking at the backlinks to the site, it’s pretty clear that they have done no actual dedicated SEO to achieve this position, so this also bodes well for us to reel them in over time, as we dedicate our resources to doing this.

Other competitors in the top ten include sites with DAs of 22 and 20, and even include non-Australian sites, which is also a very good sign.

The only real question for us at this stage is whether or not we should go after nurses watches as well. Clearly the product is very similar, and fits very well with our upmarket branding concept, and we’re always happy for more traffic, but the competition is very different, although still shows some good weakness (one site even has a DA of 17, and another has a DA of 15). It’s a tricky one though, but it’s also a question we can revisit down the track.

In the next post, we’ll get stuck into the blow by blow of what we did from Day #1.

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5 easy ecommerce email marketing campaigns you can create right now…

Do e-commerce email campaigns scare you? They scared me for so long. You get these perfect emails from top brands you love and always feel as though you can not create anything to match, so why bother? Because they work! If you are not creating and testing you could be losing sales and customers. Customers signed up because they want to hear from you, they want the deals you offer. Make the most of this. It’s much easier to sell to a warm/hot/interested lead than chase after cold ones.

Google how to use MailChimp or your preferred email software and get testing. Here are 5 email marketing campaigns you can create for your store right now…

1. A welcome campaign

Let your customers know you appreciate them signing up, give them a deal and send them back to your store. They just took the time to give you their email so they obviously like what you have to offer. Now it’s up to you to close the sale.

2. An abandoned cart campaign

Why did that customer leave that item in their cart? Offer free shipping to get them back to your store and checking out. Offer them a better deal. Offer them longer to use the deal you did give them. Remind them of your perks, like free shipping or Afterpay.

3. A sneak peek of something “coming soon”

Get your customers excited and aware of you again. Introduce them to new collections/designs. Ask them to stay tuned. Ask them to let you know which ones they are the most excited about by replying to this email. Tell them that if they hit reply and let you know what design excites them they most, you will offer them a discount off that exact piece. This will create interaction, loyalty and social media content for you plus give you insight on what your customers really want from you.

4. A receipt email campaign

Most customers read their receipt emails and their shipping emails, use this high open rate to offer them something else. It won’t work for every niche but if you have a product that customers are likely to keep coming back to, a loyalty discount or offer here could go a really long way.

5. A promotion campaign

Shout your promotions out. Ask your customers to spread the word. Create hype. Some common promotions could be:

End of season
New product line
Special event
End of year
End of Financial Year
Your business’ birthday
A collaboration
A featured product
A featured collection

So what are you waiting for? If you haven’t tested this, or don’t do it soon – you aren’t really trying.

By |General|0 Comments

One Comment

  1. Sam February 25, 2017 at 2:54 pm - Reply

    Hello Nathan and Tessa, I have just finished reading your book and have started the research faze of a product. The problem is I am struggling to understand how to read Long Tail Platinum, particularly the Page Rank.
    Aren’t all your competitors going to be on page rank 5 or above when you search for a keyword. How do you know where the competition rank?

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