Confessions of a shop owner:
Yes I can admit when I am wrong and make stupid mistakes and I have made plenty of them. I am writing this as a reference for anyone else that is considering diving into the wonderful world of eCommerce, feel free to learn from my mistakes and succeed.
Not Testing the REAL Market
Well I did, but how I went about it was all wrong. I simply took surveys on price and interest in each individual product. I received nothing but excellent feedback, yet only to sold two products in the first 4 months. Alaskan Salmon sounds good in theory but gaining the shoppers trust is a completely different step. If I were to start all over I would probably just put my products on eBay just to gauge the response to the product, this would allow me to plan for any unforeseen market issues and adjust my services accordingly.
Extremely High Overhead
And the sad thing is I started this business with nice, manageable low overhead in mind. There are many shopping cart systems (Like Zen Cart) out there that will do all of the dirty work for you. For some dumb reason I felt my site needed a custom system from scratch which ended up costing me around $12,000. Now I am implementing a more functional and user friendly system that is FREE! Yes open source and FREE! My cost has only been $800 to implement the open source cart and the additional of this blog on my site is a part of that as well. Needless to say I feel like a big, BIG idiot.
Another mistake I really overlooked, I found my first two web designers on car forums that I frequent. That would be the equivalent of looking for a home builder at a car dealership. Between these two snakes alone I lost $5,750 and ended up with nothing. A portfolio does not tell the full story, talk to the people that have hired the design company you are considering, and ask tons of questions.
Offline Marketing for an Online Business
There is a local publication here in Douglas County Georgia, where I live, that caters to the community. I read that offline marketing generally does not convert to online sales but I am the type that has to touch the iron several times to know its really hot. (I actually did that as a youngster) The publication hits 30,000 homes in the area and I just knew at least 10% of those would visit my site. I ended up with 10 visitors and no sales, just another one of those hard and expensive lessons.
Content is King!
For an eCommerce site content and page real estate is tough, other than product descriptions and store policies there is not a great deal to say. This is why a new business blog is so valuable, search engines love the rich, unique content and what better way to present it? It also allows better communication between the business and shopper. I finally understand this and that is why I have added this blog to my site.
I still struggle a bit with this one but I have learned that while we would like to have an easy, overnight success it does not usually happen that way. Some online stores take off immediately, others it may take years but I have learned that you work just as hard today as you did yesterday.
Discounting the Importance of Search Engine Optimization
I really thought this whole SEO thing was spammy BS. However, once I had failed miserably and was forced to really work hard and learn… My opinion have completely changed. I now realize that SEO, is really as much, if not more about the user as search engines. I also realize that SEO has nothing to do with spam or cheating… That is another kind of practice (black hat and positioning). So now I know that Google and my shoppers really want and need the same things. I spend 30 minutes 5 days a week surfing my site and trying to determine what is best for my shoppers… This keeps Google very happy! Viola!
1 Extra Tip
Be flexible and open for change, and I’m sure this holds true with any business out there. You can plan every aspect of your online business, but over time things will change and you really have to embrace that. I had no intentions on carrying Cheesecakes or Gift Baskets but saw an opportunity to give my customers better options have not regretted that decision since then. The Internet is really a changing tide, everyday.. every dollar… every shopper and of course every product. Since this is the nature of your profit stream… You MUST be willing to change and grow along side of the web to succeed.