I am working through what it takes to make it as an online seller. Succeeding as an entrepreneur selling crafts, clothing, gifts, or gear online takes more than an interesting product line.
Here is an outline of a high level process I am looking at to help store owners be singularly focused and purposeful when selling online. I hope to try out my ideas with a few store owners early in 2014.
Focus on One StoreYou may hear the term multi-channel, or selling in multiple venues, from time to time on many blogs, including Tonka Park. This is a great goal but I think many of us need to start and perhaps remain a single channel seller a bit longer. Especially when entrepreneurs are first starting out.
I suggest beginning your search with intention to put your focus into one marketplace or storefront. Etsy, Storenvy, Big Cartel and Shopify can all be good places to consider. Review multiple platforms then pick a single one to set up shop on. Don't get tied up in all the choices, but choose the one that most offers what you feel like your brand needs. It is easier to market & maintain inventory in a single storefront just starting out than trying to juggle two or more. It also reduces buyer confusion to be singularly focused on one platform, rather than spread across multiple sites with a variety of offerings on each, which typically translates into more traffic and hopefully, sales!
Once you have chosen the platform you feel best suits your needs, setup your shop! Add products, upload great images, proof read your titles and descriptions, add an 'about us' page, update FAQs and make sure everything looks good visually on each page within your shop. Put some purpose in to what products you list. Ask a friend or stranger for their feedback.
Bottom line: Once your products are listed for sale, make sure you are presenting them in their best light.
Once your online shop is set up and everything is proofed, it's time to hustle. Spread the word. Share your story. Use social networks, blogs and email. Try various methods of advertising. Your first goals should be to spread the word about your shop, learn about the market and hopefully get a few sales!
This is not a one day activity. This is days and weeks of work, sometimes months. Some get lucky and the timing is just right, but most of us work hard for months to grow a following, get our brand featured in a popular blog and to make that first sale.
All along the way, start capturing feedback. Start building an email list. Ask clients for reviews of your website and products. Share positive feedback online and learn from the negative.
If you've put in the time and hard work, the ideal outcome is a few sales. I am going to hope you make a few (hopefully, several!) during your first year. When you do make a sale, if you sell physical products you are going to be packing and shipping your items. Do this in a timely manner. Make sure you are building an easily repeatable, stream lined process. If necessary, make a checklist of how to pack your items and what to include with each order. During the fulfillment process consider doing something to delight your customers. Make a connection. Give the customer a reason to come back to your shop next time.
Make order fulfillment easily repeatable and automated where possible. If one day you do expand to a second or third marketplace or your order volume increases you don't want to sacrifice turnaround time.
And always remember to ask for user reviews & fan photos once customers receive their items! People like knowing others had a good experience with your shop. You can do this by tucking in a note with packaged orders, or sending out a reminder email a week or so after you ship out their order. (It doesn't hurt to add in a coupon code to help drive return buyers & reward people for leaving reviews!)
Keep growing and learning
Starting out on a single platform gives you more time and resources to invest into running your business. This is just the beginning of your amazing journey - Each step has so many layers to unfold. And if you are trying to do this by yourself, in your spare time it can be tiring and deflating. You need encouragement and support. You need someone to share the hardships and joys of small business ownership with! I am building a private community of sellers online so we can share experiences and support each other. Join me and your fellow sellers as put focus into our businesses in 2014. Find out more at my site!
If you have any questions about building a singularly focused brand, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter.