This site is all about helping you to make money with your own online business. Today we are going to discuss yet one more way to do just that!
My partner Robert and I have opened a brand new eCommerce concept…It is called Memories In A Box…Over the past almost a year, we have worked hard to get it up and going…
To offer you yet another real life case study of opening your own online business (I also am standing up a membership site where I am reporting on the progress as it develops), I am adding this rolling blog…
Here you will be able to track the progress of our stores, business, and all of the problems and opportunities we experience, how we handle these and add your own thoughts and ideas.
WHAT IS MEMORIES IN A BOX
Memories In A Box is an online shopping concept that Robert and I designed based on statistics showing the continued increases in online shopping, the increasing numbers of people that travel the world, and our own travels and experiences.
You can visit the store to see for yourself about the website as I go through the points below, click HERE to see it now!
I say “we” always as you will notice here because this project was jointly developed by my partner and I. We have known each other for 25 years and understand the strengths and weaknesses we each have, or commonalities, and our mutual drive for success.
What our store contains are gifts, mementos, and souvenirs that are focused items for memories of a particular region or location. This focus could be a country, a city, or an event in some cases…It is a one-stop shop for a variety of products that are typically sold in the areas…
Many people are traveling the globe, and often they may visit several areas in one journey. There are space limitations (weight and size), busy schedules, and other events that result in people not getting those special gifts they may have wanted as they travel.
This is where Memories In A Box comes in. Through our store(s) you can select, buy, and have sent a box of such gifts either to your own home or to those you may have made memories with on your journey.
This is in essence what the whole business is about. It is in the details that make this case study interesting for you when it comes to making money online…
As I stated in the introduction this project is one we have been working on for the last 12 months…We had planned on going live with before the end of 2015, but as they say, the best-laid plans of mice and men sometimes change!
To make sure that we were going to provide the best shopping experience for our online customers, we had to make a number of decisions and changes in planning for and implementing these plans to get everything set up properly…
I am happy to say though that all the bugs are pretty much worked out as of now and we are live and selling! It has been an exciting and eye-opening journey to get to this point…
This blog will be updated regularly by me with incoming comments answered, ideas discussed, and problems and solutions discussed, etc.
The reason I am adding this post to this website in is twofold:
(1) First I think it will help people that are looking for ways to make money online, and…
(2) In particular, it will help those considering eCommerce as a means of doing so.
So below read the lessons to now (some) and feel free to discuss in the comment section below…
Briefly, rather than make a super long post about what we learned along the path to getting this out/launched, I will just make brief points on considerations that may help YOU when you launch an eCommerce store.
(1) Business Setup Format
There are many choices you have when setting up. It depends on where the store will be based and how you plan on registering and setting up accounts, warehousing, etc.
We are starting our store in two regions of the world at the moment. Asia and Europe will be the initial focuses, in particular, Germany and Thailand.
We selected these two regions because of our mutual connections to the areas. Robert is from Germany and I have been living there most of the time since a young lad of 18 years old…
Thailand makes sense because the overhead costs are much lower than Germany or many other areas of the world. Robert’s wife is also from Thailand, her family is very successful business owners, and it is a beautiful part of the world!
For business formation, we have organized ourselves in both countries, with LLC formation for both. This gives us the most latitude for business operations and was simple and fast to get in place in both countries.
(2) Drop-shipping or Your Own Products
One of the really BIG decisions you will have to make is how you want to participate in the online sales opportunity. The sea-change in how people buy products means that the playing field has been leveled for many, and the choices are many in how to benefit…
Our choice was to have our own unique stores, offering focused products based on a central theme: Travel and gifting…People are traveling more than ever, there is a huge market segment that is not being catered to . Now they are…
Other ways you can participate include adding ads to your website, using drop-shipping, making niche sites that focus on one category of products, etc.
(3) Warehouse Solutions
If you do decide to offer your own products, of course, you have to have a method to order, receive, store and distribute the products. This is a huge amount of considerations to plan for.
Certainly, the logistics involved with your own store products is not as voluminous as Amazon, eBay, Target, Walmart, etc. but even as a small business many of the same issues are there.
Robert and I both have experience in warehousing and the rest of the logistics process, so it was a natural conclusion that we would gravitate to this kind of sales when we considered how to go about selling in the eCommere world.
The profit margins are good (not as good as digital products, but much more than typical commissions ot profits you can get using drop-shipping or promotion sites) and it is rewarding when you can look online and see you very own business out there for the world!
This is something each of you will have to decide, and I recommend that you do a careful evaluation of your skill set, your interests, what you want to accomplish, and then go with the plan that will work best for your particular set of circumstances.
(4) Taxes, Shipping, and More
These are all issues that you will work through as you start building your store. Because some countries will expect you to collect and pay taxes from customers, you need to plan for solutions that will not infringe too much on the customer experience, yet cover you with the governments you are registered with.
In our case, our first registration was in Thailand, and they are a bit looser in the collection and payment process. The other location, Germany is an entirely different scenario. There it is better to do more serious crimes (in my mind) than to screw up paying taxes!
Our solution for both areas was to get some expert advice so we did not unknowingly break any laws or open ourselves to unnecessary lawsuits or similar…
This did require some investment of money on our part but was well worth the expense. Note that often you may be able to tap into a government sponsored consulting department in many countries where you can get some free advice (i.e. SBA in the USA, or IHK in Germany)…Tap into these as well…
(5) Domains, Web Themes, and Tools To Use
This is actually quite important, Once you decide what niche you will enter, you should try to get a related domain name that people will easily remember and relate to your products.
Memories In A Box is a catchy name and one that sticks in people’s mind. The domain is also one that is sought after. You can buy a lot of domains for next to nothing. Not this one…
Our investment in this sought after domain cost us $2500 USD! We felt it was SO important, however, that Robert and I decided to invest the money and secure the domain for our stores.
Note that we also had a significant additional expense as we also bought up similar domains for 95% of the market. This way we keep the competition out (at least for that domain)…
I looked at many options that are available in the market and started with one called shopkeeper, a free to start theme where you add in plugins etc, to develop your unique store look and feel.
At the end of the day, we chose to go with a tried and true alternative that offered more flexibility and had a number of features we wanted already built in.
Goodstore is the theme we selected. After quite a bit of a learning curve, we are finding it the right choice. The store looks great and works as we want it to for us as owners and for the clients that shop from our store.
I had to learn some new skills and as a matter of fact, I am still learning almost daily. If I did not have this theme, the learning curve would have been much longer.
There are a number of tools we have used and still use today. They include tracking tools for site visitors, actions while onsite, and our PPC marketing campaigns, Google Analytics and even for social posts we are tracking reaction and actions.
For graphics design, we have found we use 2-3 key tools such as Youzign, Powerpoint, Video Maker FX, Explaindio, similar,and some other free tools such as Gimp, Paint,net, and etc.
For social platforms, we are using tools that help us track the posts, allow us to pull in related videos and articles, post automatically per a schedule we set up, and of course surveys, contests and coupons…
(6) Payment and Shipping Solutions
We decided to go with ones that most people are familiar with and use daily for their online purchases,
This includes PayPal and credit card at the moment, but we will be adding Stripe shortly…
For customers within Germany and the EU we are setting up bank transfer capability for them – this means that the payment will be deducted directly from their bank accounts.
We are using one international service at the moment, DHL. We are looking at using some of the other services as well to offer some choices to customers.
When we add a second choice, we also provide a way for the customers to comparison shop for shipping. We are not trying to make money on the shipping portion of the sale.
(7) Social Angles
We decided to tap into the power of organic traffic offered through the various social media platforms concurrently with starting a running blog…
Here are some of the on-site social reach initiatives we are using…
On our main store, we have a running forum for people to ask questions, discuss related subjects to travel and specific areas, and pretty much anything related to the are of travel and gifts…
Shared Related Videos
For each store, we will add in related videos that are related to the country, city, or event that the store covers…Our first store has these included already and this will grow over time…
We have gone with Twitter, a Facebook Fan Page, Instagram, Pinterest, Youtube, and Google Plus at this point.
Over time we are adding content to each, sharing others interesting posts and content, and building the brand and recognition of our services through these mediums…
Also, we are looking at other public virtual “gathering places” such as Flipboard, StumblUpon, and Huffington Post as well to get the word out about us and our service and products…
Regularly, we will be adding to the Memories In A Box blog that will discuss up to date topics on our stores, on travel topics, and any other subject that is suggested by viewers and registered customers.
Posting of Images and Videos
We are also inviting our guests, subscribers, and customers to share their images, videos, and experiences through the site posting areas. Although there will not be a lot of rules, common decency standards will be upheld…
Over time, the intent is that our stores become a clearing house and a central point to share experiences, to help like-minded travelers through tips and tools, and finally to share the joy that traveling brings…
Selecting products to offer on the store involved research to see what was selling and the price points that the competition is at. Through a long process, we came up with a good selection of products and prices to offer something to every kind of shopper.
This is a continuous process we are finding. You find yourself automatically looking at what other bricks and mortar businesses are doing, asking for input and refining your own lists of products…
We also are considering pre-positioning some of our products if it makes sense. There is a time factor in that people today expect almost instant delivery. The Amazons of the world have made this a norm even though it comes at a great expense to the environment.
(9) Marketing Considerations
In addition to the organic traffic, which we will build over time, we also wanted to add in a paid traffic side to our marketing program. This is very important part of marketing a new online store because the market does not know who you are.
The two venues we will use are Bing and Facebook. Both are relatively inexpensive and you can scale up the campaigns as you determine what is working. You can start with as little as $5 a day with each, an attractive figure until you tweak your campaigns!
There are so many other considerations that fall into this category…
You really need to spend the time to plan exactly how and what you will build. Creating a successful online store is more than just throwing up a website and expecting people to flock to buy whatever it is you are selling…
There are the trials that you will go through as the store owner and there are the trials that you have when you design and fine tune all aspects of your store.
This is such an important part of the process, because what sounds good on paper may not work in real life and experience. When you test things, you will find lots of little things you had not considered that need to be fixed…
Get others that have eCommerce store experience to look at your creation as well. They can likely provide you some good tips on changes or considerations you have missed.
Also, have some friends that you trust to give you straight feedback go through your store and the buying, checkout, and shipping process so you can learn about their experience from a
Time and Money
Carefully consider what the expense will be for what you envision. The ball-park figures are relatively easy to calculate and then of course as you start drilling down you can get more solid figures.
Make sure that you have not bitten off more than you can chew, Better to start small and scale up as sales grow because you have fewer products that customers really want and are happy with (and the shopping experience is positive throughout) than to try to do too much from the start and fail…
OK, that is about it for this first inaugural post, we will add to the content using different text colors and dates so you can follow this as it grows…
NOTE: These are the main categories for the moment (10), but they will grow as this blog gets updated regularly. Some new ones will be added as part of the discussions, some based on our own experiences, and some based on requests.
A FORMULA FOR SUCCESSFUL LAUNCHES
This case study will help you design and implement your very own eCommerce store so you can tap into this ever-growing market. Remember that the market you are tapping into is global.
This means you must plan and execute for a global audience. You will need to consider translation capabilities, how best to ship the products you sell, and what to charge…
Our formula is working, and there are likely a million ways to get a successful store in place…This is just one. Keep that in mind and use this tool as a starting point!
This rolling blog is intended to report on a real life case of the development of an entirely new concept for eCommerce…
The background of how Memories In A Box came to be is explained, who is involved, what they did in their own experience to get the stores live and selling, and lessons learned are added.
It serves as a good point for those would be online marketing entrepreneurs to see what is involved and learn about some of the pitfalls when you enter this world…
The chance to participate in an ongoing forum to exchange ideas and experiences is a part of this blog post, and through this medium, we can all learn and grow!