Today we are going to wander a bit ahead to show you some of the stores I set up and talk about them. It is my hope that you will get some ideas when you read through this and possibly ask some questions at the end of this post in the comment section.
There is a lot to consider when planning for a store, as we have already gone through in earlier posts on e-commerce. Now you will see what a finished store looks like (more actually) where you will see all the things we’ve mentioned and more incorporated.
Let’s get started…
Over the past 4 months, I have stood up a number of stores, three of which are general stores and more that are niche stores. There is a strategy associated with each, and you need to be clear about what you are trying to go after when you decide which to focus on.
In my case, I decided, as usual, to go all in. I wanted to develop a multi-faceted approach to the online e-commerce business, as this would allow me to maximize the footprint I could create across the internet. General stores are great in that they have a wide variety of products and appeal to a larger audience.
Think something for everyone…
On the other hand, there is a LOT of competition in this segment, and it starts with Amazon, Etsy, eBay, etc. which are the biggest. There are other major chains like Wal-mart or Target too out there that tend to carry a wide variety of items.
The only way to successfully compete I thought is you have to do something more, or better, or unique. This has proven to be true, by the way, based on my experiences to now. The internet has leveled the playing field however and you CAN make money with such a store.
I have 3 such stores at the moment, and they all have over 1000 products in them with a wide variety of categories such as sunglasses, women’s items, men’s items, kid’s items, etc. Think of a typical brick and mortar store, that is what I was going after…
The three I have are:
(1) ReVa 5-Star Shop at REVA SHOP
(2) Prime Shopping Today at PRIME SHOPPING
(3) The Corner Store at CORNER STORE
These all are live websites (i.e. published and open for public viewing), have just been updated with the new EU GDPR requirements, and are selling. I estimate that for each about 400 hours of my and my VAs time was required to get them where they are.
These are a work in progress, and we are continuously working to improve. Product titles, SEO, videos added, new blog posts, and marketing campaigns are part of the daily regimen. It is a lot of work, do not let anyone kid you when they are trying to sell you some get rich quick scheme.
Here are some ‘above-the-fold’ shots of the stores in case you missed the links above:
ReVa 5-Star Shop:
Prime Shopping Today:
The Corner Store:
It is hard to see from these screenshots (better to click on the links and have a look for yourself), but essentially it shows that each of the stores has a separate and unique feel. That is exactly what I was going for when I designed them.
Each is going after a segment of the market, they have different content (blogs) posted on them, and depending on what the intent is, you will see quite different products being highlighted as well. I have supporting social accounts for them too.
Over time, I believe that between the three, I will be able to build a steady flow of traffic, and when one may fall in traffic or conversions, the other will fill in the gap and provide me a good average traffic and sales overall. That is what I want.
Many people build one store and leave it at that. I do understand because it is a lot of work to create and maintain an online store. You never get a store 100% where you want it, but as long as you are constantly working to improve it, you generally will be okay.
A problem many have is that they concentrate on one sub-niche that perhaps they have not researched to see if there is a large enough of an audience to make the work worthwhile. I am sure there are hundreds if not thousands of stores that see no traffic, no sales, and no profits.
Niche E-Commerce Stores
Speaking of niche stores, I have some of these published and selling as well. At build-out, I will have over 20 such stores, and right now 5 are live websites and 4 more are ready to go (last 10% of preparation work being done right now). They are selling products that are intended to be attractive to a particular set of customers.
Prior to deciding which niches to pursue, I did extensive research on what is popular, the sizes of potential audiences, the competition, the products available, the price points and potential profits available (over time), and many other factors.
The danger of having such a niche store is that the sales will come slower than you had hoped for or had planned on. If you are just starting, it can take awhile to gain an audience and get people to trust you and your site. Many will give up before they see success (as with affiliate marketing).
Right now I have stores in many niches and altogether, they are gaining momentum, albeit slowly. I expected this and again, this was part of the overall strategy and plan I created at the start of this endeavor. For me, this is a long-term project.
I really do not want to go into what exact niches are (who wants more competition hehe) but in general, I can say that the look and feel of each of the shops are unique and based on the niche. Everything from the domain, the layout of the store, the logo used, etc. all are intended to support the effect I am trying to project.
Set Up Of E-Commerce Stores
In the planning stages (see my earlier posts here on planning for an e-commerce store) I decided to go with a WooCommerce platform (WordPress theme with the WooCommerce plugins) due to the lower long-term cost. I also decided that I needed to try a couple of other options just to test and confirm.
Initial Platforms, Products, Business Setup, and Support
My partner and I set up a Shopify store, a WooCommerce store, and one other proprietary system. We decided to sell our own products and invested in inventory, warehouses, order fulfillment supplies, and other equipment in Germany and Thailand.
This initial outlay took a great deal of money that otherwise could have been used for marketing. The overhead and taxes, not to mention the German statutory requirements sucked up a lot of cash and time. Thailand was quite the opposite.
In both countries, we set up LLC business and did all the required payments to the government agencies to get a registered business started. We spent money on lawyers, on systems, on hardware, rent for warehouse space, and travel back and forth between Germany and Thailand.
We were going to sell our products online, so at the same time we were doing all this, we were setting up the websites too. My partner and I split the work up, and it was working well. Although the outlay was higher than other cheaper e-commerce stores out there, it was okay because we were building a brand.
I consider this to have been a learning curve in the online e-commerce adventure, so it was all good. I learned what NOT to do in some cases, also important. When my partner passed in January and the entire business ended up in limbo, I knew I had to do a revamp and restart.
My Actions After My Partner’s Death
This was an unfortunate thing of course. My partner discovered in late December that he had stage 4 cancer, and within a month he was dead. One thing we had not planned for was this. Add to that the fact that the family of my partner wanted to grab what we had built, and you can see where this was heading. I could.
At that point, I did some soul-searching and decided that although tragic, it also forced on me a chance to take the whole online marketing in a new direction. That was when I started again with the planning and research phase that I had done in tandem with my partner.
The NEW Plan for E-Commerce
I spent over one week racking my brains and doing mind maps and in general trying to determine what to do and how to do it. Once I had that together, I also added in WHEN to do it and WHERE to do it from. Lots of things to ponder, and little time to do it.
The basics I had…Experience putting our business together, the online training I had received from the Wealthy Affiliate site and elsewhere, my own online affiliate marketing efforts, and seeing how the money flowed out quickly when setting up a ‘bricks and mortar’ and online operation.
Also, I had previous business experience through running my own businesses in the past, some successful and some not. I knew that I needed to find a solution that would not require a lot of money, one that I could leverage the experiences, and one that could be started quickly.
My 30 Second Elevator Speech
As my plans came together, I also prepared an elevator speech. In case you have not heard of this before, let me explain why it is important and why you should do the same, in my opinion. Essentially, all the planning evolves into your strategy and then specific actions to achieve the goals you have set.
It is useful to be able to explain this to others, as you then can get feedback, you further cement in your mind the ‘why’ of what you are doing, and it provides clear and concise steps and to address that ‘why’ you have. Much like a verbal executive summary, it gives you a chance to present your business plans to others.
As opposed to an executive summary, however, the elevator speech is a summation of your direction that has to be explained in about 30 seconds to one minute. That is about the time it takes for an elevator ride, hence the name.
You pack a lot into that short presentation, and as you work on the words and ideas you want to mention, it can help you focus on the main points of what you are doing, why, when and how. It can also help YOU understand where you are going.
Like mind mapping, this is an exercise that costs nothing but the time and effort, and both will make your plunge into your business have a higher chance of success.
My New Direction and Why I Chose The Approach
Essentially, I knew that I did not have nor did I want to spend a lot of money to get everything re-created that my partner and I had done. Not to mention the work involved and the time required should I have chosen to get all that done as it was.
I was starting at zero essentially in many ways. The time, the products, the warehouses, the business registration, the logos, all were with the old company that was in the courts (still is). That is when I started exploring the drop shipping model in earnest (we were doing a small amount of drop shipping, but not to a large extent).
The closer I looked, the more I researched, the clearer it became that this was THE direction I needed to go forward with. The cash outlay is minimal (good), the market is huge (and growing), entry is quick (a store, products to promote, and establish a means to fulfill orders), and I already had the knowledge to do the setting up of stores.
One reason I decided to go with WooCommerce and AliDropShipping (I will talk more about this later) was I had already been working with WordPress and WooCommerce. It would go fast when I started building the shops. Other options are quicker (i.e. Shopify), but from what I could see, much more expensive over time.
Again, I took the long-term vision in consideration for this, and the solution I selected seems to have been the right one, We shall see. It is early on in this new direction (4 months now), but already I am making some good money (not anywhere where I want to be at the end state but it is a start).
I have heard and read about people who spend massive amounts of money on getting started and then more on paid ads and they have not made a dime or very little. I do feel sorry for these people, but this just supports my point that prior planning is of utmost importance.
Details, Details, Details…
The point of providing you readers this series of posts about MY journey with e-Commerce is to help you gain insight on what I have gone through plus give you an idea on what you will need to go through to have success with your own online e-commerce operation.
Obviously, there are many details that I have NOT included here or in the prior posts, as it is such a large topic. Keep coming back for more, as I start to drill down so you can see the exact process that I used to set up my stores. The platforms I chose may not be ones that you will choose, but the work is much the same…
In 4 months I have 8 e-commerce stores that are selling, and an additional 5 IM (internet marketing sites, this is one) that help me promote good tools, services, training, and products that work to other online marketers. The plan that I put together is working.
Next Steps For You With Your Own E-Commerce Business
This is already running a bit long today, so I will wrap it up by saying that anyone can do this business. The entry bar is incredibly low, as in it will cost you next to nothing to get started. But unless you plan and you follow that plan, your chances of success are diminished.
Follow the series that I am adding here, there will be a lot of tips, advice, telling of my own success or failures, and advice that will help you. You can also ask any questions you might have in the comment section below. I will get an answer.
It really is up to you. How badly do you want to give up that 9-5 job? How many hours are you willing to spend to build your own business? What skills do you have that will help you move faster, which do you need to gain more insight about? What is the end goal for your effort?
These and more are questions you need to ask yourself. Once you are honest with yourself and get at the real meat of the issue, which is: ‘Do you try e-commerce or not?’, you can then take the next steps. Mindset is paramount.
If you DO decide this is something you will make an honest effort at, and will spend the time to do it where you will make money, then you can go through the mind mapping process I mention in some of the earlier posts on this subject.
Once you have done that, you can dig into the platform you will use to see what exact steps and what general steps you need to take. Then you can come up with a timeline and fill in tasks to times. Start with that, evaluate regularly what is working and what not and make corrections.
Over time, if you apply yourself and do this regularly, and have the intestinal fortitude to stick with the plan even when things are not going as good as you would like, adjusting as indicated, of course, you will succeed. I have no doubt!
Please leave your thoughts and comments below. Together we can make it as online entrepreneurs using e-commerce as a vehicle to experience success. If I can do it, anyone can! Have a great day!
Dave : )