OK, it feels like a new beginning.
A couple of weeks ago I launched a new ecommerce business. The dust still hasn’t settled. Moreover, the pressure is still on as I am now working in a different business model to the one I was used to so far.
Quite often in moments like this we get to look back on our achievements so far, perhaps to reassure ourselves that we can make it this time as well. Or perhaps it’s to look back with pity at that younger self that didn’t know the things you know now.
I am going through a phase like that now.
I look at my last couple of years in Ecommerce, things I have done, my achievements and quite naturally, mistakes that prevented my business from growing faster.
Below are some of them.
When I launched The Happy Bike, I already had some previous business experience. I ran a company before and entered Ecommerce thinking that my past experiences and knowledge I gained will be sufficient.
What I, in my naivete perhaps, didn’t realize was that an Ecommerce business works by completely different rules than a serviced based agency I knew how to run and thus didn’t seek any external advice.
As a result I probably wasted quite a lot of time figuring out obvious things and slowed down my business’ speed of growth.
Not seeking advice was my mistake, however, taking advice from wrong people was another.
Not knowing who to ask for advice I turned to the so called “gurus” for advice. The internet is full of them and it is in fact quite easy to fall prey to them.
Needless to say, most of the products I purchased from them and advice they offered delivered little value and in some ways even distorted my perception of a typical ecommerce operation.
What I should have done instead was asking for more business advice and perhaps seeking some from estalished ecommerce owners, not necessarily through their blogs , rather through personal contact, meeting them at trade shows and so on.
I am businessman first and I think like one. I am interested in profit. And thus when I entered Ecommerce, my first point of focus was generating it. However, what I forgot was that my store doesn’t operate in the same way as my previous, B2B company did. There are slightly different rules for growing and managing Ecommerce and getting traffic first is the first one.
How this impacted my business’ development? Well, had I focused on growing my traffic first, and pour all my energy into it, I would probably saw a much greater and quicker return from it, simple.
Similarly, once I started working on my traffic, I focused on one, particular channel – Google, instead of diversifying it and building many channels. Naturally then, once Google started promoting bigger brands in their search results (I think it was around April this year), my traffic was immediately hit, leaving me with a huge decline in visitors to my store.
Ecommerce is all about technology, it’s a fact. Part and parcel of setting up an online retail business and then managing it is working with various web technologies that are supposed to make it all work for you. But, it is quite easy to get stuck with it, testing out different addons, plugins and who knows what else, instead of focusing on growing your store and delivering great customer experience.
TIP: Once your ecommerce platform is working, even if it’s only a basic one, leave it at that until your business grows.
Regardless of where you look for information, you will always come across on the idea of conversion optimization. Working with it is after all, one of the most important elements of running an online store. The problem is that it is so easy to do it wrong and the most common mistake is to test different solutions based on guess work, not scientific data.
You think that changing the Buy Now buttons color to green will make a difference? Sure, let’s test it.
As a result you can spend an awful amount of time testing solutions that would never bring any results anyway.
My best advice when it comes to conversion optimization and testing? Get a professional to help you with it. Or at least study it for a good deal of time to find out all ins and outs of it before you start coming up with your own ideas.
When I started my store, I thought that I need to take on every supplier in my niche and stock every product under the sun. That is however far from the truth. The only thing this has brought me was a headache of having to deal with, negotiate and manage too many suppliers and products.
I also spent a considerable amount of money on calls, setting up various shipping channels, optimizing my ecommerce platform to work with different setups of my suppliers and much more. Yet it made no difference to my customers.
Now I only distribute a selected number of suppliers and don’t stock all their products, only the ones I know will benefit my customers best.
We all hit a wall in our businesses. And surely, I have hit one too. At some point I got really tired of all the Google drama that was unfolding in front of my eyes and affecting my store and, needless to say, let my store get stale for a while. I stopped working on it for a while, even though it was still generating sales. I guess I was tired, however, that’s not an excuse. The only thing it brought me was the extra amount of work I had to do to start working on it again.
I come from B2B world, where business blogging and inbound marketing are some of the most powerful marketing techniques. They do work in ecommerce, however, by the nature a B2C setting is governed by slightly different rules. Yet at the start I thought the two would work the same and instead of pouring all my energy into writing killer product descriptions I started blogging. Needless to say, I wasted my time trying to grow readership to the blog while my product pages couldn’t rank and also weren’t converting becuase of lame content on them.
Lastly, something that is probably the hardest mistake to admit. I let a few of my customers down. There was a time at the start when I was so overwhelmed with the whole operation, trying to find my ways around in Ecommerce, grow sales and so on that I ended up noticing some obvious signs that some customers really needed my help. Instead of going the extra mile for them, I would cut the phone call short stating that I don’t know the answer to their question and so on. Luckily it happened only a handful of times and I quickly realized the effect and changed my ways.
What mistakes have you made while running your business? Can you share them with us?