Home – New Forums Selling online What I’ve learned in my first 6 months

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  • #989324
    Greenlife
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    Well I don’t know if this will be useful to everyone but here are the main things I’ve learned from the first 6 months of my online store.
    I run a solar energy business in Adelaide and for ages I’ve been keen to start an ecommerce store on the side as a hobby/extra income project, and 6 months in, things are heading in the right direction, but the learning curve has been immense, and the hours have been long.
    Here’s a few of my thoughts or things that have worked well.

    1) The postage/delivery side of things was the part that confused me the most, until I started doing it – and now it’s probably the easiest part.
    (I have found signet.net.au to be great by the way)

    2) Make the checkout process as quick and as painless as possible.
    I am using Paypal which also has Paypal Express (for credit cards) which has worked very well..

    3) Do something to personalise every order. I usually put a hand written note or throw in an extra little gift, or send a follow up email to see what they thought of the product. People really appreciate a follow up from a real person/owner.

    4) If you don’t love your products, don’t sell them.

    5) Know exactly who your products are aimed at. To begin with this way my biggest problem, but I have been able to get a lot more focused.

    6) Stalls at markets are a great (and cheap) way to gauge people’s reactions to your products first hand, and ask people a lot of questions about your product range. The feedback, good and bad, can be quite surprising.

    7) Keep your SEO/adwords people local and accountable.
    Virtually every SEO person you speak to promises big results, but not too many deliver big results. Educate yourself about SEO as much as you can, so that you understand exactly what they’re talking about (even if you can’t do it yourself) The best SEO people will be blunt and won’t just say what you’re hoping to hear.

    8) Google adwords will quickly make you realise why Google are so rich.

    9) Higher prices with free shipping is much better than cheaper prices with extra shipping costs.

    10) Keep your website minimal, straightforward and keep image sizes as small as possible (as in data size, not physical size).
    I always write out everything that I want to say, and then keep cutting it back and back until I’ve said the same thing with the least amount of words.

    11) If you own and run your own site, put your picture on the site somewhere, and personalise it as much as you can.

    12) Don’t write boring generic information on your site, keep it interesting, make it funny if you can, but just make it worth reading.

    Keen to hear what other people in the same boat are thinking as well.

    #1171595
    MissSassy
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    Great list, this is going to resonate with many people and also help many people who are starting out to feel like they are not alone.

    Congrats too on 6months but I am sure you now know that a hobby or side project is not going to work without massive effort, and that’s more than a hobby in time spent.

    #1171596
    JeremyAldred6408
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    You have learnt some pretty important stuff! I must agree that the most important thing in online business is to love what you do or sell. It’s also very important to keep your business inside its niche, so you can be easily found by potential clients. Running an online business is a very exciting activity, which can seriously change the way you look at things. It definitely did it for me.

    #1171597
    John Romaine
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    Greenlife, post: 199187 wrote:
    The best SEO people will be blunt and won’t just say what you’re hoping to hear.

    This, exactly.

    #1171598
    arrowwise
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    Some great tips. For lower weight items, a fixed price with free shipping and no surprises at checkout can be a clear winner.

    #1171599
    jedazzy
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    Wow, thanks for this list, Greenlife! Definitely the free shipping on high ticket items makes the difference. More power to you!

    #1171600
    Hatching_It
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    BEST. LIST. EVER.

    Thanks for the Signet link, I’m checking them out right now. Up until now we’ve been using the cheapest box of garbage bags and the packaging shrink wrap from bunnings to package everything but we’re looking for something a little more professional now.

    If you’re getting up to 1000 parcels/year (that’s only 2-3 orders/day including weekends) then talk to Aus Post about moving to eParcel. The interstate delivery on >500gram parcels is a huge saving!

    Getting images small. If you’re not losslessly compressing your images then make sure you’re also doing this. You can reduce your file size by over 50% by doing this and it’s lossless, so no reduction in quality. Check out http://www.olegkikin.com/png_optimizers/ for a comparison. The tools aren’t pretty, but they work!

    Higher prices, free shipping. YEAP! Spot on!

    Don’t completely agree with the Adwords comment. However it will suck your money with unconverted clicks if you’re not using your key term blacklist etc.

    Anyway, I’m off to check out Signet!

    Maclean

    #1171601
    DiU
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    Great post – thanks for the tips :)

    #1171602
    venks
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    Greenlife, post: 199187 wrote:
    2) Make the checkout process as quick and as painless as possible.
    I am using Paypal which also has Paypal Express (for credit cards) which has worked very well…

    Having a quick and painless checkout process is definitely essential.

    The one change I made recently to our event ticketing checkout process that improved our conversion rate considerably was adding Stripe Payment Gateway besides our PayPal option. In the case of PayPal, when the buyer does not have a paypal account, the form he/she needs to fill out at PayPal for paying by credit card is quite long and discouraging. Stripe, in contrast, asks for just the credit card details.

    They have been in the US and other countries for a while now and have entered Australia not too long ago.There is a feature called Stripe.js which displays the credit card form on your site but is securely served over SSL from their servers. Integration takes minutes and they do their verification for live accounts later and let you accept money first.

    For the record, I have no affiliations with them and am just a happy customer. :)

    Cheers,
    Venks

    #1171603
    Greenlife
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    Hatching_It, post: 199496 wrote:
    BEST. LIST. EVER.

    Don’t completely agree with the Adwords comment. However it will suck your money with unconverted clicks if you’re not using your key term blacklist etc.

    Maclean

    I wasn’t trying to say Adwords isn’t good, because once you can get your head around it, it’s invaluable.
    That being said, it boggles the mind to think how much money google are raking in per second :)

    #1171604
    Greenlife
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    jedazzy, post: 199408 wrote:
    Wow, thanks for this list, Greenlife! Definitely the free shipping on high ticket items makes the difference. More power to you!

    In my original product range I had a fair few cheaper items that were also big and/or heavy and it became apparent very quickly that shipping costs were a joke and there was no money to be made that way, especially starting out where volume is small.
    Being in Adelaide as well makes it even harder as every major city is a long way away!

    Most of the items I sell now are higher cost products and under 500g which perfectly suits free shipping – I can’t ever imagine charging for shipping again.
    If you sell any fashion or clothing then it fits perfectly with this model.

    Besides, it’s generally the same amount of work to process and ship a $5 or a $50 item, so I decided to get rid of all the small cheap stuff that wasn’t resulting in any benefit.

    #1171605
    Botanikka
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    I was keen to try the higher price free shipping option but I wasn’t sure how to work it with regard to returns? Do you have a term that states that the shipping cost is not refundable or do you just wear it and return the entire amount? Normally I couldn’t even think of this sort of thing but I had a situation earlier in the year where a customer expected me to return the shipping cost AND pay them for the shipping to send it back to get their refund. So it’s made me wary of the what if’s.

    #1171606
    Greenlife
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    Botanikka, post: 200229 wrote:
    I was keen to try the higher price free shipping option but I wasn’t sure how to work it with regard to returns? Do you have a term that states that the shipping cost is not refundable or do you just wear it and return the entire amount? Normally I couldn’t even think of this sort of thing but I had a situation earlier in the year where a customer expected me to return the shipping cost AND pay them for the shipping to send it back to get their refund. So it’s made me wary of the what if’s.

    For my watches and sunglasses, I offer a 14 day replacement or refund, if people try the item on and just don’t like the look/fit. This doesn’t include the return postage (about $7.20) but does include me posting it back to them again. To date, I have not had anyone wanting to return an item.
    I could be wrong, but my own view is that if you buy something from an online store, you have to accept that you may have to post it back to them. If I buy an item from a brick and mortar shop and it needs to be returned, I don’t expect them to send a courier to my house to pick it up :)

    I think as long as you’re up-front and reasonable with people, 99% of them will be cool, and the ones that are difficult will probably be that way no matter what.

    The refund/exchange policy if a great selling point in itself – if you can’t see many people having issues or wanting to return your products, offering a solid refund policy I think can be great to build confidence and increase sales in the first place.

    #1171607
    LuchiaBloomfield
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    Congratulations on your first 6 months! I really enjoyed reading about what you’ve been doing – while not in the same industry, I also have been in business for under a year and can relate to a lot of what you wrote.

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