7 Important Lessons I Learnt Building an E-commerce Brand as a Shopify Developer.

If you’re looking for a way to stand out in your niche, and build an e-commerce brand that people will want to buy from, this post is for you. I have worked on the Shopify platform for almost a decade now. More recently I launched a homewares brand that has sent me even deeper into knowing what it takes to run a successful e-commerce brand. Check out my story and some of the incredibly important lessons I’ve learnt along the way!

My Journey and Experience

I was 13 years old, and like any kid, wanting to grow up a little too fast. I wanted that little bit more freedom that money could bring. The pizza when you’re out with your friends or the latest copy of call of duty for my Xbox. However, I also wasn’t entirely enthused with the idea of working in a fast food restaurant. Around this time, although I had never smoked a cigarette in my life. I had taken a liking to collecting Zippo lighters. There were so many different designs and flicking that heavy brass hinge open and shut was very satisfying. I guess it was my own version of the fidget toy, before they were commonplace. However it was always difficult to get my hands on any in Australia. I thought to myself – I could sell these!

So every night after school I would go home and start working on my first E-commerce site. Armed with my Dad’s PayPal account to accept payments (since I wasn’t 18 yet) and a distributor in the U.S. I launched the site. Fast forward 3 months and I had grown my instagram following to 30,000 and had shipped products to over 30 different countries around the world. A year or two down the track and the Aussie Dollar had dropped from above parity with USD. Margins were thin and I had to eventually close the site down. Overall I made some good money for my age and learnt a lot of valuable lessons. I never did escape that fast food job though.

10 years later and Refresh The Web has since helped over one hundred Australian business owners build or improve their e-commerce stores. Some of these sites do over $10 million a year in revenue solely on the Shopify platform. Over this time I have learnt many valuable lessons and became aware of the mistakes that are easiest to make. I have put together a high level overview of the most important tips you need when running an e-commerce brand.

You need to understand who your target market is

Your target market effects what tone you write your copy in, who you target with your Facebook ads and is a major factor in how you market and sell your products. You will be leaving money on the table by not narrowing down your ideal target market. This doesn’t mean that you can’t have a diverse range of products in your store. However it’s important to understand what type of people are buying them.

It can be overwhelming when you have a diverse market, but to make things easier I tell people to use the Pareto Principle. That is, narrow it down to the 20% of customers that bring in 80% of the revenue to your business. You want to ask questions like:

  • What are their biggest frustrations and challenges?
  • Where do they congregate online?
  • What are their deepest fears?
  • What language and vernacular do they use?

Don’t be afraid to be specific, this will help shape your overall marketing strategy and reduce the cost of your targeted advertising. A buyer persona is a great and easy way to sit down and think about this. Hubspot has a great interactive template you can take advantage of.

Don’t get caught up on the wrong metrics

Over the years so many new clients have come to me worried about certain metrics that don’t matter. It’s important to understand how different metrics work together. Instead of focusing solely on one metric because no single metric is a good indicator of success. For example your conversion rate may be low but you could be getting a heap of low value (but free) traffic from a viral social media post. This doesn’t always mean that your website is not converting well, it just means that you need to balance your focus on different metrics across your analytics account.

Some important metrics to focus on with your Shopify Store are:

  • Abandoned cart rate – how many people are adding items to their cart but then not completing the purchase?
  • Conversion rate per traffic channel– What traffic channel (I.e. Google, Facebook, Direct) provides the highest revenue per visit
  • Average order value – what is the average cost of someone’s purchase?
  • Customer Acquisition costs – what is the marketing cost per new customer?
  • Customer Lifetime value – how much are you making from each of your customers on average over their lifetime with your business (hopefully a long time!)

These above metrics can be helpful indicators on what is working and not working with your online store and marketing strategy. However they need to be looked at with the context of other data before you make any drastic changes to your strategy.

You need a consistent brand.

It’s not enough to have a logo that is recognisable and marketing materials. Your brand also needs to be consistent across your website, social media channels, captions on images and much more. You want people coming from Instagram or Facebook to feel like they’re still in the same place when they click through on one of your ads. It’s important your brand speaks to your target market and resonates with them. It’s also important to have your branding guidelines written out in a style guide so you can be sure that everything is on point.

Fast shipping is REALLY important

It’s natural human behaviour to want something you purchased as soon as possible. While in Australia we haven’t yet widely adopted Amazon’s next-day-shipping trend – consumers still expect to receive their products within a few days. This means you need to fulfill orders quickly and be prepared and have enough staff for sale days. This is also a really easy way to impress your customers and have them returning for more. Make sure you are using the right courier that can get your orders from your warehouse to your customers as quick as possible. You also want to advertise this on your website to encourage more sales.

Importing product is very confusing

Importing product from an overseas manufacturer has become increasingly confusing and costly for many new business owners. First you need to source your product, and then you need to deal with trade terms, shipping duties and the actual process of getting your products from the port to your warehouse. Each step of this process is time consuming and can take months to complete if you’re not organised enough. I encourage you to engage a freight broker to help with this process. This was one of the best decisions I made early on in my business, and it’s worth every dollar spent to remove a big obstacle like importing from your day-to-day task list.

Don’t get lazy

Once you start getting orders in, it’s easy to get complacent. I know that when you’re busy it’s tempting to take the easy way out and not go through orders before they are shipped. This is a big mistake! Make sure you always check your emails, read any messages on Facebook or Instagram and respond quickly with anything that will help make someone’s experience memorable (or avoid sending them away from your store).

You need to be organised and on top of your marketing strategy. Don’t stop doing certain things just because you are busy ‘enough’. If you truly want to build a scalable business that is sustainable and profitable, you need to be consistent and motivated.

Your website needs to work well

I could write hundreds of articles on just this point, and if you are running an online business, you should know your website is your main sales channel and marketing tool. You need to make sure it’s easy for customers to find what they are looking for and you have all the details about your product on each page (like a size chart). It needs to be intuitive and work well with mobile devices so shoppers can browse while waiting in line at the supermarket or sitting down for dinner.

While Shopify is a fantastic DIY solution, you may want to engage a Shopify Partner to help you build your website. They will be able to guide you through the process, and make sure that everything is working well together to set you up for success with your first customers. At Refresh The Web we have helped clients with amazing products, but a poor website, 10x their sales AND build an established business by ensuring they have all these processes in place as well as a killer website that converts.

The Takeaway

I know these tips can seem overwhelming and you don’t want to get lost in the details. But, if you don’t have these processes in place when you start your business and get orders coming through, then it’s going to be hard for you to grow down the track.

The takeaway is that there are a lot of different aspects of running an online store on Shopify that need your attention and time. Setting up the right marketing strategy will set you up for success – but only if all systems are go! That means getting organised with importing products, setting clear shipping expectations, responding quickly to customer messages both on social media or email as well as building a website that works seamlessly across mobile devices so customers can find what they want easily while browsing from anywhere.

If you are confused or stuck with any of these processes, then I encourage you to get in touch. We offer free consultations and can help guide your business through the process so that it’s sustainable for the future.