With most brick & mortar businesses closed a lot of business owners are looking to online. But is an online store the right choice?
What’s In This Episode?
- Can You Handle It? (1:40)
- Don’t Rush The Math (2:45)
- Do Competitor Research (6:00)
- What Platform? (8:14)
- Don’t Spread Yourself Too Thin (12:45)
- Technical Set-Up (13:51)
- Content Plan (15:30)
- Don’t Fall For Sweet Talking PPC Companies (18:45)
With the pressure of store closes and all of these different rules, a lot of people are moving online, and a question we get asked all the time is should I set up an online store? And so today we’re going to be answering that question. Should you set up an online store?
Welcome to Creative Juices, the show where we help you feel personally confident about your online presence.
I’m your host Josh and today I am joined by Julz and Em.
Em: Hello, hello!
Julz: Hey Josh!
Josh: How you doing?
Julz: Good, good!
Josh: Well today we are going to be addressing a question we get asked all the time, which is, should I open an online store?
Julz: Yes! The million dollar question.
Josh: The million dollar question…well potentially….
Josh: Potentially. And so, at the moment a whole load of businesses, brick-and-mortar businesses, are closing. And so there’s a whole lot of pressure at the moment for people to go…. in the words of one of our clients, ‘are there other avenues for me to make money?’
Julz: Yes. Can I diversify my income?
Josh: Which is a good idea….
Julz: Great thing!
Josh: ….but at the moment a lot of people are feeling the pressure and so it’s all reactionary.
Josh: Not proactive.
Josh: And so, what we see is a lot of people rushing out with terrible advertising, terrible online stores, and so, the question of ‘should I start an online store’ is a question that we’re going to be addressing right now.
Julz: Sounds great!
Josh: So let’s get us started. Julian I’ve got a question for you.
Josh: Should I start an online store?
Julz: Yes and no.
Josh: Why? Where do I start?
Julz: Where do you start? Is it something that you’re going to do long term?
Josh: Long term?
Josh: Like can I sustain it?
Julz: After Corona. You know, once all your clients come flooding back through your doors are you going to have the time to ship out these products? Do you have the plan?
Josh: Yeah. I guess the question is if you weren’t doing it before, why?
Julz: Yeah, or if so, are you prepared to hire another employee to take care of your e-commerce when the doors do open again?
Josh: Yeah, because a lot of people who didn’t have an e-commerce store, there’s a reason why you didn’t have it. Maybe it’s because you couldn’t handle the pressure.
Julz: Exactly! And we’ve seen that. We’ve seen online stores closed down because they couldn’t do it!
Josh: Absolutely! And so, what’s going to change? Possibly nothing!
Julz: So preparedness.
Josh: So the first thing is really don’t rush it!
Josh: Don’t rush the math in particular!
Julz: Math. Yeah that’s a big one!
Josh: So it’s not just do you have the capacity to run it. The other thing is will it, is it actually worth you running it?
Julz: Yes! Is the demand there?
Josh: Hmm…. and so one thing that we kind of look at a lot is demand. And how do you work out your demand? I think Em you do this a lot when it comes to content. What’s the demand for content? So how do we do that?
Em: Yeah. It’s definitely about the communication with your audience I think. And is it something that you can put out to them and gauge whether there’s interest, or are people already asking for it? Something else to think about might be, is this a store that you’re setting up from scratch or are you just moving products you already sell onto an online platform? That’s really important. If you are already a store but you can no longer make brick-and-mortar sales, then moving online might be a really good option for you. But if you’re completely starting from scratch and you’re like, okay what products can I sell online, that’s a huge leap to go and you’ll need to do a lot of research in terms of what your audience want and what can actually provide them with value.
Josh: Yeah. So first thing to work out your demand is to check with your current audience. And you did mention that perhaps you need to do a little bit more research if you’re looking at selling to someone other than your audience, which really comes back to keyword research because you can work out how many people in your local area are searching for a particular thing.
And so before you determine, yeah I’m going to open an online store, is the demand actually there? Send out an email to your current database, do some keyword research using the Google Keyword Planner or something. And even then, let’s say you find that there’s a demand of like maybe 20,000 people in your area who are interested in a particular product, will you be able to reach all 20,000 people? Probably not. If you’re already running like social media campaigns or Google Ads, work off that reach. Let’s say you can reach 20% of those people. So 20% of all 20,000 people in your area, how many of those people are you going to convert? Maybe 2%, 3%.
And then you need to work out ok, so let’s say I settled on there are 300 people in my area. Is it actually going to be worth, after all of the expenses, after all of you’re working from home, after all of your website build, is it actually going to be worth you selling products to those 300 people?
Julz: Yeah! That’s the math right there!
Josh: The math!
Julz: Yeah, even down to the bottom line!
Josh: It’s simple. Profit equals demand, times by revenue, minus expenses.
Julz: Love it! I think you should write that in the podcast notes!
Josh: Yeah, we’ll write it in our notes. It’s super simple. So first off don’t rush the math. Actually determine is this something that’s going to be profitable for me and can I handle it. The next thing is competitor research.
Julz: Yeah, well that kind of runs off the back of the plan I guess. And you just said, like okay I’m potentially going to reach 20,000 people and I might capture 2 or 3% of that, but what if there’s already two or three stores that are competing against you for that market share?
Josh: Yeah! Are there other some tools that can help us with competitor research?
Em: Yeah, well when you think about it as if you are a local business, you’ve currently got your geographical area that you might have a product or service that you sell to. But then, when you move online you’re now worldwide technically! So what is it that’s going to set you apart? Is it that your product is different or is it that you’re going to just supply to your local area? So there’s some tools that can help with doing that kind of competitor research and keyword research if you want to go down the SEO route to help with your store.
So SEM Rush is a really good tool that we’ve been using, and that can give you a lot of that information that kind of like seems highly coveted, like who are my competitors and who are they reaching, and how many people are even searching for this product.
Julz: And even their campaigns that they’re running!
Josh: Yeah, that’s weird!
Julz: That’s next level!
Em: It gets deep!
Josh: Absolutely! So SEM Rush. The other thing is you can just Google local businesses. See if they have a shop because I guess the question is are you doing this because it’s a worthwhile investment or is it a me-too shop, as in, oh they’re doing it I’ll get one too!
Julz: Yeah, sure.
Josh: If that’s the case your reach and your possible profits and conversions will be drastically reduced because what’s setting you apart compared to your competitors?
Another tool you can use to do competitor research is Google Dashboard if you’re running Google Ads. Google Dashboard has, once you get through the confusing setup, you can see where you’re sitting compared to your competitors, which is cool.
Which leads to our next question, our next question is platform. Let’s say Julian, I’ve asked you the question should I start an online store and I’ve determined yes it’s worthwhile for me. Yes, I’m going to make profit. What’s my next step?
Julz: Well, it depends if you’ve already got a website set up and you’ve got a pre-existing website, what platform is that sitting on already? Wix, Squarespace, WordPress and how is taking your site to an e-commerce level, what’s the best way of doing that? So the platform that will host your store. We just had an example come through this week where one site, their main site was built on WordPress and without us knowing they actually built a Shopify website on a competing domain name. Same domain name but they just reduced the URL at the end. They took off the .au. So what they do know is that now that Shopify website is actually going to directly compete against their other website. Not a great user experience or strategy. Something that we do not recommend in any way.
Josh: And if you were running ads you’d be losing money because of that kind of competition.
Julz: Exactly! So they are running both an online store, a physical store but it’s also a service-oriented store, and also an informational store.
So for them, we went with WordPress and WooCommerce. If you have a site that’s purely dedicated to e-commerce there are killer ones out there like Shopify, and there are a couple of other ones but they seem to be capturing the biggest market share.
Josh: So there’s pros and cons of all of these different platforms.
Julz: Exactly! And they’ll be unique to your situation and set up. So it’s best to talk to a professional.
Josh: Yeah. Absolutely! And so some other things to keep in mind is that we’ve mentioned in previous episodes, the pillars of online presence and particularly websites. So, those are user experience, security and performance, SEO and conversion optimization. So is the platform that you are choosing providing a good user experience?
Julz: Yeah. Well you know, if you’ve already got a website set up and your main call-to-action now becomes ‘shop online’ but, as soon as they click that button they get taken off to a whole other website, I don’t know about you but it doesn’t instil the greatest confidence in me. It would be like wait. Hold on. Am I still on the same store? I need to check is this one secure.
Julz: Am I still dealing with the same company? What’s the go here? Are they just dropshipping? You know what I mean?
Josh: Yeah. And so, on that, you mentioned dropshipping. This is not really website specific but Em, you’ve actually just released a little bit of a product for your blog, Dossier Blog, right?
Josh: And what is that?
Em: Well if we’re talking about dropshipping, it is something that I have dabbled in and it’s definitely something that you would want to thoroughly research before getting into. I know there’s lots of ads and marketers out there who claim dropshipping is like the way to go. You will make your millions without having to lift a finger.
Julz: The 4-hour work week…
Em: Yeah, but you definitely need to have a niche if you’re looking at dropshipping. You need to have an audience. Do you already have an audience? You need to think about marketing and you also need to think about if these products are available to dropship for anyone to start a dropshipping store, then how much competition is already out there? Are they already being sold on Amazon at half the price that you would need to sell them for? So yeah, there’s a lot more to think about with dropshipping.
Josh: And to use a website term, you also need to think about real-life user experience.
Josh: You personally, your business isn’t sending it to the clients. Some random dropshipping company from a supplier that you found in a different country is!
Em: Yep! And that reflects on your business. So what’s the quality control? How does it come packed? All those things are what you need to think about really.
Josh: Absolutely! And the other thing is that when it comes to dropshipping, if you are doing it like one product, great! So that comes from one supplier.
Josh: But let’s say, this leads on to our next point, let’s say you just want to fill your store with hundreds and thousands of different products….
Julz: I’ve seen this too! This happened! Yeah that’s probably like spreading yourself too thin. Stocking inventory is overwhelming and can you actually handle that? You know, are you going to be able to send out every nut and bolt that you put on your store and keep inventory and stock and sales and you know. It’s endless!
Josh: Yeah! Don’t spread yourself too thin by choosing way too many products, which really comes back to our first point, which is you should actually be researching what’s the demand? Not just what’s the demand of an online store, but what’s the demand of your product? And then only stock the products that actually are worthwhile stocking.
Julz: That’s a great point!
Josh: Don’t overstock! Don’t over diversify! Make it easy. Find the gap in the market where you can provide the most value. And so Julz, now I’ve got a shop that’s set up on a great platform. I’ve got my chosen products. What’s the next step?
Julz: Well, there’s probably some slightly more technical aspects to online stores these days. You know, the technology has changed and search engines have changed so much that, I mean, we’ve all seen them where those products, they pop up on Google and stuff like that.
Julz: So there’s actually ways that websites with their schema, with their set up, with what goes on underneath all of that shop, determines whether those things will pop up or not.
Josh: Yeah. And so you mentioned schema. This is the really technical way that each product is set up, and so if it’s set up correctly, you can advertise it on Google properly. Is that what you’re saying?
Julz: Exactly! Yeah, exactly.
Josh: So this is super important, particularly if you’re running some sort of advertising like Google Ads. Your products need to be set up correctly on your site for you to actually be eligible to run those.
Julz: Yeah, and it’ll pull things like data from the reviews. Like that’s how people get those little five stars pulling up and little snippets and price points and things like that.
Josh: And so this isn’t really something that, if you have no idea about websites, that you can really learn quickly and do.
Julz: Not necessarily. Best to get a pro.
Josh: Yeah. And so we actually do touch on it in our SEO for Local Businesses course but when it comes to an online store, it does require quite a lot of technical setup.
Josh: And so let’s say we’ve got that all done. The next step is really a marketing plan, a content plan. What is your content plan moving forwards? Once you have your products set up, you can’t just expect people to go to your site.
Julz: …flood through. Yeah right! We’ve seen that happen before as well. You’ve got to have a great marketing plan. And I think e-commerce, putting products and things like that, there’s a bit of an art to it these days. We see their ads on Instagram, and the scrolling, and the SHOP NOW buttons and you know, all that stuff. Good photography, good communication, good offering.
Josh: Yeah, and for SEO, consistent blogging, consistent content menu pumping out…
Josh: And so Em, what are some examples for marketing these products that we now have? Like how can we best leverage our platforms to get the word out?
Em: Yeah. Well, you can, you should definitely use what you already have, so, your social media channels or your email database and even just like more than once. So sending one email saying that you’ve got a shop now, not everyone’s going to see that, or people might see it and forget. So thinking about marketing in like an ongoing way as well. So don’t just send out one email or do one post, but keep it in front of your audience’s eyes.
Pinterest is, if that’s like in your niche, Pinterest works for a lot of people and it actually has a way that your product will show on Pinterest with a price so people can see that it’s a product and they can easily click through and purchase it.
So things like that and blogging and content marketing of course is a great way get traffic to your website. And if you’re providing helpful information about your products or ways that you can use them and things like that, then content is a great way to do that too.
Josh: Yeah, and I saw a great example on your personal blog. You just productised one thing and it’s a DIY. And what you did was you uploaded all of these Instagram stories of this is how this product is used. And so a great example of some good advertising is really just show your product in use. Show how people can use this product. Show how this product can help make your life easier. Whatever it is that your product does, don’t just leave it as a photo on the screen.
Em: Yeah. Absolutely!
Josh: Actually make it obvious, the value that this product is going to add to your client. And so make sure you have a content plan. Make sure you have a marketing plan. And during this time, make sure that your copy and the voice that you use for these ads aren’t opportunistic. It’s all about helping people. During this time, during the Covid-19 outbreak there’s way too many people taking an opportunistic approach to products. Products aren’t going away. People are still buying things, but people are way more sensitive than they ever have been.
Josh: And so how can you help? And when it comes to how can you help, the other question is how can people help you? We’ve seen way too many people fall prey to opportunistic pay-per-click companies. So these are the kind of agencies who are saying ‘hey we will guarantee you results’. ‘We will guarantee that people will buy your products.’ And we’ve actually had an experience of this lately. We had a client who employed someone to help with their advertising and then we looked at their tracking and it was totally off!
Julz: Yeah, happens all the time!
Josh: All the time! And so they were tracking the wrong metrics and on the outside it looks like it was successful but it was doing nothing to actually build the business.
Julz: And the client eventually caught on actually, and sort of couldn’t stack up the two between what they were saying, couldn’t reconcile between what they were seeing in her actual books.
Josh: Exactly! And so, just to recap everything that we’ve spoken about, don’t rush it! Determine whether you can actually handle this. Don’t rush the math as well. Is it worth your while? Do your competitor research. Determine your platform. Set up the platform correctly, with correct schema and all of that setup. Don’t spread yourself too thin with products. Have a content marketing plan. And don’t fall for the sweet-talking, pay-per-click companies. Actually measure the correct metrics.
So some super quick actionable tips is research your niche. Is their demand? Know your customers. Who exactly are you solving a problem for? Find a gap in the market, as in, is there some value that you personally, that your business can add or are you just a me-too store? Like I’ve got a store too! Have a marketing plan in place. Avoid wasting time with distractions. An example is a product that is not selling. Just remove it. Double down on the products that are selling for you. Think twice about any company that you work with. And use a nice clean design that you don’t have to tinker with, or at least only your web designer has to tinker with, and you don’t have to touch it, with the correct set up.
Josh: And so that’s it! And really that kind of answers the question, should you set up an online store? The answer is yes and no. So make sure, just action all of those tips, and yeah.
If you need any help, we do have online, we have a free website test that you can test your site for free to determine whether your website is set up correctly.
And that’s it for today. Well we will talk to you next time!
Julz: Thanks Josh!
Em: Chat soon!