Lessons From My First Month in E-Commerce

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Starting a new business can be a bit like Christmas morning when you were a kid- you asked Santa for a new puppy, but instead you got a stuffed toy dog. Same, same, but different.

starting a new business

In business, you can create elaborate plans, dot your I’s and cross your t’s yet things still turn out differently.

At the beginning of December, my husband and I dipped our toes into the e-commerce (ocean) pond for the first time and I’m happy to say that a month later all our toes are still intact.

It’s been a massive learning curve, despite having run two other businesses and hubby having extensive product knowledge and decades of experience under his belt.

We’d spent two years planning, researching, fine tuning, product testing (and stressing!) and finally received our first shipment of stock a few weeks before Christmas.

Since listing our products online, we’ve been on an adventure ride that is e-commerce in Australia. If this is something that you’re looking to venture into, then here are a few lessons we learnt in our first month of trading that might help you.

Adjust Your Expectations

I blame the Positivity Police for encouraging us to set high expectations of ourselves and our businesses. It’s important to be positive, but you also have to be realistic.

Starting a new e-commerce business can be a long and lonely journey full of “cricket chirping” moments, when you aren’t selling anything and wondering whether you should throw in the towel.

I’ll admit that although we’ve had solid sales over the past month, I was expecting greater sales volumes. Our competitors were doing very well, it was the peak retail sales period, our products were great. However, we’re still a BRAND NEW BUSINESS. People don’t know our brand!

It’s ok to start off slowly, and yes there will be times when you think you’ve made a huge mistake. Adjust your expectations, give yourself time and remember that every new business is in the same boat. Tupperware took two years before it started to grow financially, and FedEx took four years to make a profit (and in that time was on the verge of bankruptcy!)

Every Sales Platform Is Different

Whether you’re selling your product on your own website, on Amazon, Ebay or even Facebook, each platform is quite different.

Don’t stick to one platform- test your product on platforms you wouldn’t normally consider. We thought Ebay would be our bread and butter but we’ve had greater success on Facebook Marketplace. We also listed on Gumtree and while we had lots of interest, we soon learnt that Gumtree is not where our tribe of customers hangs out.

Play around and see what works best for your product!

Customers Ask Lots Of Questions

One of the most time consuming tasks we perform in our business is answering customer questions. We’re contacted by potential customers on a daily basis, asking us all kinds of questions. Be prepared to be asked about everything relating to your products and your business, and be prepared for the inevitable “Can I buy it for {insert ridiculous price here}?”

But don’t dismiss this as a time consuming and often frustrating task- you can learn a lot about your customers by the questions they ask. For example, you might discover that your product offers a solution you hadn’t thought of before, or perhaps your price point is too high.

Ask For The Sale

After putting all the effort into answering your potential customer’s questions, don’t forget to ask for the sale! Don’t assume that since your customer hasn’t yet committed to buying, that they won’t.

Sometimes customers need a little nudge! What’s the worst that could happen? They could say no. And what’s the worst that could happen if you don’t ask? You might have missed a potential sale. Put your ego aside, ask for the sale, and see what happens. Need some help with how to do this? Check out these great closing phrases.

(Oh and if the customer says no, don’t be afraid to ask why- I recently asked a customer why she decided not to buy our product, out of curiosity. I assumed she didn’t like it, but she told me that she was waiting until after she returned from holidays before making her purchase. Moral of the story- never assume anything!).

Our first month of e-commerce trading has certainly had its ups and downs, but the best part of the journey has been the lessons we’ve learnt along the way. We’ve learnt more about our customers, our products and even ourselves- lessons that put us in good stead for the future.

It’s like running a hurdle race- you might trip over a hurdle but that doesn’t mean you should drop out of the race.

Just get up, keep running and jump higher next time!

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Nat Alleblas- SEO Sleuth: helping copywriters, marketers and web developers with their SEO needs. When she's not slaying SEO, Nat can be found with her head buried in a book or is smashing out a spin class. But not at the same time. Loves eggplant lasagna.