WHY READ THIS BLOG POST?
The majority of e-commerce start-ups never have a fighting chance. Why? Because they fail to understand how to sell, how to look after their online store and how to address their customer’s needs.
In this post, I explain why I started the Webshop Mechanic e-commerce blog, common mistakes made and how I’m going to help you navigate around them to create a store that converts and you can be proud of.
“According to Forbes, 90% off e-commerce businesses fail in the first 18 months. I’m going to change that.”
YES, THAT’S 90% fail!
This is my main reason for starting this blog. This is what drives me.
It’s not a hobby. It’s not because I’m bored and need something to do. I see this major problem that affects people’s livelihoods and I want to help fix it.
A failed business is crushing both mentally and financially. (Believe me, I’ve been there!) In most instances, this could have been avoided with the right help available. The problem is, e-commerce store owners always believe they need to pay for that help because it’s beyond their capabilities.
The good news is, you don’t.
If you have an online store need some help or, if you are thinking of launching one, read on.
Some e-commerce stores never stand a chance.
Each day I spend an hour or so trawling the web in an attempt to uncover online stores that are doing things differently. I’m looking for fresh ideas, new ways of selling products and interesting ways to capture a customer’s attention.
To be honest, there are very few that actually do it well. Most e-commerce stores tend to follow the herd. They are like that 80’s computer game, lemmings. They see an idea on a larger competitor’s store and they try to copy it, usually failing miserably (and jumping off the cliff).
And then there are those sites that just don’t cut the mustard. The internet is littered with them.
The presentation is bloody awful, they are plagued by errors, they have crappy imagery, broken links, out of stock products, discounts in red everywhere and the sites can’t even be used properly on a phone.
It’s not to say that these sites are bad businesses or have bad products. They just present themselves in the wrong way. It’s an attention to detail thing that many business owners don’t have.
The problem is, they get caught up in the design or sourcing of the product, they spend a load of cash on branding and they think the job is done. They totally ignore how the site looks, how it reads and how it is perceived in the eyes of their customer.
These are the businesses that are really missing the trick. They are missing value sales opportunities and, with a little effort, they could be totally different businesses. It frustrates the hell out of me.
Why am I that bothered?
What’s it got to do with me?
Why should I care?
I care because I don’t like seeing any small online business lose an opportunity to make a sale. I know how hard it is to get a business off the ground and to keep it going.
It’s painful, bloody hard work and sometimes soul-destroying. You can’t afford to waste any opportunity, large or small. Small mistakes can end up costing you sales, customers and eventually, your business.
You Must Learn How To Sell
The majority of online stores I come across really don’t deserve to sell anything at all. They don’t understand their customer and their needs. They don’t engage with them and they don’t make enough effort to persuade them to part with my money.
In some instances, it may be down to lack of knowledge about how to run an online business. In other instances, I know for a fact it’s down to the store owner not being bothered to put the effort in.
This may sound harsh but it’s true.
If you run an online business then the buck stops with you. It’s your image, your brand and your livelihood that’s at stake. It’s up to you to make it work.
You must focus on learning every little detail of your store to continually make it better. It will never be the finished article. Like your own home, there will always room for improvement. You need to treat it as an ongoing project.
From my experience, the big wins come from paying attention to the boring, time-consuming tasks like search engine optimisation, writing detailed product descriptions, capturing email addresses, improving your checkout process and testing customer emails.
This is where you will gain the biggest advantage over your competitors.
And why is that?
It’s simple. Because most of your competitors won’t bother to put in the ground work.
They won’t bother with the tedious, time-consuming, jobs that will make the real difference. The jobs that could take them to the top of the pile.
The Wrong Mindset
Most people who start an online store with the wrong mindset of only wanting to do the sexy stuff and claim the glory.
They give up their day job, they create a glossy new store and they want to spend all day taking pretty photos for Instagram or chatting on their store Facebook page whilst they sit back and wait for customers arrive in their droves. They also think the sales flood in at a rate of knots whilst they sit on a beach somewhere practicing their 4-hour work week.
Back in the real world, things don’t work that way.
I can tell you that building and running a well-oiled e-commerce store requires patience, tenacity, and lots of hard graft.
It’s a real commitment and you need to put in the hours. You must test everything you do, time and time again to continually make it better.
Your store can’t afford to stay static. You must be prepared to continually evolve in order to keep your customers interested in what you do and what you sell.
I would love to say this game is easy but I would be lying. But, what I can say is, if you apply and condition yourself to focus on taking small steps, you will give yourself the best chance of success.
If you start off with the right mindset, don’t cut corners and get the right foundations in place (a.k.a the boring stuff) then you will reap the rewards and dominate your competition.
If you don’t, you will be wasting your time.
E-commerce back in the day
Way back in 2005 when I started this online malarkey, you could set up an online store, upload a few products and leave it to run on it’s own. You would turn over five figures fairly easily. The competition then was low and very slow to react.
The larger retailers didn’t have their act together and it was easy to out- smart and outmanoeuvre them.
The likes of Amazon and eBay were still in their infancy and they didn’t have the dominance that they now have. The marketplace business model hadn’t yet grown into the huge beast it is today.
And social media…….that was just a bit of fun on the side where you could connect with people from your school or college that you didn’t really like and show them what you were having for dinner.
Back then, you had millions of scrappy, badly-designed websites fighting it out for the same space, overtaking one-another every time Google released a new ranking update.
Getting to the top of search engines was fairly easy if you knew what you were doing and you didn’t need to worry about how your website looked on iPads or mobiles.
People didn’t even use their phones to browse the web or buy back then apart from downloading polyphonic ringtones of that annoying Crazy Frog (yup, it’s still stuck in my head too).
User experience and understanding the way people shop wasn’t even on the radar. As a store owner, you simply loaded up your products, listed a few bullet points, added a delivery charge and you were ready to sell. It was a shop, that was it. A simple shop.
It truly was the good old days and, in a way, it was like shooting fish in a barrel. You would wake up in the morning and there would be 10 or 20 orders sitting there, waiting to be processed and shipped off to their new owners.
E-commerce in 2017 is very different
E-commerce has come a long way since then and has evolved from a part-time, bedroom-based hobby on the side into a full-time, all-encompassing, hard slog up hill that requires technical skills, bags of commitment and some sort of financial investment.
The Internet is no longer a level playing field. The competition is flooding in from all directions and countries, with Amazon selling everything under the sun, sellers undercutting each other on eBay and brands with bigger budgets driving the cost of Adwords up.
To add to that you have the manufacturers selling direct from China that are starting to infiltrate the Western ‘dance space’ with cheap knock-offs via Ali Express.
The barriers to entry are lower than ever before and the sheer choice presented to a customer is vast. Most products are a commodity and it is the customer that now has the power.
In addition to that, consumers have changed the way they shop.
Impulse buying rarely happens anymore as customers now take far longer to make a purchasing decision. You now need to impress them and ‘earn the right to date your customer before you marry them’. This is a step that very few online retailers understand, especially those who are newbies in the world of e-commerce.
Most E-Commerce Store Owners Are Missing The Point
The majority of store owners who contact me for my help only started their online business because they had a passion for something. They sourced or made a product they loved and they believed they could make a living from selling it.
They had a true belief in their idea, they had it shipped over, they set up their online store and then……….nothing.
No traffic. No orders. No income.
They quickly learned that bringing a product to market is actually the easy part. Finding customers who liked your product enough to buy it was something far more difficult.
They had the stark realisation that they needed to be an expert on their product as well as a Sales Expert, a Techy, a Logistics Genius, a Financial Whizz and a Customer Service Hero.
Selling online is nothing like selling in the real world. In a high street store, you have the benefit of a physical human interaction. A sales assistant is usually available with the expertise who will greet the customer, build a rapport with them and then ask some basic questions to help them to find what they are looking for.
The customer will usually buy based on what the sales assistant tells them and how they feel when they touch and feel the product.
In the online world, things are very different. Your customer is now the expert.
Your customer is knowledgeable and fully educated before they buy. They make their decision based on product reviews and opinions of others. They interact socially with a brand on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and email before committing to a sale.
They make sure a company fits with their own beliefs and values.
There is also vast choice available everywhere you look. Your store is not the only one in the high street anymore and brand loyalty is a rare thing. There are 100,000 other suppliers battling it out for your customer. And they all ship worldwide!
As a smaller online retailer, you are under constant pressure to make an impact, to capture your customer’s attention and to prove to them that your site is worthy of staying on before even buying from you.
OK MATT, so what’s the plan? How am I going to help you?
I am going to help you to cut through the crap and do things the right way. There are lots of charlatans on the internet spouting bullshit, many just to get your money. Everyone has an opinion but how many have actually practiced what they preach?
I am pleased to tell you that I have. I work with my clients day in, day out to help make their online stores grow.
Another thing that I’ve noticed is that many marketing blogs give you strategies to sell more when you hit the 10,000 visitors per month mark. That’s all good and well but how do you get to that point?
Very few will actually tell you what you need to do when you’ve only just started or you’ve never traded online before.
There’s nothing for the smaller guys and girls like you. There’s nothing for the beginners, the newbies.
I am making it my mission to help you smaller online retailers.
I know how daunting it can be when kicking off a new venture, not knowing where to start first. So I’m going to give you the helping hand you need to get your online store off the ground, to grow it and to turn it into a strong, profitable business.
I’m going to make sure your business doesn’t end up as one of the failed 90%.
I’ve worked with some fantastic brands over the past 14 years and I’ve helped them to achieve the results, often beyond their expectations. I’ve done this using a number of carefully guided strategies on shoestring budgets.
I’m here to help you to achieve the same.
So, if you like what you hear then sign up to my updates and make sure you stay in the loop. I promise I will only send you the good stuff with advice, tools, and strategies that have worked for me and my clients.
Join my community and let’s get this show on the road.