E-Commerce Isn’t a Sprint

Blurs in Subway

Something I've been thinking a lot about recently is how I can help store owners succeed. WooCommerce doesn't have every imaginable feature but it is complete enough for a huge number of store owners. What I mean by that is that in terms of functionality WooCommerce is a very viable option. Newsletters – check, bundles – check, subscriptions – check, tracking numbers for shipping, check; you get the idea.

The problem for many store owners isn't a lack of features it's that they don't know how to run an e-commerce business. And that's no slight against them. Do you add intelligent recommendations or do you write blog posts to bring in more traffic?

There's no right answer and no guide that can give you all of the answers. You have to learn how to run your e-commerce business. Learning from other businesses is great but you have run your own experiments and see what works for you.

While I can't give you the perfect e-commerce quick start guide what I can do right now is tell you what not to do.

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The Importance of Pre-Orders in E-Commerce

Calendar iPad

There's a big difference between people saying they'll definitely buy your product and people actually pulling out their credit card and spending some of their hard earned money. You could very easily talk to ten people who are excited about your product and then have only one of them follow through. If you're creating an online store this can be a big problem. You're investing your time and money into this venture and of course you want to know if it will work out.

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Packaging Your Products

Tools on Table

So you've thought about what you want to make and who you're going to sell to. Now, how do you organize your products? Do you list every single component as a single product? Or do you package them in some way?

You can sell products individually, in bundles, as add ons, as configurable products, or even as monthly subscriptions. Each of these work under the right circumstances. If you package your products wisely you'll be able to upsell your customer without them even realizing you're doing it.

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Choosing an Audience for Your Product

Person Under Street Light

Running an e-commerce site isn't easy. You have to do a lot of planning before you can open the doors and expect any sales. The first step is to pick the product that you want to sell which isn't easy. After you pick the product you need to focus on a specific audience for that product. It’s not surprising that people don’t want to part with their hard earned money. People aren’t really interested in buying products. They’re really interested in the end result or what the product can do for them. People don't care about the weight loss pill they just want to be thin.

You need to think about the problems that this product solves. Instead of looking at it from your point of view try to look at it from your customers point of view. Once you have the customer in mind you can create a site to communicate that message to the audience.

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Choosing a Product to Sell

Building e-commerce software means that I see a lot of success stories: people that quit their day job, get their store up and running, and start growing their own business and that's awesome. Really awesome. But for each success story there's a story of someone who tried to open a store and it didn't go well. Maybe they made a product that no one is interested in, maybe their product isn't different enough from competitors products, or maybe they didn't take into account item breakage and returns into their pricing.

There are a lot of facets to e-commerce and thinking about your business model before you start thinking about the e-commerce software will help you make sure it really is the right venture for you. By thinking about the different types of products within an industry you should be able to pick the right product for you. We're all in different situations with different amounts of time, skills, and money to spend so you need to pick the best option for you.

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E-Commerce Platforms Need Customizable Shipping Options

Pizza Delivery Scooter

I've had a lot of fun going over some of the most important features you should look for in an e-commerce platform this past week. Content marketing gets users to your site, newsletters sell them, intelligent recommendations increase order volume, and reports will help you refine and optimize your catalog. All of those are really important but they don't feel that e-commerce-y do they? That's why I want to talk about a topic that every e-commerce store manager can relate to – setting up shipping costs.

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E-Commerce Platforms Need Advanced Reporting

Circle Graph

The past couple days I've been talking about getting more people to your site with epic content, keeping people interested with newsletters, and using intelligent recommendations to increase order size and volume. All of those help you get more orders which is what you need when you're just getting started. Once you've had your store up and running for a while it's time to take a look through your catalog and refine it. Are any products doing very well or very poorly? Which ones are just bad products and which need a marketing push to make them successful products? You can do all of this with reports.

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E-Commerce Platforms Need Intelligent Recommendations

Camp Sign

On Monday I told you how to write content that will bring traffic to your site. Yesterday I told you how to use newsletter marketing to keep in touch with your customers and to turn on-the-fence visitors into customers. Both of those are pretty easy to do with a content management system like WordPress. Today I want to tell you about a piece of functionality that's much harder to implement but is so incredibly vital to e-commerce that all of the top 10 e-commerce sites on the Internet use it. I'm going to talk to you about intelligent product recommendations, the kind you see all over Amazon.com.

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E-Commerce Platforms Need Newsletter Functionality

Newsletter Pillows

Yesterday I talked about how your e-commerce platform needs to have a blog because it will bring thousands of visitors to your site organically (without paying for ads). When you start making sales that's a huge win. Give yourself a big pat on the back and reward yourself (watch a TV show, go shopping, or – if you're like me – pledge way too much money on Kickstarter projects). After rewarding yourself let's talk about how you can do even better.

To get more sales you'll either have to get more traffic (which you should be working on every month by writing new content), or you can increase your conversation rate. One of the best ways to increase your conversion rate is to earn the users' trust. People want to make sure that after they give you their money you'll give them a positive return on investment. This is hard to do via 140 character tweets. It's actually best done through the medium that everyone uses and is often underestimated. I'm talking about email newsletters.

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