Miss This Step in eCommerce and Suffer the Losses

I missed the most important step. And I trudged on for five months convinced and pushing products to customers they didn’t want. Every advertisement that funneled people to add a product to the shopping cart, I glimmered with hope. Each visitor to the site intended to be a customer. But my funds dwindled with expenses of keep product inventory up to date, a subscription for an e-commerce service, and advertising dollars. Making money online is difficult.51u8ZRDCVoL._SL250_

After reading the book Rich Dad Poor Dad, inspiration tapped my entrepreneurial soul and I took action. Trying to best describe and fit my strengths, I dabbled with a number of different options trying to choose the best one based on a set of criteria to create another stream of income.  In a past job, one I enjoyed and learned a tremendous amount about development and e-commerce, our entire company closed at the hands of our parent company.  My loyalty dwindled instantly. You may see why Rich Dad Poor Dad resonated with me.  With those feelings and wounds open, I set forth to find a new stream of income.

Kiyosaki prefers real estate.  He knows it well and as he explains the tax savings along with the passive income built his wealth. I prefer the web to reach another stream of income as I can code for any customizations for my web projects.  I also love e-commerce, so naturally I thought this fit me.

Step 1 – What Do I Sell?

At first search, I viewed several techniques finding a niche market.  I receive a digests of Shopify’s blog containing inspiring stories of their entrepreneurs using keyword research to find their niche.  So, I followed this path and decided a drop shipping model would fit.

After very little but promising research, “Adulting Drinking Games” appeared to have merit.

Instantly, I purchased the domain adultdrinkinggames.com, a logo, and purchased and SSL certificate for the site to secure it.

Searching for product proved hard to find at margins that were remotely profitable.  Killed.

Still on the hunt for a product, Shopify supplied a list of the top product types that sold well in 2018.

Discussing this list with my wife, we decided to go after the lingerie market.  I found a supplier with decent margins.

Step 2 – Build Site

Prior experience and stubbornness lead me down a path to find an open source code e-commerce platform.  I chose nopCommerce as my platform as I’d be able to customize anything I wanted.  So off I went customizing and importing products that took a couple months of work to import the entire catalog from the supplier.  Early mornings, late nights eyes, stinging from the drowsiness became a normality.  Eventually my wife and I finished the import and launched.

Step 3 – Advertise

November 2018, Allure of Kate entered the World Wide Web.  Many angles of advertising exist.  Facebook, Reddit, Google Ads, Instagram, Search Engine Optimization, Pinterest, and email marketing vary in their own complexities.

Step 3(a) – Advertising on Reddit

Reddit offers unique opportunities as the niches categorize themselves as different sub-communities.  So if I decided to sell hockey equipment, I’d advertise in the sub-reddit reddit.com/r/hockeyplayers.

For lingerie, these subs were easily found.  Each community displays their number of subscribers so finding a couple of them with the most subscribers in the lingerie market proved easy.

I launched a campaign in late November in one of the lingerie subs and my traffic reach ~2k visitors a day for a week.

But No Sales, No Cart Adds, Nothing

Step 3(b) – Advertising on Facebook

Facebook advertising reigns superior with it’s ability to focus hard into interest groups for your niche.  If competition claims more of your customers, the ability to spy on the competitions customers interests, age, sex, and education helps target those customers through the Audience Insights tools.

I took this approach with using Yandy’s customer base to figure out their interests creating advertisements based on these audiences.

More Traffic, No Cart Adds

I decided to go a bit more generic with my audience this time around catering to users who like lingerie, brassieres, thongs, undergarments, etc.

63 Cart Adds, No Sales

While the cart ads didn’t provide the end goal of sales, Facebook allows re-targeting these customers through their pixel (I’ll describe how this works later).  This allows another audience to be created of visitors who visited the site, added to the cart, or took other actions.

I would’ve had under 2,000 target audience here, but I tried anyway.

No Cart Adds

Step 4 – Getting Bled Dry

In the middle, I switched hosting from the open source platform to Shopify.  Shopify clearly wins in many ways.  It’s well supported.  Developers launched thousands of plugins for store owners to manage different aspects of their store, and theming by purchased templates gives a professional look and feel.

To help manage inventory updates, with my now two suppliers I also used Inventory Source.  Which I will not give my highest recommendation based on the two integrations subscribed.
lean-start-up-eric-ries

Along with other expenses to manage the business with no sales coming in, I closed the store.

Looking Back – What Did I Learn?

Minimum Viable Product And Testing

Successful businesses alleviate the risks by acting upon enough data and research to identify markets in which they’ll thrive. If you’ve stayed with me until this point, I missed this exact step. After reading countless books, and in particular the Lean Start Up, I thought I would’ve instilled more knowledge and practiced it based off others experiences.

Ries speaks to creating minimum viable products and testing based on just enough features to satisfy the end customer. I skipped this step and could’ve easily tried selling on eBay or Amazon before diving all head first. Ries gives the example of Groupon collecting email addresses and businesses being managed in a spreadsheet in it’s early days. Or another example, Dropbox pitched their idea using Photoshop imagery to describe the flow of adding files to a folder having them shared with other users.

lessons-in-lingerie

I Wasn’t Necessarily Solving Anyone’s Problem

While lingerie can provide a confidence boost, I didn’t quite know where to best help in this already saturated market. My targeted persona received a vague definition. Without those two definitions, finding a match between customer and company was an up hill battle.

I Learned About Women’s Lingerie

I dove into the customer’s mind a bit through the expertise Rebecca Aspen’s Lessons in Lingerie. She answered many questions in terms of why someone would peruse through her store and why anyone would buy lingerie. She also dove a bit into the history of lingerie and the styles that have trended through time. Often these trends were inspired by Hollywood. Also, she dove into fitting, washing, and disposing of bras.

Advertising for the Web

With the most impact, I learned about advertising in the digital space. There exist many different platforms select. Choosing the right one can help determine your success.

I focused primarily on Facebook Ads primarily for a number of reasons.

  • Targeting Through Audience Insights
  • The Advertising Algorithm is fairly sophisticated and targets like users on who’s responding
  • The Pixel Allowed for easy Re-Targeting customers and Tracking Responses
  • Simple Integration with Shopify

Targeting Through Audience Insights

Ever feel like Facebook spies on you? Well they do, sort of. Providing your interests, groups you interact with, sex, age, education, and location gives Facebook quite a bit of your demographic information. Using this information, Audience Insights allows marketers to capture certain audiences to target for their advertisements.

Through these targeted audiences, the Pixel helps keep track of where you’ve been previously for a number of different sites. In my use case, I focused primarily on how much traffic Facebook drove to my site and how many shopping cart adds were due to effective ads.

The Lesson

Research, Research, Research, Test, Test, Test

As I move forward into my next project, I’ll move toward theorizing, researching, and testing to best alleviate risk. Eric Ries’s pattern for practicing product viability with smaller, testable, and trackable risk will be strictly followed going forward.

Share Your Thoughts in the Comments Section Below. If you feel anyone or yourself can learn from my mistakes, take the time to share… or don’t.

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