Introduce your business and tell us your story: How did you decide on what to sell, and how did you source your products?
We began selling our current products line - pop xulture posters - in our "brick and mortar" storefront and, at the time, there weren't many retailers doing so online. Thus we decided to give it a try. We researched a variety of suppliers to find folks who had unique posters that no one else was selling. As a result, in addition to common poster titles, we also have items that can't be found anywhere else.
How did you earn your first sales? Which channels are now generating the most traffic and sales for you?
Word of mouth played a big role in our early sales success. Since then, social media has become incredibly important as far as informing people about our existence. As far as sales, Wanelo is adding a nice bump in sales and traffic. We are doing well on Pinterest, and (lately) Reddit looks like it could be a significant source of traffic. Also, we have modest followings on both Facebook and Twitter, but we could stand to improve both traffic and sales related to these two sites. Additionally, we have a Tumblr blog that is still in its embryonic stages. If we can get it going, we expect to get a lot of traffic from there. Lastly, we plan to see if we can utilize Instagram as a way to advertise our items - as a visual-focused social media site, it is definitely well-suited to the types of products we sell.
Tell us about the back-end of your business. What tools and apps do you use to run your store? How do you handle shipping and fulfillment?
The single biggest impact maker is the Google Shopping App which allows us to list our inventory on Google. We also use the Shopify "Order Printer" App which allows us to generate invoices and packing slips - we couldn't function without it! To sell on Wanelo, we use their Shopify integration App; and, we have a similar one that allows us to integrate our buyer contact details with Mailchimp. Lastly, we use the Shopify Product Reviews App that allows buyers to leave a review directly on our website for other prospective buyers to see. We process, package, and ship all of our orders in-house. We make a daily trip to our local post office to hand over our batch of orders for the day so they can enter the mail stream as quickly as possible. This allows us to, in many cases, ship an order in (much) less-than-24 hours after we receive payment. The big e-retailers can't even do that.
What are your top recommendations for new store owners?
The important thing for new store owners to realize is that there is no "instruction manual" on how to be successful in e-commerce. The situation is different for everybody. As a result, it is crucial that a new store owner uses an approach that does not rely on a single component as a means to build their store; i.e., a "crutch". The e-commerce landscape is constantly changing and a store needs to be flexible enough to change along with it. Also, and most importantly, a new store owner needs to cultivate and maintain an online community via a variety of social media sites - only having a Facebook page is not enough. Get your name out there in as many places as you can, and the traffic will come. Last but not least, do your homework. Running an online store is hard work and it requires constant attention. As soon as you start "sitting back and coasting along", someone else will pass you up and beat you to the top of the mountain.