Introduce your business and tell us your story: How did you decide on what to sell, and how did you source your products?
I opened Milk Tooth as I wanted to begin working from home in order to continue looking after my daughter, who was not yet one-year-old at the time. Given this, I decided to focus on products that were highly relevant and of keen interest to me at the time: beautiful, quality baby and children's decor, gifts and toys. I've sourced my products from wholesalers both in Australia and from overseas. I've incorporated some well-known brands, which helps with SEO and visibility, as well as new finds, including from small handmaidens.
How did you earn your first sales? Which channels are now generating the most traffic and sales for you?
Via Google searches. These sales came through without me having even actively launched the store, so they took me by surprise. A year on, and organic searches are still my main source of sales (I've focused on SEO). Organic search traffic is my bread and butter, so I've invested in SEO, though only modestly. I realised I could learn a lot of the SEO basics myself given the right information, so I hired a firm to help me for just one month - on the basis that they were happy to teach me some of those basics. SEO is definitely an ongoing job, I do bits and pieces here and there and try to constantly improve. I also get quite a lot of search traffic via social media, in particular Instagram and Facebook. I originally used paid advertising on Facebook, but looking into the insights I found that it simply wasn't paying for itself by way of conversions. Instead, it was getting me a lot of Facebook page likes and traffic, but this doesn't generate revenue!
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?
I use MailChimp for my newsletter forms on the website and for creating my newsletters. I've found MailChimp very easy to use, very reliable, and highly professional. My newsletter open rates and conversions are above average. I use Loyalty Lion for a rewards program. While this app works well, I've really had to work at pushing the rewards program to my customers and I'm not sure I would call it a success (though I'm not giving up on it quite yet). I use Shopify's Product Reviews app, which works well, though it can be very difficult to entice customers to write reviews. I use AbandonApp for my abandoned carts, which has recovered a modest number of otherwise lost sales. Shopify's Order Printer app is excellent at producing professional-looking invoices/packing slips. I use the Retail Tower app in order to list my products on one or two shopping comparison sites. Those sites more than pay for themselves in terms of traffic and sales conversions. I fulfill all orders myself, in my study at home. I do this late at night after my toddler is in bed! I try to take care with my packaging, wrapping most orders so the recipients feel as if they're receiving a gift. I also include a personal note with each order. For shipping, I use a combination of Australia Post (our national carrier) and Fastway (a courier company), depending on size, weight and speed required for the order.
What are your top recommendations for new store owners?
You need to be a bit of an all-rounder! You'll be in charge of product sourcing, supplier management, customer service, website design and maintenance, SEO, advertising, social media, fulfillment, and shipping, to name just a few. However, I think it's also important to work out which of those really appeal to your own interests and skills, and focus in on those in order to create comparative advantage for your store. For me, it's been working on SEO to boost my organic search traffic. For you, it might be something else entirely. My other piece of advice is to really have a think about the products you're going to offer. If I was to do it all again, I think I'd try to identify a product(s) that has less competition, is trending, etc. And maybe one for which I could dropship! Good luck.