Introduce your business and tell us your story: How did you decide on what to sell, and how did you source your products?
We already had a custom ecommerce platform to sell art prints and canvases, but needed a much simpler and updated shop for customers to create canvases from their own images. This is a huge market and one that wasn't well serviced by our existing software. We print all our canvases at our own facility, but just needed a way to open this up to the general public.
How did you earn your first sales? Which channels are now generating the most traffic and sales for you?
We took over an existing URL at www.canvasrepublic.com, which hosted a very old store that had not been updated for a few years. From this we were able to piggyback on some residual pagerank to help with our natural search listings. However, we saw the best initial traction through Facebook advertising. For example, recognising that people often buy photos of their children, we ensured that the example canvases on our adverts included children, and we were able to target those likely to be parents or grandparents.
We spent a lot of time making sure the site looked great on mobile, and set the Facebook advert to peak during 3-4pm, when mums and dads were checking their phones as they waited outside school. We're still seeing good traffic from Facebook, but now that the site has been up and running for a few months, we're increasingly seeing natural listings come into play as the site moves up the search results.
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?
For customer uploads we use Filepicker, which handles all the technical complexity of image imports and conversions, freeing up developer time for other business-critical features. We also use Receiptful to send out good-looking order receipts. Other than that, there are no apps involved - just some careful use of smart collections, variants and tags, plus a 100% custom theme to build a nice customer flow. We fulfill and ship everything in-house. All our packaging is brand and pricing-free, which is a great for anyone buying a gift or for canvas re-sellers as we can ship directly to the recipient.
What are your top recommendations for new store owners?
It should go without saying these days, but your store must be responsive. From day 1, a large proportion of our orders have came from non-desktop devices. And from a design point of view, by focusing so much on mobile, it encourages you to make the site simpler, more obvious and less cluttered - all great qualities for your desktop site too.