Introduce your business and tell us your story: How did you decide on what to sell, and how did you source your products?
As technology advanced, the Foundation was looking for a user-friendly way to process donations online, while also being able to customer our donations pages. In the case of using Shopify setting up our donations as "products" we had access to customize each donation type and page based on our donor preferences. We have since expanded to include products for library and book lovers.
Working for the Library Foundation we have access to the best focus group possible for any product ideas, our librarians. Working with them and the collections team we are able to determine which books and other items might be popular sellers. We then worked diligently to source any products we needed requesting quotes and samples and starting a merchandising business from scratch. Wherever possible we have tried to use local Calgary vendors and support the community of Calgarians we serve. Although it was not our area of expertise to begin with we have slowly evolved over time and gotten a better handle on what works for our customers and us and what doesn’t.
How did you earn your first sales? Which channels are now generating the most traffic and sales for you?
Our first sales we earned through a donation link on the main Calgary Public Library website. We also had any links listed in our printed fundraising appeals directed back to our Shopify site. Most of our traffic now comes from a variety of online sources and some offline. Thanks to our nonprofit status we have utilized Google Grants to implement AdWords that drive traffic to our site.
We still generate the majority of our traffic from calgarypubliclibrary.ca that relays library news and the library catalogue for patrons online. On this site we often have a news feature, as well as a standing donation button, and various other links on other pages. Currently we are running a web banner campaign through this site. Additionally we do market through social media channels and email blasts promoting products (shop for a cause) as well as donation opportunities. Lastly, we use direct mail appeals to drive individuals to our website and unaddressed mailings or promotions such as in community library posters and post cards to obtain further traffic.
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?
We use the Shopify Order Printer, Shopify Bulk Discounts, ReCharge Recurring Billing and we have BoldApps Recurring Donations but haven't used it to it's full potential yet. We are also looking to coordinate with the Library to link the Foundation store to their Facebook page using Shopify Facebook store making it easier for patrons to pay their late fees online. All of our shipping and fulfillment is handled in house by staff and dedicated volunteers. We ship all items to our customer's community library of choice allowing us to eliminate all shipping fees.
What are your top recommendations for new store owners?
Take advantage of the Shopify Gurus they have been a huge help for us as we made changes to the layout of our store and tweaked some of the backend items and coding. As a small non-profit organization we don't always have access to programers and technology experts but Shopify has made our transition to processing online donations seamless. Additionally you don't need to be selling products to have a successful store. The majority of our online "purchases" are actually donations to support the Library. Any items purchased through our store all revenues are directly invested back into the Library to support essential programs, services and collections.