What I Learned the Hard Way Building an eCommerce Site

Three years ago I felt the urge to do something different. At work, I’d slipped into neutral and was totally coasting along. Even in the world of digital marketing, there are just a finite number of ways to skin a cat.

But I realised, that if I shook things up a little and did things differently, I could completely regain my passion for digital marketing, make my clients a lot of money, and still have time to do other stuff.

So I turned off auto-pilot and I focused my mind on building something that I could tell the world about later, warts and all.

This something was going to become my muse. And it was something I was going to craft into a book, use as material for digital marketing talks around Australia. Even for case studies and a proof of concept.

Of course, most of my experience in digital marketing was based around spending other people’s money. No risk to myself, my family, my mortgage or even my lifestyle.

So this time, it would be totally different, with my business, my money, my reputation on the line.

In the series of articles that follow, I’ll talk about the good times and the bad. I’ll discuss the lessons we learnt from our own experiences. This includes prototyping a website; getting ripped off in China; the wins and fails of SEO and SEM backed up with numbers; the marketing strategy; and the design process. Plus customer service, social media and a whole lot more.

This is the sort of article I wish I had read the first time I started a business.

With my heart on my business sleeve I’m going to take you on my journey. A journey that many of you have embarked on before, or are about to embark on for the first time.

A bit of background on my business experience.

I started my first company straight out of college and ran it for eight years while working full time. I had two full time staff and eventually sold my business to my largest competitor at the time. So, when I started my next business, I wasn’t exactly new to running a business, but it was different. This business was in an industry I knew nothing about.

The unknown is usually the scariest part of a new start-up so I made a habit of trying to KNOW EVERYTHING as quickly as humanly possible.

THE POINT OF NO RETURN

I had two simple goals:

1. SELL SOMETHING

2. MAKE MONEY

Sounds simple in theory, right? But what does someone who’s been doing technical marketing (web development and digital strategy) for most of his life sell?

Well for me, I ended up wanting to sell iPhone cases.

Good one, right? Everyone has an iPhone. They’re an extension of who we are. People want to individualise their phones. BINGO!

It didn’t go exactly like that though…

I trawled and trawled (what felt like) millions of business listings on Flippa.com which is an online business marketplace, looking for something that I believed I could improve, expand and market hard to reach my goals.

I stumbled onto a listing for an ecommerce site selling only one type of iPhone case for $29. This business was being auctioned for over $5K USD and had some proof of sales, shady analytics and a website that I’m sure my four-year- old Cavoodle, Elvis, could create

But what actually attracted me to this business listing was the number of other people (like me) asking questions. And what really kept me interested was how quickly the bidding was moving.

Bidding jumped from $100 — $2100 overnight. During the morning, it hit the $5600 mark in no time at all. By the time I got back from lunch it was $6700. You get my drift it was ‘moving’. A day later it was gone. Sold for $15K.

Like my father says, “A business is worth nothing, until other people start making offers to buy it. Until then, you just created yourself a job.” This business clearly had some legs.

My mind was made up. I would create an ecommerce store that sold Apple products.

Now, where to start?

Coming soon…

RESEARCHING MY ASS OFF

THE PROOF IN LEAN PROTOTYPING

THE FIRST CHA-CHING

THE PANIC

CHINA HERE WE COME

WHAT DEVELOPING WEBSITES ABROAD TAUGHT ME

MARKETING LIKE A MAD MAN

I’M UGLY SO I USED SOMEONE ELSE

BEING ADDICTED TO DATA

SOCIAL MEDIA AND ITS THREE SISTERS

GETTING SMASHED — BAD FEEDBACK

CUSTOMER SERVICE: WHO WOULD HAVE KNOWN?

THE LAUNCH THAT CHANGED US

OUR FIRST 300 UNIT ORDER

WORLDWIDE LOGISTICS AND CUSTOMS

FOCUSING ON GROWTH HACKING

THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT

THE SCARE WHEN THE ACCOUNTANT CALLED