Storebuilder, I recently purchased a Shopify subscription, and I'm paying the basic standard price of $29 per month. Three months down the line and I'm yet to make my first sale – what am I doing wrong? Thanks, Brian.
Well, Brian, you don't give me a site to look at or any reference point, but it is an easy question to answer since your problem is shared with many other eCommerce website owners. In fact, as of 1st August 2017, Shopify now powers over 500,000 businesses in 175 countries, so you can be sure you are not alone.
Some Shopify Facts & Figures 1st August 2017
- Merchant growth in Q2 year over year was global, with a 56% increase in North America, 82% increase in Asia, 168% increase in South America, and 70% increase in Africa
- More than 1.2 million people are actively using the Shopify backend platform
- Today, more women entrepreneurs than men have built their businesses on Shopify, at 52% and 47% respectively, with 1% other
- Average age of Shopify merchants: 18 - 24 (7.3%); 25 - 34 (37.5%); 35 - 44 (30.0%); 45+ (24.9%)
The Parable Of The Computerless Geek
When I was a waist 30" and completely green behind the ears I made the decision to give up my safe day job working in a timber merchants to go off and seek my fortune. The boss told me in no uncertain terms he thought I was mad. At eighteen I was well paid, £85 per week to be exact which in 1981 was pretty decent. I owned a car and prospects were good. Not brilliant, but good.
Little did I know those adverts promising astronomical wages for selling double glazing were just a cover for the endless recycling of cannon fodder salespeople, routinely fired at the doorstep of harassed homeowners. Some would go on to make a decent career out of it. The other 99.9% would go broke trying.
My First Sales Attempt Was A Complete Non Event
On the first day of my new “job”, with promises of offices to come, I distributed 500 leaflets in my local area. I'd diligently crossed out the head office phone number and hand written my number on the side of it.
Then I ran home and sat expectantly by the telephone. Of course, the telephone never did ring. I'd unwittingly chosen a career path full of hard knocks. I went from job to job, from promise to promise. Constantly looking for treasure at the end of the rainbow like Paulo Coelho's Alchemist. If only the PC had been widely available in 1982!
One day, after six months without a sale, hungry and bedraggled, fruitlessly standing in DIY stores and mindlessly handing out leaflets to passers by, in walked someone out of the blue who would go on to change my life.
When The Student Is Ready The Teacher Will Appear!
Immaculately groomed and resplendent with a white leather briefcase, Ronnie took one look at the pathetic “stand” we had set up in the DIY store and beckoned me to follow him directly out of the store and into his car. Ronnie was a world class salesman, down on his luck through some business deal that had gone down the pan and he'd returned to direct selling to make some money. He was the new area manager. I didn't even know we had an area.
We quickly went to work. He taught me how to make the most of my boyish charm canvassing on the doorstep. I got the leads with my infectious enthusiasm, and he sold them with his unique style of “pitching”.
In the freezing cold, trudging through the falling snow, knocking the doors and making my spiel, going back to his Mini for a warm up every twenty doors or so. I'd pull about three leads a night, sometimes more, and that was plenty enough for Ronnie to do his thing. We worked every day of the week, Saturday mornings, Sunday evenings, every chance we got we'd be out there hitting the pavement.
Understand How To Solve A Customers Pain Point
None of the long drawn out measuring up routine for Ronnie, he knew what it was going to cost, and he told you so straight up. The only question was whether or not you could afford the finance.
“If I told you windows for the front of the house were going to cost £2,000 and that would mean £20 per week would you be interested?”
He would smile a glorious heart warming smile. More often than not they were interested. They just hadn't had anyone tell them how they could easily afford it before. It was the opposite approach to every other double glazing salesperson at the time who went through an excessively long and boring scripted sales routine measuring up every window to within a millimetre of its life and then expecting a cheque for the order at the end.
Ronnie understood that what he was selling was affordability. Everyone who lived on a council estate and had purchased their house wanted new windows. In the early 80's Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's great council house sell off was in full swing. Everyone wanted to be a home owner.
Over the winter of '82, the two of us sold more windows in Clacton than nearly all the other areas put together. Ronnie was a top salesman but I never had the charisma to follow in his footsteps. Still, everything I know about direct sales is down to him.
To be effective at the direct sales game, you need to go and find the people who want what you have to offer. Show them how they can afford it and win them over with easy charm.
Selling Is Easy When You Understand Your Product And The Target Market
Using an eCommerce website builder is just the start of your journey. If no one knows your eCommerce store exists then you can't make any sales. Even the worst designed eCommerce stores can make money if they have lots of traffic.
This is why competing on price is not an option. At least it might be in the short term. Winter is coming, there will be a lot more people hoping to do exactly what you are doing to escape the day job in the future. Competing on price means eventually margins will be shaved to the bone unless you can exclusively source a better product.
If Shopify has 500,000 users today then at the current rate of growth they will have approaching 800,000 this time next year. That's a lot of competition.
You have to be prepared to do what the top 5% already know. Building traffic is a hard slog. Unless you have a wonderful product that everyone is clamouring for, it can take several years of consistent effort until you start to see real meaningful results.
Here are some of the things you should be doing:
Be prepared to test. You need to test different Ad combinations, images and copy until you start converting visitors into sales. Experiment, experiment, experiment. Eventually, you'll find a formula that works for you.
Build A Blog
A blog builds trust and confidence. Establish a regular publishing schedule so that people know when to expect new content.
Try the section on Blogging for some great tips and advice
Spend Time On Product Descriptions
Third party tools like Oberlo that make importing products into your Shopify store are fantastic. But you need to make the listings your own. Spend time making your product descriptions attractive and inviting.
Make Your Website Attractive
The Shopify graveyard is full of websites that have been half completed or look like they fell out of the tree and hit every branch on the way down. Even if you can't afford custom graphics for your store, you can source plenty of free images.
For a list of royalty free image resources see Where To Find Professional Images
Establish A Niche Website
Products like Terapeak will tell you what is trending right now and which products are in hot demand, but the thing about trends is that they always gradually die.
Building a niche website that you can count on for years to come is much better than trying to build an eCommerce store and use Facebook advertising to sell the current trendy product. The trend will end and so will your income stream.
Search Engine Optimisation is not difficult. It's not black magic or a dark art. By learning SEO, you start to introduce organic traffic to your store for which you might otherwise have had to pay. The sooner you begin to optimise for SEO the sooner you'll reap the benefits of natural organic traffic. More players in the market will continue to drive up advertising costs.