How are eCommerce gift shops started with stock, SEO, PPC and email addresses for only £24 a month
All gifts shops have a dream beginning
Sounds kind of un realistic doesn’t it, online gifts shops for £24p/m, or you may be thinking that I am a web designer with a strong skillset for marketing. Let me burst that bubble here and now sorry. I have worked alongside a web development company for a year (but doing no web design or development I must add), but none of these guys skills wore of on me, it just allowed me to know who the players in the market are such as Shopify, Magento, WooCommerce etc (not that any of this mattered as you will soon see).
A little bit of context is needed I think (you may well relate to this). My partner has worked for the NHS for many years. She loves her job, but every time we walked down a small shopping arcade in our home market town she professed her dream of owning a small shop. Now this was a little impactable at this precise moment in time, so in my infinite wisdom I suggested we open an eCommerce drop shipping store (for those of you not in the know a drop shipping store is a shop that carries no stock, it resells others products, and these wholesalers fulfill the order to the customer. Alibaba is a huge example). That’s how all this started.
And now the good stuff & lots of stuffed animals!
With the idea set, we went home and decided to start our little side project / startup business (along side our day jobs until we make our millions). I took it upon myself to research the masses of eCommerce platforms available as to my believed inside knowledge (and if you read all of their marketing they are all the best thing since slice bread). After an hour of in depth research I felt I was in a position to de brief my partner. I was quickly met with the immortal words ‘ I’ve finished !’. A little skeptical I indulged her and to my pleasant surprise she had put together a home page for the now ‘Cordelias house of treasures’ and I must admit, it looked good.
Deflated and crest fallen (but a little proud) I enquired to the details. In her keenness she had set up a Shopify template, picked the images and had written some initial content. Products aside the site was nearly ready I thought (little did I know). The justication for using Shopify? It was the first platform she came across (it shows how SEO does work).
£24 p/m for a business! And a domain! And hosting! And Email! And support…….
I am sure my partner will not mind me admitting she is not the most technically minded person, but she does have an amazing drive to learn and succeed. It may have been an accident, but Shopify has truly proven itself to be easy to use, user friendly, scalable and cheap so far. We have tried trial periods of certain apps/addons for importing products and on page SEO etc, but have come to the conclusion we do not need them at this point except a simple contact form addon which allows us 100 free contacts per month. I cannot envisage this going above that any time soon, and if it does that will mean the shop is working and earning money, so I will happily pay or look into other options then. So, the bill still remains at £24p/m.
Logo maker extraordinaire
No business is ready to take on the highly competitive online market until its branding is set. The colour scheme, logo design including images, favicon, email signature, marketing material (videos, leaflets, info graphs etc), social media accounts and more can cost you a small fortune under the guise of said design agency researching who your target market are, what colours reflect them best/appeal to them, what font speaks to them etc and then portraying that in your branding package. These packages with all the above brand assets can be bought already, just pick the style you want and off you go. We had chosen to use the free logo maker from Shopify! Simple and clean to use and we like it (please do let me know what you think). Lots of online logo makers say they are free, but at the end when you are happy with your design and you wish to download the logo, you have to pay a fee.
Business email address for free?
This may feel like I am a Shopify affiliate or sales man, but believe me I am not. Our email addresses including info@ and sales@ etc., come courtesy of??? You guessed it, Shopify. Now let me be clear here. Shopify do not do email services, but what they do offer are email address of your domain that will forward to any mail box you wish. So, we set up a free Gmail account specifically for these and had all the professional email addresses land in this. Easy, effective and cheap.
Now for the products
This is where my partner takes full responsibility. As I have said I am not a designer, nor do I have any style or taste that would be in demand by other persons. I really do not know what colours match, and cannot picture a designed web page or room before it has been done. Cordelia approached multiple suppliers with only a couple of pre-determined rules in mind. They obviously must carry the stock she likes, but most importantly (as this is our USP), they must be a British company/brand. This means that any and all of their products must be designed in the UK. I know how manufacturing works a little, and am not foolish enough not to know that many brands design in the UK and have their products made out of the UK, but our ethos is ‘British design and creativity’.
Once we had sufficient suppliers to fulfill our main categories of Gifts for the home, gifts for her, wedding favours, christening/baby gifts, stationery and children’s gifts / stuffed animals, we started to upload our chosen products.
We made initial mistakes of adding multiple tags for products and wrongly mixing them with collections, but once we had mastered that, I think everything is straight forward.
Marketing for all, marketing for nothing
I have been given the enviable task of learning all things online marketing. This for us is SEO (organic traffic), PPC (paid adverts on search engines), link building, content creation and distribution etc.
As we all probably know, SEO can be a very in-depth topic. I decided to concentrate on a few key onsite areas (meta titles and descriptions, alt image tags, keywords in content, H1 etc. headers). This is where good old hard work pays off I’m sorry to say. We are trying to keep this project to a minimal outlay after all, so doing the work ourselves allows for this as well as learning new skills.
With regards paid search engine advertising, I have found multiple places that offer free credits, or say £75 when you deposit £25. These include Google, Bing, Yahoo, Facebook, LinkedIn, search display advertising networks and more. A quick Google search offers a vast amount of resources. As goes with best practice, we are going to run these (free) paid advertising whilst the SEO is building up its momentum.
Backlinking is a staple of SEO, and with a good onsite optimization and a content strategy (all devised by us) we have been building our social profiles and as per the norm, trying to build high domain authority, trust flow etc backlinks. I will be approaching certain websites and blogs in our niche to try and build a relationship.
The work continues, forever
I am hoping (but not naive enough not to understand) that they amount of work will taper off once the main set of products are uploaded and optimised, and the hard slog of marketing will take over.
I will be putting out another updated blog of how we are getting on, if we are still on our £24p/m outlay, how our traffic, keyword positions, PPC campaigns etc. are getting on, but in the meantime, all is looking well.
I hope this blog shows that with minimal outlay an expertise (but a lot of effort and a willingness to learn new skills) that we can all make that dream of having our own shop a reality. As the old saying goes: if I can do it, anyone can!