Strategy for Launching & Growing A New E-Commerce Site

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Had a question a few weeks ago, how would I go about promoting and growing a new e-commerce site.

I launched three e-commerce sites over 15 years, the first one was one of the early IT product sites and was successful for attracting customers, but sadly also attracted credit card fraudsters and almost killed the business so we had to shut it down.

The second was a Networking Product store, very niche but just had a lot of technical issues about getting the site live, plus also I wasn’t focused enough on it, it was one of a few experiments I was running so basically flamed out.

The 3rd was a moderate success for a few years in a really tight niche (we sold Google’s Enterprise products the Search Appliance and their Maps products) but I knew that Google wasn’t going to keep selling that product forever so I didn’t invest much time into it, however it was successful for a few years as a side project, essentially a part time business a few hours a week that turned over ~$100k pa for a few years, it was great beer money.

I think the key to success is focusing on a niche and generating and sharing great content that is interesting and building a community around that.

You are never going to be able to compete with Amazon directly on price, logistics, stock or service, so you have to work out how to dominate a small part of the world and do a much better job for the people who care about that world.

SEO is still important but maybe not as important as it used to be for e-commerce sites, my perception is that Google devalued e-commerce sites a few years back in favour of those which are more content rich rather than product listing heavy.

I think if I was launching another site today I would focus on trying to build a really great community around the topic, you didn’t mention what the product was, but I would spend my time writing great stories about the topic, if its possible get readers to contribute their stories.

This blog only took off because we managed to get Startups who were launching to start sending us their pitches, now we get 5-10 a day.

Interestingly when we first put the form on the site it was weeks before we saw the first pitch, then they started arriving every few weeks and then once a week ,then daily, now we get a new pitch every few hours.

But I could have easily written it off as a failed experiment as it took at least 6 months until we had enough volume to make this look like a real thing.

Few people are going to share a sterile product listing on your e-commerce site with all their Facebook friends, however if you write an article reviewing the product or how it might be used, benefits vs the competition etc or a round up of all the comparable products and their relative strengths and weaknesses, there is a really good chance the manufacturer will share it, likewise the community that cares about it will share it with their friends.

Keep doing that on a daily basis and you will have a steady stream of visitors.

So with a single page of text you can easily generate a bunch of inbound visitors and introduced a group of new people to the cause. If its a focused community you can guarantee someone will buy.

Also content is the gift that just keeps on giving. If you are paying for visitors you have to do that constantly, content usually just keeps getting better and delivers more visitors over time.

The thing about creating a content strategy is not as easy as turning on Google Adwords or Facebook Ads.

It takes time and most people are not prepared to put the time in.

If somehow you could convince your tribe to start contributing that content, you could find they drive your content strategy and its much easier to sell to people who trust you.

You could give away a new product each month for people who contribute an article or create a competition for something cool to drive email sign ups.

Whatever you do, don’t forget your email sign ups. Everyone thinks email is dead but they are so wrong, open rates might only be 10-30% but you get your message in their face on a daily basis and it will drive traffic, $ and attention.

You should be aiming to collect an email address from everyone that visits your site and you should be sending them weekly or even daily articles + new products.

5-10 emails sign ups a day and pretty soon you have a very healthy email list which drives even more visits and sales.

My wife uses a site in Australia that sends a personalised handwritten message with every purchase and the packaging and gift wrapping is amazing, in fact so amazing she tells people about it, so your delivery and packing strategy is something to think about as well.

There are a lot of technical aspects you must get right but this is a topic for another article (will write about this in a few weeks) but a combination content marketing + community building seems like a good strategy to get into your market.

Feature Image was my 3rd e-commerce site selling Google Search Products circa 2007-2008

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