Are Cookies Good or Bad for Your eCommerce Health?

My Post - 2020-03-13T121600.335.pngCookie Monster has gone on a diet and, when it comes to Internet cookies, so has much of your audience. Every site we visit today comes with a notification about cookies and many times we now have to opt-in. It’s a little confusing and is causing some eCommerce stores to think about dropping cookies from their sites.

Don’t do it.

Cookies are a vital and healthy part of a successful online store and a smart path to growing your customer base. Here’s the low-down on the sometimes snack that should be a permanent part of your eCommerce diet.

What Are Cookies, Exactly?

Cookies are small text files that are stored by a visitor’s web browser in their directory or data folders. They store information, which can be encrypted, that is relevant to a website or web service. Sometimes a cookie can contain login credentials, so you don’t need to re-enter your username and password. Other cookies may store an identifier about you for the purpose of showing relevant information.

Today, eCommerce stores often use cookies to help provide customized shopping experiences, from advertising to showing preferred products or even seeking out customers who have abandoned shopping carts.

That range of benefits comes from two major types of cookies:

1. Session Cookies: These cookies stay on a browser and keep information until the browser closes. They don’t persist so that the website would treat this person as a new visitor each time.

2. Persistent Cookies: Cookies with a lifespan that lasts until a predetermined time or until they are cleared, usually with browser cache. These persist after a browser is closed and are often tied to things like login credentials, shopping carts, and more.

When a customer visits your eCommerce store, your site can record their activity and place related information in the cookie and put that in their browser. Based on the cookie type and your website’s information, a variety of information and action can be tied to this cookie.

How Can Cookies Be Important?

For eCommerce, cookies are often about knowing your user and gaining insight into your customers. Cookies can track activity as someone moves between pages and products, see what they click on, check their cart and much more.

Cookies allow you to track a variety of information safely as well. For example, you don’t have to store a customer’s Zip code on your website or in your database but instead can use a cookie. Then, when they visit your site, you can display local information based on the data that is stored in the cookie on the visitor’s machine. Your site is reacting to the data that the cookie provides.

This gives you the ability to personalize content without keeping (and potentially losing or facing theft of) many types of visitor details. It can also power a variety of marketing and social media content.

Which Cookie Uses Make Sense for eCommerce?

There are a few different eCommerce options for cookies that just plain make sense. They’re typically unobtrusive and are built to help users get a better experience. These will impact activities on your website as well as the ads they see on other websites.

Here are a few of the options that you should consider for your site’s cookies:

– Storing log-in information: This allows you to give benefits, coupons, and more to your customers without consistently asking them to log into their accounts. It’s a must-have if you want to use a loyalty program that can give gains.

– Shopping carts: For eCommerce sites, perhaps the earliest and most common use was to generate shopping carts. The cookie stores the information locally, which allows shopping carts to work for everyone. You don’t need to force people to log in to a website or do any other data, as their choices are stored already. This is likely already built into whatever system you’re using for your eCommerce platform and should not cause any concern for you or your customers.

– Retargeting campaigns: You can use a cookie to determine if someone has visited your site but not made a purchase, or if they’ve made a purchase and you would like them to make another. Some tools also support a very important type of retargeting that supports delivering ads to users who have abandoned shopping carts to encourage them to return to your store and finish the process. This is a great way to improve conversions and even land an up-sell, though requires you to work through a platform such as AdWords to reach them.

Those are the three most-common cookie techniques for ecommerce and they’re a smart way to get started. If you’re currently running these efforts or want to start them and more at once, you do have some more advanced options available. Making the most of these will require you to look at your business across the long-term, not just your next sale. – Read more

A Step-By-Step Guide to Increasing Revenue at Every Stage in Your Buyer Journey

My Post (33).pngLast year, ecommerce accounted for 10 percent of retail sales in the U.S., according to Statista. By 2021, it’s expected to rise to nearly 14 percent. 

More and more, U.S. shoppers are turning to the internet to make their purchases. An optimized ecommerce site is your opportunity to get as much of the market share as you can.

At this point, you’ve no doubt optimized your landing pages, product pages, and CTAs with clear, actionable copy. You’ve gotten rid of distractions and you’ve made your checkout process clear and easy.

What we’re going to talk about in this article are the other levers you can pull to maximize your ecommerce traffic. Incentives, coupons, live chat, and personalization are just a few of the tools that can help keep visitors on your site and turn them into customers (even repeat customers).

Let’s work our way through the buyer journey and talk about maximizing your web traffic at each stage.

Awareness Stage

The awareness stage is full of opportunities to nurture visitors and keep them interested in your site. There are actions you can take on your content pages and your product pages to turn visits into conversions.

Tactics for Content Pages

At the awareness stage, your visitors have most likely found you through your SEO-optimized content. They may have also found you through paid posts or Google Adwords.

Whatever path they took to find you, they’re now exploring your site for the first time. They may be reading an article on your blog that matches their search. If they searched for a particular product and you sell it, they’re now looking at your product page. They may even navigate to your about page.

1. Chat bot or live chat

Wherever they are, there should be a chat bot or live chat window ready for their questions. You should include the option to chat on any pages that attract organic or paid traffic.

SEMRush offers chat through Zendesk to answer questions on every page, from the homepage to the pricing page.

If you are a B2B ecommerce site, add an option for visitors to set up a call with a sales rep.

2. Include incentives and giveaways

This is also an opportunity to offer incentives and giveaways, and invite visitors to sign up for your newsletter.

Hubspot throws all of these things at you as you browse their blog. They want your business, so they give you a variety of options to further engage with them.

For example, halfway down a blog post, a little pop-up offers you a free 100-day plan for new marketers. All you have to do is give them your email address!

Keeps scrolling, and they include an interstitial that invites you to sign up for their newsletter. And notice how they leverage people’s desire to be part of the “in-crowd” to get you to sign up: Join 215,000 fellow marketers. (More on exclusivity later)

At the end of the post, they give you another opportunity to download their guide and get into their sales funnel.

Hubspot offers a bunch of these free tools, tailored to the topic of content you’re reading.

None of these tactics sell products directly, but they pull people further down the buyer’s journey. They will also build trust with your visitors and keep your brand top of mind.

Tactics for Product Pages

Your product pages should have chat and email options, just like your content pages. If a visitor is going to have questions, they’re most likely going to have them while they consider your products.

Product pages are also an opportunity to cross-sell products. At this stage of the buyer’s journey, you won’t know much about your visitors’ buying habits or preferences. They’ve probably only looked at a couple of pages.

But you can offer products that are similar to the one they’re viewing.

If you’ve ever been on Amazon, you know exactly what I’m talking about. But other ecommerce sites have taken a page from their book, too.

I took a look at sunscreens on CVS recently. You’ll see at the bottom of the page they gave me a list of other options in their “You Might Also Like” section. Underneath each product is a handy “Add to Cart” button. – Read more

10 Ecommerce Landing Page Examples That Maximize Sales

My Post (15).png The best ecommerce landing pages don’t just convert better—they make you more money. (Cha-ching!) Take a look at some of the best-selling examples from other marketers in the biz, and see how you can get more shoppers to click on that “Buy Now” button.

Why Not Just Use Product Pages for Your Ecommerce Campaigns and Promotions?

Pairing ads with product pages can lead to some pretty underwhelming results. According to Monetate, visitors convert half as often when they’re on a product page compared to a custom landing page experience.

That’s because most product pages don’t follow ecommerce best practices. They have boilerplate copy and design that tries to target everybody at the same time (and doesn’t sync up with your paid advertisements). Even worse—most product pages are stuffed with shiny links that end up distracting shoppers and keep them browsing instead of buying.

With landing pages, you can focus a visitor’s attention on a single product or offering and lead them on a personalized journey to purchase. They’re more targeted, customizable, and twice as likely to convert.

10 Ecommerce Landing Page Examples

  1. LIV Watches
  2. TRIBE
  3. Ascent Footwear
  4. BoxyCharm
  5. Thistle
  6. waterdrop
  7. Infinite Moon
  8. Solo Stove
  9. Nathan Sports
  10.  Meowbox

Example #1: LIV Watches

Industry: Apparel
Model: Storefront
Page Type: Click-Through

Ecommerce Landing Page: LIV Watches
Image courtesy of LIV Watches. (Click to see the whole thing.)

What This Ecommerce Example Reveals: You Need to Show Off Your Product in Different Ways

Typical online storefronts have a pretty standard approach to showing off their products. There’s probably a carousel of images at the top of the page and… well, that’s about it. But this example from LIV Watches shows how powerful it can be to spotlight your product throughout the page in multiple ways.

In this case, LIV is featuring a special edition wristwatch in partnership with pro cyclist TJ Eisenhart. Notice how, as you scroll down, they show the watch featured in different lights, different scenery, and different situations. You get to see a video overview of the watch, close-ups of the various features, and even a pretty slick side-profile that really shows off the craftsmanship.

It’s a great example of how ecommerce marketers can break the mold of “traditional” product landing pages to show customers the details they actually want to see.

What Else We Love About This Landing Page:

  • LIV creates a sense of urgency with this limited edition product. If you want this particular wristwatch, you know that you need to make a purchase decision fast. (Tick, tock.)
  • This brand is—in part—about lifestyle. That really comes through in the video, which explores idealistic sentiments like passion, aspiration, and truth to oneself.
  • All of the photography (along with the video and additional animations) really gives customers an up-close look at the craftsmanship, so they know exactly what they’re buying.

Read more

Abandoned Cart Email Offers: What We Learned from 1,000 Ecommerce Brands

My Post - 2019-11-27T111201.318.png

Cart abandonment is a huge issue in ecommerce. So cart abandonment emails are often a top revenue generator. And discounts and offers within those emails are proven tactics for increasing conversions.

All standard wisdom. But we wanted to see how ecommerce brands deployed their offers. Are “best practices” for offers prevailing? Which strategies are brands using—or neglecting?

Here’s what we did:

  • We chose 1,000 direct-to-consumer ecommerce brands.
  • We abandoned 1,000 carts.
  • 68% of those brands sent cart abandonment emails.
  • We received a total of 1,233 individual cart abandonment emails.

We assessed these brands’ offers and compiled the data. Here’s what we found, and what we think about it.

1. Most brands don’t include offers in abandoned cart emails.

percentage of brands that send cart abandonment email offers.

Nearly two-thirds of ecommerce brands don’t include offers in their abandoned cart emails. Why?

Many customers will return and complete their purchase without the incentive of an offer. So, simply sending an abandoned cart email (without an offer) may increase your revenue. Some companies may have found that fewer full-price cart recoveries generated more revenue than a higher volume of discounted sales.

It’s also possible that brands that do send abandoned cart emails have measured their performance only with or without a generic email, never optimizing the abandoned cart emails themselves—a pretty limited approach to “testing.”

Either way, you should run your own tests and find out if offers are the most profitable way to go. If including an offer reliably increases conversions, you can always tailor your offer to fit your profit margin and maximize ROI.

2. Companies backload offers in abandoned cart email series.

abandoned cart offer timing.

The general trend toward using offers as you get deeper into the cart abandonment series reflects companies’ belief (or, hopefully, data) that many of the “easy” recoveries will occur without an offer. Some customers need only a reminder, not a discount.

The later emails target the most stubborn cart abandoners, operating under the logic that an incentive is necessary to get the sale. If you send a reminder email without an offer as your first cart abandonment email, you save your discounts for customers who need the incentive.

The nearly 50-50 split between brands that do or don’t send an offer in every cart abandonment email is skewed lower by the first email, for which only 18% of companies include an offer. – Read more


5 Last Minute Conversion Tips Before the Holiday Season

My Post - 2019-11-19T152753.898.pngHow to Quickly Boost Conversion Rates for Your Online Store

If you’re an ecommerce owner, you’re probably looking forward to the upcoming holiday season.

You’re planning your marketing campaigns carefully, maybe hiring new people to help, and waiting for more traffic to come. But you may also think it’s too late to do anything with your website to boost sales.

If that’s the case, I have good news for you! There are plenty of small tips you can follow to boost sales this holiday season.

As a UX consultant helping ecommerce businesses increase their sales, I’ve been using data analysis and A/B testing to turn visitors into buyers. It doesn’t matter if you’re a big player with a lot of traffic and thousands of reviews or you’re just taking your first baby steps in the ecommerce world – you can incrementally improve your conversion rates. And you don’t have to turn everything upside down and redesign the whole site.

In this article I will showcase a couple of real-life examples that you can use as inspiration to get the most out of the increased traffic during the upcoming months.

1. Product Page: Highlight Your Strengths

Your marketing campaigns are driving traffic to the product pages. Let’s take a look at them and analyse the options potential buyers have.

Having a choice between your store and your competitors is very convenient for consumers but let’s think about how they make the final decision?

It’s not always about the price! Safety very often comes first. Especially during the stressful holiday season – people care about timely delivery, great customer support, and a high product quality.

Letting them know you guarantee these will remove any possible doubts and convince them they should buy from you.

Real-World Example

For one of our clients, we ran a test in which we added our clients’ competitive advantages to the product page, right below the “Add to cart” button. This simple change alone increased the number of people adding to cart as well as sales. – Read more

What is Conversion Rate Optimisation?

My Post - 2019-10-29T154315.044.pngConversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) is the process of optimising web pages and/or page elements to increase conversion rates.

This normally involves running A/B tests or split tests with two different versions of a page competing against each other. Traffic is divided equally between the two variants to see which version achieves the highest conversion rate, once statistical significance is reached.

That last point about statistical significance is important and it relates to the biggest mistake brands make with conversion rate optimisation.

Conversion rate optimisation is a data-driven strategy

Conversion rate optimisation is a data-driven strategy which means you need good data going into your tests and good data coming out of them.

Before you dive into testing, make sure you have the following in place:

  • In-depth conversion data: Conversion rates alone won’t help you to pinpoint what needs testing. You need in-depth data for the actions users are (or aren’t taking) on your site. Use heatmaps, events measurements in Google Analytics and tools like form analytics to pinpoint issues getting in the way of conversions.
  • Trends: With the right data coming in, you’ll start to see patterns that reveal opportunities for testing – for example, only 60% of users who start filling out your forms complete them successfully.
  • Hypotheses: For each trend, you need to come up with a hypothesis to explain what’s happening. Try not to guess; dig deeper into your data and aim to diagnose what’s causing the issue.
  • Test goals: Before you run your test, define what your goal is and pinpoint which KPI measures success – eg: increase form completion rate to 90+%.

Too many brands and marketers jump into conversion optimisation without having the right data processes in place – and this is setting yourself up for failure. Poor data delivers unreliable results and potential false negatives that could cause more harm than good to your conversion rates.

Read more

How to Create Lead Generation Landing Pages that Convert

My Post - 2019-10-17T120152.499.pngLead generation landing pages are the superstar sales team for your online business.

Even while you’re sleeping, they’re out there beating the pavement 24/7, drumming up leads and growing your audience.

It isn’t an easy job, either. Your landing page has to effectively perform the entire sales process in only a few seconds, grabbing visitors’ attention and convincing them to sign up for your offer.

That’s a lot to ask of one little web page.

Lead generation landing pages are easy to attempt but difficult to perfect. Pouring all your creative energy into crafting a superb landing page, only to watch your hard-earned visitors leave without signing up, can be pretty demoralizing.

Success requires walking a fine line between getting the information you need and overwhelming potential leads. Every element needs to work seamlessly to convert visitors into subscribers.

Fortunately, improving your lead generation landing pages and optimizing your conversion rate isn’t difficult. Let’s take a look at some simple conversion rate tips we’ve found that can help you create better landing pages and boost your conversions.

So what are lead generation landing pages?

Landing pages tend to come in two primary flavors:

  • Click-through landing pages
  • Lead generation landing pages

Click-through landing pages are designed to “warm-up” or qualify visitors before they buy a product or subscribe to a service. Click-through landing pages come in all shapes and sizes. Blog posts, white papers, product descriptions, and case studies all work well as click-through landing pages.

Lead generation landing pages, on the other hand, are single-purpose pages where you give something valuable away for free—like an ebook, newsletter, email course, or worksheet—in exchange for visitors’ contact information.

Lead generation landing pages aren’t about sales

The point of your lead generation landing pages isn’t to close any deals.

That’d be like me asking for your hand in marriage 10 minutes into the first date. Thanks, but no thanks.

You might not be asking visitors to pull out their wallets quite yet, but you are asking them to make a “transaction.” But instead of trading money for products, they’re swapping their valuable contact details (and permission to follow up later) for the information you’re offering.

That initial “transaction” is a vital part of the sales process for many businesses. For consultants, coaches, course creators, and other high-value products and services, generating and nurturing leads is a crucial part of the sales process.

No leads, no sales.

Now that you know why lead generation landing pages are so important, let’s dive into some practical tips for boosting your conversion rates.

10 tips to increase your landing page conversions

No matter what kind of online business you run, the core elements of every landing page are the same. Here’s what content strategist and landing page wizard Aaron Orendorff has to say:

At their core, landing pages that convert speak directly to real people with real problems in search of real solutions.

And people are people. This means that the rock-bottom, non-negotiable, absolutely essential elements to every high-converting landing page are the same.

So being real with your target audience is the key to unlocking more conversions. What does that look like in practice?

#1: Set one goal and eliminate distractions

You should design every landing page with a single goal in mind. The goal you choose is crucial—it should be the smallest possible step that visitors could take down the path to becoming a customer or client.

Some common goals you might choose for your landing page:

  • Subscribe to your newsletter
  • Download a free guide
  • Follow you on social media
  • Schedule a call
  • Sign up for a webinar

Every single element on the page should have a role to play in moving visitors closer to achieving that goal. That means removing any potential distractions, alternate paths, and secondary CTAs.

Navigation and outside links should all be left off your landing pages. These options all give users an easy chance to leave your landing page without converting, so they should be left off your landing pages.

Heat mapping software Crazy Egg’s landing page does a great job of guiding visitors toward their goal of creating their first heat map. Visitors have only one option, and that’s to enter their website URL to generate their first heat map and create their account.

Apart from creating their first heatmap (and perhaps enjoying the delightful illustrations), there’s nothing else visitors can do on the landing page. Simplicity is the key to improving conversions.

#2: Grab visitors’ attention with your headline

Once someone hits your landing page, you have only about 15 seconds to grab their attention and let them know whether you’re offering what they need. Your landing page headline needs to let readers know how your offer will benefit them immediately.

While writing attention-grabbing headlines might sound painful, it’s not all that difficult. Landing page headlines tend to work best when you follow one of three principles:

  • Ask readers a question related to your product
  • Promise the reader useful information
  • Explain how the reader can reach their goals

Let’s say you’re a freelancer creating a landing page for a free email course that teaches other freelancers how to grow their client base. Based on our three headline principles, you might choose headlines like:

  • Tired of waiting for clients to come to you? (asks a question)
  • Avoid the top 7 mistakes freelancers make when finding clients (promises useful information)
  • How to fill your client list in the next 30 days (without working for peanuts) (explains how to do something)

Each of these headlines would work well for the same product—pick your favorite one and try it out.

Check out our headline on the ConvertKit home page—it explains the benefits that customers get from the platform—growing their audience—without getting lost in the details of email marketing.

SEO tool Moz is another excellent example of a landing page headline, challenging visitors to up their SEO game by signing up for their software. – Read more

12 Simple Rules to Boost Your Ecommerce Conversion Rates

My Post - 2019-10-17T113307.983.pngWould you be frustrated if you discovered that tons of your potential customers are leaving your ecommerce website (and that your conversion rates are in the pits) because of a poor visitor experience?

Unfortunately, that’s often the reality: many ecomm storefronts don’t have the best checkout experiences, and it absolutely crushes their sales efforts. This is most often the result of not understanding what customers need to see before they feel comfortable with buying.

There are several things you can do to avoid common abandonment pitfalls. Today, I’ll go over the 12 rules I follow to create a shopping cart experience that’ll grow your ecommerce conversion rates.

Rule #1: Avoid long forms

Let’s start with a classic example. In 2011, Expedia made a change to their checkout form that increased profits by $12 million.

What was it? Take a look:

Expedia boosted ecommerce conversion rates by removing a single line from their form.

They removed a single and inessential form field. We can learn from this.

Like Expedia, make the checkout experience as easy as possible for your customers. The longer your form, the less inclined people will be to fill it out. This can kill your conversion rates. For that reason, only ask for the information you absolutely must have (including billing and shipping information).

Consider this from the customers’ point of view. Every additional field is just another hindrance keeping them from buying your product—another missed chance at conversion rate optimization (CRO). Focus on the possibility of a lost sale due to friction instead of focusing on filling up your lead gen list.

If a field isn’t essential to your business, then why have it?

Rule #2: Use “email” as the first field in your checkout forms

Repeat business (when a customer returns to your site to make a purchase) is essential for every retailer, not just ecomms. It’s vital to reach out to these customers to entice them to buy again.

For this reason, a customer’s email address is the most critical piece of information you can get during the checkout flow. 

Even if a visitor doesn’t complete their purchase, you can still use cart abandonment automation to recoup a sale you might have otherwise lost. (We’ll talk about this a bit more in our next point.)

An example of using "email" as the first field in your form.
The Fixed Gear Shop leads with an email address field and lets customers know that they can create an account after checkout if they’d like.

Editor’s note. Even if your customers are based outside of areas where it applies, it’s always smart to ensure your forms are compliant with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Like other security features, it’ll help your visitors feel more secure as well as protect you from liability.

Rule #3: Use cart abandonment software

Even if your checkout form leads with email first, you’ll still have people who drop off during the purchase stage. However, you can use cart abandonment software to engage and nurture these customers—and, hopefully, get them back on track.

There are plenty of options for cart abandonment software available. For instance, you can use Rejoiner to create personalized emails and send them a custom number of days after the date of cart abandonment.

An example of Rejoiner.

Rejoiner automatically retargets window shoppers with products they’ve viewed and related items. It also follows up with abandoners in real-time by using messaging that relates to their desired product. Plus, it helps save your customer’s carts so they can continue checking out from any device without having to re-enter their data or retrace their steps.

The goal of this type of software is to catch people before they change their minds completely. Clearly, these individuals were in the market for your product and they were so close to getting it, but maybe the price or the cost of shipping threw them off.

You can use cart abandonment software to reach out to these individuals with discounts and other offers to get them to complete an order.

In addition, survey platforms like Qualaroo can poll visitors and find out what they don’t like about your site or why they’re lingering on certain product pages. Then you can put those insights to work to improve your checkout flow, too. – Read more

5 Common Mistakes eCommerce Website Owners Make & How to Prevent Them

My Post - 2019-10-07T115108.532.pngRegardless of how experienced you may be, there are mistakes that are easy to make when dealing with Ecommerce.

I have been working on eCommerce SEO projects in my career since 2007, and in 2014, I started my own eCommerce business. Along the way, I have gone through many trials and tribulations that helped me grow as a professional. My most recent project has been steadily growing and went from a new website with no traffic to a website that generates over $200,000 in monthly revenue with most of the traffic and sales coming from direct and organic traffic.

My goal in this article is to share some of the most common mistakes that are made when dealing with an Ecommerce project in general. I will recommend some software solutions that I have used in my experience, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other solutions out there that are just as good if not better.

Preventing Spam & DDoS Attacks Before It’s Too Late

Many of reading this article may already be familiar with spammers and how to combat common spam tactics using plugins or SASs. And most likely many of you had to find out the hard way after the attacks already took place (including myself). Proactive prevention for spam and DDoS attacks is recommended if you want to prevent the tedious cleanup work needed to get rid of countless spam accounts and or dealing with the post effects of a DDoS attack.

Many CMS’s even have built-in features that help reduce general spam on your site. DDoS attacks are common on eCommerce websites that are driving a lot of sales and traffic, especially when you have competitors who are privy to DDoS attacks and how to execute them. It is not hard to do, and unfortunately, I see them happen quite a bit.

The reason why spammers target eCommerce websites is because there are so many sites out there that allow accounts to be created and ultimately create a back door for getting back-links or hacking. To prevent spammers from creating fake accounts on your site, make sure to install Recaptcha by Google or a similar service. In my experience, Recaptcha does the job very well compared to other paid solutions.

To stop DDoS attacks, I recommend a service like Cloudflare, which has been around for a long time, and they are very effective at mitigating DDoS attacks that can really slow down your business. It is a paid service, but in my years of experience, it is a service that is worth the expense to prevent downtime. I am not an affiliate for Cloudflare, I just use them for my own eCommerce business, and many of my clients and peers do as well.  There are many other software solutions available for mitigating DDoS attacks which I implore you to research. – Read more

Ten Mistakes I Made Running Two Online Stores (And How You Can Avoid Them)

My Post - 2019-09-20T120319.547.pngGetting into ecommerce has been one of the best educational experiences of my life.

The things I’ve learned by actually starting a business would be challenging to find in an MBA or any business course.

With that said, the lessons I’ve learned were all born from mistakes I made. Each mistake sets you up to do better in the future as long as you reflect on what you could have done differently. I’d like to share some of my missteps with you so you can hopefully avoid them and succeed even faster.

Mistake #1: Rushing the math

If you ask any seasoned entrepreneur what the most important skill in running a business is, it’s math. When I started out, my business was like a hobby for me, so I didn’t create a detailed business plan or pay as much attention to the math as I should have.

As a result, I ended up in a niche that had good demand but not enough revenue potential to make it worthwhile. The products I was trying to sell were very cheap, and I had to sell way more than I forecasted to be able to make decent money.

Business math is very simple. To see how profitable your business can be, use this formula: Profit = Demand * (Revenue – Expenses).

To break this down, let’s assume altogether there are 20,000 people that are searching for your product (I’m using such a generous assumption to account for the main keyword, as well as some long tail keywords).

Assuming you can put yourself in front of even half of those people, that’s 10,000 potential buyers. If you convert at the average of between 1-2%, that’s 100-200 sales. If your average order value is $100, and you have a net profit margin of 30%, your profit will be anything between $3000-6000.

Of course, these are really rough estimates. But whatever you get into, if you’ve done the math, you know what you are in for. It took me two stores to learn the math lesson properly, because even though my second store had a very high average order value, the margins were so thin that I was barely making any money after factoring in costs.

Mistake #2: Not finding a gap in the market

Both stores I started were based on the dropshipping model. This meant that I was up against hundreds of people that would carry the same items that I was carrying.

Unless I could differentiate myself from them somehow, I’d just be a “me-too” store and I wouldn’t be providing any value to the situation. Not to mention you still have to compete with the likes of Amazon and Walmart.

With my first store, I just dove in, thinking it was a good niche, but without really researching any of my competitors to see what the market’s situation was. I failed to notice that the biggest player in my niche was just plain awesome. They had all the products I was carrying, hundreds of reviews, thousands of social likes, a popular blog, and tons of press coverage. They had every base in the market covered, and I still thought I could go up against them. Needless to say, the store was a disaster commercially.

With my second store, there was a big gap: not in terms of products, but in terms of information. I pounced on this opportunity and started doing my research, and managed to create a very comprehensive resource in my niche.

It’s not that the information wasn’t available elsewhere, but I presented it in a way that was easy to use and helpful for visitors. The result? With some search engine optimization (SEO) efforts, I managed to grow the store to 15,000 organic visits per month in a competitive niche.

The easiest gap to find is an information gap: you don’t need much of a financial investment, and your business’ worth will not only be that of your products and customer list, but of your content, too. – Read more