E-Commerce is hard....

E-Commerce is hard....

23rd July, 2019

Well, certainly a lot harder than I thought it would be when I set out a year ago to transition to e-commerce from B2B sales. I had this idea in my head that you get a good website, good brand, good products which are well priced (for online market) and presto, sit back and watch the money roll in. Boy was I in for a rude awakening. What I didn’t realise then, which I most certainly do now, is that there is so much more to it than that, it’s enough to make your nose bleed.

Driving traffic to your site is really hard when you don’t have a large monthly budget to throw at it and even harder when you need results fast, as you have bills to pay and a family relying on you. Luckily for me I am still able to sell to my (extremely loyal) existing customers which keeps cash coming in while the website gets up to speed. All of this is new to me and when doing all aspects by yourself some things are more daunting than others. I did a lot of online research got some mentoring and spoke to a lot of people about how to do it. Social media content, Facebook advertising and Google Ads were the three most consistently suggested avenues, these were the ones I would explore then. How did it play out for me then?

So Here I am, sitting in a fantastically modern, very trendy, shared office space in Belfast City centre. You know the type, hammocks and bean bags, OK not really but you know what I mean. Chatting to this really nice lad about Google Ads, so we chew the fat for 40 minutes, I tell him what I need, he tells me what he can do for me, we both take copious amounts of notes in our respective notebooks, then we talk turkey. “How much will this cost me?” I said. His response nearly floored me, his monthly fee alone (before paying for the clicks per ad etc.) was astronomical, I apologised for wasting his time and wandered off in search of the nearest vegan burrito to take my sadness away. That’s Google Ads out of the equation for me then. They are too complicated and expensive for me to do myself and way too expensive to outsource, to an expert. This will however be something I will explore down the line, fingers crossed.

Social media next, this has always been something I wanted to fully exploit. I fancy myself as being pretty creative anyway, quite witty even. (stop sniggering at the back) So this is where I spend a lot of my time. I have weeks where I don’t get as much content posted as I would like. Some formats I am better on than others, I need to work on my LinkedIn an Instagram more but my Facebook and Twitter are pretty strong. In general I think I am pretty good at keeping on top of it. I spend a lot of time liaising with potential customers and have even picked up a few orders through LinkedIn. I woo potential customer by liking and sharing their content. I can’t stress to anyone reading this enough just how important good social media content is.

The way we do business is changing and you have to adapt accordingly, if this is not something you feel you can do then you need to get someone in who can. Make your content engaging, make sure it is a mix of shared content (pertinent to your business) personal content and then content relevant to your product or service. If you don’t have a good mix then people will switch off. Follow the right people, follow the businesses you want to deal with, like and share their content. You might at times feel like this is a waste of time but it’s not, chances are you are now on their radar. Tell a story, people like to engage emotionally. Once you get them to your site, make sure it’s worth the effort, make sure you are utilising all the available features the social media site has to offer. This might be a shop now button, featured products or a poll, users like to interact. Segment and target your content into themes, plan it out in advance. Identify a sector and allocate a time period specifically to that sector. In my line of work I was specifically targeting sectors of industry such as engineering or construction with specific products and deals relevant to them. When you have taken time to create content don’t be afraid to re-purpose it, use it, or sections of it, on other platforms. Save it in a folder and when you are struggling for something to say, have a flick through it and see if there is some inspiration there. Try and avoid fluff, like, tag and share etc. They are not productive in the long term, simply a short term spike which inevitably drops away and damages your brand with the platforms on which they are posted.

That leaves Facebook advertising, I will not be sitting here professing to be an expert on this topic, quite the contrary. I have only just recently tried my hand at Facebook advertising, to date I have had mixed results. Some posts have been disappointing while others have yielded high engagements on a low budget and coincide with an upturn in both site visitors and sales. I think the key to this is to make adjustments constantly until you find a good formula that works for you, make sure your ROI is good and be patient, you will not strike gold at the first attempt, it may take you many tries. Do your research, know and listen to your customer and make sure your content is succinct and attractive.

I wish someone had told me not to expect instant results when it comes to eCommerce so if you are reading this then I hope it helps, please plan accordingly, budget your money and allow for a year of low sales. If you are feeling like it is not going to happen for you then ask for advice, there are plenty of good people out there who will offer you good solid advice, avoid the snake oil salesmen, of which there are plenty.

Most of the above advice pertaining to social media was given to me by the fantastic Ashleigh Watson from Copper square communications who mentored me over 4 sessions and gave me invaluable and sage advice time and time again.