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EXECUTION $5000 to $30,000 per month - eCommerce Progress

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SparksCW

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I'm from England and I have a part time e-commerce business which has grown from a bedroom operation to what it is now in a short space of time.

I also have another monthly subscription business start up and I work full time for the family businesses (for now) I do okay. But the family business isn't my dream so I'm working on the fast lane businesses.

What Happened In 2015?

In 2015 my business went from just me in my spare bedroom to a commercial unit and a part time employee dealing with all orders, enquiries, fulfilment etc. As it stands now I deal with the website, new products etc etc. All the orders, product adding, fulfilment is handled by my employee and a lot of our products are sent by distributors so we can scale quite large before needing more staff.

We went from $5000 per month to $30,000 per month (turnover) mostly organically, with a bit of help from eBay and Amazon.

This happened between October and December 2015, and only because I stepped outside of my comfort zone.

2016 Targets

To pay for my current lifestyle (without my slow lane job) we need to maintain (or improve) our margins and turn over approximately $45,000 per month. So our target is currently $75,000 per month (turnover).

What I'm Doing?

I'll keep it simple here, and post in more detail as I get them done.

Add value - guides, blog, pictures, reviews, advice, knowledge centre, e-book (already written)

Add interaction - more social, instagram, ability for customers to add their own pictures, generate more reviews, case studies, get more content on the website

Be More Proactive - this year we're going to be going out looking for customers... trade, installers, home builders, etc etc. Maybe do some exhibitions again (tried before with no luck)

Site Improvements - a few extra features, fix duplicate content issues, improve SEO, write bespoke product descriptions for all important products, improve speed and continue to improve search rankings.

PPC - I really struggle with PPC, I read stories that people can put an add up and make sales in minutes, I seem to drink money. Need to learn more on PPC and keep trying to make it work.

That's it for now. I'll post as and when things get done and let you know what affect they have on the business.

Any advice welcome.
 

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prof

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Congrats on your success so far!

I don't know what actual profit margin you're working to but your listed figures seem pretty tasty considering what you've said about it being pretty much all organic traffic to your own site rather than pushing through the likes of Amazon and eBay.

Without giving away any specifics I'm interested in how people are finding you? Is it the products they're searching for or are you funnelling through to the products after indoctrinating them to the guides, and other items you mentioned on your site?

Either way - following this one! :) Good luck!
 
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SparksCW

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About $8000-$10,000 of the sales are down to a very niche USA product that we have the UK domain for, we're top 3 results for every product in Google and we have a trade following so that helps. It's not a very mainstream product but we will be trying to increase sales throughout this year, I doubt monthly sales will get much higher for this particular range, but who knows.. there's always Europe to sell to!

We are currently selling quite a bit on eBay/Amazon so that does make up a good part of the figures, however we only have a small amount of items listed so we will be exploiting eBay further soon. I have nothing against eBay, I just don't want to rely on it.

Our other niche site is starting to do quite well but it's no where near it's limits, the products are quite specific so we're racing up the search engine results. It's a slow game, but I'm sure someday soon sales will go through the roof when we hit page 1 for the key searches. Most of my focus will be on this website throughout this thread, but at the minute this particular site on it's own isn't generating the majority of the sales.

We are doing some PPC and am getting some sales from it, but I'm not very good at it, they're costing a bit much and I need to really work on it.

I'm netting about 20% after paying all bills, staff etc however we're focusing on certain products now that have a higher gross margin so I'm hoping to increase that net margin. All money so far is tied up in stock and then I have loads of website updates to pay for so I'm not going to be buying an R8 any time soon, however I don't need to buy this much stock normally, I just got a good deal on something.

Todays Updates

I managed to get an appointment with the MD of one of my big suppliers ($22 million t/o year) and have a meeting booked for 2 weeks time to see how we can do more with them. Could lead to increased sales!

Found some more features for the site which will prove useful.

Last night I worked till late improving category layout, category descriptions, editing some titles and improving some product descriptions etc.
 

Kingsta

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Hi,

Thanks for the post. I'm interested in your methods of driving traffic to your site? Would you be so kind as to share a few? For example did you use facebook ads? Word of mouth? Etc.

I noticed you said that you're now ranked top 3 in google for certain niches but how did you get there?
 
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SparksCW

SparksCW

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Hi,

Thanks for the post. I'm interested in your methods of driving traffic to your site? Would you be so kind as to share a few? For example did you use facebook ads? Word of mouth? Etc.

I noticed you said that you're now ranked top 3 in google for certain niches but how did you get there?
Hi, the well ranked site was my second foray into e-commerce, I'm not professing to be an expert at SEO, quite the opposite as I know my site has some key SEO issues that need fixing, but the particular product that we rank top 3 for is very niche, we managed to secure a really good deal with the distributor at the time, and now we're working very closely with them and have OEM'd the product to our own name. We have an exact match domain which I'm sure helps, although everyone says that exact match domains don't add any weight any more.

The low competition is a big help, but essentially the site is well structured, features the brand/product on every page/product page, all the usual SEO titles, well written unique product descriptions, good pictures etc. We have all the technical manuals in PDF format on the site/products, various help and support pages, a blog etc etc.

I do think we can increase sales by increasing exposure, more blog articles, more help, more content, more value. And by good old fashioned going out and finding customers.

The main site I am working on now, which is the focus of this thread, I'm finding a LOT harder! It's a broader niche with more competition, some of which are very well established, and more potential customers. I'm still on page 2/3 for most products, but I'm competing with someone who's been doing it 10+ years and is very, very good at SEO. Our best selling items are on page 1 for the product term but this is an area where people will be searching by need, not product, which I'm finding a bit harder to get my head around.

For example my usual SEO is based around...

Customer: Hi Google UK, I want to buy a Samsung XYZ123 TV please.

now I'm going for this.

Customer: Hey Google, I fancy a new TV, what you got?

TV is just an example, I'm not crazy enough to try and compete in that market!

We're catching up slowly, this is from well written descriptions, SEO titles etc, well structured categories with decent descriptions with information on how the products used etc. Even so there are still more products to write unique descriptions for etc.

Now I am trying to get up to page 1 for the main products and for much more competitive terms it's getting harder which is why this years focus will be on content - I have lots planned, it's just going to cost a fair bit of money in Magento modules.

I don't want to post links to any of my sites on here so my apologies as the thread would be better if I could show you the physical changes, but I will definitely keep up to date on what we've added, how it's worked and how that monthly t/o figure is affected!

I'm a bit worried that this month will be quiet compared to the others, we've already done $4000 this week but I just have a bad feeling, not sure why!
 
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SparksCW

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Oh yeah, I remembered I have the .com for my domain and my top products aren't sold in the USA. Interesting....

To be honest at the minute my site is probably much more geared to the US anyway, the UK market is only just catching on!

Watch This Space. (might be a while, I have no idea how to set up and sell to the USA!)
 

nomeus

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it's just going to cost a fair bit of money in Magento modules
Why would you use Magento? Do you see any specific advantages? I use opencart right now for my site, its free, with lots of resources and easy to create custom modules for it.

I started with magento, but even the basic install on (poorly configured) VPS was quite slow, so I looked for something else.
 
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SparksCW

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Why would you use Magento? Do you see any specific advantages? I use opencart right now for my site, its free, with lots of resources and easy to create custom modules for it.

I started with magento, but even the basic install on (poorly configured) VPS was quite slow, so I looked for something else.
Good question.

My top ranked store is actually on Opencart. The other sites were originally on Opencart as well.

The new sites are on Magento hosted by a specialist Magento company.

Why Did I Move To Magento?

I wanted certain features and capabilities, mostly revolving around multi-store as my admin backend actually feeds three stores, I know full well that Opencart can do anything, but the multi store is a bit rubbish in my opinion.

The problem is, I'm doing it all myself. I've learnt a lot and my sites do look good (honest) but I hit problems if a module isn't available, and with Opencarts multi store I'd have needed custom themes installed for each shop to look different as the themes I had (Oxy) had a control panel and as such you can't change settings between stores. I know if they were custom templates I could have a different look to everyone, but that means a developer.

I played with Magento loads before I moved and gave up a few times, but when I sussed how it works it just seems to be really good, I think the interface and multi store is 100 times better, there's a lot more features and almost everything I need/want is available as a module, in fact my theme and 90% of my modules I have/want are all from one company which makes me a bit more confident with compatibility etc. There are some features I don't like as well though, you can't mark an order as "processed" it's just "processing" then "shipped".. not ideal (but I'm sure fixable)

I have nothing against Opencart, but for me to move back I'd need a 100% custom template made and multiple features developed to give me everything I want. No doubt an easy task for a developer, but until I'm doing £50k + a month with money to spare it's not really been high on my list.

That Said

Magento is a pain in the backside. I've had numerous speed issues which resulted in moving to a specialist, if it breaks or crashed I'm lost, whereas Opencart I stand a slightly better chance with. I could edit some basic code in Opencart and add/move things on templates (easy stuff) whereas with Magento I don't even know where the template files are.

I will soon need to get a Magento developer onboard to make the changes I want that I can't do and just simply to maintain it, especially when we start seeing more sales.

Opencart is a lot faster and less resources required.

Magento I find easier to navigate and use, it's a lot more intuitive with attributes etc.

All in all I quite like Magento, if I get to the stage where we can design and make a site from the ground up I would certainly be getting quotes on Opencart as well.

If You're Reading This & Thinking Of Starting In e-Commerce

Opencart or Magento?

NEITHER - choose a hosted one like Shopify, get the site running, get the products on, content on etc, focus on selling. Mess around with sites when you know your site sells.

Honestly, if I could go back, I'd have stopped messing around with sites trying to save £30 a month from Shopify and focused on selling things first - then made an all singing all dancing move to a better site when there was money in the bank.
 

relentlessaction

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Sounds like a good idea. These are all things that everyone should focus on running a business.

Can't wait to see your success!

Facebook Ads and Instagram Ads I plan on conquering this year.
 

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TonyStark

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How long were you working on your product/business before it took off in October?

How did you find your product?

Is it something you have experience in?
 

nomeus

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Couple more questions.

Did you had a phone number for customer service when you started?
Did you had a registered company when you started in ecommerce?

And last, have You had any success finding dropshippers and supliers at esources.co.uk? All I seem to find is different ecommerce websites, that are just there and does not dropship.
 
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SparksCW

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How long were you working on your product/business before it took off in October?

How did you find your product?

Is it something you have experience in?
My company was a sole trader for 1 year, then a ltd company (LLC) for 3 years till this date, so 4 years in total. It was always a passive sideline with little effort, it's only been since about June 2015 that I started trying to increase it with a different niche. So it's not an over night success, it's not even a full success yet in my opinion but I now definitely see it as a viable business.

The original niche product I found at a trade show relating to my primary job. I saw that it wasn't really advertised well but had really good uses for a niche audience.

The product does relate to my trade so I knew and understood what it did and what it can be used for, despite it being slightly outside of what my trade background is. The newer niche I'm focusing on, again it's not my primary trade but it's closely related and I know a lot about it and enjoy it so writing content, blogs etc should be a bit easier. Plus it means I can answer almost any question relating to the products and/or installation!
 
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SparksCW

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Couple more questions.

Did you had a phone number for customer service when you started?
Did you had a registered company when you started in ecommerce?

And last, have You had any success finding dropshippers and supliers at esources.co.uk? All I seem to find is different ecommerce websites, that are just there and does not dropship.
1. Not when I first started, I barely even showed an address. The original site I started didn't do very well, when I created the niche site I listed my office address for my day job (funny when people used to turn up asking for my product!) I started showing full phone numbers and addresses about 1.5 years ago and to be perfectly honest I don't think you should run an e-commerce site without a very visible address and phone number as it instills a lot more trust than not having one. Plus we get phone orders which is always good, it's even more important for technical products which may mean people want to ask questions before buying.

2. No I started as a sole trader, however as it started doing okay I realised that I was better off in a ltd for tax purposes. Now I wouldn't trade any other way.

3. I don't do drop shipping in that sense, all of my products are either bought, stocked and sent or are sent direct from my distributors because we've worked with them for so long and spend so much money with them. You'll be surprised how many distributors will send items direct to customers with your paperwork for you.

The problem with drop ship companies is they provide products to you and anyone else who asks them, so it usually means low margins and high competition, and no control!

Find a good product that isn't widely "drop shipped" then get on the phone and make deals or buy small amounts of stock, or back to back orders if you can get away with it.
 

nomeus

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Thank you for your answers.

The problem is, Im not in the UK, but in the Eastern Europe, but I see the UK market as a huge opportunity (2 mil people vs 64 mil, 3x the GDP). In my case, dropshipping would be perfect in the beginning, but it seems that all of the UK stores have valid addresses and phone numbers, so that kind of sets me back a little.

I guess I'll just have to get back to drawing board and think of some ways to make it work.
 
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SparksCW

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I guess I'll just have to get back to drawing board and think of some ways to make it work.
Don't give up, find work arounds.

You can get a UK address for £10-£30 a month that will forward mail. Google them, plenty available throughout the UK, just choose a location, avoid London as it's a bit too obvious.

You can get a UK local phone number that diverts to any number (VOIP) or a free 0843 number. We do have a landline local number (VOIP) but we use a £9.99 per month 0843 number that re-directs to any number we choose (landline, then forwards to mobiles)

If you buy physical stock you can put it in a UK fulfilment centre or FBA for not a lot of money. Just make sure you pay your taxes ;)

Problem solved :)
 
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SparksCW

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I'm going to add little "completed" lists and notes, even if just for my own purposes of remembering when I did things.

Thursday 7th Jan 2016


Wrote buying guide for primary product range no. 1
Wrote buying guide for primary product range no. 2
Built "info center" page with some guides and links to the buying guides
Added more info pages to site footer including FAQ's, Technical Glossary etc and also compiled all links in the "info center" page.
Added compiled videos page to footer (shows all product videos from product page, on one page)
Added link to blog

Notes

Sold a high value product that we've not sold before today, relating to niche, more work required on those pages now that we got our first sale. Needs a few more products, better descriptions, category pages, etc.

Sales this week $6500 so far with another $1200 pending awaiting payment (phone orders)
 

Havox

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I'm going to add little "completed" lists and notes, even if just for my own purposes of remembering when I did things.

Thursday 7th Jan 2016


Wrote buying guide for primary product range no. 1
Wrote buying guide for primary product range no. 2
Built "info center" page with some guides and links to the buying guides
Added more info pages to site footer including FAQ's, Technical Glossary etc and also compiled all links in the "info center" page.
Added compiled videos page to footer (shows all product videos from product page, on one page)
Added link to blog

Notes

Sold a high value product that we've not sold before today, relating to niche, more work required on those pages now that we got our first sale. Needs a few more products, better descriptions, category pages, etc.

Sales this week $6500 so far with another $1200 pending awaiting payment (phone orders)
I was curious in your blogs. Are you going to mention your website?

Sent from my A0001 using Tapatalk
 

Havox

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I'm going to be the 8-ball here and say "signs point to no"
[emoji106] I'd like to hear the horses mouth though

Sent from my A0001 using Tapatalk
 

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SparksCW

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I was curious in your blogs. Are you going to mention your website?

Sent from my A0001 using Tapatalk
Hi, no not at the minute, my blog is rubbish so you're not missing out there. It's the website I'm working on.

However I will PM a mod with the site details so they can verify it :)
 

happybhoy

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What have you done to protect yourself from competition? $45k/mth just to live seems pretty bloated and it looks like someone could come and undercut you.
Could you lower costs to increase your margin?
 
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SparksCW

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What have you done to protect yourself from competition? $45k/mth just to live seems pretty bloated and it looks like someone could come and undercut you.
Could you lower costs to increase your margin?
Competition is always fierce. At the minute I'm the jack Russell biting at the top dogs feet for my main site so at the minute I am the competition. I do get annoyed with my main products being sold on eBay cheaper by random people who aren't even properly in this market. My main competitors stick to a mutually agreed price so we don't compete on pricing, purely on value. Which is why it's harder to catch up.

The single range site has some really bad competition last year and lots of price undercutting. Thankfully in December we got all the bad sellers removed and secured an OEM deal to ensure we can always get product.

Truthfully my bills are quite low even with the car. We only need to turn over about $22,000 a month (at the target margin) to continue my existing lifestyle. (That's to cover all my business costs, staff member and my personal home bills etc.) I've just set higher goals to motivate more. I still think $45k month is a reasonable goal to aim for. High, but achievable.

If you set a low goal you work towards it.

If you set a much higher goal you have to sit down and really work out what products/services will get you that amount each month, how many sales do I need per day, per week? How will I get those sales? Which products will get me there quickest? Is there a big enough market to get me there? What link ups and partnerships can I do to assist this target and to keep some continuity in sales month on month. Etc...
 
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happybhoy

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Great man. Competing on value can't be a bad thing in the long run.
 
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SparksCW

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So January is over, almost a month since I last posted.

This month ended at just under $23,000 t/o so not too bad considering it is January, it's 270% on last year though which is the main thing!

This month we've;

  • improved some product descriptions (more to go)
  • written buying guides and added to site
  • added some more products
  • put a lot of effort into our other site in an attempt to start building this up in a broader niche. all new banners, products, better category structure etc.
  • done some mail shots
  • got Hootsuite and started to do social media (too soon to say if this will work out but hoot suite certainly makes it easier)

Offline however I'm working on some really good deals and partnership agreements, if this comes off then it'll be extremely good for us. Watch this space.

February we will be;

  • continuing to improve product pages
  • continuing SEO on category pages, descriptions etc
  • more content, need to get this blog going!!
  • working offline on deals and trying to get our company visible in the "real world"
  • increasing eBay and amazon sales with other products to increase sales, we can be a bit broader with this as the products won't show on the main sites.
  • looking for more ways to add value
 

iAmTrade

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I have a theory...

People who are successful do not really go about looking for "how to make money" or "how to grow an eCommerce site" or "business forum for entrepreneurs" or ....ANYTHING in my opinion, that would lead you to join The Fastlane Forum... But perhaps it just happened, and I can understand that.

So... there you have it, I don't believe it. Anyone could post anything...but who cares what I think, you know what I mean?

You went from $ 5,000 to $ 30,000? Congratulations.

All businessmen in my opinion need to concentrate 80% of their efforts on sales and 20% on everything else. Heck, I believe all business owners need to do that until the business really reaches $ 1,000,000 a year in sales. Only after such I see a business needing to make tweeks to quality, to making things perfect etc and then having to figure out how to grow exponentially.

So...my question is...

Your goal is $ 75,000 a month in sales. The only way you'll make it happen is if you can get people to your product, and sell them on such product.

What is your unique selling proposition?
What is your optimal selling point?


Answering those two questions, having answers to such questions, would be in my great opinion the ONLY WAY you will reach such amount of sales. Those two questions answer soo much about a business and what it needs to do in terms of sales.

No sales = NO $. No $ = failure.

An idea is garbage unless they can get it sold.
An idea is garbage unless action is taken...but I need to extrapolate on that-


AN IDEA IS GARBAGE UNLESS ACTION IS TAKEN, BY THE OWNER TOWARDS A SPECIFIC GOAL, TO INCREASE SALES! NOT TO FIX A SITE, NOT TO TWEAK A PRODUCT THAT IS ALREADY BEING SOLD BY THE MILLIONS OF DOLLARS A YEAR IF YOU POSITIONED YOURSELF CORRECTLY....

THE PRODUCT, IN MY OPINION IS PERFECT AS IT IS, SINCE IT ALREADY HAS A MARKET EXISTENT. I KNOW A TOOTHBRUSH SELLS AT 100 MILLION DOLLARS A YEAR, THE MOST SIMPLE ONE. Can't you sell a simple toothbrush?

Sure make improvements to your product... but I said sell..if you can position yourself correctly. ...

So...my other question is simple... after you have made improvements to your site, as you are NOT CONCENTRATING ON SALES, do you honestly think you will sell more, ONLY because you made the product?


:) I hope you can answer me without getting stumped, I want you to succeed. Heck maybe I can see your warehouse in person when I go to Europe this summer.
 
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SparksCW

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I have a theory...

People who are successful do not really go about looking for "how to make money" or "how to grow an eCommerce site" or "business forum for entrepreneurs" or ....ANYTHING in my opinion, that would lead you to join The Fastlane Forum... But perhaps it just happened, and I can understand that.

So... there you have it, I don't believe it. Anyone could post anything...but who cares what I think, you know what I mean?
I wasn't looking for how to make money or anything like that. I was looking for a place where other people, successful or trying, talk about business and business related things. Just like I'm on car forums for car interests etc... but you're right I don't consider myself "successful" yet, I'm not doing too bad though.

I get your post, it's all valid, but that's what this post is about and what I'm already doing this.

Product page improvements for SEO = more visitors = more conversions = more $$
Adwords improvements = more visitors = more conversions = more $$
Offline partnerships = more contacts (scale) = more sales = more $$ = higher margins (magnitude) and more products = more $$
More content = more visitors = more conversions = more $$
More value = more visitors = more conversions = more $$

I spent a lot of time previously changing themes and playing around with which web system I wanted to be on, however everything I've been doing since late last year is to generate more sales, and as the monthly $$ is increasing it's obviously working. The sites aren't perfect, but they work, they look good enough and the work has been on getting more people on the site and getting more sales offline.
 

nomeus

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I have a theory...
I see that you have made a lot of bold statements before, and tried to put a lot of information out there. But how much have you been making last couple months?

Your progress thread https://www.thefastlaneforum.com/community/threads/from-1-to-10-100-1000-5000-10000-and-beyond.63909/ have not been updated since the day you posted it. So technically you have not made any money since then.

On september you were ready to jump off a cliff - https://www.thefastlaneforum.com/community/threads/i-want-to-run-jump-off-a-cliff-leave-it-all.62996/

Then you state that you have 764k that someone owes you. https://www.thefastlaneforum.com/community/threads/collecting-762k-in-x-months.64818/

You have to be a millionaire, but you clearly do not know how to make a single $ ("1$ is my goal to make first"). 764k in two years is 382k a year in debt. Either you have a lot of money or you don't have any clue to what you are doing.

AN IDEA IS GARBAGE UNLESS ACTION IS TAKEN, BY THE OWNER TOWARDS A SPECIFIC GOAL, TO INCREASE SALES! NOT TO FIX A SITE
Are you dumb or just pretending to be dumb?

How is not fixing site, therefore increasing conversion rates, not increasing sales? Did You know that 3% conversion rate is better than 2% conversion rate? Do you know what conversion rate is? From your progress thread, its clear that you didn't even got that far. 1000 visitors with 2% CR is 20 sales, same visitors with 3% CR is 30 sales. That means increasing sales.
Engaging in social media is getting more traffic, therefore MORE SALES.

SparksCW just increased the revenue by 270%, and you, someone who doesn't know how fixing site might help increasing sales, say that SparksCW will not increase his sales? WTF?
 
Last edited by a moderator:

DWX

Getting on with it
Speedway Pass
Nov 19, 2015
66
87
132
London, UK
Are you dumb or just pretending to be dumb?

How is not fixing site, therefore increasing conversion rates, not increasing sales? Did You know that 3% conversion rate is better than 2% conversion rate? Do you know what conversion rate is? From your progress thread, its clear that you didn't even got that far. 1000 visitors with 2% CR is 20 sales, same visitors with 3% CR is 30 sales. That means increasing sales.
Engaging in social media is getting more traffic, therefore MORE SALES.

SparksCW just increased the revenue by 270%, and you, someone who doesn't know how fixing site might help increasing sales, say that SparksCW will not increase his sales? WTF?
I agree with this.

Any form of optimization that improves conversions is always worth spending time, energy and even money on. Testing and tweaking is the name of the game.
 

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