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10 Things I Wish I Had Known When Setting Up An Online Store

Ever thought of setting up an online store? Do you have a fab idea but struggling to know where to start? Or are you already trading online but want to know where I went wrong?

No matter what your situation, it is always really good to hear from those who have been there and learnt some valuable lessons.

Back in 2009, when I set up my on-line shop Another Gorgeous Day, I knew almost nothing (realistically more like absolutely nothing), about setting up and running an online shop. I didn’t even know what e-commerce meant.

I had a great idea for my shop. I was going to sell lots of lovely things all with great quotes and sayings on them. I thought, how hard can it be? Little did I know.

I had done lots of online research and had a really good idea of how I wanted my shop to look and feel. I had found a good web designer and developer. I had sourced all the products I wanted to initially sell. That was the easy part.

The learning curve was huge….but I loved every minute of it. However, looking back there are some things I really wish I had known from the start and I thought you may find them useful too.

So here are my top 10 things I wish I had know when setting up an online store:
1. Don’t pay for others to do the things you don’t know how to do yourself

This may seem a bit of an odd thing to say, but in the beginning it is the one thing that I spent quite a lot of money on and actually got very little from it. I figured the easy way to do stuff that I did not know how to do was to pay someone to do it for me.

I don’t mean the really technical stuff like building a website or the stuff that needs a decent design done by a graphic designer. I mean the key knowledge you really need at least a basic understanding of, in order to have a successful online business.

For example, I did not have a clue about SEO so I paid someone to do it but I still did not know how to do it once they had finished doing what I paid them for. The benefits were therefore minimal. I did not have a clue how to do marketing so paid for a marketing strategy and plan to be developed. The information was really good but I still did not have a clue how to do marketing so did very little with it.

Since then I learn what I don’t know first, I do it for a while and then decide whether I get someone else to do it for me. That way I know what I need when I pay for someone else’s time.  Knowledge is king.
2. Suppliers don’t give you images.

I assumed suppliers would give me images for all the products I bought from them. Not true. A couple do but most don’t. I had to learn pretty quickly how to take good product shots and could not believe how difficult it was. Now that I make my own products I am so pleased I learnt how to do it, but back then I wasted so much time being clueless and taking rubbish shots. It was so difficult.

3. Suppliers don’t like you because you are not bricks and mortar

Yes really! Going around my first trade show to source my initial product range was quite a shock when I found out how rude some suppliers were because I did not have a high street presence. Many simply said no. Others were not at all enthusiastic to be selling to me. Some were obviously fine and lovely but so many weren’t.

Then every few months I would get an email from a supplier whose products I was selling really well, at a high volume, that they would no longer supply me if I continued to sell their products on market places. So far 8 suppliers have done this to me. I was selling their products at RRP so really there should not have been a problem.

4. It will never be perfect

My online shop is not perfect, it never will be. However, for the first few years I stressed and procrastinated about this, not putting anything out into the online world until it was perfect. Good is often good enough, at least until you have the time to tweak and improve it.

5. Focus on a small range first

I wanted to be the best from the start. And I wanted to look professional and “big” from the start. I thought one way to do that was to have a large range. I launched my store with 600 products, and it was just me working night and day to get them onto the website, promote them, ship them, restock them etc. I should have stuck to a range much smaller and got that running smoothly then expanded. So start small.

6. Know your customer

I did not have a clue about how to actually market Another Gorgeous Day in the beginning. This meant I missed the most important part of any business, know who your customer is. It was 3 years after launching my shop that I actually sat down and worked out who they were. That made a huge, huge different to everything.

So if there is one thing you need to do from the very start, establish who your customer is and what they are coming to you to solve (I.e. how can you help them).

7. How to pack a box

This took up so much time at the beginning. I had so many questions. What packaging to order and where from? How to actually pack a box quickly and so everything was safe inside? What to put in and on the outside of the box? What shipping company to use? What to charge for P&P? What is the best way to pack it to save shipping costs?

All this seems so obvious now but in the beginning it was really difficult to work out. I wish there had been more help on this.

8. Don’t stock / sell things that are hard to pack and too costly to post

Seems so obvious now but in the beginning I just didn’t think about it and I have had a few nightmares with how to pack things and the cost of postage being huge in comparison to what the customer was paying.

9. Don’t compare yourself to others

I still do this but not so much. It is something which distracts me from getting to where I want to go. But a few years ago I heard the advice “don’t compare your chapter one to someone else’s chapter 20.” Which definitely helps when you feel yourself being dragged off course or when you are being critical because you have just compared yourself to a business that has been around much longer than yours.

And finally……

10. Don’t over plan – go for it!

Planning is a very useful part of running any business but there is also times when you can over plan. That was definitely me in the beginning. I had plans for everything. I eventually realised the more I planned, the more I could procrastinate. Have a basic actionable plan then just do it!

“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.  Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!”  Goethe

If you already run an on-line shop do you relate to these? What would you include in your top 10?

If you have not yet set out on the amazing adventure of running an on-line store then I hope this list has helped.

Would you like me to go into detail on any of the points in future blog posts?

Answers, questions, comments or general hello’s are all lovely to hear. What do you wish you knew / had known when setting up an online store??

Would you like me to let you know when I so more Shop Talk?