If you’re a blogger looking to learn more about eCommerce, the good news is that through your blogging you’ll have already developed many of the skills which are required to be successful with eCommerce. Whether it’s social media, copywriting, or audience research — you have to use the same strategies you used as a blogger to grow your audience to make sales. The advice and tips shared in this article will help bloggers to expand into online selling, and we’ll start by translating the skills you already do have…
Look at the Skills You Already Have
So, you’ve got your blog, it gets traffic, people read it and people enjoy it. That you have done this, shows that you are capable of doing the following:
- Finding a Niche: Becoming a successful blogger is hard and you should be proud of yourself. Can you remember the process you used to determine the niche you would fill with your blog? Unless you’re going to start selling through your blog, do it again. What are other eCommerce sites not offering? What’s your USP? How can you offer something new to the market?
- Content/Copywriting: You need to be able to write about each and every one of your products. Use this opportunity to reflect your charm and personality. Of course you need to be informative and explain what the product is, but nice bits of content around the site are part of what could help to set you apart from other generic online stores. Well-optimized content and a blog full of engaging posts are great for SEO and users, so use your blogger writing skills to help you sell more.
- Marketing Skills: How did you get the word out about your blog? Social media? Guest post? Forums? Blogger networking events? Well, now it’s time to do it all again. Find out about eCommerce conferences, go to local markets, get tweeting, get posting, and let people know why they need to give your online store a chance. Remember the golden 80/20 content creation rule — eCommerce isn’t much different: you need to promote a lot more than you think…
As you can see, as a blogger, you’ve already cultivated three of the most important skills for starting an eCommerce business!
Cross Pollination or Cross Contamination?
If you’ve already got a popular website that gets a ton of traffic, then you might think to yourself that it would be a waste of time to start again with a new site for your eCommerce venture…..But things aren’t quite so clear cut. Yes, sometimes combining two ventures in this way can give you a good starting point, but other times taking your blog down the eCommerce path lead to content mismatch.
First, let’s talk about the negatives. If you’ve been blogging for years and then all of a sudden you start trying to sell things with just as much effort as you are putting into your blog, some of your longtime readers may be unhappy. They may feel that your site is starting to lose focus.
It’s also worth considering that your readers are fans of your writing and not necessarily of your products. Unless you’re selling something which ties into your posts really strongly, there’s no guarantee that anybody will be interested. Yes, you are gaining access to a lot of people right away, which is always good, but there is no guarantee that they’ll convert…and they might just like the site less now that the sales aspect has been added.
Another thing to consider is that shoppers who might have otherwise been interested in your site, might just view it as a blog, rather than a serious business outlet. Many bloggers create a comic persona for their posts and if you’re doing this and selling at the same time, some may feel that they cannot take you seriously as a business person!
Though it’s completely possible to sell through your blog and share knowledge via webinars and affiliate links — going completely eCommerce may not be the best thing for your audience.
On the other hand, if you start selling and all of your customers love it, that’s a nice increase in revenue right away — and you get a loyal and dedicated customer base from day one. If people are particular fans of your work, they may jump at the chance to purchase something which relates to you. (Popular items include eBooks, downloads, branded tees, small sundries etc).
As you are already a known and respected blogger, people trust you to produce high quality products, and these may end up boosting your personal (and blogger) brand.
Zoella was first known just as a blogger, but now she also has a very popular range of branded products. Of course, she has become an enormous success, but it’s not impossible that you could have the same kind of success on a smaller scale. It’s all about building a sense of trust with your audience, and being honest about how (and why) you want your blog to generate revenue. A few products here or there shouldn’t put off loyal readers if you still deliver on what made them love you in the first place.
In some cases, eCommerce is a natural expansion for bloggers and can help them to boost their income. Have a think about what you write about as a blogger, and whether or not joining a shop to your site would be an appropriate next step. (If you have any hesitations, then you probably shouldn’t do it… for now).
Take a Pause From Your Other Work
If you’re starting up an eCommerce site which is going to stand as its own thing, you might want to take a brief pause from your regular blogging. If this is something that you’re only working on in your free time, you probably won’t have time to manage both things at once in the early days. To get a worthwhile eCommerce site off the ground, you need to put in a lot of hours (remember how long it took you to figure out some of the blogging stuff?!).
Your readers are sure to respect your decision, if you say something like “I’m afraid I won’t be posting for the next couple of weeks because I am working on a new business venture.” Then once it’s done, you could even blog about the experience (if you’re happy for people to know that there is a connection between the two projects.)
Something which will determine how quickly you are able to get things started is how you choose to make your eCommerce site. On the one hand (if you know web design) you could build it all yourself: a task which would take you a very long time. You could also hire a web designer to do it for you, but this approach can take also take a while and is quite expensive too. WordPress plugins are a great option for WordPress savvy bloggers (check the best ones out here). Another potential option is to use a store hosted on Shopify, which gives you an easy-to-use eCommerce environment (at the cost of slightly less freedom).
Social Media Is Your Friend
For bloggers like yourself, social media is one of the best ways to bring in those early customers. It’s clear that you’ve got a way with words (otherwise you’d never have gotten anywhere as a blogger) and this is exactly what it takes to succeed in social media marketing.
Just as with blogging, different social media platforms are better suited to different types of business. Take a look at what sites your competitors are using and how they are marketing themselves there. Could you do the same? How could you do it better?
Instead of just thinking up funny and interesting things to post and share, think specifically of things that will appeal to your customers. These will help you you to justify a position in their news-feeds. Share enough content which they enjoy and they’ll forgive the occasional advertisement (as long as it’s still relevant and engaging). Spending a little money on social media advertising might be just what you need to get started (complete guide here).
Don’t forget to use funny hashtags and get people involved with competitions and product giveaways — this is the perfect way to get your readership and other bloggers to promote you (without spending loads on sponsorship fees).
Use Free Tools
You’re going to want to spend as little as possible in the early days of an eCommerce business… With this in mind, take a look over the following free tools you may find useful:
- Google Trends: If you’re struggling to find your niche, Google Trends can really help you out. Find out what sorts of search terms are popular at the moment and if it turns out that “novelty ski wear” has a very high search volume, but there are no websites specializing in that area, you’ve just found your niche!
- Moz: Rankings are very important to the success of an eCommerce store and without good SEO, you won’t have good rankings. Moz can score your site based on how well it meets certain SEO criteria and it provides a wealth of SEO information, all available to read through free of charge. It’s an invaluable resource for a digital entrepreneur and will help you clarify the key differences between running a blog and running an online store.
- DropBox: If you’ve got lots of files related to your eCommerce store which you’d like to have safely backed up, try this free cloud storage.
- Google Analytics: You’re going to want to know how many people are coming to your site and you’re going to want to know who they are. How do they find you? Which page are they coming to? Are they staying? (If not, you need to investigate and figure out why they don’t stay to make a purchase). Google Analytics is one of the internet’s best tools and since it’s free, there’s no reason not to use it. Just remember to set up proper conversion tracking.
It’s easy to pour lots of money into services which you can’t quite afford, so things like these (which can be used for free) are quite valuable. These services will help you, but you will still need to invest in some (paid) tools. Just make sure that you read around and get a good feel for tools before you hit pay. (And be careful of all those free trials — they quickly add up).
Ultimately, being successful in eCommerce is hard work. You can’t expect to be a success, just because you’ve got a popular blog. However, if you dedicate as much time to your online shop as you have done to your blog and you make use of the tools and advice in this article, you’re definitely on the right track. Have you heard of any successful bloggers turned eCommerce entrepreneurs?
Guest Post By: Patrick Foster, eCommerce writer & marketer
Ten long years in the eCommerce industry leaves you with more than a few insights. Out there sharing my knowledge with anyone who will listen!