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7 eCommerce Lessons, Learned from Our Own Experience.

7 eCommerce lessons, learned from our own experience.


  1. Learning how online selling works

When I decided to start a business selling pillows online, I had no knowledge of how to build or design a website. I had however bought and sold on eBay and Amazon so thought I had some idea about what to do. Even with no knowledge, I was able to start the business, Purley Pillows, by signing up to Shopify to subscribe to a turn-key ecommerce platform which includes many vital features, like payment processing, data collection and site analytics. Actually, without such a platform, starting my business would have been impossible for me.

  1. Learning about digital marketing

Once I had a fully operational and ‘live’ e-shop, I needed to let the world know it exists. Google ‘ecommerce marketing’ and you’ll be overwhelmed by all of the gurus and experts asking you sign up to newsletters, ready to take your money for what is sometimes generic advice. I decided to learn about Google Adwords and Facebook marketing. After reading a book or two about these subjects and feeling like I was wading through mud, it seemed logical to employ the services of experts in each field. I have found that this is not cheap, but great value. When you chat to the experts, you realise just how much you don’t know. The key to employing these people is to know what you’re paying for, and having a plan.

  1. Learning what to sell online

Obviously, you can’t set up an online shop with no products. So, I found suitable products from wholesalers and manufacturers which I thought would be commercial. I looked at my potential competitors’ websites to gleen some ideas about what to sell from there. I have a physical shop that sells beds and mattresses, so I also looked at what pillows sell in the store and offered them online too. A lesson I quickly learned is that what sells well instore, does not necessarily sell online and vice-versa. This is because consumers buy in a different way in each situation.

  1. Learning about sales fulfilment

One of the key cost centres of ecommerce is fulfilment. For every physical product you sell, you have to deliver to your buyer. With pillows, we can put the goods in a rugged, plastic mailing bag and have a direct-home-delivery carrier collect them from our warehouse. At the moment we only sell to those areas of the UK that are serviced by our preferred carrier MyHermes. We are expecting, as orders increase, that we can find other carriers who can deliver farther afield at an acceptable cost.

  1. Learning how to make our own exclusive products

We have learned that for products to sell well online they have to be competitively priced, look great in a picture and have a story that includes keywords that our prospective buyers will search for. As most pillows look the same, we have decided to create our own products that look good and appeal to our visitor. The first of these products is our best-selling Bamboo Memory Foam pillow which is designed to relieve pressure on your neck and shoulders as you sleep and hence, reduce or eliminate neck pain.

  1. Learning how much this all costs

I knew I would have to make some capital available for stock, subscriptions and start-up expenses. I have also learned that marketing, especially with Adwords can be costly for the inexperienced. There are guides and tutorials on the subject, but learning from experience is fast and expensive. With Facebook advertising, we have formulated a strategy and committed a budget. This costs more than I first expected, but I can now see the value. You can either wait and re-invest profits, or commit additional capital to move things along more quickly. The balance is that of time against money.

  1. Learning how to wait for the project to bear fruit

The development of our ecommerce business is taking longer than I first expected. We have learned so many lessons about site development, marketing and the commerciality of products, but we have been through so many stages of development. These stages have to be progressed through in an order. You learn one thing which leads you to have to learn another and so on. Gaining provenance on Google and Facebook and building an audience has a gestation period of which we have no control. We work at other people’s speed. Developing our own product has taken many, many months and has presented unexpected obstacles, but we are on our ecommerce journey and it really is great fun.

Your author is Jerry Cheshire – founder of award winning bed and mattress retailer Surrey Beds. Follow him on twitter @thebeducator