Charting the Waters of eCommerce with Carrie Leigh
With big conglomerates like Amazon and Walmart controlling eCommerce, we often forget about the initial stages of creativity that require smaller-scale product manufacturing and sheer creativity. Unique apparel and hand-made products stand out in our highly commercialized world, and e-shops are helping to bring these commodities to the market.
Work Experience is Priceless
Saying I like to work would be an understatement. Starting at just 5 years old, I sold lemonade and rocks on the side of the road and earned $2.50 an hour to stain my parents’ fence. Throughout college I worked several odd jobs and internships: working at a TV show, hosting an environmental radio show, boxing items at Costco, and being a terrible referee just to name a few. My work experience throughout college taught me that I’m a pragmatic learner; I value hands-on experience and practical skills.
After deciding to pursue an MBA, I searched for programs that would allow me to continue working while simultaneously gaining my degree. I decided to earn my degree part time at Northwestern in order to manage an outside salesforce for a medical device company. Looking back, I have absolutely no regrets for my decision because I had the unique opportunity to apply course topics to the real business world instead of a theoretical approach alone.
When my role in work changed, I had the opportunity to study abroad in London while on-boarding as the sales manager for international markets. By the time I graduated, I felt confident in pursuing my entrepreneurship dream because of the invaluable hands-on experience I had acquired and skills that I learned in the MBA program.
“Looking back, I have absolutely no regrets for my decision because I had the unique opportunity to apply course topics to the real business world instead of a theoretical approach alone.”
On-Demand Printing: Where Creativity and Technology Meet eCommerce
During an omni-channel Marketing class, I came across Shopify, which sparked my interest in learning about on-demand printing and e-commerce. After a year, I quit my job and assumed a new role as Creating Everything Officer at Get It Made.
Get It Made helps creative hustlers bring their unique ideas to life, from product manufacturing to eCommerce strategy. We work with a network of printers and manufacturing spaces to prototype anything from t-shirts to tech.
Learning about technology and applying those concepts to solve problems excites me. When I first learned about print on demand, I couldn’t stop telling friends and fellow business owners how it worked. I loved the idea that I could help people spend less money to make more money so that everybody wins! I see myself as a bridge between the technical and the creative camps, and enjoy providing a business perspective to people on both ends of that spectrum.
“I loved the idea that I could help people spend less money to make more money so that everybody wins!”
Remember to Keep the Bigger Picture in Mind
The idea of starting an eCommerce platform from scratch can be daunting, but don’t let a lack of experience deter you. If you haven’t built a website before, it is important to know that creating a quality fully customized website will typically cost at least a few thousand dollars.
It is also important to keep the big picture in mind: to get your product available to customers. Clients often get stuck on something like a logo or catch phrase when they should focus more on tackling the entire checklist for a product. Using a platform like Shopify can be helpful because it provides templates, apps, and an ecosystem of fellow store owners for support.
“Clients often get stuck on something like a logo or catch phrase when they should focus more on tackling the entire checklist for a product.”
Two Common Mistakes in eCommerce
Field of Dreams Approach. This happens when clients spend an enormous amount of time creating a beautiful website or product, but not working on search engine optimization, social media engagement, and sales strategies to promote its awareness so that customers know it exists!
The Perfectionist Problem. Often clients can get in their own way by focusing on small details, but you have to remember that at the end of the day you must make decisions and progress forward on a daily basis. We install checkpoints and deadlines for all of our eCommerce plans to combat slow development.
Best Practices for Setting Up and Maintaining an eCommerce Site
You have to keep in mind that creating a high-selling product takes time, and in addition you must gain website traffic. These are the 3 key steps we use to implement a successful e-commerce plan.
Search. Using basic SEO tactics, you can organically gain traction on search engines in about six months. Think of each web page as a little piece of internet real estate. If your real estate is well maintained and those who visit it find it valuable, it becomes even more valuable to you.
Social. Identify the channels most used by your target consumer and interact with them to gain a following.
Sales. Direct sales are often overlooked. It is essential to reach out to potential consumers to introduce your brand and expand awareness – and more importantly, revenue.
For Revenue, Go Viral!
The easiest route to rapid, exponential sales growth is having a unique piece of content with the potential to go viral on social media. The social media channels will vary with your primary target audiences, but another method is to use popular TV programs like Shark Tank, QVC, etc. Otherwise, gaining a large audience and recurring sales takes time and hard work.
The Future of eCommerce:
With the increasing popularity of on-demand printing, it will be important to differentiate your apparel brand from others. Incorporating your product within a real-world context, or a lifestyle photo, will set you apart from the competition who are likely using a generic mockup image.
With makerspaces popping up around the country, physical manufacturing is becoming easier, which supplements the notion that handmade goods are definitely here to stay. Ultimately, it will be up to the eCommerce giants like Amazon and Walmart to dictate where the industry is going. For instance, Walmart and Amazon both house handmade collections - look out Etsy!
“With makerspaces popping up around the country, physical manufacturing is becoming easier, which supplements the notion that handmade goods are definitely here to stay.”
Do What You Want, Not What You Should
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the number of things you “should” be doing. Take a deep breath, work hard toward your goals, be patient and great things will happen. Remember, no one has the capacity to do it all.
Build Your Own Product
Whether you want to produce the latest streetwear apparel or cutting-edge tech products, Get It Made can support you through your eCommerce journey. We will help you get your feet wet without committing to a project that requires consulting fees and product management. We call our approach Lean Merchandising because we avoid unnecessary investment in inventory until a concept is proven.
Our Shopify partnership allows you to manage products in one place while publishing them to a variety of sales channels. If you have an Etsy store, we can easily export your listings to Shopify without any extra fees.
For DIY-ers, try our 30-day free trial and our affordable Shopify store set ups to get you from zero to online in just 60 minutes. We’re eager to help you get started!
Partner with the Port
Looking to create your own product or scale your current venture? Whether you are working on website design to developing a brand strategy, The Port is here for you. Get in touch with our team to learn how we can help with your fundraising and marketing efforts.
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