We’re going to talk about the following:
Gaming glasses and social networking $1000 with tea, in 3 days T-shirts, 3 weeks and $1249 The 24-hour challenge Again, 24 hours: with some beef The THEGREATBUILD project Beards: $120K per month More ecommerce stories… 6 points to consider
Corey Ferreira, a member of the Shopify team, launched an online store just to be able to make a case study out of it.
Since previously they built stores on the basis of dropshipping for case studies, Corey now tried something different.
He imported goods directly from a Chinese manufacturer. Before choosing his partner, he set the following criteria:
- The product had to be light and small enough to fit into a shoebox.
- It had to be relatively cheap in the range of $1-10 so that costs could be kept low even in the case of a larger order.
- A product with a profit margin potential of 50%+ would be ideal.
Corey excluded electronics and foods right at the beginning because they are risky: they can break or expire.
He wanted a product to serve a niche market of passionate people.
He then didn’t identify the product, but the target audience, in this case: gamers. It was a rather easy choice since Corey is a gamer himself so he knows the needs and problems of this target group.
One of their common problems was eye fatigue to which one solution was to wear glasses that block blue light.
Once he had the idea, he started doing some research.
Corey first looked for similar products on the net to see how much users were willing to pay for them, which types were more popular, what kind of feedback shoppers gave, what styles were attracting and who the main competitors were.
Google Trends also provided some valuable information: search terms like “gaming glasses” and “blue light blocking” had uptrend patterns, so demand was very likely expanding for these products.
Next, the supplier was to be found: Alibaba offered the best options.
Here you can look for both products and suppliers, searching with product keywords and then revising the searches with the keywords the suppliers used the most is a smart idea.
When making a list of the potential suppliers, minimum order quantity, keeping the budget low, was a very important criterion.
Corey then contacted each supplier in a message and recorded and tracked the answers in an Excel spreadsheet.
Alibaba’s system also helped him find out which of the suppliers were a trading company or a manufacturer (the latter is likely to offer lower prices), how long they had been in business and what kind of reviews their products got.
It was also a factor how much the company specialized in manufacturing glasses.
After getting price offers from the potentially most reliable and specialized firms, Corey then calculated that after his initial investment of $700, how many glasses he needed to sell to break even. (This number was to be relatively low, in this case 22, considering the desired margin to be very high.)
The estimations couldn’t be very precise, social networking site performance is hard to foresee, especially if you want to introduce a rather new product without any prior experience with it.
Corey created his online store on Shopify, of course. He chose a template that helped to focus on one product only instead of having a catalogue like appearance.
He registered the domain name syghtglasses.com.
On top of some basic information, he also created interesting and useful content that highlighted the product benefits and also provided the users with some scientific background about the glasses.
First he studied the product pages of competitors and then looked up many customer reviews on Amazon and product tests on YouTube, to get an idea how people talked about their problems and how the glasses helped to solve them.
He also used diagrams and high quality photos of the products to make the content even more attractive and valuable.
Corey was lucky to have some professional photo equipment available at his office and a colleague having some photo shooting experience also helped him.
If you don’t know how to take high quality product photos, don’t try to save on that. We have written about how important it is to show the customer what he’s about to buy in the best possible way.
Building up social networking channels came as the next step – strictly on the basis of brand identity and design, with the appropriate language on the selected social platforms (Twitter, Instagram), using coupons for making offers to the target audience.
First, Corey gained followers on these two sites by following brands with similar products and after a few days, with the help of TwitNerd and Unfollowgram he unfollowed those who didn’t follow him back.
Instead of creating his own content, as time was limited, he chose to curate and share content: interesting news, articles and visuals, using Buffer and Latergramme.
In the meantime, a smaller circle (friends, family and colleagues) could take a look at the products to give some feedback according to which he could further fine-tune strategy and content.
Corey also featured the product on Reddit with the title “Anti eye fatigue and eye strain gaming glasses”, which worked very well increasing the online store’s traffic and also generating backlinks from those who encountered Syght Glasses here.
As orders were coming in, Corey started to set up an affiliate programme with the help of Affiliately.
For this he needed to find influencers who could promote the product effectively. Corey’s plan was to find gamers with medium-sized audiences on YouTube and Twitch.tv.
Finally, after some email correspondence and sending out free samples, 4 gamers joined his affiliate programme and 3 YouTube influencers created video reviews on the glasses.
A nice sales boost was due to special coupons for the followers of an influencer on Instagram (140,000 followers). The retargeting campaign on Facebook and using Google Sopping also proved to be profitable.
Overall, Instagram and Google Shopping performed beyond expectations.
There’s a scenario for further growth, of course – blogging, i.e. creating and sharing quality content, posting videos on YouTube and also expanding the affiliate programme.
After 5 weeks, Corey made a total revenue of nearly $2500, selling 61 glasses all together.
You can read the whole, very detailed case study here.
Let’s summarize the key learnings very briefly:
- Plan your actions and do your research with patience and thoroughness, because in this phase you can find out whether your product will be successful or not.
- Get to know your target market as much as possible – it’s not enough to give them some good solution, you need to present it in their own language using the right channels.
- Do not rely on one single platform or device: you can run a dozen different social, advertising or content sharing campaigns even with a tiny budget. Select these carefully.
Another test from Shopify. This time the product was tea.
Richard Lazazzera, with some of his co-workers, began this case study project with a very limited budget and time frame.
They launched their ecommerce business with $500 and gave themselves only 3 days to succeed.
In the beginning they agreed that they would sell matcha tea, a type of Japanese green tea powder. They found that it was trending up nicely in Google Trends.
And it’s not only getting more and more popular, but it’s also small in size, easy to ship, demand is constant throughout the year, and it’s consumable so there’s a good chance to retain loyal shoppers.
The team chose the dropshipping model.
They simply looked for potential suppliers on Google and then asked for sample products. Now, knowing the dropshipping costs, they set a price for their branded product.
They used a business name generator tool that listed a good number of options for a domain name based on the word matcha. Then they chose the brand name they liked the most: “Hello Matcha”.
Because of the time pressure, they photographed the product with a smartphone, but it was satisfactory, especially after some adjustments with an image editor software.
Next step: setting up the online store.
A major chunk of the budget, $180, was spent on buying a professional Shopify theme, which is very easily customizable.
To make the store look and perform great, the following assets were needed:
- A hero image for the home page (primarily to show the main product and brand benefits),
- High quality product photos,
- About page copy with the most essential pieces of information,
- Home page copy introducing the unique value proposition which makes it clear why they should be chosen over a competitor.
The basic idea behind the marketing strategy was rather simple:
Try as many channels and devices as possible in order to see which work the best and then go for maximum effectiveness.
- First, they exploited personal outreach: friends, family, professional contacts who they thought would be interested in the product.
- com: to make best new products known. Nearly 1000 visitors came from this website.
- Reddit: since direct sales efforts are not very welcome here, Lazazzera’s team searched for tea related content, using BuzzSumo, which had been very popular during the past 6 months. In the end, they “repackaged” an already popular video about teabags and created a list post based on this with useful tips.
- They collected photos from the posts that had performed best over the previous year in a subreddit on teas and wrote another list article based on them. Although these two posts did not have immediate results, these ideas can be very promising in the long run.
- On Instagram they looked for influencers with hundreds of thousands of followers to use sponsored posts. The limited budget and time frame did not let this project unfold, they only managed to gather followers, post and like the posts of others. It’s not known how many customers came from this channel, since you cannot place links on the posts.
- On Pinterest they looked for opportunities for a sponsored post. They tried a health and fitness related account with over 11,000 followers for $20. They published a post on their own blog featuring a recipe for Starbucks green tea latte with a photo that could be pinned. This did not sell either, but, again, a smart way to boost awareness, it generated 50 repins and 17 page views in the end.
- With a fast and well targeted Facebook ad campaign they managed to attract visitors to the page and made one sale as well.
- Twitter wasn’t used extensively, but they each tweeted out the new store and got some retweets generating 184 visits and one sale.
In the end, after only 3 days, total traffic was 2414, 94 reached checkout and 32 made a purchase. Total revenue was $922.16.
The lion’s share of the total budget was spent on starting the business, paying for the products, the labels and for shipping. As we can see, they spent quite little on online marketing.
Despite the considerable one-time startup costs, they still made a profit of $56 in 3 days, which is not bad at all.
Tucker Schreiber from Shopify gave himself one month to build up and run an online T-shirt business successfully.
He first wanted to find the right audience – which wouldn’t need to be built up, but already existed.
He set the following criteria to be matched:
- It should be a „feel good” topic, so that selling the products can make him happy and proud.
- The target market is developing continuously and is not likely to disappear.
- It comprises an active community in which the topic has the potential to go viral.
- Approachable influencers: social media users (e.g. Instagram, Reddit) with large numbers of followers that are willing to promote the brand for just a little compensation.
- Flexible design idea: if it works for T-shirts, it would be good to use it for mugs, bags, pillows etc.
Tucker first moved to one of the largest and most active online communities: Reddit.
He saw a great potential in the dog community. He believed funny and creative dog T-shirts would be very popular.
After a few Google searches, he then identified which dog breeds were the most popular.
The next step was to find established communities on Reddit built around specific breeds and have a look at the competition: what kind of products were already selling.
The search term “dog owner shirt” proved to be effective to find quickly a wide range of such products.
Finding a brand name was the next challenge: it had to be cute and easy to remember, easy to pronounce and social accounts had to be also available for this name.
Here, too, a business name generator tool was fired up and finally the name THINK PUP became the winner.
For the sake of the experiment, Tucker didn’t purchase an online store theme, but chose a free one which he tailored as much as he could to best match his expectations.
Here’s a few conscious decisions he made about the design:
- He removed the navigation to make visitors scroll down or click a product.
- All T-shirts were shown on the front page.
- He modified the checkout, adjusted the colours to match the brand’s.
- He kept the store design as simple as possible, only having the FAQ, Contact and About pages.
Tucker knew very well how he wanted to build up his product pages.
The following elements were necessary to appear:
- Product name
- Available sizes
- Garment description
- Shipping times
- Related products
- Product photo
The first step in marketing was to start activities in the social networking channels – Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter pages were launched.
A product was posted in a subreddit featuring new products. Although the audience is general, here on /r/shutupandtakemymoney, purchase intention is very strong.
It had a huge success right on the day of posting, probably because of the funny product itself. During a few hours, the number of active users on the website was 40-70 at any given time.
The T-shirt gained further awareness elsewhere on Reddit and finally more than 10,000 visitors came from here and 18 items were ordered for $522 all together.
And this small campaign didn’t cost anything.
Additionally, thanks to Reddit, a product blog also featured the shirt and resulted in two orders.
Next, the Facebook groups were to be conquered.
Tucker joined different dog breed specific groups, but in the end he did not make any sales from them. He simply posted the products without any prior or further activity.
Tucker had thought about gathering email addresses for remarketing campaigns, but he missed this opportunity when so many visitors were pouring in from Reddit, which he hadn’t expect at all.
Learning from it, he immediately set up an exit intent popup, which offered a 5% discount for an email address. All in all, this technique helped to get 30 email addresses, with a conversion rate of 1.34% (visitor to email address).
Next came Instagram. Sponsored posts helped to get 300 followers.
Tucker used a UTM parameter generator and a URL shortener to track how many users were coming to the store from Instagram.
Content was not too complicated here: cute and funny images of dogs. He used relevant hashtags to get followers in the desired target audience.
As followers started to appear, he looked for influencers with over 100,000 followers that were willing to post sponsored content for under $100 and every picture they posted would have a few thousand likes regardless of what that actually was about.
Because of the limited time he spent on dealing with the Instagram campaign, there were only a few sales in the end.
Facebook came next.
Here he wanted to reach out to those who already had visited the store, added a product to their cart, but did not buy anything.
He started to run campaigns with precise targeting, primarily with a focus on websites, forums, magazines, clubs etc. for dogs.
Facebook finally proved to be an appropriate tool for promoting the T-shirts generating a good deal of engagement and a few sales.
Tucker also sent emails to cart abandoners achieving a 10.5% click through rate and one sale, totally for free.
After the 3-week experiment Tucker sold 43 shirts making a revenue of $1249. Marketing and setup costs were only $260. After deducting product and dropshipping costs a profit of $148 was realized.
You can launch an online store and make it profitable even in one single day.
Richard Lazazzera proved that it’s possible. He created unique T-shirt designs featuring the metro stations in Toronto.
Finding a business name took about 3 minutes, naming his store after his favourite station located in the neighbourhood where he had grown up and started his first businesses. He called his store Finch’s.
For marketing, understandably, he needed more time. He had a great idea that was very close to newsjacking.
Coincidentally, the subway line had celebrated its 60th anniversary just the previous week covered by several news portals and bloggers.
Richard contacted one of the authors and asked him if he was interested in writing about the brand new “subway shirts”.
The next morning a post was published about the store and traffic started pouring in.
Richard spent $24 on setting up the store (fixed costs) and it cost $13 to print and ship a shirt (variable costs). The revenues for the first 24 hours amounted to $348, resulting in a profit of $211.
Basically, he built up a profitable online store within one day and with a tiny budget, which can bring him further income in the future, especially if he puts some extra effort into marketing.
The core takeaway of this case study is that if you haven’t yet started your online shop because you’re still waiting for that perfect idea or time, you’d better take action now.
With commitment and a fairly nice product idea you can start your business with a very little investment and can earn money quite fast (not to mention a ton of useful experience you gain along the way).
Noah Kagan, too, chose to set up a one day challenge with launching a very simple online store.
He decided to sell beef jerky. He found a brand name very quickly: Sumo Jerky.
First he answered the following questions:
- How often do they eat jerky?
- Where and how do they decide to buy jerky?
- What would make them pay for jerky right now?
- What’s their hesitation in not buying right now?
The target audience was healthy eating young professionals.
Setting up the store took only some minutes. Noah started to deal with selling as soon as it was possible. He sent out personal messages to his friends, acquaintances and offices he believed would be interested, while he began to promote his business on Facebook and Twitter.
He then asked for referrals in emails asking his friends to send the referral email to their friends as a favour.
Noah, after 24 hours, made $3000 in total revenue (pre-orders), which is quite remarkable after such a “basic” marketing campaign.
You can check out the whole case study here. Recommended for every beginner e-merchant.
Once again, we get back to Lazazzera, because it’s another great case study: a project (Finch Goods Co.) documented in great detail for several months.
This is an online store, which is not simply an experiment, but also a source of income for the ecommerce expert.
It offers premium products for men. It’s USP is having the best products of different categories available in one place.
According to Lazazzera, success can be achieved if you do everything not to let the visitor leave without making a purchase or at least make them return later.
To make it work:
- He sends emails to cart abandoners, and tries to lure them back to the store. Here you can learn more about shopping cart abandonment.
- He runs loyalty programmes, gamifying every phase of interaction: you can collect points by registering, writing your opinion about a product and making a purchase.
- He applies one of Robert Cialdini’s 6 principles of persuasion: reciprocity. It states that if you do something good to someone, they will feel that they should give something back. For this reason, Lazazzera gives small presents or hand written notes to his customers.
- He keeps inventory to a minimum: curating products, he does not want to tie up large funds in inventory.
Here you can study the whole 6-month project in 14 chapters.
The story of Beardbrand shows you how to build up a fantastic brand with hard work and commitment.
Exploiting the uptrending popularity in wearing a beard, the Beardbrand team started to work very purposefully.
Right from the first moment they aimed to create and maintain a persistent brand image of the store, every product and piece of content – to have their target audience like them and become loyal to them.
The team knew they would make a long term decision and when they invested their money they were confident that returns would be coming in steadily after a time.
Eric, one of the founders, says there were 3 main factors that made them successful:
- Taking care of the target audience. Every piece of branding activity, content and communication was prepared in a way that the “urban bierdsman” would like it, identify with it, get a solution to their problems and have their needs met.
- Optimizing website content. Beardbrand puts a lot of effort into creating content both in terms of writing posts and shooting videos, which makes their target group loyal in the long run.
- Competing on quality instead of price. The products are of premium quality, but it’s not enough: they also provide premium customer experience with packaging, shipping, special deals, custom offers and so on.
Read the full story here. If you want to build a serious online business in the long run, don’t miss it.
If you just can’t wait to start your store, Tomas Šlimas’ guide shows you step by step how to do it.
It’s a simple and basic ecommerce store, of course, here he presents setting up a store for non-branded women’s clothing.
However, if you’ve been hesitating to take action, despite the fact that you already have the big idea, this guide should inspire you to get started.
Shopping cart abandonment is probably the most painful issue for e-merchants.
If you want to know how to tackle this problem in practice, visit MarketingSherpa and read this article about Envelopes.com by Adam Sutton.
Within two years, they cut checkout abandonment rate from 51% (2011) to 31% (2013), which is an amazing figure.
They revised and rebuilt their product pages and the whole checkout process. What did they do exactly? Read about it here.
By tapping into the power of user generated content and social proof.
But that wasn’t all.
They also inspired their audience to share their photos and comments on the social networking sites as well as optimized their product pages.
Noah Kagan has already been featured here. Now the former employee #30 at Facebook shows you how to build up an online store in 5 days that will bring you $4000 every month.
It’s an amazingly detailed case study packed with numbers, strategies, tests and results. We don’t even try to sum it up. Read it here.
Edible Arrangements faced a problem that many e-merchants may also have: they had a great service offer (same day delivery), which no one asked for since they simply didn’t know about it.
You can learn from this case study how they made the offer visible, how they communicated to their visitors in order to increase the number of same day delivery orders.
Finally, they achieved an 8% increase in same day orders.
The story of Company Folders is definitely worth reading as well.
Basically, there were some problems with the online quote form. Not only because it was rather outdated, but also because due to the huge product assortment, there could be 15 million different combinations of it, the system to be transformed was extremely complex.
At last, they redesigned the whole website and thus could raise conversion by 68%. Click here to find out how they did it.
Taloon.com didn’t make any radical changes: they ran an A/B test on their product pages to see how the social share buttons performed.
They performed in a negative way. Because after they got rid of them, conversion (add to cart) rose by 12%!
How could this be possible? You can read about the reasons here.
The case study of Express Watches helps to close an old debate: you can achieve much better results with promoting original products than with a bloody price war waged against your competitors.
Read more about how the watch ecommerce company became successful.
Underwater Audio had one major problem: a lot of users got lost in their sales funnel.
The visitors looked for specific products, but the majority abandoned the site after checking the product comparison pages.
Paperstone did it.
They displayed a small table including the prices of their competitors (which were higher, of course) on their product pages just below their prices.
As a result, conversion increased by 10.67%.
This is not competing on price, just communicating that for some products they have better prices than others, thus exploiting their strength of good prices.
For details, click here.
It’s a story of two friends who built up an amazingly lucrative business from scratch.
In the beginning, they sent out emails to their personal contact lists, and made their first $1000 in sales.
It’s a great case study about how you can open up ways to the public, how to use the media to boost sales, how to get a ton of attention. Read it here.
If you don’t believe it, then here’s Pixie Faire’s case study: the parents of a 6-year-old girl realized that clothes for dolls were very popular with little girls.
They now make sales of $50,000 every month.
A major takeaway here is that however special your target market may be, you can reach them and sell to them successfully.
Raw Generation played safe: they used channels where you don’t pay for potential purchases (like with Google or social networking site ads), but for actual purchases.
Of course, you give a higher commission thus making less revenues, so this deal sites model is not for everyone.
For them, it was well worth the effort to rethink their sales strategy in 2014, bringing them $96,000 per month. This interview explains how they did it.
Robert Nava spent a lot of time in correctional facilities from the age of 11 to 27. Then he stopped fooling around, made up his mind and built an ecommerce business which now generates $80,000 every month.
He started using the dropshipping model, so only a minimal investment was needed and promoted his store primarily on Facebook. See here how he achieved success.
Luxyhair.com focused mainly on one single channel: the world’s largest video sharing site.
Millions have watched their videos reaching an overall number of views of hundreds of millions.
Here you can find out how they used video marketing so successfully.
This story is really worth reading.
It’s about how a simple online shop’s simple product can go so viral that before shipping out the second round of orders, it can be sold for a 6-figure sum (in US dollars).
You can read the full story here on Reddit.
How an online hippie shop came into existence what challenges it faced…
It’s neither a success nor a failure story. You can see how they used online marketing and how hard an impact it was when Facebook organic reach collapsed as well as why it can be harmful if you take out too much money from your business.
Nevertheless, the author encourages everyone to start their business right away if they are thinking about it, because the experience they can gain will be priceless even in case it fails:
Another story from Reddit, which is also a great case study: you can see step by step how to make a subscription box service very successful.
You can read the whole story from the time when the store was bought, how the brand was built up and how lots of sales were made.
- Don’t think too much. If you’re not afraid to start, the faster you get experience and the sooner you can make your store profitable.
- Target influencers the right way. One single post by an influencer featuring your product can bring in thousands of visitors in the first 24 hours!
- If you want to reduce cart abandonments, send retargeting emails.
- Do you have a good offer? Highlight it and you have the chance to raise your sales by 8%.
- Harness the power of social sharing.
- Do you perform well on price comparison pages? Use price comparison on your own website and boost your sales.
All this said, of course, you should do some market research, choose your audience and product smartly, use appropriate marketing channels and make changes to your campaigns when needed.