Leaving the blogging badge behind and taking on a new mantle of ecommerce merchant is a big step. You will need to consider how it will affect your current branding and readership, as well as flesh out a structured promotional plan and content strategy for your new online store. Here are the mains considerations for any blogger wishing to become an ecommerce entrepreneur.
Why do it?
So you love your blog. You love your readers. You might already earn a bit from sponsored content or adverts. Why take the extra step and go for ecommerce too?
- It prepares you for any number of future business ventures and is a great testing ground for a digital career.
- It’s a steadier stream of income and is actually a less labour-intensive way to earn money than content creation.
- Properly managed, an ecommerce store is an amazing asset for content and stories. Selling products is fun and challenging, and as long as you’re passionate, incredibly fulfilling too.
What on Earth do I sell?
Finding the right things to sell comes from knowing your market. And by ‘market’ we mean knowing your audience and what types of products they need.
- Start close to home. Running a travel blog? You could easily sell accessories or travel-related mementos.
- Identify a product niche you're going to be passionate about. Build on your initial knowledge and conduct further research. Use forums and places like Quora to find out what people are looking for. What questions do they ask when they have a problem that your product could solve?
- Speak to suppliers online and in person. You can start with big global directories like AliBaba, but you are probably better off working with some more local suppliers too. You may need to actually speak to manufacturers if you’ve got a new product idea.
- You can easily customise products like t-shirts and canvas bags and then re-sell them. This is a great option if you’re good with design or illustration.
- Could you monetise any of your content? Review your content and see whether there is an ebook or some worksheets lurking in there.
Different build options for your first online store
One of the first decisions you will need to make is where your online store will actually live. Will it sit on your blog’s menu? Will you need a new domain? You could always start selling on your blog, but you may eventually have to move off to a more targeted online shop environment.
- You can set up a professional-looking online store in less than a day with a tried-and-tested ecommerce platform (like Shopify). This is a great option if you fancy something that will be up and running with minimal delay.
- You can also pay for a web developer to create a more custom backend solution, but this is generally only needed if you have more complex requirements.
- There are some free ecommerce plugins you can try as well. Play around with the different plugins you can find – they might be all you need to begin with.
- The best thing is to speak to other bloggers and see what options they went for. Use the community to help you decide.
How to promote responsibly
Tell you existing audience about your new venture, but be aware that readers and customers are different things. You will have to think carefully about segmentation, tone and value.
- Try to match any offers as closely as you can to audience needs. Don’t just blanket contact everyone with generic offers. It won’t do you any favours in terms of brand perception or conversion rates.
- Respect the rules of email marketing. There is actual legislation on this stuff – check out this great rules and regulations roundup post from Campaign Monitor.
- Leverage existing blogger contacts to help you launch your store. Outreach your products for product roundups and reviews on other influential blogs. Don’t forget to use your blog as a promotional asset too.
- Plan out a proper, targeted launch strategy before go-live. You want to make sure that you can generate enough traffic and buzz around the store opening.
Map out your content strategy
An entrepreneurial mindset means seeing content as impressions, shares, downloads, and clicks as well as actual words. No matter what you are selling, content will be one of your most important promotional tools.
- Factor in seasonality to your content planning, especially if you stand to make a big profit during the holidays.
- Don’t just write on your products, write ‘around’ your products. Are you selling BPA-free water bottles? Create content around fitness or hydration that raises people’s awareness of when they might need water bottles, as well as covering the actual benefits of BPA-free plastic.
- Use your blog, product pages, social media channels, and even your T&C’s pages to delight and engage. Don’t settle for second-rate copy.
- Plan visual content too. Use channels like Instagram & Pinterest effectively – they are really great for online sellers.
- Embrace analytics and data to help you evaluate the effectiveness of your content.
Hopefully you’ve got some ideas on how to shift your mindset from blogger to ecommerce entrepreneur. These two labels are by no means mutually exclusive and can be managed side-by-side. What do you think is the most important thing about selling to an existing readership?
Patrick is currently writing on EcommerceTips.org where he share engaging ecommerce content for entrepreneurs, bloggers and business owners. You can follow him on Twitter here, or LinkedIn