As you start getting your ecommerce site set up, you’re inevitably going to reach the realization that having an online store is one thing, but driving traffic to it and generating sales is quite another. At some point, all online merchants have experienced this “What now?” moment — or the WNM — as we like to call it (I just made this up), and so it’s important to understand that your first sale is the hardest to achieve.
The good news? As we mentioned, many other successful merchants have conquered the critical step of getting their first sale, so there are plenty of proven methods to help any newcomers who may be experiencing growing pains with their online shop. In this article, we’ll cover five proven ways to quickly get to your first sale.
...it’s important to understand that your first sale is the hardest to achieve.
Before we do that, however, there are a few core philosophies to always keep in mind if you’re going to get past the WNM, and actually start taking specific steps toward success (which we’ll get into later):
Be persistent and consistent.
Like most things, consistency is key. With that in mind, it’s important to be consistent about your drive to succeed. Be consistently proactive about how you operate (and refine) your business practice, and you’ll always be finding ways to improve. This is the number one thing that separates the merchants who succeed from the ones who give up after only a couple months.
Test, analyze and test again.
Speaking of refining your business practice, you should always be actively looking for problems to solve and for areas of opportunity within your ecommerce business. Treat your online store like a science experiment — identify problems you want to solve for, test theories for potential solutions, analyze your results and then go back to the drawing board and repeat this process again and again.
Break your big ecommerce goals down into small, more achievable ones. You’re not going to become the next big thing overnight, so keep that in mind and remember to recognize and celebrate all of your wins along the way, no matter how small they seem.
Take time to identify and locate your audience.
Social media and other online forums have made it easy to locate very specific audience segments. No matter what you sell, there’s an audience out there ready to buy what you have to offer, and they’re very searchable. Use pre-established social channels to your advantage by using them to narrow down your target audience, and eventually connect with them.
Some merchants never get past the WNM, and it’s almost always because they weren’t patient enough to adopt these keys to success or they weren’t willing to stick it out past those daunting first few months. Remember, the first sale is the hardest sale, so be patient.
Now, let’s look at some more specific, actionable ways to quickly get to your first sale.
1. Start building a list of subscribers to email.
This may seem obvious, but you’re going to want to keep track of your subscribers as they come in. The best way to capture them is by creating some sort of sign-up form on your site (it can be as easy as asking visitors for their email address). There are plenty of free and easy tools — such as MailChimp — that will connect to this form and help you store and manage your list of contacts.
On average, email marketing yields an ROI of 37:1, making this one of your most essential and efficient outreach tools.
The best way to get your list going is by inviting friends and family first. Social media is a great tool for getting folks to subscribe to your site, even if you’re not already connected with them (we’ll get into this later). And, no matter how small your list is initially, it can only grow over time. The important thing is to set up a way to collect and manage this list upfront.
As you gain contacts, you can then start communicating with them through email. Ask for referrals and offer discounts as a way to get people to bite early on, and start sharing content with them that’s relevant to what you’re trying to offer. On average, email marketing yields an ROI of 37:1, making this one of your most essential and efficient outreach tools.
2. Utilize social media.
Social media is an incredible ecommerce tool for a number of reasons. You can use it to share content, tell people you know about your online store, connect with influencers, and more importantly, find and communicate with your target audience — the audience who’d be most interested in your product(s).
Once you get your social channels set up, start testing ads using a small budget (you can spend as much or as little as you want, so don’t stress). The ads will serve as a great way to expand reach, test content, and also identify different audience demographics to determine the types of people who are most willing to buy what you’re selling. Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter all allow you to get very granular in terms of the types of audiences you want to reach, so be sure to refer back to our “start small” and “test, analyze, test” points above.
You can use it [social media] to share content, tell people you know about your online store, connect with influencers...and communicate with your target audience.
You may also want to consider using social influencers. Influencers are great because they already have a large audience in front of them, and are usually not as expensive as you may expect. Start by identifying influencers who your potential customers would be likely to follow, and just reach out to them via DM or email asking what they charge for a sponsored post. You can even pay them to review your products which is an excellent way to earn early street cred in the market.
3. Set up shop across additional sales channels.
You can’t win if you don’t play. With a Volusion store, you’re well on your way to having an effective online selling presence. With that said, it makes sense to sell your products on sites that already have an established shopping network. Sites like Ebay, Etsy, Amazon or even Craigslist are already primed for ecommerce, and make it easy to join as a merchant and start selling. The more channels your products are available on, the higher likelihood you’ll have of generating sales.
...it makes sense to sell your products on sites that already have an established shopping network.
Don’t forget about offline opportunities, either. You don’t need to have a brick-and-mortar store to sell your products offline. Trade shows are always happening throughout the year, so find ones in your area and/or general niche and sign up to have a booth. Traffic is usually potent during these types of events and — even if you don’t get a ton of sales — you will have further gained a great deal of exposure to potential customers and vendors.
4. Create valuable content.
We already talked about social media, but it’s important to offer valuable content across multiple channels in exchange for visitors and potentially sales. Search engines favor merchants who offer good content, especially visual content. Plus, it’s a great way to further connect with your audience and showcase your mission.
Start a blog, re-purpose user-generated content on social media and share relevant information about your brand and products. Now, it’s easy to be intimidated by the idea of blogging. But, remember to start small. Even by publishing a short article once or twice a month and a social post once or twice per week (so long as you are consistent), you’ll be exponentially increasing your chances of engagement with relevant, interested consumers.
Search engines favor merchants who offer good content, especially visual content.
In the same vein of selling on additional shopping channels, you can also publish/share content on forums that are already well established. Reddit, for example, has tons of very active communities who are always interested in new content. Find these existing communities in your niche — without coming off as a cheesy salesperson — introduce your brand with content that adds value to the conversation that is already taking place.
5. Get familiar with Google Shopping ads and Adwords.
While social ads are more popular these days, there’s still a ton you can do with Google Adwords, and learning how to use it will not only expand your reach, but also put you well ahead of any competitors in your space.
Google Shopping ads, specifically, are relatively easy to set up and allow your products — including images, prices, inventory and even reviews — to show up right in search results for a much faster path to purchase with consumers. For shopping ads, you’ll first need to set up a Merchant Account through Google. From there, you don’t need to worry about bidding on keywords because Google does this for you (for shopping ads at least). This is actually a good thing, as Google does an outstanding job at finding relevant products for shoppers.
Additionally, you can leverage the more traditional Search Ads through Adwords. However, in terms of using ads for getting your first sale, we recommend starting with Google Shopping ads and social ads first. Of course, if you want to skip ahead and start getting your feet wet with Adwords, check out our recent article on How to Use Google Adwords for Ecommerce.
Google Shopping ads are relatively easy to set up and allow your products to show up right in search results for a much faster path to purchase with consumers.
And, there you have it! Each of these suggestions may take some time to set up, but are the fastest ways to get to your first sale. How do we know this? Because it's already been proven by many of our existing merchants who started at the exact same place as you. Getting your store set up is just the beginning when it comes to getting your first sale, and the WNM can be quite discouraging for merchants who are just starting out. However, as long as you maintain patient with a consistent and calculated approach to your business, you’ll find that the remaining steps to your first sale are more manageable than you originally thought.
"What now?", you say.
You've got this — go ahead and start selling!
Have a question about any of these steps to getting your first online sale? Ask us in the comments!