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115. What I Would Do if I Were the CEO of an eCommerce Business

The thought of starting an business from scratch is overwhelming to say the least but hanging out with so many eCommerce entrepreneurs has got me thinking about starting another product-based business lately. And even though I’m not exactly sure what product it would be, I know exactly what I would do. 

Join me this week as I break down the steps I would take to set up a new brand, build a website and create a memorable customer experience. I also dive into my marketing strategy and timeline for launching a new eCommerce brand. 

What You’ll Learn

  • A step-by-step launch timeline for a new eCommerce business 
  • Key steps to take before launching a new brand or product 
  • How to keep customers engaged and coming back after you’ve launched your product

Episodes Mentioned

Facebook Groups for eCommerce Businesses

How To Create Strategic Product Packaging That Sells Your Product + Encourages Word Of Mouth Advertising With Whitney Zimmermann

The Power Of Quizzes + Zero Party Data With Gen Furukawa

Links Mentioned

Shopify 

Klaviyo

Selly

Stamped

Gorgias


Read the Full Episode Transcript

Hanging out with so many eCommerce entrepreneurs makes me think about starting another product-based business. I feel like there is definitely one in me, I’m just not 100% sure what it would be just yet. 

Even though I don’t know what I would sell, I do know what I would do if I were starting that business, so I thought it would be fun to share in the hopes that it sparks some exciting ideas for you. 

Since it’s easier to build a strategy when you have a particular product in mind, let’s pretend I’m starting a bold, modern, rock + roll sunglasses brand. Designer-inspired styles, but affordable, around $50-60 ish per pair. Think exaggerated cat eyes, squared off styles, mostly black acetate. 

You can picture it right?

First, I’m going to break down what I would do in terms of setting up the brand, website and overall customer experience. Then I’ll dive into a general timeline and strategy for how I would launch and market the brand.

Band positioning and inventory 

I’ll position the brand from a fashion stylist’s point of view, focusing on being a resource for style overall and lean heavily into pop-culture. 

I’ll have a few key styles that I stock all the time, and then each season I’ll have 1-3 unique styles that are more seasonal or trend focused that I release on a traditional fashion season schedule. 

Brand and product photography 

Because this is essentially a fashion brand, I am going to invest in some really kick-ass lifestyle photography right from the start. We’ll do it here in LA, outside, girls in cut off shorts and leather jackets. You know the vibe. 

At first I’ll try to do the individual product shots myself with a pop-up light box, but if they suck because reflections are a bitch, I’ll invest in professional photography as well. 

Product website 

My website will of course be hosted on Shopify and I’ll use Klaviyo as my email marketing platform. For my theme, I’ll use Impulse, it’s super slick and modern and in all black and white it’ll go perfect with the overall brand vibe. 

Email automations 

When I set up my eCommerce email automations. I’ll focus on fomo, treating yourself and feeling like a rockstar in my messaging. In my post-purchase email I’ll include some care instructions for the product like not wearing them on your head (I’m so guilty of this and it always stretches them out), how to tighten them, etc. And some fashion inspiration or outfit ideas for the different styles. 

Cross-selling and upselling 

In addition to the sunglasses that I manufacture on my own, I’ll also get some other products to sell as an after checkout cross-sell to bump up that AOV. The glasses will likely already include a case & a cleaning cloth, so maybe an eyeglass repair kit or a cleaning solution. I’ll use the app Selly to add this functionality to my site.

I’ll add some additional cross-sells or bundle options, though I won’t necessarily expect it to drive a ton of extra revenue at first since I don’t have a wide assortment of products. It’s a bit harder to get people to double the initial amount they were planning on spending. But worth a shot for those who like to collect sunglasses. I can also do this with Selly

Product packaging 

I’ll also be really intentional about the packaging. I’m not necessarily going to go all out right from the jump, but like we heard on last week’s episode about packaging for product-based businesses I’ll make it memorable, emotional, and shareable. 

Ideally, the sunglasses would have a hard-ish case so that I could get away with just using a bubble mailer for shipping. But I would probably customize the case itself in someway. Maybe it has a fun inspo message on the inside, or even on the outside. Something that would make them want to keep using the case even if they lost the sunglasses or they got worn out. The cleaning cloth would also be branded to stay top of mind. 

Shipping 

I would use a simple black bubble mailer with some inserts that encourage them to share with their friends, maybe there’s a QR code for a music playlist. Ultimately the goal is to make it special enough that they feel compelled to share. 

Reward and referral program 

I would also implement a customer rewards and referral program, likely using Stamped along with their customer review platform to build loyalty and encourage word of mouth advertising, all of which I would talk about on those inserts and in my post-purchase emails. 

Website apps 

As far as site functionality, there are a few apps I would add to help provide my customers with a better shopping experience. 

First, I’d add a quiz to help them find their perfect glasses based on their preferences, which would also serve as a lead generation and market research tool.

Check out episode 107 for more on using quizzes in your eCommerce business.

Additionally, I’d add an augmented reality app so shoppers can upload their photo and try on the glasses before purchasing them. 

Blog posts and SEO

I would create a few in-depth blog posts targeted toward my ideal customer. Who in this case is a fashion forward person who loves to accessorize and wants to look expensive. 

Some evergreen ideas would be: 

  • How to look expensive on a budget, 
  • How to dress up jeans and a t-shirt 
  • How to get that quintessential girl style

Of course I will do some keyword research first when it comes to those titles.

Notice how I’m not creating posts like the best sunglasses shape for round faces?

Not that it isn’t relevant to my audience, or that they won’t have that question, but it’s too broad and doesn’t necessarily speak to the specific person who is going to like my particular style of sunglasses and will end up being completely irrelevant traffic. I’d rather help them do that through the quiz, once I’ve already qualified that they are my perfect customer and like the style of sunglasses I sell. 

In addition to this evergreen content, I’ll also create seasonal fashion and beauty content based on trends, etc. That will serve not only as blog content, but content that can be broken up and used on social media, etc. In all of this content, my sunglasses will be featured and linked to from the blog posts.

Think about it like this… if someone is on the internet trying to get that perfect messy lob look and she wants to wear it with a leather jacket and some Valentino Rockstuds… she’s probably gonna like my sunglasses. 

Marketing and launch timeline 

Pre-launch phase 

Once I have the basics in place, then it’s time for pre-launch. 

Social media, ads and building an email list 

I’ll start at least 8 weeks out posting on social media and starting to tease that this new brand is coming and to build my pre-launch email list. In addition to getting first dibs on the line when it drops, everyone will get entered to win some grand prize, maybe it’s one of every style in the line… 

I’ll also use ads for reach and engagement to try and dial in my audience, all with the goal of building that pre-launch email list. 

Influencer campaigns 

I’ll partner with a handful of influencers for a 2 week campaign leading up to the launch. The idea is to go deep with fewer influencers who want to talk about me A LOT vs. just one post on their feed. I’ll also want them to have a bit of cross-over in their audience so their people are like damn, everyone is talking about this sunglass brand… I need in on it. 

Remember, people need to hear things multiple times before they take action, so having multiple influencers talk about me with ramp up those touch points. 

For social, I’ll focus on Instagram and TikTok. Part of my campaign with these influencers and content creators, will be them creating content that I can share on my own channels. 

As the business grows and those partnerships become more meaningful, I would also look to do some design collaborations with them. Maybe it’s one style for a season, or a mini collection. 

And as a phase two or three, I will look at white labeling with these influencers, where you run ads about your product from their page. This might be cost prohibitive in the beginning, so I’m not 100% sure there. 

During the pre-launch, I’ll keep the subscribers engaged by sharing behind the scenes content of building the line, asking them for feedback and making them feel like they are part of the process. 

Launch phase 

Subscription boxes 

Once I’m launched and fully live, I’ll look to partner with some subscription boxes that have a decent subscriber base and who work with their own influencers for unboxing videos and online features. This way I’m getting in front of their audience and the audience of their influencers. I’ll include an insert with a QR code and an exclusive discount for their people to try and drive them back to my website. I won’t necessarily rely on this for direct sales, but look at it as a visibility play. Any sales that come from it will be considered a bonus. 

Depending on my production costs, I may create an exclusive style that I can potentially do at a bit lower cost whether it’s because of order quantity or materials. 

I likely wouldn’t do this forever, unless it was a really awesome box that I wanted to be a part of, but it’s a great way to get a lot of exposure all at once in the beginning.

A few months in 

My main focus at this point is dialing in my processes, my audience, my content, etc. I’ll look to start scaling ads at this point based on what I’ve learned about my audience so far. 

Collaborations  

Once I know things are nailed down and I’ve got my shit together, then I start looking into collaborating with other small businesses. Likely other accessory brands who sell different products to a similar customer as me. 

This will especially be a focus for Q4, as sunglasses aren’t exactly a traditional holiday gift. But if I partner with other fashion brands it will put me in front of people who are in the shopping zone. 

Cementing systems 

Then I go into full marketing mode where I’ll create a rinse and repeat system in my business, where I focus on building hype for seasonal product launches and marketing campaigns like spring break, bachelorette and festival season, start of summer, etc. 

Creating content 

We’ll lean into pop-culture, music, and fashion for content to keep our audience engaged and continue to work with content creators and influencers. If I were cooler or got better at creating the content myself I would, but knowing me I’m better off just outsourcing that to someone else and bonus if they help me reach more people through their own audience. 

Expanding and growing  

Once I’ve established the brand, then I may consider wholesale – but would likely stick to smaller boutique stores. I’m really not trying to be the next big DTC brand who relies on ads for volume (many of whom are suffering right now). I still prefer to be a smaller business with a small but mighty customer base. I’d look at expanding the line to other accessories to build that customer lifetime value and keep them coming back as well. 

Once the biz is rockin’ and rollin’ and growing… 

It’ll be time to upgrade my systems and operations. I’ll want to add additional tools like Gorgias to manage customer service and Shipstation for shipping and fulfillment… if I choose to keep fulfillment in house that is. If I’m only selling sunglasses and just have a few standard packaging inserts I want to add, it might be easy enough to outsource to a 3PL… but who knows. It’s also nice to control the entire experience. 

Once everything is in place 

Okay… so now I’ve got everything important in place, I’ve dialed in my operational and marketing systems… What’s next?

Take a vacation! 

Seriously… I’ll go to an adults only all inclusive resort in Mexico where I can hang by the pool and sip margaritas.  

From a business perspective

Now that I’ve got some decent brand recognition and a solid customer base, I’ll start a Facebook group. Depending on your business you can definitely start a group sooner, especially if you’re going to be more topic focused vs. brand focused… but for this product I think a brand focused group is best and so I want to make sure I have a decent pool of people to pull from so I can get a lot of traction early on. I would use the group for market research and to build a really tight community among my customers. 

This group, my email marketing, and the rewards program are the main ways I’ll focus on customer retention. If you’re not sure whether or not you should have a Facebook group for your product-based businesses or what type of group you should create, check out episode 29 of the podcast. 

Once I’ve got that retention system in place, I can focus on new and creative ways to get in front of more people, mostly through collaborations, influencer marketing, public relations and getting placements in holiday gift guides, things like that. Whatever I can do to leverage other people’s audiences and get more eyes on my eCommerce business. 

A few other things you can do

First, there are some passive things I would do like setting up my Instagram shop and adding my products to Google Shopping. 

I would also consider Google Ads if the data told me that people were searching for a product like mine on the internet. That could be an entire episode on its own… but it all starts with keyword research. If people are searching for what I’m selling… then it’s worth a shot. 

The same for a platform like Pinterest. I probably wouldn’t start here, even though it is a long game. Pinterest brings a lot of traffic but not a lot of conversions, so with limited resources this probably isn’t where I would start. If I had everything else dialed in… I’d put some energy behind a strategy for 6 months to a year to see what impact it had. 

Things you should always be doing 

Of course, I’m learning and optimizing as I go. There’s really no way around that part. Whoever said eCommerce was passive was lying. Just sayin’ …

So… Did this spark any ideas for you? Did you have any aha moments? If so, hit me up on instagram or in the eCommerce Badassery FB Group, I’d love to hear from you. 

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Jessica Totillo Coster of eCommerce Badassery eating gelato on stairs in Rome Italy

Hey, I'm Jessica eCommerce & Email Marketing Strategist

I support scrappy female entrepreneurs with actionable steps & strategies to grow and scale the traffic, sales & profit in their eCommerce businesses. Learning from the top experts in the digital marketing & eCommerce industry I love working with female entrepreneurs and teaching the secrets of 7-figure eCommerce businesses.

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ABOUT OUR AUDIENCE

  • eCommerce business owners selling a physical product on their own website (Shopify + Klaviyo users)
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