Welcome to WebmasterWorld Guest from

Forum Moderators: buckworks

Message Too Old, No Replies

Can you make enough money from ecommerce?

9:22 pm on May 8, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I'm thinking of opening an ecommerce site, but before I commit myself I was wondering if anyone had any views/experiences/opinions that they could pass on? I've read about people making loads of money from their ecommerce sites, but when I've spoken to a few people who have ecommerce shops, they are really struggling to get any sales after 12 months! Is it really worth it?

[edited by: lorax at 11:47 pm (utc) on May 8, 2007]
[edit reason] removed specifics [/edit]

9:27 pm on May 8, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member beedeedubbleu is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

<snip> Probably not.

Unless of course you have super SEO skills and can get your website to the top of the rankings.

[edited by: lorax at 11:48 pm (utc) on May 8, 2007]
[edit reason] removed specifics [/edit]

9:54 pm on May 8, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator lifeinasia is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

For those widgets, your most likely bet is an online "catalog" approach for your products that complements a traditional brick & mortar store (or at least a swap meet presence). This allows existing customers to see what else you have instead of waiting until the next time they go to your store (or the swap meet).

I doubt many people are willing to buy widgets from someone they've never dealt with before- I seem to remember a thread about this (or a very similar) issue some months ago.

So having a web site be your only sales channel for widgets is probably economic suicide.

(That said, every month we do generate sales of a certain type of widgets through one of our affiliate partners. However, it is a very niche product and only accounts for less than 5% of the sales through that affiliate partner.)

[edited by: LifeinAsia at 10:00 pm (utc) on May 8, 2007]

[edited by: lorax at 7:31 pm (utc) on May 9, 2007]
[edit reason] widgetized [/edit]

9:57 pm on May 8, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Ok, so if people have heard of you, do you think that selling widgets online would work? I'm not talking about expensive widgets, more like costume widgets.

[edited by: lorax at 11:49 pm (utc) on May 8, 2007]
[edit reason] widgetized [/edit]

10:44 pm on May 8, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Welcome to WebmasterWorld new01

When deciding what to sell online you may want to first decide who you want to market to before you decide what you want to sell.

Think niche. If you're just emulating a widget store at the mall it will be difficult to stock all the products.

Try specializing in a specific market like widgets for students and graduates or people who need replacements, or someone who just wants a widget from a specific school.

Another niche would be for motorcycle riders who might require something a little wilder than the local widget maker offers.

The more unique your product, the easier it will be to sell, and the more you can charge.

Concentrate on items not readily available offline.

[edited by: lorax at 11:53 pm (utc) on May 8, 2007]
[edit reason] widgetized [/edit]

11:11 pm on May 8, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Thanks for welcoming me Gabby and thanks for the advice. I understand that I need to find a niche product within my market. I have been selling some costume widgets at fairs and home parties and I make good sales from them. People started to ask if I was stocked in any stores and since I'm not, I thought why not create an online store. However, from the comments that I have got above and from reading other threads, selling these particular widgets online seems to be really hard. But there are so many websites out there, that it must work for some?

[edited by: lorax at 11:54 pm (utc) on May 8, 2007]
[edit reason] widgetized [/edit]

11:59 pm on May 8, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member lorax is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Just because there are a lot of stores selling these particular widgets doesn't mean people are making money. In fact it's a good indicator that the market is saturated. I'd suggest you don't jump into ecommerce.

Put together a brochure type website instead. Write some good content about what it is your produce and why people should buy from you. Publish the site and watch your website traffic. Promote gently and keep adding to it occassionally. Give the search engines some time to find and index your content. When the engines start sending you some decent traffic levels and you begin to notice people call you because they found your website then you can revisit the ecommerce aspect. Start small, especially when you're just getting your feet wet and in such a saturated market space.

12:03 am on May 9, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Hi Lorax, thanks for the advice. How long do you think it takes to get decent traffic from a website, 6 months? Would I have to invest in some SEO in order to drive traffic to my website?
12:32 pm on May 9, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member lorax is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

In your particular market place I'd suggest you don't bother with SEO or spending any money in more advanced marketing until you have a better understanding of your online market space. It's very competitive space and there are a lot of people willing to take your money.

Think of it this way. When you buy a car, the dealer makes the assumption that you have a driver's license and know how to drive. Same goes for online marketing and SEO stuff. If you ask for it, the assumption is you know what they aren't providing and that either you know it or it will be done by others.

Concentrate on the basics first. Give the site about a year to percolate and get some traction - but this is more of a business decision for you. Whatever you do, set a deadline and be willing to walk away if your don't meet your targets by the deadline.

If your content it good and has value to your visitors, you may very well see some sales via phone calls or a contact form from the site. I highly advise you to consider this a long term investment. It will take time and energy on your part to build the site traffic. Don't spend extra money adding horsepower to the site until you see some clear benefit and understand how to read and use the statistical information your website provides you at the most basic level.

2:38 pm on May 9, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Another thing to remember is most e-commerce website have a conversion rate of 1 or 2%.

Thats 1 or 2 people out of 100 visitors buy from you.

You need lots of visitors looking at your site to buy what you have to sell to make a living from it.

2:49 pm on May 9, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

hi everyone, interesting topic! I actually set up a widget website about 5 months ago. I'm finding it really difficult to get traffic and sales, but I have only marketed the site through word of mouth and I do not even reach anywhere near 100 unique visitors a day! Is this bad? I think so considering that the conversion rate is 1 or 2% as you say. Anyone got any suggestions for someone who is already knee deep and no way of turning back? I guess it is going to have to be a long term investment, but it is also a question of, is it worth it in the end?

[edited by: lorax at 7:23 pm (utc) on May 9, 2007]
[edit reason] widgetized [/edit]

7:30 pm on May 9, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member lorax is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

NOTE: please don't discuss specifics (like what you sell) here (see TOS [webmasterworld.com]) thanks.

RE: conversions - absolutely have to be included in the decision making process though the actual numbers are a moving target - even within a given market sector. You can make assumptions based on averages but don't count on these. We've seen conversion rise and fall as much as a 6-7% within a single year. There are too many variables to be sure about the numbers.

Another thing to consider is how much time you're willing to put into learning. There are a great number of resources here at WebmasterWorld. But as a business person you need to decide just how much time you wish to spend learning how to manage and work with your website versus running your business. Some of the ecomm folks here would argue these are inseparable and for them it may be. For others, it's not. I lean towards it's a choice of how you wish to run your business and how involved you wish to be.

7:47 pm on May 9, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Wow, it's a lot to think about before creating a website. But I am guessing that a lot of online businesses take a while before they start seeing the benefits of starting up. As I am sure most of us have heard that you don't get anywhere without hard work and from the above comments, it seems that this along with perseverence is what is needed to make any success of an online business.
12:57 am on May 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

It depends on what you're actually looking to do. Do you want to set up a full ecommerce site that makes a sizable income -- or do you want a place to send people who see your products at parties? If it's the latter, the brochure-type site might not be a bad idea to start with. Then, as was said, watch what happens and take things from there.

I think you'd need to look at your website as one piece of your business rather than the entire thing. Don't ditch the avenues you're already making money from, but think of the website (whether it's a brochure site or an ecommerce shop) as one more way to spread the word about what you have to offer. And a thought that's off-topic for this entire forum ;) -- You could think about getting your widgets into stores, especially since people are asking about that.

8:13 am on May 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member beedeedubbleu is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

I think this thread may eventually get to number one on a search for "widgetized". :)
6:47 pm on May 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Hi Beagle, thanks for the advice. I did initially want to create an online store where I could make a sizeable income from it but still keep at the other avenues. Having an ecommerce site, I thought would allow me to reach a wider audience, but if no one can find me, how can I expect to gain the wider audience. Even if I do get a wider audience, from what I have read, it doesn't necessarily bring in the custom if that makes any sense. I will try approaching shops, it's just working out how to go about it the right way first. All a learning curve for a novice like me :)
10:54 pm on May 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Yeah...there are some of here making money beyond our wildest dreams. However, we have been playing the game awhile. It's like any other endeavor...takes hard work, determination, and knowledge.

If it were easy, everybody would be doing it successfully. Unfortunately, the naive think that all it take is to put up a rinky dink website and wait for their ship full of gold to come in.

11:23 pm on May 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

If you craft all your items by hand and want to keep doing that, it seems like there'd be a limit as to how many customers you could handle - but maybe you've already figured out what you'd want to do if that happened. (You could always let the market decide and raise your prices if demand exceeds supply.)
12:09 am on May 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Oldpro, thanks for the words of wisdom. I don't expect to make bucket sheds of cash, just enough to keep me going would be nice. Obviously any more would be an added bonus. However, I understand that it all takes time, patience and a lot of hard work, I just have to be sure that an ecommerce site for my widgets won't be too late. I have heard of a website where sales are in seven digits already in only 8 months. Whether anyone can start making this many sales in such a short period of time, I cannot answer that one, maybe you can oldpro. But I know that it depends on a lot of factors and I just need to put in the hard graft and try not to let the knocks and blows drag me down along the way. Don't mean to sound negative, just think I need to be realistic. Beagle, thanks for your advice too. All is much appreciated! p.s. if demand exceeded supply dramatically, I would be very happy...
10:31 am on May 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member rocknbil is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

To make money quickly, you have to sell something someone REALLY wants at a better price than anyone else. Word will spread fast. Our market, and many ecommerce markets, are not like that, it's mild at best.

We started slowly and currently ecommerce carries 55% - 65% of our sales for most months (but the store is in a small town.)

We're in a niche market and have two distinct types of products that are only distantly related. One is pretty competitive and the other mildly. We currently have well over 700 products, including various options and sizes, and growing.

You start by bulding the site from the ground up to be search engine friendly. Build as many pages on the topics of your area as you have time for, populate your cart with a good offering of products, decide on and establish a good shipping scheme, and most important of all make sure everything works. Have a good payment processor, don't shortcut with something like payPal. When this is in place, consider a PPC campaign (to avoid being widgetized, I'll just say there is a forum here dedicated to this campaign. :-) ) This is not optional. You MUST have a monthly budget to drive traffic to your site through "sponsored ads" - don't wait for search engine traffic, especially if it's a competitive market.

Within a week of doing all the above, we had our first sale on a $5/day PPC budget. Traffic that month finished out at 5K, the previous month was barely 1000. :-) As months rolled by, the traffic kep climbing and we began to get very good search engine placement, in fact page one for the best keywords of one of the two major lines.

Two years in and we're "almost" there, it pays for the advertising, we're able to enjoy a higher daily PPC budget, and are up to 15K visits per month. It's still small time, but we're approaching the point where it's going to make us a living.

It's a lot of work. But it can happen, even for a difficult market.

11:18 am on May 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Absolutely, the money is out there, the question is how are you gonna get that money?

Knowledge and hard work. I see quite a few people here giving you bad feedback about starting an online shop. Think of it this way, considering I have an online shop in a given niche, do I want any competition from anybody else, do I wanna make it look profitable, well I think you smart enough to answer the question.

Anyways, learn as much as you can about SEO, SEM as far as the rest you can hire programmers to build a store for you and install whatever necessary to make the site friendly to SEs, remember you have to sell something that people are actually looking for. Do your homework.


12:54 pm on May 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Thanks for your advice rocknbill, it all makes perfect sense. It's also nice to hear about how someone is actually doing with their ecommerce site since it is people like you who are 'doing it' who can really tell us newcomers what it is like and how hard it actually is. I'll checkout the PPC campaign forum as I don't know enough about it and again, I have heard two opposing sides to it, but it obviously works for you which is great to hear. Anyway, I would be very very happy if I could reach the point where I am also able to make 55%-65% of my sales online. Your statement 'It can happen, even for a difficult market' is very positive, so thank you!

As for offering something niche and what people are looking for, Expected man, I have to say the more I think about it, the harder it is to actually think of something niche...perhaps good old fashioned 'passion for what I love' will win :)

p.s. any guidance on where to learn about SEO / SEM? Thanks!

1:19 pm on May 11, 2007 (gmt 0)


The following message was cut out to new thread by lorax. New thread at: ecommerce/3337465.htm [webmasterworld.com]
4:11 pm on May 11, 2007 (utc -5)
2:05 pm on May 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

rockinbill pretty much gave you the plan in a nutshell. The only thing I could add is this...

Productive organic rankings will be a challenge to start with. As a matter of fact it may take a few years to capture and hold valuable serp position.

With this said, you should research and become well versed in adwords and ysm. Additionally, budget as much as you can for ppc placement. If it is just modest to start...then plow a certain percentage of your profits back into your ppc budget until you are in a position above the fold.

Proper keyword selection and search engine exposure will be your quickest route to traffic in the beginning of your ecommerce venture.

2:58 pm on May 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

thanks oldpro. I think I kind of know what I need to do to get started now and I also know that it is going to take a good couple of years or so before I start seeing any great results. Just out of interest, does anyone know what the average time is for an ecommerce site to start making any money i.e. profit? thanks to everyone who has contributed so far by the way!
4:57 pm on May 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member essex_boy is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

I woudl say that yournot going to make a living from jsut one site.

Big assumption I know but probably a true one.

An online shop is no different from a high street shop, it has to look good and have decent prices - not cheap but decent. Is like direct mail, you have to grab someones attention quickly and hold them there.

It takes time as well, I have a site started in 2005 that is only now making money, id need a furtehr 10 just like this one to make a living.

The odds are against you, the price of failure is lower than in a traditional store though.

5:30 pm on May 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

'The odds are against you' isn't very positive...

As for your site starting to make money now (approx 2 years later), I actually don't think that's too bad considering most businesses don't breakeven until their 2nd or even 3rd year.

6:47 pm on May 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member rocknbil is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

...perhaps good old fashioned 'passion for what I love' will win....

This is far more important than many people credit it. If your only passion is to "make money" that will show in everything you do. Customers will react accordingly. They also will respond very well if you apply your passion to your niche.

Question: Has anyone tried to sell two things that are not in the same niche? If so what were the results?

This is almost exactly what I meant when I said "distantly related." Now quite as distant as sporting g's and ice cream, but they are pretty far fetched. Hmm how to widgetize . . . .

A particular country is one of the roots of civilization, and out of this country artistic expressions have been long appreciated. Two of these expressions are our lines, and their only thing in common is the civilization of origin.

Anyway in retrospect, I feel like we should have really developed two sites, maybe even a third ( there is a third "supplemental" line that doesn't move well for us.) The reason gets back to targeting, allowing one site to concentrate on one topic. The more diverse the site, the more diluted the results.

However, making such connections is not always bad - although most of our sales are in one line or another, quite often we get customers sampling from both or even all three "lines." So maybe our distant connections are not all that distant.

8:10 am on May 12, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member beedeedubbleu is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

'The odds are against you' isn't very positive...

Perhaps not positive but certainly pragmatic.

5:02 pm on May 12, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member essex_boy is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

It may not be a warm and fluffy comment and certainly not one that you want to hear. No one likes to hear comments that are negative but in all honesty the odds are against you.

Barriers to entry are minimal, ive run and do run ecom's from a spare bedroom. Anyone can do it.

My point is you wouldnt believe the amount of people that I know who seem to think that you just throw up a site and pounds rolling in. It takes hours and hours and hours of work before you get anyone come a knocking at your site.

I only target subject areas Im interested in otherwise Id be bored stiff and that would show.

This 59 message thread spans 2 pages: 59