How I imported from Alibaba and made US$ 93.38 in 5 daysBy Janson Tan · 9th November, 2017
It was started with a challenge – build an eCommerce business from none and see how many sales I could generate in 5 days. (Not to mentioned, EasyStore has 14 days Free trial).
For many wantrepreneurs, they thought building their first business is totally out of reach. In their minds, they always foresee thousands of steps, choices, and paths to reach the goal of business, self-generating traffic, and revenues. Most of the time, the whole journey of building an online business was overthought where the wantrepreneurs keep on analyse and analyse until their action had been paralysed.
But the fact is, building up an eCommerce business could be simple — if you want it that way. Bear in mind, the best entrepreneurs don’t come up with great ideas, they solve market needs.
The challenge not only excited me, but it provides a great opportunity to demonstrate that building an online business doesn’t have to be a high financial risk, costly, exhausting and complicated. In this action research, you’ll learn step-by-step on exactly how to decide what product to sell, how to source from a supplier, and sold nearly a hundred dollars (USD) worth of product in just a few short days.
So, that’s what I did.
Here’s the documentation of entire process from the first day to the 5th day. I hope you find some good use of the details I’ve included in this case study to benefit your business, or to inspire you to start one.
- Getting Started
- Market Research and Finding a Passionate Community
- Coming Up With a Business Name
- Designing a Logo and Storefront
- Product Page Setup
- Soft Launch, Social Account Setup, and My First Sale
- Instagram Marketing
- Email blast for abandoned checkout
- Overview on the results of marketing channels
First and foremost, I wanted to build an eCommerce business that required not much upfront cost and I’m also not willing to invest more than a few hundred dollars before being able to generate some profit. My plan was to invest a larger portion of resources into the marketing instead of the inventory at the beginning stage.
If this business failed eventually, I wasn’t losing too much and still have resources on hand to build another online business with more experience.
Supposedly, this mindset left us with an only few options:
- Print on demand posters
- Digital products
I decided to try to conduct a drop-shipping business that offers worldwide shipping which can be manageable anytime and anywhere. Therefore, the approachable solution for this business model would be Aliexpress.com. And, I wanted to sell something that is very niche market which able to avoid big competition.
After my research, I came across to the sharing of the digital marketer Ben Malol which I found it is very useful for picking up the business idea of a niche market.
Undoubtedly, it is difficult for us to create a brand with just a little investment and time. How could we quickly build a brand story to gain the trust of the visitors and converted into the purchase customers? Obviously, building a branded business wasn’t the right choice for me at this time. But building a trading business that has the potential to give me quick positive ROI is still possible. With this in mind, I got started by looking at what wasn’t selling around, what people were truly passionate about, and something that I was able to understand.
Market Research and Making the decision on what to sell
There’s an experience that worth to be shared here, when we selling the products, it would be an easier aim for the existed niche community, rather than try to build our own segment of the niche market.
Eventually, I would like to go into the animal lovers industry where they are willing to buy the keepsake products for collection. With this initial idea, the drop shipping business model is very suitable for me as the I managed to choose over million of products on the supplier side (Aliexpress) whenever suitable for my niche online business.
As I’m selling to the United States market, it would be great to do a simple research over there by using the Google, Facebook, Instagram, and Reddit in that particular area.
There is a lot of online store out there which are selling the animal niche products, which almost turned my initial thought down.
However, at last, I picked for bird niche, and I just dig a deeper into this niche, eventually, the business idea was set to OWL niche.
Okay, so that was a good starting point. But how could I be sure that these owl niche products had fans who were wanting to show their love and loyalty on this beautiful so much?
I decided to head to the Facebook search engine as it’s a free and incredible resource for doing market research.
Top Owl Specific pages
From the results, it means there’s an existing community that is potential for my business soft launch sales. I had the option to market to target this community directly. It’s relatively easy to target the group of people and advertise to them, and I’d have loyal owl lovers at my hand. Moreover, I had a great resource on Facebook advertising to work with.
What’s next? I need to research what are these communities already buying? A straightforward approach would be finding what’s already selling and get started from there. With this drop drop-shipping business, I wasn’t inventing a trend or brand. So, it was good to find something that’s already selling and work from there.
Here are some of the products I found when I did a quick Google search for “owl niche products”:
While some of these are okay – they just didn’t fit the aesthetic I was looking for. But, if these are showing up in Google searches, it must mean there’s at the very least a community around these breeds and businesses.
In determining how to gather the products to sell, I wanted to allocate the upfront costs on marketing and instead of inventory which the initial decision on the drop-shipping is a good one. Best of all, it didn’t require any sort of upfront cost!
Coming Up With a Business Name
The name wasn’t the most important thing for the non-branded business. However, it’s a fairly important step to make other people remember you.
There are a few things that I do look at when coming up with a name, however:
- It has to be simple and easy to remember
- Personally, it should have a .co available (I think it is more trendy)
- All social media accounts name must be readily available
With that in mind, I tried things like owloch, owlly, owltales, owlstory….I believe you’ll know when you find a name that just sounds right.
After a while, I put all the name to find out the availability of domain name with .com (to fulfill my 2nd criteria in searching name). In this process, it was pretty fast that I attached to the owlstory.co
I started by signing up 14 days free trial account. EasyStore makes it easy to buy or set up a custom domain. As most of the backend configuration is done, your custom domain setup is almost automatically.
And just like that, OWLSTORY was born.
Designing a Logo and Storefront
As I love marketing a lot, making the logo and storefront look good is definitely my thing. This is my favorite part of building a business indeed. It’s so satisfying when your online store come to life pieces by pieces.
So, I started my search for a logo for OWLSTORY by heading to Noun Project and searching for “owl”. Lots of variety logo and icon options showed up.
via Noun Project
I wanted something that was simple and yet having a lifestyle. Eventually, here’s the icon that I chose – I purchased the extended license for $1.99:
From there, I wanted to include the name of the business in the logo, so I got to work in Canva. I had a few different ideas, and the logo went through a few different iterations.
Here are some of them:
This logo design process took me about 45 minutes, and the final decision was:
Okay ! I think I had a great start. Now it’s time to start creating the online store.
EasyStore provides 30+ theme stores available to choose from and it’s FREE! Remember that, it also allows me to customise the theme templates in any possible way, so I ended up choosing the Mine Style theme where I liked the structure of the theme templates.
I satisfied with the look-and-feel of the online store and my mindset chose for speed over details to roll out my online business as soon as possible. All the minor details can be fine-tuned afterward, that why I didn’t want to get too distracted with them at the moment.
The slideshow image shown here is just a simple free stock picture that I downloaded from unsplash.com. Totally awesome and free at the same time!
Some conscious decisions I made about the store’s design:
- The navigation menu is filled with necessary information such as FAQ, About Us and shop tab which I predicted they might doubt.
- All the products are displayed with 4 unit in a row for easy browsing.
- A simple sentence mentioning the monthly special to let them know these are the special collection of the month. (This is psychological marketing method)
Next, it was time to start filling up the store with products.
Product Page Setup
A few things that I wanted to include on the product page were
- Product title
- Size options
- Shipping times
- Related products
- Product Images
All these information can get from the aliexpress.com. Let’s take one of the products as an example:
aliexpress.com gave me a long product name which I personally feel like not classy, that why I change the product name to “Wisdom Owl bracelet”. You can notice that the wholesaler price for ONE owl bracelet is US$ 1.59 and the supplier offer worldwide FREE shipping. At this point, I knew this is the key for me to conduct a drop shipping business which can sell all around the world.
I found another facebook selling group which the person is selling this same bracelet for US$ 16.95, so I knew that the owl lovers are willing to pay that much to own an owl bracelet. With the pricing strategy, I make up the bracelet to US$ 24.95 and give a permanent discount price of US$ 16.95 which appear to be more attractive in price display.
Duplicating the similar work, I have successfully setup the products to my online store.
Soft Launch, Social Account Setup, and My First Sale
It was about the time to launch, I quickly set up the shipping fee (Standard Shipping fee with US$ 5.95) and payment method (PayPal).
In order to prove my niche business is workable, I was looking for quick sales which can validate my work before I invested further.
There was no point in spending effort in building content and SEO for the website if there was no interest in the product at all. I’d be totally wasting my time.
That’s why it was sort of soft launch day.
Before building this online store challenge, I am already making a sustainable profit with another online business. With my past experience, I’ll start with a hack way at it to prove there are people out there wanted for the products. If this hack method didn’t give me any result, I’ll might wise move onto the next thing.
Getting all of the social accounts setups was quick and relatively easy. You can check them out here:
After that, I quickly set up a Facebook ads account too which allow me to promote my online store to the Owl fans. The hack way that I always used to validate my online business was the Free + Shipping method. The reason behind this method: If you are giving out the products for free and still nobody even bother to claim for it, it’s better to save your time and move on to the next thing.
Without any hesitation, I created an ads copy for it and see how its work. Here’s my targeting choice:
- Location: United States
- Age: 24 - 40+
- Interests: the owl pages
- Mobile placement: News Feed
- Desktop placement: News Feed
- Estimated daily reach: 230 - 330 people of an audience of 230,000
Here are the results of this ad:
- Click through rate: 4.396%
- Reach: 258
- Clicks: 12
- 1 Page Like
As I’m in the Malaysia, I put my ads to work and it’s my time to get asleep.
And on the next morning, My first and second sale! The best feeling in the world.
These notifications validated all the work I had done. It meant that someone was interested in the product!
Pretty good start. Best of all, it only cost me US$ 5.00 to get these first and second exciting sales!
One simple quick ads post generated a total of US$11.90 in revenue, 12 unique visitors and a total of 2 orders (16.67% conversion rate!) And that’s just overnight.
Here are some tips to set up an Instagram account. Consider applying these methods to your business account as well:
- Get a username that is your exact business name
- Get a strong visual profile picture that will capture someone’s attention when they’re scrolling through their feed
- Be sure to make your biography cute and fun with emojis
- Use a Google URL shortener to send visitors to a specific product or page on your store
After that, you’re ready to roll.
The simplest way to grow any Instagram account is to be active and post content on a regular basis. Instagram is the place where people find a beautiful picture, so I posted images of owls instead of my products to prevent it looks salesy.
I started by posting the images from the famous owl fan page to my Instagram. My strategy was to find a bunch of different accounts, and repost the images to my account providing credit where I could.
The best way to find relevant Instagram followers is to simply search for hashtags related to your demographic, and like, follow, or comment on their accounts. Here’s what hashtags I searched:
#owl #barnowl #owlbirds #owlpages #theowlpages #cuteowl #owllover #snowyowl #tawnyowl #whiteowl #hornedowl
I used the tool Top Hashtags to find these. You may try to search for any hashtag that might be relevant to your demographic too.
Afte finding the pool of owl followers, I used the owlstory.co instagram account to start follow the people and the back-like percentage is 30%. Undoubtedly, it’s a good way to expand the followers while getting some potential customers as well. In this part, the biography play an important role to convert the random visitors into paying customers.
The promotion of Free + Shipping ended as soon as I validated my product as I was preparing for the real sales. Surprisingly, the instagram marketing provide me TWO sales back to back in the same day (UTC +08:00 16 May 2017)!
Email blast for the abandoned check out
I could send an email blast to people who abandoned their checkout which EasyStore control panel has the ready-made email and system to help me.
For abandoned checkouts, I simply clicked on the “send recovery email” button at the respective abandoned orders.
I wanted to send a simple reminder email notify them that we’re holding their products for them. Perhaps someone would take the bait, and make a purchase.
I only had 2 abandoned checkout for these 3 days, so I sent both and there is one of them made the purchase.
This proves how important email marketing can be. This didn’t cost me anything, and it won a sale.
Overview on the results of marketing channel
Here’s a breakdown of where all sales came from.
- Facebook: 4 (Paid)
- Instagram: 2 (Free)
- Abandoned Cart Recovery: 1 (Free)
Total sales: 7
From the results shown, Facebook paid advertising is still the king. It is advanced, targeted, fast and efficient, but it is quite costly and might burn a hole in your pocket when you want to scale up the sales with it. Without a proper optimisation technique, you can get a pretty high revenue but it wasn’t a case for the net profit figure in my experiences.
According to the analysis from every reports, the mobile traffic proved to be much effective than desktop traffic. Therefore, it’s a good thing the theme I am using is mobile responsive (Every EasyStore theme is mobile responsive too).
Here’s another breakdown for revenue, cost and net profit:
Revenue: $ 93.38
Marketing and other Costs: $ 50.33
• Domain - $ 12
• Rights to icons - $ 1.99
• Facebook ads - $ 20
• Cost of goods sold - $ 11.13
• PayPal transaction fee - $ 5.21
• Free trial store - $ Free
• Theme templates - $ Free
Profit : $ 43.05
While I only made $43.05 (RM182.04) in profit, many of the costs are one time off. When the business continue to run for another weeks or month, I would definitely picky on the marketing channels that provided the best ROI. In fact, there’s so much room to explore going forward. If I had given myself a few more times to work on this online store, I would have explored Google Adwords, Reddits, Twitter and more — to unlock the full potential!
I hope that you found something valuable in this documentation. If you have any other business idea that you think we should challenge on, let us know and we might just do it. Just email the ideas to email@example.com
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