Reflection after a year on

Wednesday, 8 August 2018  |  Admin

It is now about a year that I have started selling fairtrade goods online and it is time for a bit of reflection!

I met various people who would love selling goods online and, as me, are not IT specialist or very interested in building a website! It was a big hurdle for me at first to build a website from scratch but it is not as difficult/ crazy at it seems. There are now on the market so many website providers specialised in e-commerce that help you to build a lovely website in a simple enough way. I had no knowledge from the start, I even did not know how to link the website to a payment gateway! I found that it was a learning curve but so worth it. It made me so much more confident in building it myself and if a change needs to be done, I can do it.

Another thing that was difficult was to choose which products to sell. There are so many fairtrade wholesalers/ producers that do great and excellent products but I can not sell them all. First, from a cashflow point of view I needed to be selective. Then you want to be consistent in your range, you can not have something too wide. Therefore for instance I decided not to sell clothes or tea/ coffee. Then, I wanted to have products that you can not find anywhere else in Ireland. No point of selling a chocolate you can find in the supermarket! I approached various wholesalers and they were all more than happy to work with me, even on a small range. The idea was that once sales were coming I would know better what people like or do not like and increase my range according to these feedbacks. Thus, for instance, I quickly increased the range of products made with recycled bike chains or crayons as they were selling very fast. 

There are some products that I adore but they are not really popular! Therefore I found it very important at the start to do some fairs to meet potential customers and to see which products they are attracted with. I understood that during fairs people do not necessary buy expensive items but just to see the reaction, what attracted them was a valuable lesson. 

I was then ready to sell online and could not wait for my first sales. I learnt that having people browsing your website does not mean necessary that they are going to buy! I can see everyday how many people visit my website, how long they stay (thank you Google analytics!), which page they visit but most of the time it does not translate into sale. A Google sale advisor told me that about 2-3% of visitors would actually buy products, even less if this is their first visit. That was a real eye opener for me. Having social media pages such as facebook, instagram drive traffic to my website but at the end, it is not necessary enough to push customers to make sales. I am at that stage now, wondering what to do to increase the rate of people visiting and then buying. It is so interesting to discover all of these.

I realized as well that you can not be present on all the social media fronts. I decided to focus on two channels, facebook and instagram. It does take time to run a business, especially if you have children or other stuff to do and I decided that it was better to focus on less social media pages than too many. Then, I went to a few courses and learnt that I should be posting 3-4 times on each channel everyday. I personally hate when a page that I follow has so many posts and I wonder how they manage to have things to say to post so many times! So my technique is to post only a couple of times a week but to have something relevant to my customers. Should I increase this, improve my presence? probably yes.

What is the best thing that can happen for someone selling online? For me, it is when a customer orders again! Once the order is dispatched, you don't hear from the customer anymore, except if the order is lost! However, when someone who has ordered with you and does it another time, you understand that they liked your products, your services and I personally felt great!

So, what is the plan for the next year? Well, obviously, I need to get my website better known. Once I have the fundamentals right, it is time to focus on brand awareness. There are so many people interested in ethical and fairtrade goods who do not know about my website and I need to reach them. I found out that Christmas time is a great time to get them but I was actually quite surprised by the amount of customers buying fairtrade goods as a Thank you gift for the teachers. Irish people are more and more aware of the benefits of fairtrade. They understand that they are not paying much more for unique products that make such a difference to the producers. I need to get the message across more as it is only positivity! 

It has been such a great year for me to learn a new business. I became more knowledgeable in so many fields that I would have never thought. If you want to start an online business, my advise is: Do it! There are many groups around, courses, people more than ready to help you and to advise you. It feels so good to say that you have done it on your own and to think that in your small corner you are doing something to change the society.