There’s never just one thing that goes into creating a successful business or guaranteeing a successful launch. Most of the time, there’s a combination of strategies, tactics, execution, and resources that support your business and its success.
However, that doesn’t mean focusing on high-impact activities isn’t important. Quite the opposite: Figuring out how to allocate your limited time and resources effectively are critical to a successful launch. That’s what we’re talking about today in Ask Shopify.
If you had to choose, what single ecommerce strategy or tactic would you prioritize when first launching a shop on Shopify? I’d love to hear advice on this from people who have been through the process already and learn what they’d focus on if they were to launch a new business.
Here at Shopify, we’re lucky to work alongside talented and successful store owners in all departments, so we reached out to some of our coworkers to ask what they would focus on if they were launching a second store.
The advice came in quickly, and while a majority of the advice focused on the general theme of finding and connecting with customers, the tactics they chose to do that were all different. What works for one business, or one person, might not be the right focus for you, and there are always going to be more great options than you have time to execute.
Since finding your first customers will likely be the best place to put your focus, here’s a list of great tactical advice to help you do that. Just remember that you know your business best and should always select the tactics that will make the biggest difference for you.
Create streams of free traffic
Paid marketing is one way to get people to your store, and while it can be quick and targeted, it’ll cost you. That’s why building organic traffic from social media can be a great strategy to focus on if you have time available but limited financial resources. As a bonus, it’ll also help you build strong connections with your customers and get early feedback.
“I’d curate content to connect with my audience using natural (unpaid) means. That’s the most cost efficient way to gain qualified traffic in my opinion. It isn’t just about one channel—I would start a Facebook and Instagram account and grow them naturally. I’d create a blog on my store, and use some of my social posts to drive traffic there and to relevant product pages. This will have SEO benefits, as well as help to gain natural and free traffic.”
If you’d like a primer on getting started with organic social media marketing, check out Instagram Marketing 101, and get inspired by eight outstanding ecommerce blogs.
Pitch to the press
These days, getting press attention could mean coverage in a national paper or on a major blog in your niche. Finding and pitching the right media outlets for your brand can be a great tactic to drive traffic, awareness, and sales for your business.
“The number one thing I’d focus on if we were launching again is external press. We missed this for our launch, but got it for our 6 month mark. This strategy cost us $0, but accelerated our SEO, which was huge.”
Co-founder of Bushbalm
“Getting some press coverage—managing to get featured in a national newspaper’s fashion section within the first month—was a great boost.”
Paul Mc Connell
Financial Services Specialist
Grey + Ginger
If you want to connect with the media, no matter the size of the outlet, here’s a guide to building a press kit to get more attention for your business.
Build a brand
Your brand isn’t just your logo, your theme, or your colors, although building a strong visual brand is important. It’s everything from how you work with customers, to how you write your copy and what you stand for. Locking these details down early can help set you up with a solid foundation for your business.
“I’d focus on having a strong, consistent brand that everyone involved can pitch in one or two sentences. That foundation would automatically inform all marketing activities, brand voice, content, and our target audience.”
Connect with your community
Each new follower and visit to your site is a real person, and connecting with them on a personal level can help build strong connections (that can ultimately result in sales). You can do this on social media or on your blog, but building those connections is one way to build momentum for your store.
“As humans, we seek community and belonging. When we feel appreciated and cared for, we’re more likely to give back. Including people in your process will foster an exhilarating feeling beyond anything a sale could offer. You can demonstrate your mission and values through sending personalized emails, giving away free tips and strategies in your blogs, or posting behind-the-scenes videos of your business. Prioritizing ways you can build genuine relationships will foster a community of people who undeniably see the value of your products or services.”
Guru and Co-owner of Octopied Mind
Collaborate with established brands and people
Working with people and brands who already have a connection with your audience is one way to get in front of them quickly.
“Find people that have an established following on social media and want to partner up. We haven’t paid anyone for featuring us on a blog yet, and we just worked with people that liked our brand. That helped leaps and bounds in getting us coverage from the beginning.”
Paul Mc Connell
Financial Services Specialist
Grey + Ginger
If you think collaborations are a good fit for your business, there are influencer platforms to help you connect with potential partners, but it’s important to find the right influencers for your brand.
Test your ideas first
It’s one thing to launch a product and see how the market reacts, and quite another to launch a product based on solid data about how the market will react. If you test your ideas before you launch your store (and possibly before you choose your products) you’ll have a better foundation to make key decisions.
“What made all the difference for me is working backwards. I spent a year trying to launch passion product stores that kept failing when it came to marketing. Then I decided to work backwards and run ads on a lot of different products until I found a winner, and from there I designed a store around that product.”
Here are some ways you can validate your product ideas before you launch your store.
Get feedback from family and friends
When you’re building your store, you know it inside and out. That’s a good thing when it comes to making edits and keeping things organized, but it can cause you to overlook things that will trip visitors up. To counter that, it’s important to get an outside perspective on your store.
“My number one suggestion when launching a store would be to get your friends and family (the ones who aren’t afraid, to be honest with you) to visit your entire store. Create a quick and simple feedback form using Typeform or SurveyMonkey, and have them fill it out with constructive feedback in return for a decent offer, like 50% off or free shipping. This allows you to tweak things on your store that might cause visitor friction before you go out and invest in advertising or run social media campaigns.”
One thing to keep in mind as you gather this feedback, however, is that you want to get feedback about your products or brand from your target audience. If your target audience is in their 50s, feedback from your 20-year-old nephew should be treated differently than your 56-year-old friend.
However, you can get great user experience feedback from both, like “The shipping policy was hard to find” or “How do I return an item?” But when it comes to feedback on the appeal of your products, make sure to only prioritize it when it’s from your ideal customers.
Handle the SEO fundamentals
Optimizing your store for search engines is important, but is often seen as a nice-to-have in the midst of a busy launch. However, focusing on building a solid foundation for your SEO efforts is a good way to set your store up for success over the long-term.
“It’s tedious, but I think it’s important early on to spend the time (and maybe the money on an app like SEO Manager, even just for a month to get started) on setting up SEO. Get your alt text on your images, both for accessibility and SEO, review your metadata, and do the research into your competitors’ SEO to optimize your own. It’s a long game, and one that’s best started early.”
Merchant Program Manager
Pirate Happy Hour
Here’s a beginner’s guide to ecommerce SEO to get you started and get the basics handled.
There’s no one right way to launch your store
Before we posed this question to our internal team, we weren’t sure whether we were going to get repetitive answers or not. As evidenced here, we got a wide variety of advice, although it was mostly around a common theme: finding your ideal audience.
Whether you do that by first solidifying your brand, by social media marketing, by press coverage, or by SEO, many of the tactics that our internal team recommended were focused on connecting with the people who will become your customers and fans. Building those connections is multifaceted, and includes finding them and keeping them interested, but if you’re looking for one area of the business to focus on first, customer acquisition is it.
While that may sound simple, because of course acquiring customers is on your list, it’s also instructive to see what wasn’t mentioned. Aside from a mention of the foundational elements of the brand, not a single person recommended focusing on the details that can so often be mental roadblocks, like not having perfect packaging or a fully-laid-out process for every aspect of your business.
So if you’re looking at launching and wondering what to focus on, based on our team’s recommendations you can’t go wrong by focusing on finding and connecting with your customers. Don’t let the other details hold you back.