5 Things to Think About Before Buying An E-Commerce Site

In my quest to help small businesses grow, I see a common thread between entrepreneurial creatives — they all need an E-Commerce website. It makes sense. Etsy commissions are steep, and these days platforms like Instagram and Facebook give you hardly any exposure without paying for an ad to insert yourself in peoples’ feeds. Not to mention the table fees at local market events keep going up, often making you feel lucky if you broke even for the event. The act of creating is what fills your soul, but when the time comes to make a living from your creations, the odds seem stacked against you.
I wish I had the answer to how to make it as a creator, but I don’t. I spent over a year experimenting with my project Curious Markings. I had a lot of fun, and I learned so many lessons about business, marketing, and being an entrepreneurial creative. Fortunately for me, I had the skills to build my E-Commerce site. To be brutally honest, I didn’t sell much. After turning my marketing efforts to growing Objektiv Digital, I quickly learned it wasn’t my marketing or sales skills that were lacking. The soul-crushing truth of it was, my creative endeavour didn’t resonate enough with any particular audience that I identified.
Looking back on everything I built for Curious Markings, it was all just a costly lesson — both money and especially time. For those who can’t make E-Commerce websites themselves; however, their lessons in dollar bills could be wildly more expensive than it was for me. Most people who sell websites will probably be confused by what I’m about to say: Don’t hire Objektiv Digital or anyone else to build you an E-Commerce website unless you’re 110% certain you know why you’re getting it, how to bring traffic to it affordably, and you have enough super-fans to support its development and ongoing fees.
Buying an E-Commerce website isn’t like buying a logo. It’s not like having business cards printed. It’s not even like having a normal website. E-Commerce websites can be much more costly to build for a multitude of reasons, including User Experience Design, payment processing, conversion tracking, cart abandonment recovery, etc. There is a vast number of technical and user-oriented things that need to be resolved.
Let’s say you have accepted the risks and had an E-Commerce site built. Maybe you got it for cheap from a friend, or you figured out how to make it yourself. Do you know what to do next? The reality is, even once you have an online store built, that store may as well be a physical storefront in an abandoned mall. You have a shop, but there is zero foot traffic. The only people who come by are your friends and family that you’ve invited. Maybe you put up an advertisement to bring in traffic. Perhaps a few people click the ad, and perhaps they don’t notice your store is in an abandoned mall. But, only a small fraction of them are going through with a purchase. Can you squeeze out as much of a Return on Investment (ROI) for those paid ads to come out ahead? The sad reality is that most people can’t, especially if they’re like me and have a product that doesn’t resonate with enough people.
At Objektiv Digital, we sell websites. We always ask, however, why do you need a website? At the end of the day, we want to be your partner in business. We are seeking long-term relationships. Sure, we can build an E-Commerce website for you. But, if that E-Commerce website isn’t making sales, you won’t be coming back for more help. When you can’t afford our future help, this means that our relationship has ended prematurely, and we have failed you as a company attempting to help grow your business.
The best advice I can give is to say do not buy an E-Commerce website as a creative/artisan unless you can answer yes to the following questions:

  • Are you killing it on Etsy?
  • Are you killing it at local markets?
  • Are you getting several organic followers on social media each week?
  • If you’re running ads to get more followers, are you getting at least two followers per dollar spent?
  • If you’re running ads to make sales on Etsy, are you getting a consistently positive ROI?