This episode features guest Chloe Thomas, the founder of eCommerce MasterPlan, a best-selling author, international and keynote speaker, and host of the award-winning eCommerce MasterPlan podcast.
Listen as Chloe talks about the pros and cons of launching an eCommerce business in 2022, what eCommerce platform she would use and what she might sell. She also talks about how and why she would perform market research offline before ever launching an eCommerce business and what you do with the feedback you receive.
In this episode, Chloe also goes into detail on whether or not she would recommend selling products on Amazon or first working to establish brand identity and why free shipping is the new normal in online shopping and what you need to think about to incorporate into your own business and where she would suggest to start advertising when first launching your online store.
Finally, Chloe details the keys to growing a business and where you need to focus your time if you want to be successful when first launching your store.
Episode Action Items:
To find more information about Chloe, visit https://ecommercemasterplan.com where you can find information on Chloe's books, podcast and summit.
ABOUT THE HOST:
Andy Splichal is the World's Foremost Expert on Ecommerce Growth Strategies. He is the acclaimed author of the Make Each Click Count Book Series, the Founder & Managing Partner of True Online Presence and the Founder of Make Each Click Count University. Andy was named to The Best of Los Angeles Award's Most Fascinating 100 List in both 2020 and 2021.
New episodes of the Make Each Click Count Podcast, are released each Friday and can be found on Apple Podcast, iHeart Radio, iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, Amazon Music, Google Podcasts and www.makeeachclickcount.com.
Andy Splichal 0:02
Welcome to the Make Each Click Count Podcast. This is your host Andy Splichal. We are happy to welcome this week's guest to discuss today's topic which is Tips for Launching an Ecommerce Business in 2022. Today's guest has been an Ecommerce it looks like almost as long as I have since 2003. She has worked client side agency side and advisor side working with a wide variety of retailers from high street Omnichannel operations to fresh online only startups, covering international launches, subscription, B2b and even dabbling in marketplaces. Today her specialty is seeing Ecommerce marketing problems and how to increase new customer acquisition to improve performance of email marketing newsletters to find the right new website provider. In addition, she is the founder of Ecommerce master plan as well as best selling author, international and keynote speaker and host of the award winning Ecommerce Master Plan Podcast and the exciting new, Keep Optimizing Podcasts a big hello to Chloe Thomas. Hi, Chloe.
Chloe Thomas 1:55
Hello, Andy, lovely to be here chatting with you. Thanks for inviting me on.
Andy Splichal 2:00
Well, you bet. And we're excited to have you. So let's get started with this. Do you believe that today is a good time? Bad time? Or okay, time to launch an Ecommerce business?
Chloe Thomas 2:13
That is an awesome question to start off with. Because I think that you know, the good time for me to start an Ecommerce business is when you are ready. Because you know, the markets constantly evolving. There's a lot of talk at the moment about increased competition levels. And yes, there's a lot more competition out there. It would have been easier four years ago. But then wasn't everything easier four years ago. So I think it's a perfectly OK, time, it's definitely not a bad time. It's definitely not the most amazing time we've ever seen to get into Ecommerce. But it's certainly not a bad time. I wouldn't be held back from doing it if I had an idea to launch right now.
Andy Splichal 2:53
So for you if you are going to start an Ecommerce business today, which platform do you think you would use? And what would you sell?
Chloe Thomas 3:03
Oh, there's two other big questions. So first, I guess on the platform front, what I think has been the game changer in Ecommerce and has led to so many of the changes we see is the way Shopify has changed our industry because it's made it so much easier to start an Ecommerce Store. And if you've been you know, around since the early 2000s, same as me, you will remember the days of painful briefs, you know, just to create an idea for a store, and huge costs and all the rest of it. So if I was starting off today, I might not use use Shopify. But I would definitely be using a platform which took care of a load of the stuff for me and made it really easy for me to get up and start exploring the key questions you've got to explore with a new business, which is do anyone actually want to buy my product? If anyone wants to buy my product? Will they buy it at a price and a cost by the money they spend and the money you spend on marketing that works for me. So that might be you know, really simple WooCommerce install is now you know stuff like the hosting guys at cloudways put together a package which makes it really easy to launch WooCommerce stores almost like the Shopify of WooCommerce. Or you've got Shopify and you've got other platforms, which are now looking after the nitty gritty of the hosting the nitty gritty of the payments and all that stuff that used to take us ages to enable you just to focus on what's happening. So not any specific platform, but I definitely go for one of the easy ones, rather than one of the complicated ones.
Andy Splichal 4:40
So I think you're really touched on the key if you're starting a new business is are you going to sell something where there is a demand for that product and can you do it at a level of profitability? That's going to make sense. How would you you figure that out?
Chloe Thomas 5:02
I'd actually start offline, the first thing I do is I take whatever my product idea was, whether it was a, you know, whether whether I had a load of them to actually sell or whether I had, you know, some samples to try out, I take it to a real world physical marketplace, where I thought I would get in front of who I believe my target audience are. So that could be a trade show, it could be an event, it could be a pop up in a local store, you know, if you're making soaps, and you can manage to get a pop up event in a local hairdressers, potentially, you'll get some good feedback and take along that product, speak to your target market and say, What do you think of this? What do you like about it? How much would you pay for it? Would you give it as a gift and all those key questions and get that early customer feedback, you can do that online as well. But it's an awful lot easier to take a box and rock up to a market and ask people some questions than it is to build a website and get them to the website and all the rest of it. So I'd start offline. And then online, I would be keeping a really good, good idea good eye on the analytics. I'd also be deploying some tactical pop ups to ask questions about what people think of the product.
Andy Splichal 6:23
You know, that's that's some great advice. And I've heard that before from a number of places to take your physical product places. My question is a follow up from there. How I mean, obviously, you know, if your sold out in five minutes, you know, you know it's successful.
Chloe Thomas 6:41
You probably need to raise the prices as well.
Andy Splichal 6:45
But how do you know that it's a failure? Or you just need to change things?
Chloe Thomas 6:53
Yeah, you have to when you're doing this, you know, whether you're doing it online or offline, you have to remember that consumers all of us, we all have different intentions to what we actually do. So this is a is a really good test, you're actually taking cold hard cash for the product you're trying to sell. If you're doing it purely as a what would you think what would you pay, just take it with a pinch of salt that people are, they're going to probably be more positive than you think, then then they really mean to be because that we tend to say we'll do better than we actually won't, or we will have to believe where the money actually flows, rather than where the the people say they're gonna spend money. But I suppose, you know, it's, it's listening to what you're, you're hearing from people, if no one wants to buy it, you're either in the wrong place where you've got a bad product, or something about it's wrong. So if you're, if you're there for the whole day, and no one's buying by lunchtime, by the afternoon, you can be test either testing out lowering the price or tweaking it. Or you can be saying, why why would you not buy this? You know, if it's not working by lunchtime, change your strategy and see what you can learn from the people who are there.
Andy Splichal 8:01
And get some feedback?
Chloe Thomas 8:02
Yeah, exactly. Because it's, you know, being sold out in the first hour is great, you don't learn anywhere near as much as you do if you sell out by five o'clock. And you've had some really good conversations along the way with people who've decided not to buy or with the people who are buying and why they want to buy, which if you're selling out really fast, you don't really have the time to do.
Andy Splichal 8:20
So let's say for argument's sake, that you have a product you've decided as viable there's, there's an audience for it, you've figured out a price point that makes sense, you're gonna you're gonna make money selling it, you set up your own website, say you choose Shopify. Would you also sell your products on Amazon?
Chloe Thomas 8:42
Probably not on day one. That's partly because I'm a big believer in building your own brand and being in control of your own destiny, which you're much less so on the marketplaces. It's also partly based on the fact that to learn how to sell well on Amazon is a whole other ballgame to learning how to sell well via our own website. And if you want to, you know, to succeed at one of those two things quickly, then you need to decide on what to focus on. And I find I find myself if I if I split myself across different platforms, my rate of improvement, my rate of success slows down and I find the same thing with retailers. So I would pick one and focus on it and learn the lessons and then expand into the other one. So I wouldn't go straight to a marketplace on day one.
Andy Splichal 9:41
Amazon has really changed the Ecommerce landscape as far as shipping. You know, you have to offer free shipping on Amazon or when it comes with Amazon orders. How does that? Do the people you advise do the websites, do they all offer free shipping or do some charge shipping and are okay with it?
Chloe Thomas 10:02
Well, it all depends on what your strategy is really, I think any ecommerce business would be crazy not to have a free shop, free shipping, free shopping, that would be lovely, wouldn't it? Anybody ecommerce business would be crazy not to have a free shipping option. But whether
Andy Splichal 10:19
That's thre threshold.
Chloe Thomas 10:20
Yeah, it might be on a threshold, it might be the slowest chipping option that you've got. It might be, you know, on a number of items, depending on you know how your business is, or it might be something that you, you know, you, you know, maybe your average order value is 50. And you have a threshold of 50, for your free shipping. So you're trying to encourage people up to that average order value potentially beyond, and then every so often you do a free shipping weekend, where you give any order free shipping to incentivize new purchases, because there isn't, there's a lot of power in free shipping as a promotional message, not just as the hygiene, that everyone expects free shipping at some point. So I would, I would definitely have a free shipping, I would also make sure that you've understood the cost of that when you're pricing your products.
Andy Splichal 11:13
And build that into the price?
Chloe Thomas 11:15
Yeah, in most cases, but you're almost certainly, for most new businesses not gonna be building in the price of a next day delivery, you're going to be building in the price of the cheapest option.
Andy Splichal 11:27
Of the ground shipping?
Chloe Thomas 11:28
Andy Splichal 11:30
So you've decided in our back to our hypothetical scenario, you've decided not to sell on Amazon. You've created your Shopify store. What would be the first marketing method, some of the first marketing methods that you would put in place?
Chloe Thomas 11:45
I would start off with the ads. It's always kind of like the chicken in the egg scenario, because you've got to get some traffic coming through to start learning, you know, because we I said earlier about the fact it's, it's also about finding, can you get in front of enough people who want to buy your product at a price that works for you, to make the business scalable, you know, and I've, I've interviewed multiple people who've, actually no one in particular person who you'd found a business and they could get people at a reasonable price, but there weren't enough of them. But you're only going to find that out if you actually get on with the ads, because getting sufficient traffic to learn that organically is really tough these days. So you've got to put some money behind the ads, if you want to learn fast, and trust me, you want to learn fast, otherwise, you're missing out on opportunities. So I would start off by deploying some ads, probably still Facebook ads, and Instagram ads. But if you're particularly analytical, and you've got a product that fits well, with keywords, I'd also try Google ads, pretty much from day one, the chicken and egg part comes in. Because of course, you also to make the most of your ad spend, you also need your other marketing in place, because your ads will perform better. If you've got your organic SEO structure in place on your website, people are more likely to convert if you've got a decent About Us page, if you've got paid, you know, great product copy, if you've got blog posts that explain why people want your product, the story behind the product, how to use the product, and all those kind of FAQ things. So you're kind of, you've kind of got to do it all. And then of course, your ads will also perform better overall, your marketing budget will perform better overall, if you're if you're collecting email addresses, and you've got a good welcome campaign. So you kind of have to approach great content on the website, email capture, and follow ups and advertising hand in hand. But the one I find most people try to skip is the ads piece. So that's kind of why I put it out there first and front is you've got to spend some money to get people to your sites, you can learn from them, implement the results of those learnings, and then grow your business faster than at a snail's pace.
Andy Splichal 13:57
You know, just curious. And I'm biased because my books are all on Google ads. Why did you default to say running Facebook ads before Google ads?
Chloe Thomas 14:09
Well, I am a Google Ads lover, I ran a Google Ads agency for 10 years. So it has a very dear place to my heart. And I would far rather be managing keywords than trying to come up with creative to be perfectly honest. But I find Google ads are so sophisticated these days that for the novice to try and get them to perform is tough. And if you've got a secret way for people to manage to do them well without learning an awful lot first, I'd love to hear about it but but I've not found one I find beginners and not for one of them. I guess startups those who are new to the industry find it a lot easier, a lot more intuitive. And that the Facebook platform is also not so set up to trip you up I find you know, in Google, there seems every setting seems to be set in Google's favor, whereas Facebook ads seem to be trying to help you along the pathway. So that's why I say Facebook ads first. But it literally skills skill to do Google ads, then I would definitely do that because a huge volume of Ecommerce businesses are ignoring that platform wrongly at the moment.
Andy Splichal 15:23
So let me ask what do you believe are some of the keys to growing your Ecommerce business?
Chloe Thomas 15:30
I think that, you know, the fundamental one is working out how to get working out who your target customer are, and then finding cost effective ways to get in front of them. That has been the challenge throughout my nearly 20 years in this industry. What I think that drills down to as we go into 2022, with all the changes we've seen over the last couple of years in how consumers are buying what consumers care about the tech and how the technology landscape has changed. And the huge increasing competition we've seen as every business in the world seems to have now started selling direct to consumers, is that you really need to get to grips with what ad mix works for you. A lot of businesses are shifting off being a pure Facebook ad focus to start using Google Ads properly. I've heard of some using Reddit ads at the moment and Shopify ads, so you've got to work work out and master your ad mix, what platforms what messages, what target markets, you've also got to have a strong CRM communication system, which increasingly is including SMS with a mix of both soft and hard messages. So soft messages being your story, the you know, the the ins and outs of your business, why you exist, what you stand for your values, as well as the hard messages of free shipping weekend 10% off, you know, by now all those sorts of sorts of give messages to so you've got to mix those up and get those automations helping you both convert from from email inquiry through to first time buyer, from first time buyer through to repeat buyer, because if you've got a good post purchase communication sequence going on with a good arrival of product, you're far more likely to get that second purchase, which is all important as these competition levels go up. And as you know, the cookie issues cause advertising to become more more difficult as well. And so taking all that into account, I think, what we're going to see a lot of people be successful in 2022, it is kind of almost combining all of that. And working on partnership marketing, whether that's building partnerships with your existing customers to get the customer return, you know, to get more sales and to get customer retention sales, whether that's building partnerships with other Ecommerce brands targeting similar audiences, in order to swap marketing space, and drive each other's customers to each other, which can be hugely cost effective. Or whether that's partnering with influencers and press to get more visibility of your products. And they'll give you an awful lot in that question.
Andy Splichal 18:20
No, I was I was just gonna I was just gonna say that is a ton of stuff. But if I'm a new Ecommerce business, where would I start? Where would I, where would I learn some of this stuff? Where, where can I get some quick wins?
Chloe Thomas 18:38
Think you've got to get, as you said earlier, you've got to get something working in the ad space. You've got that traffic coming through. I then work on my email signups in the welcome campaign that follows that. So messages explaining if you imagine someone's come up to that marketplace store we were talking about earlier, and you're trying to explain to them about the product and why you started it and all the rest of it. That's exactly what you need to put in your welcome campaign because you're preparing them to become a brilliant buyer. So a series of maybe 123 emails that go out after someone signed up ready to turn them into a customer.
Andy Splichal 19:15
So we would go paid traffic and then work on putting your email program in place.
Chloe Thomas 19:21
Yeah. And then,
Andy Splichal 19:23
Do you have a preferred email program to use?
Chloe Thomas 19:28
I like I personally in my business use Omnisend, and I also hear a lot of good things about clay VO. So I'd look at one of those two which are built specifically for Ecommerce so they in they both integrate really deeply
Andy Splichal 19:45
And now when you need something so robust if you're starting or do you think like a MailChimp would work?
Chloe Thomas 19:51
I mean, you could certainly get away with a MailChimp but the way both of them are priced structured, there are freemium options, you know, it starts off very, very cheap. The price really only goes up as your business grows. So to save the hassle of having to rebuild, start on one of them from day one.
Andy Splichal 20:07
So in your bio, it says that your experience with solving Ecommerce problems such as increasing new customer acquisition, to improving the performance of email marketing newsletters to finding the right new website provider, do you consider these the three main problems that Ecommerce companies have? Is that why we listed those in your bio?
Chloe Thomas 20:26
Um, we listed those in the bio to try and show my range of experience. But I suppose the main problems are they were more about me than about the audience. To be fair, in terms of the audience, what do I find people mainly have the problem of, I guess it would be the questions I get asked most frequently are and this is from, from startups through to, you know, multi million pound turnover businesses is. Chloe, is there something I'm not doing that I should be doing? And Chloe, is what I'm doing what I should be doing? So it's this kind of this marketing FOMO and fear that there's some magic bullet that everyone else has got? And you haven't, that seems to be be the questions I get asked the most. So those are the those are the answers. I try and give people the the insight to be able to answer.
Andy Splichal 21:21
And is there is there the WhatsApp magic bullet? What are we missing?
Chloe Thomas 21:24
Oh, there isn't one.
Andy Splichal 21:27
So hey, Chloe, you have a number of books, as do I, and I'm curious with which book do you feel is your best work?
Chloe Thomas 21:34
Well, the best seller, the one that sold the most units is Ecommerce marketing, how to get traffic that buys to your website, but the one I liked the most is customer persuasion, which I wrote kind of as a as a how to move customers as quickly as possible through the buying cycle and background again, and it's got different stages in it. And each stage we talk about what to do with customer service, what to do a product, what to do with marketing, what to do with your website, and I completely and utterly screwed up the launch of it. So it's never sold as many copies as it deserved. And if I ever get a spare month, I will rebrand it, retweak it, write some more of it and relaunch it because it's the one which could really have helped an awful lot more people than it's managed to help. And it's entirely my fault it hasn't done better.
Andy Splichal 22:26
Now, personally, are there any business books out there that you can attribute to your journey as an entrepreneur?
Chloe Thomas 22:34
I've read so many, less so I don't read quite so many now as I used to. But I used to read so so many. And the ones which stick with me are Essentialism by Greg McKeown, which is brilliant about helping you try to just focus on the one thing you need to do. Profit First by Mike Michalowicz, which I mean, I can read a P&L, I can read a balance sheet. But it finally got me to the point where I could actually set up my business finances. So as I felt comfortable with them, if that makes any sense. And then the other one would be
The 12 Week Year by Moran and Lennington.
Andy Splichal 23:19
I haven't heard of that one.
Chloe Thomas 23:20
It's the the two guys who kind of studied what the greatest sports teams in the world did to achieve what they managed to achieve, and then bring it back to a business setting. It's one of those books I read it and like 50% of it was like, well, yeah, obviously. So it kind of gave me permission to do stuff I'd played around with in the past. And it's just, it just makes if you can manage to stick to it, which sometimes is hard. But it's always good for you. It really, really accelerates achievement by helping you focus on these kinds of 12 week processes.
Andy Splichal 23:56
So you have your books, you have two podcasts and you host a virtual Summit. If someone wanted to learn more about you and your strategies, where should they start?
Chloe Thomas 24:09
Well, if you head to ecommercemastermind.com, you'll find everything I'm up to and what we're what we're putting out there at the moment. I guess, you know, start with the books is where I most clearly explain my strategy because with with the podcasts, both my podcasts or currently podcasts, so you know, I bring on the best people I can find. But what we end up talking about is not necessarily you know, my kind of core philosophy. What you'll also find on the website is that at the moment we are focused on two key areas, one of which is helping our audience achieve ecommerce success faster and more easily. And the other one is helping our audience along the path to net zero so becoming more sustainable because I think we're a bit of a dodgy industry for that side of things, because fundamentally to save the planet, we've got to buy less yeah. In Ecommerce, we want people to buy things. But I don't think they're mutually exclusive. And I think there's a role we have to play as marketers very powerful role to help consumers make better buying decisions. So we're talking about that a lot on the podcast now as well, which is why this year, in 2022, we're going to be doing two virtual summits, we're going to be doing a marketing focused one in the first half of the year, and in the second half of the year, we're going to be doing one that's going to be all about the path to net zero for Ecommerce stores.
Andy Splichal 25:33
Interesting. And where can where can listeners find more information on that?
Chloe Thomas 25:38
Everything about that will be at some point in the near future on the virtual summits, and everything else is there already at ecommercemastermind.com?
Andy Splichal 25:46
What problems do you think you're uniquely gifted to solve in the Ecommerce realm?
Chloe Thomas 25:54
Oh, wow, that's a that's an intriguing question, Andy. I think it's helping people make better marketing decisions. That's the thing which, which, you know, whenever I've surveyed the people who listened to me in the past, that's the thing which they wish they find the most useful. It's a bit a bit of a fluffy one. You know, I can't say Google Ads performance, or Facebook ads performance, because I'm just not deep enough in those anymore. So I'm more on the kind of the strategic making the right decisions and working out where to focus side of things.
Andy Splichal 26:30
Well, this has been just great, Chloe, is there anything else that you would like to add before we wrap it up today?
Chloe Thomas 26:36
No, just if anyone wants to get in contact with me listen to the podcast, or read books or any of that kind of stuff. I find it all at ecommercemastermind.com. I hope this has been useful for your audience. And Andy, thank you so much for inviting me on.
Andy Splichal 26:48
Well, this has been great. Well, thank you again for joining us today and for listeners, remember, if you liked this episode, please go to Apple podcasts and leave us an honest review. And if you're looking for more information regarding Chloe you will find the links in the show notes below. In addition, if you're looking for more information on growing your business, check out our all new podcasts Resource Center available at www.makeeachclickcount.com. We have compiled all the different past guests by show topic and included each of their contact information in case you would like more information on any services that have discussed during previous episodes. Well that's it for today. Remember to stay safe, keep healthy and happy marketing and I will talk to you in the next episode.