what i learned building an ecommerce site
In Digital Marketing Strategy

Part 2: What I Learned the Hard Way Building an eCommerce Site


Last week I launched a new series about my experience and ‘What I learned the hard way about building an ecommerce site’. Now let’s go back to where it all began…

In February 2012, I was talking to a friend who had over the years started and managed many successful businesses. We would typically catch up once a year to talk over stuff, spark some ideas and learn from each other. I eagerly started telling him about the plans for my new ecommerce site which were at that time just a seed of an idea in my head.

His response: “Why would you enter a market that is so saturated with big players like Apple, Ebay, Amazon, JB Hifi, Harvey Norman and every other supermarket?”

He had a point. A very valid point. At no stage did I actually think it was going to be easy, though I was a little crushed at what he was saying.

I explained that this was different. But I couldn’t quite articulate how as I had not thought past how the idea would work in my head. We promptly changed the subject to family.

Time to take action

Being raised by an entrepreneur father, I knew all about the consequences of getting so wrapped up in the thinking that it only manifests itself into a shit storm of nothing.

I had to take action. You’ve got to put your money where your mouth is.

Data vs. real life research

Getting addicted to research is not hard these days. How many times have you started looking for something on Google and ended up in a rabbit hole of information overload that had nothing to do with your original search?

While it would be great to say that I was highly organised and used a tool like Evernote and a fancy spreadsheet to have everything in the one place, truth is I didn’t.

Three simple research questions

I called them questions instead of goals or objectives because I actually had very little knowledge about the smartphone industry. Of course, I had an iPhone, but my primary research was via an online business for sale site. So, drawing on my experience working in digital strategy (day job), I asked myself the same questions that I ask my clients:

  1. Why would someone buy from me?
  2. Who is that someone?
  3. How many ‘someones’ are there and are there enough to make money?

It took me a couple of days to work out that I didn’t have to be a Steve Jobs or <insert Richard Branson smile here> sort of entrepreneur.

What I realised was that I didn’t need to be anyone different. I just had to find a person to model the business on. Someone to build a brand around.

While I was trying to figure out who that person could be, I noticed one of my fiancé’s favourite shows on the TV.

It’s called Jerseylicious, and without boring you with too much of the shows’ details, what struck me is that most of the cast members had fancy-looking or upmarket smartphone cases. My fiancé loved this show. She and many of her friends would chat about it during and after the episodes aired.

She understood the lingo, cared about what her smartphone case said about her. Ultimately she was someone would relate well my business.

So my research for the “who” and “enough” began.

Step 1: STALK

Seriously, I found all the social media channels that Jerseylicious was using and noted them on my word doc.

Using Facebook I looked up random people’s profiles that I could see were highly engaged with the Jerseylicious page. I did the same on Twitter. No surprise, there was a big crossover with Facebook.

I also noted which other pages they engaged with on Facebook. I looked at who else they followed and noted their interests.

This process took me more than three days. In digital strategy parlance it’s called building a persona. This persona is that perfect someone I am trying to attract to my website to buy our products.

Now building the persona taught me one thing. While everyone is different, they still have one thing in common. In this case it was they love the show.

Other commonalities included their friends and the luxury brands they followed on Facebook which I duly noted down.

Step 2: DATA

When working with a large retailer in Australia I discovered a site called Quantcast which they used to extract data intelligence from overseas customers who shared the same persona.

So using Quantcast explored the Jerseylicious website and uncovered some interesting statistics.


AGE: 25-44 – 55% of the audience

INCOME: 50-100K – 31%


Using this data I went back to my document and added a few notes. This audience has money, likely disposable income and is aged 25-44.

Step 3: Ask Google

I got onto Google Trends and searched for “iPhone 4 Case” which given the iPhone 4 had shortly been released, there was a massive spike. We have traction.

I then used the Google Keyword tool to search for the keyword “iPhone 4 cases”.

At the time, 5500 people in Australia were searching for the term.

HIGH competition.

While you can look at high competition inside Adwords or Keyword tool as a challenge, to me high competition in this space means people are making money.

I had the WHY, WHO, ENOUGH. This was looking promising.

Now what? What do they actually want to buy and at what price? How do I find out without spending a bucket load of time and money?

In the next article I’ll go through the products and how I toughened up in the face of suppliers slamming doors in my face. In the end, I started advertising my product before I even had one.

















What I Learned the Hard Way Building an eCommerce Site
In Digital Marketing Strategy

What I Learned the Hard Way Building an eCommerce Site

Three years ago I felt the urge to do something different. At work, I’d slipped into neutral and was totally coasting along. Even in the world of digital marketing, there are just a finite number of ways to skin a cat.

But I realised, that if I shook things up a little and did things differently, I could completely regain my passion for digital marketing, make my clients a lot of money, and still have time to do other stuff.

So I turned off auto-pilot and I focused my mind on building something that I could tell the world about later, warts and all.

This something was going to become my muse. And it was something I was going to craft into a book, use as material for digital marketing talks around Australia. Even for case studies and a proof of concept.

Of course, most of my experience in digital marketing was based around spending other people’s money. No risk to myself, my family, my mortgage or even my lifestyle.

So this time, it would be totally different, with my business, my money, my reputation on the line.

In the series of articles that follow, I’ll talk about the good times and the bad. I’ll discuss the lessons we learnt from our own experiences. This includes prototyping a website; getting ripped off in China; the wins and fails of SEO and SEM backed up with numbers; the marketing strategy; and the design process. Plus customer service, social media and a whole lot more.

This is the sort of article I wish I had read the first time I started a business.

With my heart on my business sleeve I’m going to take you on my journey. A journey that many of you have embarked on before, or are about to embark on for the first time.

A bit of background on my business experience.

I started my first company straight out of college and ran it for eight years while working full time. I had two full time staff and eventually sold my business to my largest competitor at the time. So, when I started my next business, I wasn’t exactly new to running a business, but it was different. This business was in an industry I knew nothing about.

The unknown is usually the scariest part of a new start-up so I made a habit of trying to KNOW EVERYTHING as quickly as humanly possible.


I had two simple goals:



Sounds simple in theory, right? But what does someone who’s been doing technical marketing (web development and digital strategy) for most of his life sell?

Well for me, I ended up wanting to sell iPhone cases.

Good one, right? Everyone has an iPhone. They’re an extension of who we are. People want to individualise their phones. BINGO!

It didn’t go exactly like that though…

I trawled and trawled (what felt like) millions of business listings on Flippa.com which is an online business marketplace, looking for something that I believed I could improve, expand and market hard to reach my goals.

I stumbled onto a listing for an ecommerce site selling only one type of iPhone case for $29. This business was being auctioned for over $5K USD and had some proof of sales, shady analytics and a website that I’m sure my four-year- old Cavoodle, Elvis, could create

But what actually attracted me to this business listing was the number of other people (like me) asking questions. And what really kept me interested was how quickly the bidding was moving.

Bidding jumped from $100 – $2100 overnight. During the morning, it hit the $5600 mark in no time at all. By the time I got back from lunch it was $6700. You get my drift it was ‘moving’. A day later it was gone. Sold for $15K.

Like my father says, “A business is worth nothing, until other people start making offers to buy it. Until then, you just created yourself a job.” This business clearly had some legs.

My mind was made up. I would create an ecommerce store that sold Apple products.

Now, where to start?

Join my newsletter for the latest articles in the series…

Coming soon…



















In Conversion Rate Optimisation | Digital Marketing Strategy

They F***ED SO MUCH, They bought it!

It’s a phenomenon!
Experts keep ‘informing‘ everyone to avoid it like the plague.
“Remove the anxiety and they will progress”  
There’s a lot of bullshit in the world of “conversion rate optimization”. There’s also a lot of honest-to-god intentionality, forethought, hard work and perseverance that goes into a shit load of testing and analysis.

Brazil World Cup Girls
In Digital Marketing Strategy | How To

3 Ways To Score Big With 2014 World Cup Marketing

Ole ole ole ole not long now and the world will be captivated by the biggest sporting event which is held periodically every four years.
It’s a month of broken sleep, fingernails bitten back to bloody skin and office rivalries taking a turn for the worse as HR managers cringe.
For your business this is the perfect opportunity to get savvy with your marketing and treat the World Cup just like you would treat Christmas.
The opportunity to jump on the bandwagon and make some money…

In Digital Marketing Strategy

Responsive Design – The only way forward is sideways

What is responsive design?

I often get asked by clients, what are the best ways to insure my website supports mobile devices. The reply I use is quite simply that you have to ensure your site is built to support all devices no matter size, shape, platform, orientation or location.

Responsive web design is a design approach aimed at crafting sites to provide an optimal viewing experience easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling across a wide range of devices. That includes smartphones, Tablets and desktop computers.

Aquistion Tab Google Analytics
In Adwords | Conversion Rate Optimisation | Digital Marketing Strategy

Acquisitions Tab in Google Analytics and what it means for you

You may have noticed in the last day that the TRAFFIC Sources Tab has changed name and added a few new reports to the Google Analytics experience.

According to Google Traffic sources in Google Analytics contains some of the most popular reports and are accessed daily by millions of users.

That’s why it was decided to add a few new key metrics to serve some of the most important elements for most users of analytics. Acquisitions.

Two new sub tabs join the freshly named Acquisition tab in Google Analytics

In Digital Marketing Strategy

2013 Ultimate Holiday E-Commerce Success Checklist

Time is running out… People have already started buying Christmas gifts. So you don’t miss your fair share of the predicted 50+ billion dollar online holiday season you need to download and run through my 140 check boxed eCommerce success checklist right now.

In the Ultimate Holiday E-commerce Success Checklist you will discover:

  1. Products
  2. Conversions
  3. Carts
  4. Automation
  5. Tools
  6. Paid advertising
  7. Email Campaigns
  8. Social

This checklist is a combination of 8 years of eCommerce experience as a manager and owner.

I will not have this checklist up for long so act now.

In Conversion Rate Optimisation | Digital Marketing Strategy

The Dog Ate My Conversion Rate Optimisation

Let’s get straight to business here…

If you do anything with conversion rate optimisation you either:

  1. Work for someone that owns a business that runs a website.
  2. Work for an agency that has clients that run websites
  3. Consult to businesses that have websites
  4. Run your own website.

At the end of the day whatever you’re doing it’s still work. Like everything there is hard work and easy work. Conversion rate optimisation comes in two flavours and it depends what part of the WORK you’re paid to do.

You have the digital producers/web developers that will make the changes the conversion rate optimisation experts have suggested.

Then you have the conversion rate optimisation experts that tell the designers what needs to be changed based on case studies, professional opinions and previous successful campaigns.

So what does any of the above have to do with the dog eating your conversion rate optimisation you may ask? Well one major factor is that we jump too early into the DEEP end of conversion rate optimisation without really sitting down and analysing exactly what the main objectives are.

When I discuss main objectives with clients it is not about the conversion rate optimisation, sales, profits or leads. It’s about the client’s hopes and dreams and usually their client’s hopes and dreams too.

When you really drill down to it, hopes and dreams is what makes the world go around.

Example owner of ABC Shoes (yes, it’s fictional) wants to be the largest online shoe retailer in Australia. They want to be the go to destination for all things shoes and they want to be online only and an exclusive brand.  With this hope and dream come the by-products being conversions, money, fame, profits and leads.

So what are their client’s hopes and dreams then? Well let’s think about it for a second? Why do you buy shoes?

You want to look presentable, it goes well with your suit or dress, and you feel a million bucks with a pair of shinny loafers or pumps or you may just want the shoes for exercise and work.

Their clients’ hopes and dreams are emotional, to an affect self-centred and present a need of filling a void (possibly fashion or just plain necessity) by purchasing shoes.

Discovering the hopes and dreams of people you need to convert opens the door to finding out what they fear and causes them anxiety.

Anxiety at the checkout is a major factor affecting shopping carts the world over and as conversion rate optimisation experts we need to focus on reducing anxiety and move them swiftly and peacefully through the buying phase.

Best-practice in conversion rate optimisation is bullsh#t! No one client or buyer is the same. So no one best practice will fit the situation of every person in the world.

But do you know what does produce results? WORK! That’s what.

Putting the hard yards into a conversion rate optimisation strategy at the beginning and getting to know the visitors you are trying to convert intimately will see you on your way to a successful CRO job.

So NO MORE EXCUSES!  Do the hope and dream research before you get started on the game-plan!

What is your experience with client hopes and dream? Comment below…

[Tweet “When you really drill down to it, hopes and dreams is what makes the world go around.”]

In Conversion Rate Optimisation | Digital Marketing Strategy | How To

I caught my fiancé showrooming, what should I do?

11am Saturday on a beautiful Sydney morning. I find myself walking through a department store in the city looking for a new couch. Surprisingly many people are out on a day like today, you would expect them to be at the beach or at least in the sunshine.

Touching leather, moving on and sitting on another trying to find that perfect balance of comfort and height that would suit our living room. This one couch was perfect, not the price tag, but the couch was perfect. It was the right size, colour and could easily fit the family including the puppy.

I thought about the price a little, I usually don’t care about the price but I don’t go out there looking for the most expensive thing to brag about either. I was consciously going through scenarios of this couch in our living room and matching up the dollars to value and emotional connection we may have.

All of a sudden I looked up to my fiancé with a smile and feeling of readiness to buy. But she was affixed to her iPhone as if she was solving a medical mystery. Totally ignoring my glance I was intrigued to what she might be doing so thoughtfully and attentively.  I took a short glance over towards her phone and to my shock horror she had the same couch we are sitting on, on her screen at an online competitors website.

You have probably heard about Google’s zero moment of truth ZMOT. Well this was the zero moment of horror for me as I was not sure what to do, what to say… had I just caught her showrooming? I literally fell off the couch we wanted to buy.

I quickly composed myself and stated that I would be right back, making my way to the safety of the electronics and computer section, but as I did I noticed more and more people glued to the screen of their smartphones with the same products in real life being displayed on their device of choice. More showrooming!  Am I the only one not showrooming in this store?

Showrooming is a trend that retailers simply can’t ignore – while showroomers accounted for only 6% of all shoppers globally, this group accounted for nearly half of all online purchases. What this means is millions are being lost for the bricks and mortars traditional retailers.

A study by IBM which surveyed 26,000 shoppers in 14 countries, one of the largest surveys of its kind, found that for example in China, 24% of respondents identified themselves as showroomers. Online-only retailers are capitalising on this trend, accounting for one-third of showroomer purchases.

IBM’s study found that UK consumers are changing the way they research and ultimately purchase goods. Of the UK respondents surveyed, 77% of shoppers said they chose the store to make their last non-grocery purchase, but only 51% were committed to returning there for the next purchase, while 45% were unsure whether they would next shop at a store or online.

This is particularly striking in the consumer electronics sector, where only 30% of the UK consumers surveyed made their last purchase in a store. And other product categories are likely to follow, for example luxury brands, which was found to be one of the top categories for showrooming at a global level.

Showrooming (as I found out for myself) is a serious problem for traditional retailers and one that can be combated with some smarts in technology and wiliness to adapt to the every changing world of commerce.

You see, I care very much about the world of offline retail as I was raised in a women’s fashion retail store and my father still is running his label and even though he is not directly affected (most of the clothes are custom designed) he still sees showrooming being done constantly in store.

What would I do if I was an offline retailer and getting smashed by showrooming you asked? Of course I have a strategy for it.

First thing I would do is dominate using Google Adwords. With a bit of hyper-local mobile targeting you can almost zero in on your store and serve ads for those cheeky enough to search for products you have in store.

So in my imaginary store called ‘Parisis Shoes’ I sell the Phillip loafer. With Google Adwords and targeted hyper- local mobile strategy when the showroomer searches an ad will pop up with some smart text saying “Parisis Shoe Customer – In store looking for loafers? Click to receive instant 10% discount coupon” get the picture.

So this is great in a few ways (if I do say so myself)

1)      You hopefully don’t lose the customer as your campaign is highly targeted and Google Adwords appear way before and SEO listings when your search on mobile.

2)      You send a coupon to the smartphone that gets added to Apple Passbook or Google Wallet. (more about that below)

3)      You find out exactly who was showrooming and offer them a smile and extra special personalised service so they feel the love and want to shop from you again.

Point two above brings me to a very important strategy that will change the game and finally start connecting multi-channel retailers closer to the offline world.

With the likes of Apple Passbook and Google Wallet now making an appearance on people’s phones, retailers can connect even easier with their customers. These apps allow users to store information such as store coupons, tickets and customer reward cards.

“When you have a ‘Pass’ in Passbook, it’s another valuable way marketers can connect beyond showrooming because as consumers walk past a store, an alert message appears on their phones telling them a location is nearby where they can use their passes,” Jack Philbin, cofounder and CEO of mobile marketing solutions company Vibes, told Mashable.

Remind your customers of your presence without being invasive. Without the need to download another local marketing coupon app (Apple passbook and Google wallet is native). As a retailer avoid being locked down to monthly fees and push to send fees of those stated local coupon marketing apps.

If you want to get started using Apple passbook you can have a look at pass source that comes with many templates and easy creation of passes (you may need some technical knowledge for advanced stuff but still easily to use).

You can find out more about Google wallet coupons here.

So I know what you’re thinking? What ever happened to the couch right? Well we still have not purchased the couch. I was too embarrassed to go back to that place and ‘look’ at it again (possible showroom it again).

I also quickly got over the showrooming awkwardness, with my fiancé explaining girls know how to spend money while saving money at the same time and you can take that to the bank. I will also take it to my next strategy meeting with clients in women’s fashion and apparel.

I would love to hear your stories or comments on showrooming below. Are you a showroomer on occasions?

If you’re an offline retailer and struggling to combat showrooming or in general sales, please checkout my Showrooming Defender course by clicking here.

Share with your friends

Share with your friends

Share with your friends

Share with your friends

Share with your friends