About two months ago, I launched a new online store, Apes In Space, where I sell posters with cool space images.
This post is what happened during the first full month of the store.
As with every update in this Building From Scratch Series,I’ll show you what exactly I’ve been doing: Traffic, Financials, Merchandise, Effort & Psychology.
TLDR; If I had to sum up this past month it’s very clear that I’m in Discovery Mode. I’m trying a bunch of things to find something that works a little bit. That takes an enormous amount of effort and patience. There is a clear danger of doing too much and spreading yourself too thin.
Now let’s jump right into the juicy stuff!
👉 If you’d like to follow along what happens over the next few months and weeks with my store, be sure to sign up for new updates!
You can also watch this video update:
Total number of Sessions: 233 (-23% compared to September)
This graph shows the visitors in October. The peaks you see are either me writing about the store on this site or the Googlebot crawler.
The quality of the visitors decreased. For that I’m mainly looking atthe metrics on the bottom row: Pages/Session, Avg. Session Duration & Bounce rate.
The numbers are still too small to draw any conclusions. But I’ve increased the amount of content and number of products, so normally that would lead to an increase in the on-page engagement.
Now let’s look at where these visitors came from:
Most of these direct visitors are either Google crawling the site or me visiting it.
I’m going to set up a Google Analytics filter to take my own visits out of these reports. Because those make it hard to draw conclusions.
But what does look good is the amount of Twitter and Facebook referrals. These visitors also seem to spend a good amount of time on the site which is promising for any paid efforts on these platforms.
I look at organic search as being future traffic driver in a couple months time.
So I’ve created a lot of content for the blog, about 11 blog posts in October.
These are a lot of work to write, but I have to admit that the deeper I get into this, the more interesting all this space stuff becomes 🤓
Organic search brought in 13 visitors in October, that’s a 3x improvement!
All kidding aside, it’s still way very early to see any big movements. But things are moving, take a look at this report from the Google Search Console:
This graph shows how often each of these pages appear and get clicked on from the Google Search results.
As you can see in the table above, new blog posts are already getting picked up. Over time (with some more domain authority) these should start to do very well.
For November, I’ve researched about 17 interesting space history events, my guess is that they will turn into 12-15 posts in total.
Each post (including promo materials) takes me about 30-45 minutes. It’s been hard to get in front of the publishing schedule to create a buffer. But I know consistency is key in making SEO work. So I’m going to try to get a handle on that schedule during November.
The email list is something I don’t need to focus on right now, but I do want to get the basics in place so the list can start growing.
Total email subscribers: 3
I didn’t add any new email subscribers to the list during October.
So to kickstart this I added Privy, an email popup tool.
My basic goal is to capture email addresses by giving a 10% discount in return.
I’m using the following triggers: timed popup after 30 seconds or on page exit. And it will show once a week to people that haven’t subscribed.
The Shopify app is free but has Privy branding. I’ve got no idea if this is valuable to visitors, so I’ll give it a spin to see if people actually leave their email addresses.
I’ve also added a more prominent email optin on the homepage:
Both of these should add a couple of emails to the list in the coming month. It’s also a lower commitment thing visitors can do if they enjoy what they see.
I’ve also added Facebook as a sales channel on Shopify. That’s a pretty cool feature that also let’s me tag any products in a post:
The main role of the Twitter, Instagram and now Facebook accounts are to share the blog posts and products.
But if I’m honest, these updates look pretty boring. And that also means few people will click or share them.
Here is on of the tweets I put out:
24 October 1946 – V2 Rocket Takes First Photo of Earth From Space https://t.co/twTUulJadO
— Todays Apes In Space (@Apesinspaceco) October 24, 2017
So I was thinking about making these updates a bit more digestible and attractive for social media.
And one look at the performance insights of my Facebook posts clearly reveals what works best on the platform:
Video is where it’s at!
I already had the content, so I started creating short little videos with the most interesting message and images from these blog posts.
I’m creating these videos with a tool called Animoto:
It’s pretty easy to use and I can put together a video of 30-45 seconds in about 10 minutes.
At $34.99/month it’s not the cheapest option. But if I’m going to do anything with paid social, I need to have attractive assets to work with. And video seems like the perfect candidate for that.
Social media follower counts:
- Twitter followers: 4 (+1 vs September)
- Instagram followers: 8 (+6)
- Facebook likes: 5
These numbers are way too small to get any traction from. So in October I’m going to start experimenting with paid promotion of these videos.
Exactly how much money did the store make in it’s first full month of operation?
Unfortunately there weren’t any new sales during October.
- Shopify basic plan: $29
- Animoto: $34.99
Profit / loss : -$63.99
There just isn’t enough qualified traffic hitting the website yet. So I can’t expect for sales to come in out of the handful of visitors.
So in November I’ll put some money into advertising to change that.
In October, I’ve added about 16 products, the total is now at 37.
2 posters I found while doing research for the blog posts.
One I created myself to commemorate NASA’s anniversary:
The result isn’t amazing, but creating products or adding them for special occasions will be a very interesting thing to try. It will also give me a reason to promote specific products.
I’m thinking about things like “July = Moon Month”.
Another 14 new posters came from a cool series I discovered that NASA did a couple of years back. I found them while I was browsing another site that was advertising these posters so I started digging for the official source.
Check out these NASA retro posters from the futures:
These are very cool and distinct from all the posters I’ve had so far.
I think adding 5-10 posters per month is a good pace to keep expanding the merchandise in the coming months.
Here is how much time I spent on each activity in October:
About 9 hours of my time was spent on marketing: creating the blog posts and promoting these on social media.
Adding products is something that takes a lot more time than I thought: getting the image source files right, importing them and getting product info right can be a tedious process.
The smallest piece of the pie is the time I spent on customer service. Unfortunately the very first order is having some problems to get to its destination. I’ve been in touch with the printer and the customer to make sure that packages arrives.
This is something I underestimated. Just emailing back and forward and being very responsive takes a lot of time. Right now it’s just a single order, but I can image that if you’re doing 100 orders a month, you really need to stay on top of this.
Getting a site off the ground from 0 is a lot harder than improving an existing one.
Towards the end of the month, I started getting more nervous that I wouldn’t have any results to show for. That I would have to write this update without a single new sale.
I’ve overcome this by reminding me why I’m doing this Sprout Series: as a case study to experiment with things I usually don’t do in client projects.
And if I look at this update, I’ve done plenty of new things: creating and promoting videos, getting better at organic social, sourcing products, etc.
I know that all of these things are slowly contributing to grow this store. And results will follow if I’m patient (I hope 😬)
🚀 If you want to follow along and see the exact things I do to make this online store a success, be sure to sign up for these updates!
Over to you: what’s the most surprising finding from this post? What’s missing?