Three months ago, I launched an online store called Apes In Space where I sell space posters.
November was a busy month, I started running Facebook ads and there was the Black Friday promotion. While keeping up with the biggest time consuming task: the (almost) daily blog.
So like every month, this is another update of what exactly I’ve done and what the results were in the following areas: Traffic, Financials, Merchandise, Effort & Psychology.
👉 If you’d like to follow along what happens over the next few months with the store, be sure to sign up for new updates! I’m sharing some things that won’t appear on the blog.
Before jumping into the details I want to share my biggest win, our first customer review. Although it might seem like a small win, I think the first happy customer is an important milestone to celebrate!
Now on to the juicy details!
Total number of Sessions: 608 (+162% compared to October)
This graph shows the website visitors in November. This month, the peaks mean an advertising campaign was launched. As you can see in the graph below, I did three big pushes.
Next I look at the quality of these visitors: Pages/Session, Avg. Session Duration & Bounce rate.
These three metrics all went down. That already gives you a hint at the biggest challenge with getting new people to your website: if you don’t get the right ones, you will see little on-page engagement (which you need to make sales!).
Now let’s look at where the visitors in November came from:
As you can see, Facebook tops the charts. #1, 2 & 4 are all related to the Facebook ads (more details below). Visitors from organic search have picked up a bit 22 vs 13 last month.
Last month I also set up a Google Analytics filter, so less of my own sessions are included. Same for bots, they are also filtered out.
Organic search will be the main source of traffic in a couple of month’s time. To achieve that, I’ve again spent a lot of time on blogging throughout the month month.
I had 17 posts planned but only 7 were published on the blog in November. Some of the events I researched turned out to be really boring, and with others I just didn’t have the time to create them.
Google Search Console is also showing an upward trend. See the bump around 1 November? That usually means Google has picked up new links and that increases your visibility.
For December, I’ve researched about 12 interesting space history events, so I’ll be happy if I can put out 8-10 posts!
Since I was planning to start advertising, I wanted to make sure I had a good email popup in place that could capture interested people.
I didn’t get any optins from Privy In October, so I create a slightly different version:
That also wasn’t very successful, I didn’t get any new opt-ins.
Total email subscribers: 3
New email subscribers: 0
Not sure what the problem is, but I’m guessing there isn’t enough traffic that actually cares about the posters. Maybe I should do a more content focused popup for blog and this more commercial version for people that are surfing the products.
Despite the low amount of subscribers, with Black Friday coming up, I wanted to be ready to send out some emails.
Email marketing tool Klaviyo had been long on my list to try out, so I setup an account there.
Although it is still very empty, all these different lists already give me a lot of new ideas on how to segment with a serious number of people on the list.
Anyway, here is what I sent out as my Black Friday email promotion (to my 3 subscribers :P):
But as soon as I hit send, I got this message:
I guess it’s a natural thing to flag new accounts and make sure they aren’t spammers. But it was the night before Black Friday so I felt a bit bummed out.
This goes to show at the amount of stress a good preparations can accomplish. Imagine I was relying on a 10,000 person email list to drive my sales on this day. An delay in sending could be pretty disastrous.
I put out a tweet to the Klaviyo team and they got this compliance check sorted within the hour!
Klaviyo is free to use up to 250 email subscribers and integrates well with Shopify. I guess that will give me plenty of time to test drive their system. (Especially at the email list growth I currently have :P)
I know Facebook ads can be super powerful from other stores and projects that I’ve worked on. So I was eager to try them out for Apes in Space.
Let me start by saying that I know how difficult it can be to make them work, especially for a new store.
The most important thing to realize when you start with Facebook ads is that people aren’t on Facebook to see ads for your products. They are there because they are bored want to be entertained. So to be effective, you have to fit into this expectation.
I look at Facebook ads as being the fuel to drive people through a sales funnel. So the the first objective is to find a reliable way to bring traffic to the website at a good price. I use €0.05 – €0.1 as the cut-off. And this is usually the hardest part.
Afterwards you can do all sorts of fancy things with retargeting to convert that traffic.
In November I spent €189.25 on 6 campaigns:
- Laika blog promotion
- Retargeting campaign to video viewers
- Free phone wallpapers
- Blog post promotion 20/11
- Black Friday promotion
- Black Friday dynamic retargeting campaign
Campaign 1: Laika blog promotion
I mentioned last month that I started to create videos for some of the posts on the blog.
Since Facebook is huge on video, they will give them more visibility, I figured that I could try to reach more people with a well timed video.
On 2 November, it was 60 years that the Russian dog Laika was sent into space. So I created this video about it:
Then I created a Facebook campaign with as objective video views that ran for 3 days.
- Cost: €22.99
- Clicks: 28
- CPC: €0.82
- Video views: 1,089 10-second video views
- Cost per view: €0.02 per view
- Sales: €0
My main goal was to bring people back to the website to read the article, and based on that this campaign wasn’t very successful.
The fact that I uses Video views as the campaign objective didn’t help.
Facebook is not a mind reader, so it will do exactly what you set as a target: try to get you more video views. That’s why they will show your ad to the people in your targeted audience that are most likely to view the video. These might not be your ideal customers.
Lesson from this campaign: with a good video I can get quality views for €0.02. But I need to create a better incentive for people to convince viewers to visit the site.
Campaign 2: Retargeting campaign to video viewers
To recover some of the visitors of the previous campaign, I also ran a retargeting campaign to people that had seen at least 10 seconds of the video. That got a few clicks, but the disconnect between the video of Laika and an ad for my posters was too big, especially because my store logo only appears 40 seconds into the video.
So for most people seeing the ad, they had little/no familiarity (or trust) with the Apes In Space brand.
- Cost: €7.42
- Clicks: 3
- CPC: €2.47
- Sales: €0
Lesson: forget about retargeting until I can reach people that really know my brand. Now I had a handful of people that came to the site and Facebook charges a lot to reach such small audiences.
Campaign 3: Free phone wallpapers
I figured I needed to grab the attention of potential customers with an idea that was a bit closer to my posters, but something that was still valuable to people browsing Facebook.
A while back I read a post about a Facebook ad campaign that Startup Vitamins ran to promote their posters. They had developed phone wallpapers to provide small “free” versions of their motivational posters.
I liked their approach so I figured I could do the exact same thing. So I created:
- Landing page (well-optimized for mobile)
- 20 resized images from my posters that are well suited for the most common smartphones
- Page with the actual phone wallpapers
- A couple of mockups of the wallpapers on a phone:
- A Facebook campaign to bring people to the landing page:
- Cost: €60.23
- Clicks: 90
- CPC: €0.66
- Email opt-ins: 0
- Sales: €0
I had expected this to work a lot better. Not a single person gave up their email address in return. I might not have had enough visitors to really see it’s impact, but at €0.66/click, this was just too expensive.
The Relevance Scores for the ads were also very low, in the 2-4/10 range. That’s way too low for something content related, resulting in a high cost per click.
But now I’ve got the page with wallpapers up, I might repurpose that to attract some links.
Lesson: Need to do ask potential customers if they are interested in this before going through this whole setup.
Campaign 4: Blog post promotion 20/11
In campaign 1 showed some potential for content promotion, so I wanted to try as slightly different angle.
For a post I did on 20 November, I used Facebook’s “Boost Post” feature with improved targeting.
Here is what that looked like:
- Cost: €5
- Clicks: 11
- CPC: €0.45
- Email opt-ins: 0
- Sales: €0
For the first campaign I also learned that video worked well, so I tried a variation of the ad above with a video. The campaign was one that is focused on Traffic (link clicks) instead of video.
- Cost: €6.00
- Clicks: 20
- CPC: €0.29
- Email opt-ins: 0
- Sales: €0
Lesson: Video seemed to work best from a CPC point of view. Will need to try again with a more interesting (universal) topic.
Campaign 5: Black Friday promotion
Then the biggest shopping day of the year rolled around. I had been busy with client work, so I wasn’t really ready but did want to do something.
I gave a 25% discount on all purchases from Friday through Monday.
Being this direct “Buy these awesome posters now”, is something I always advise my clients not to do. And now I’ve got some proof 😅
I had allocated $45/day to get new people to the site and look at my products.
Here is the campaign structure
- 9 ad sets ($5/day) with 9 separate audiences
- 3 ads per ad set: carousel vs video 1 vs video 2
- Geo: US
Here are the Facebook ad sets:
These were the Facebook ads:
As you can see in the ad set overview, I ended up pausing ad sets that were simply too expensive & continued to run with the ones that did ok. That’s why I didn’t spend $45/day.
- Cost: €87.95
- Clicks: 203
- CPC: €0.43
- Email opt-ins: 0
- Sales: €0
Across ad groups, ad #2 turned out to be the winner, it had an average CPC of €0.43.
The bounce rate from these visitors was very high: 95%-100%. This is deadly for an advertising campaign and clearly indicates that the targeting isn’t on point.
Lesson: lay off the promotional campaigns to cold prospects
Campaign 6: Black Friday Dynamic Product Ads campaign
I set up a dynamic retargeting campaign for products buyers. Since I had only a few visitors, that campaign didn’t really do anything.
None of these campaigns really did what I wanted them to do. But I did get some lessons from the ads that I ran. So over the next couple of months, I’m going to focus on using Facebook ads as a content promotion tool. If I can get qualified visitors to the site for about €0.05, I know I can make the economics work.
Social media follower counts:
- Twitter followers: 4 (- vs October)
- Instagram followers: 15 (+7)
- Facebook likes: 25 (+20) – picked these up through the ad campaigns
Now off to the juiciest part of this whole post: how much money did the store make in November?
I didn’t make any new sales during November, so the numbers look red again.
- Shopify basic plan: $29
- Animoto: $34.99
- Facebook ads: $225.09
Profit / loss = Revenue – Expenses = -$289.08
There still isn’t enough traffic coming to the website, so In December I’ll continue experimenting with ads to change that.
In November, I’ve added about 11 products, the total is now at 48.
Most of them came up while doing research for the blog.
I’m trying to share a product within each blog post, so the better I can match the topic with the poster, the more likely a blog reader is to check out the full collection.
Here is an example of how that looks:
Here is how much time I spent on each activity in November:
I would say that about 75% of the time spent on marketing is spent on the blog: researching, writing and formatting the posts.
The other marketing tasks were getting the Facebook ads in shape, setting up a couple of new tools and making tweaks to the website.
Again a month without any sales. But I felt less stressed about it than in October.
Mostly because I’ve reframed what I’m doing with this store as an experiment. There is no pressure on it to make money. It’s my lab to try out new things, discover what really works, apply that to client projects and share that here with you.
That said I still felt a bit like a sucker with the Facebook ads. I have ran successful campaigns for clients, but starting from 0 without lookalike or custom audiences to kickstart campaigns, makes it a lot harder. But again, it gives me a better idea of what new merchants go through.
Next I felt a lot of pressure to do something for Black Friday. This pressure both came from other retailers, vendors and other companies.
I think it’s a bit the similar push that consumers feel that they have to shop, only this time created at the other side of the table. I’ve had a whole rant about Black Friday if you want to hear more from me about the subject 🙂
🚀 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 one thing that you take away from this post?