December marked the fourth month of operations for Apes in Space, my online store that sells space posters.
In the last couple of months I’ve slowly figured out how to grow traffic. But the results haven’t been exactly stellar.
I’m happy to say that last months was different and I’ve finally made some sales!
December always is one of the top months for most of my consulting clients, so I’ve been busy with other projects.
But thanks to the tiny systems I’ve set up, marketing continued to improve. I’ve also had a first breakthrough with my advertising campaigns, so things are looking great for 2018 🙂
With that said, it’s time to dig in to exactly what I’ve done during December 2017. And like every month, I’ve divided this article up into the following areas: Marketing, Financials, Merchandise, Effort & Psychology.
👉 By December 2018, I want this new store to hit $1,000 / month in revenue. Sign up for new updates and follow the journey!
Total number of Sessions: 1,166 (+85% compared to November)
The graph below shows the website visitors in December. That big peak towards the end of the month corresponds with the first big Facebook ads win.
Next, let’s look at the quality of these visitors: Pages/Session, Avg. Session Duration & Bounce rate.
Pages per session and average session duration went down while bounce rate remained steady. That’s mainly because all of the traffic hitting the site from the ads.
Most of these visitors didn’t get what they were expecting, so many of them left without exploring the site.
Now let’s look at where the visitors in December came from:
Facebook ads tops the December chart, the high bounce rate and low time on site show that there is still a lot of improvement, but I’ll show you below why I’m happy about this.
Next it’s good to see some referral traffic come in. I’ve (slowly) started promoting new articles, and that’s driving a handful of visitors.
Organic traffic has increased a tiny little bit, 27 vs 22 last month.
If you haven’t been following along, my focus for traffic is:
- Ads in the short term
- Organic search in the long term
To build out that organic traffic, I’ve been churning out blog posts. I had 12 posts planned and managed to get 8 out.
I’ve also adapted my approach slightly. In the past couple of months, I was really focused on putting out a post of a specific event that happened on the exact same day. For example: 14 December 1962 – Mariner 2 Completes First Successful Planetary Flyby of Venus
I’ve realized that these kind of post titles don’t look very good. Especially since most of the people finding the blog posts in Google won’t care about the exact date when something happened.
Second reason is that sticking to this one date-one event format, it limits the scope of the post. I’ve had it a couple of times where I’ve written about the same event with a couple of days apart.
So instead of doing that, I’ll combine multiple events into one post. That will be way more interesting for the reader and allows me to focus on a single keyword in every post.
Here an example of that approach: my write up on the 49th anniversary of the Apollo 8 mission:
I’ll have to see how this approach will turn out in the next few months. If it works well, I might have to revisit the existing content and consolidate some articles.
Google Search Console continues to show and upward trend:
For January, I’ve researched about 12 interesting space history events, so I’ll be happy if I can put out 8-10 posts!
I work from a shared workspace a couple of days a week. And during December I was featured as the member of the month, giving me the opportunity to promote what I was doing 😎
Here is the spot I got, right at the entrance:
Throughout the month I had a lot of conversations about the what and why behind the project. And I got a sale out of it 🙂
I still had a Privy popup up and running in December. It’s not very effective at getting email addresses, mostly because of a mismatch between people reading the blog, and the popup pitching a discount for a product.
However, I got a single optin which converted into a sale!
So as of 31st December 2017, the email list numbers are:
- Total email subscribers: 5
- New email subscribers: 2
I haven’t really sent out any other emails. I might send out something in January, but with only 5 people on the list, my time is better invested elsewhere.
During November, I got started with Facebook ads and ran 6 different campaigns.
Clicks were expensive and none of the ads really took off.
So this month I tried a couple of different angles, building on the things I had learned in November: video & non-promotional stuff.
In December I ran 3 campaigns
- A “Boost Post” campaign (😬 I know)
- Christmas promo
- SpaceX video promo
Campaign 1: The Blue Marble post
I posted a photo to Facebook and it did very well, so Facebook prompted my to “boost” it. I’ve always told clients not to do it because I’ve had poor results with it in the past. But since we’re doing this experiment, I needed to give it a try.
Here is the ad:
I had linked it with the Blue Marble poster in my store to hopefully get some product views out of it.
But a “Boost post” campaign really is a campaign with Engagement as the objective, so that’s what you usually get.
I had also opted into the Instagram placement (can’t remember if I did this by accident or not).
For €10, here is what I got:
- 274 post engagements (likes, shares or comments)
- €0.04 cost / engagement
- 2 link clicks
Digging a bit deeper, I found that the post almost exclusively got traction on Instagram and wasn’t shown at all on Facebook.
Because I had promoted a Facebook post on Instagram, it created a new Instagram “dark post” for it. This means that all of that engagement, about 251 likes, are invisible to everyone.
While my original post has a bleak 14 likes:
Since one of the ways to make Instagram ads work is to build social proof on your account & photos, this campaign wasn’t very successful :p
If I include Instagram next time I’ll create a specific ad set and re-use my existing posts.
Campaign 2 – Christmas campaign:
I made a Dutch translation of the ads that I ran for Black Friday. The results were pretty similar. Low engagement on the ads, which resulted in a high cost per click.
But I experimented with a couple of new target audiences. And one of them, SpaceX fans, showed the highest engagement and cost per clicks.
So when a blog post about SpaceX was coming up, I grabbed my chance.
Campaign 3 – SpaceX landing video:
This one was to celebrate the 2 year anniversary of the first successful landing of a SpaceX rocket. I had edited the existing video to only include the most important moment, the landing.
I posted it to the Apes in Space Facebook page, liked and shared it with my personal account and a couple of buddies also liked and share dit it up. I also cross-promoted it in a Facebook group with Elon Musk fans and saw the visibility climb.
Then I turned that video into an ad and linked a poster I had from the exact moment that’s featured in the video. I figured people that would see the video might be interested in a poster.
Here are the results:
- 4,474 3-second views (€0.01 / view)
- 3,414 10-second views (€0.02 / view)
- Clicks: 808
- Cost: €95.97
- CPC: €0.11
- Sales: 0
That CPC comes very close to my target of €0.05 – 0.1. So during January, I’m going to further experiment with the right mix of posts, ads and landing pages.
Especially this last part needs to improve. The SpaceX video ad campaign had a bounce rate of 90% and a time on site of only 13 seconds.
That’s because all visitors landed on a pretty poor page:
Next time I’m going to test some alternatives: a collection page, a content page & a specific product page.
Social media follower counts
- Twitter followers: 5 (+1 vs November)
- Instagram followers: 16 (+1)
- Facebook likes: 77 (+52) – picked these up through the ad campaigns + mass invite of friends & family
Multi currency support
My main target market is the United States. But because my business is based in Belgium, all my prices are in euro.
To me I don’t find a problem to see different currencies on a site and make the conversion myself.
But I knew that it must be off putting to a lot of people.
So I installed the Bold Multi Currency app.
It automatically detects where a customer is from and displays the prices in the local currency.
I also added the Beeketing sales pop (not available in the app store anymore), which displays a little notification about “real-time” orders.
The reason I’ve added it is to make it obvious that I also sell products. Especially to people that are in the blog section of the site, they might never realize that I also sell posters. So even if they don’t buy, I want to plant a little seed in their heads that if they’re ever looking for cool posters, I’m right here.
I will keep it on for January and see what happens 🙂
I made 2 sales in December!
Here is what the financials look like:
- Shopify basic plan: $29
- Shopify transaction fees: $1.02
- Printful product & logistics cost: $35.19
- Sales tax: $6.73 (21% on orders to Belgium)
- Animoto video software: $34.99
- Samples for new product: $13.43 (still waiting on these so hopefully more on this in the next update 🙂
- Facebook ads: $115.63
Profit / loss = Revenue – Cost = -$182.73
We finally got some orders so we can start to calculate a margin. I admit it is fairly pointless but I just wanted to see where we are at:
- Gross profit = revenue – cost of goods sold (COGS) = $53.26 – ($35.19 + $1.02 + $6.73) = $10.32
- Gross margin = gross profit / revenue = $10.32 / 53.26 = 19%
This is a lot lower than I was expecting. It depends on the type of business, but I was aiming for the 30-40% gross margin benchmark. For now I’m not worried about it since the priority is still on finding traffic and increasing the amount of sales.
I added about 15 new posters in December, total is now at 63 posters in various sizes 👌
Most of them come from the Apollo 8 mission and SpaceX.
Here is how much time I spent on my online store in December:
I spent about half as much time on the store compared to November (12h vs 19h) That’s mainly because of the amount of client work I took on during December increased. I also slowed down a bit between Christmas and New Years Eve to take a break.
Starting this month I’ll break out the Content Marketing part. Since researching and writing are the activities that are taking most of the time, I wanted it to be more visible.
Other marketing activities include Facebooks ads and SEO stuff.
I didn’t expect any sales to come in this month. So the two sales that did come in were a nice surprise.
Beyond that I had a lot of fun learning more about space, running some experiments and promoting the site in general.
Because this project got featured in my shared office I had a lot of conversations about it. A lot of people were really encouraging which felt good.
I have to say that it feels good to have take off the pressure by framing it as an experiment.
🚀But I want to keep it interesting for you as a reader. That’s why I’ve set the target to be at $1,000 / month in sales by end of December 2018. In the next update, I’ll expand a bit on this goal. But 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!