The Online Selling Experiment: 52 Weeks of Results

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Online Selling Experiment | Cartoon illustration of a man typing away on a laptop screen, surrounded by papers in dimly lit home office - Juan Rojo Design Toronto

The online selling experiment is a self-imposed challenge I have set for myself. Over the next 52 weeks (a full year), I will be running two online stores concurrently.

Online Selling Experiment – The Parameters

I will be uploading products to both Etsy Marketplace and my own WooCommerce store. However, digital marketing strategies will be carried out using the same social media channels for both, while email marketing and automation will be limited to the WooCommerce store.

Best Places to Sell Online

We discussed this topic in a previous article, where I presented the pros and cons of using WooCommerce and Etsy. For instance, if you are familiar with the WordPress ecosystem, WooCommerce might be an easier path of entry for you. On the other hand, if you have no experience in web development, an existing online marketplace might be the perfect fit.

I decided to run both, just so I could A/B test which solution yields the best results. In other words, I want to keep track of store visits via organic search, social media reach and ultimately, sales.

Based on my experience so far, I can tell you that in terms of SEO, my WooCommerce store is yielding better results. For instance, I’m already getting more daily visits on my WC (WooCommerce) store than my Etsy shop. However, I was was fully expecting that, as I’m leveraging existing traffic from my website to get eyes on my online products. My Etsy shop, on the other hand, has only been around for less than a month.

What Are The Best Items To Sell Online?

I researched for the best items to sell online and kept running into the same products: digital downloads and print-on-demand items. For instance, digital planners and t-shirts are still viable products to sell online. However, competition is extremely high, so differentiation is key.

Products that sell best online don’t have to be high-tech SaaS (Software as a Service). You and I can still sell the same products that are sold at a Target, Walmart, etc. However, we also need to keep in mind that we are competing with companies with a MUCH larger marketing budget.

Why Sell Digital Downloads or Print On Demand Products?

I can say the answer to that question is simple, barrier to entry is extremely low. In other words, you don’t need to carry inventory or worry about shipping as every aspect of the shopping experience is taken care of for you.

In the case of digital downloads, the transaction is immediate. Your buyer gets a link to download their purchase once they have completed payment and your profit is nearly 100%. However, you still have to take into account other costs, such as hosting, payment gateway fees if you are selling through WooCommerce and any other cost you might have incurred through ads.

I thought Etsy would be a similar alternative in terms of costs, but turns out there are some key differences. Every time you upload a product, you are charged a listing fee (USD$0.20). In addition, you also need to use Etsy’s own payment gateway, which also takes a cut of your transaction. The transaction fee is a necessary evil, as you absolutely need that feature in order to sell online. However, the listing fee, while low it can add up quickly as you also get charged to “renew” your listings every few months. That’s something you DEFINITELY don’t need to worry about when using a WooCommerce shop.

Now, let’s talk about print on demand products. Similarly, print on demand products (i.e. t-shirts, hoodies, mugs, stickers, etc.) have a low barrier to entry. You don’t need to keep your own inventory and your POD company takes care of shipping for you (even at the international level). However, you need to dust off your financial skills. I have gotten reacquainted with terms such as revenue, profit margins, etc. Above all, you need to be able to strike a balance between profit margin and an acceptable price.

How Often Am I Going To Post My Results?

I intend to post weekly updates, but given the fact that I will be conducting this experiment alongside my regular job (WordPress developer, digital marketing and SEO), there might be some hiccups along the way. However, the fact that I’m going to document the whole journey, should keep me accountable.