These days, the Internet is vital to your endeavors, whether for personal use or for profit. But what about those who dare to do both at the same time? We talked to two online entrepreneurs—one spearheading the top online shopping site in Southeast Asia and the other running a simple but profitable website—about turning a passion project into a moneymaking business and learned a few things about the art of running an e-commerce site.
1) Define what your brand is all about.
You need to clearly define your business to stand out in a sea of online retailers. Freelance illustrator Cara Gonzalez, whose website Carawrrr.com gained popularity for its doodle-themed pins, postcards, stickers, and tops, discovered early on that there was demand for her brand of art.
“About three years ago, I started drawing again and created these monster-themed letters that I call the Rawrphabet,” she shares. “I would post them on Instagram and received good reactions from friends and strangers. Some people started asking if I was selling prints—they loved that my designs and choice of colors are weird—and that’s when I realized that this is something I could do on the side.”
Lazada CEO Inanc Balci also knows a thing or two about customer demand. When Lazada launched as a small startup in 2012, customers immediately embraced the brand because of their cash on delivery option—something that separates them from other e-commerce sites.
“Our priority was to establish customer trust, since some people have a hard time understanding how online shopping works,” he points out. “We looked into barriers like payments and launched cash on delivery nationwide to make our customers more open to buying online.”
2) Design a simple website that appeals to your customers.
It takes approximately three seconds for your website to leave a good impression before a potential customer moves along, so make sure your site is geared towards your demographic. Cara has heard this before in her line of work, which is why she spent months perfecting the look and feel of Carawrrr.com.
“I wanted my website to hold both my portfolio and my shop so I had to find an e-commerce website that’s easy to figure out,” she explains. “Everything has to be easy to find. I wanted it to be easy on the eyes but also reflect my personality, because my personality is my brand. My goal is for people to see what I see when they check out my website.”
3) Engage with your customers.
Social media is the heartbeat of any entrepreneur’s website, since it gives them a glance into the lives of their customers and vice versa. In the age of digital marketing, personal relevance matters. Lazada, for example, engages with customers through social media and shares stories that would allow them to know the brand better.
“We find that customers talk about us more when we launch mega sale campaigns that are relevant to them,” Inanc adds. “We also partner with influencers and corporate companies to educate the market more on e-commerce through offline events and forums. We listen to our customers a lot.”
Cara, on the other hand, allows visitors to ask questions, inquire about collaborations, commission artworks, and connect with each other on her website.
“I always post updates on Instagram and Facebook—kahit drawings lang that could turn into future products,” Cara points out. “I paid for an ad on Instagram when I first launched the shop, and when I met people at bazaars, some of them mentioned that that’s how they found out about the brand. Because of that, I was given the opportunity to sell my items in a major bazaar.”
4) Make it easy for your customers to purchase.
“When I go shopping online, when a website is hard to figure out or there are so many things going on, I won’t bother,” she shares. “I love the way Colourpop maintains their website—I constantly find myself wanting to purchase something from them, which is very easy. I want to make sure that Carawrrr.com has the same effect on my customers.”
Inanc adds giving customers an overall good experience should be every entrepreneur’s priority.
“Our teams are always on standby to make sure that everything on the website and app goes smoothly,” he explains. “We had to establish a strong logistics infrastructure to make sure the packages are delivered to customers the fastest way possible. We also had to focus on our assortment and make sure that we get the best prices for them. Running an e-commerce site will teach you valuable lessons about management, entrepreneurship, and personal development.”
Special thanks to Mavic Linan of Perceptions, Inc.