An e-Commerce Site for Pet Owners
Have you ever seen how some couples and other people treat their pets like their family? Maybe they treat them like a son or a daughter, they buy them special food, when going out on vacations they take their pets to a special care center. Pets are special, and I get the feeling that they can be family.
I once had a dog, Hobbs, whom I cared for dearly. He never judged, always was happy to see me, wanted nothing but cuddles. His company on hard days was honest, he watched me go through rough phases of my life and was a very good listener (I’ll never now if he complained or not). He was a true inspiration and a great friend.
The pet market in Mexico in 2016 was about US$3,000 million with a YoY growth of 8%. There were also some interesting trends rising:
- 5 out of 10 Families had a dog
- The birth of babies was down 17% and the adoption of dogs went up 20%
- New Couples treated pets as family, and opted out of having children
- An increase for demand and offers for variations of foods, treats and accessories
When I first started, I wanted the excitement of having a pet to last a lifetime. I was seeking to make a difference by showing the charm of living together as a family. The hard truth in Mexico was that 7 out of 10 dogs ended up on the streets, we were third place in animal abuse, and new owners had limited and incorrect information about their pets and how to live together. So negligence, loosing interest, no time for understanding how to live with your pet, unwanted litters, it’s expensive to have a pet.
How might we help solve this issues? Our solution is to teach you how to train your puppy in the most fun way. So that they can enjoy the experience and get along better: a gift basket. That’s PawBasket.
So Why PawBasket?
- Gift basket with delicious, tasty and fun things that your puppy will love
- We give you tips and recommendations on how to use each product and how to live better with your pet.
- Adapted to the dog’s age, stage and size
The business model was that you could subscribe to PawBasket monthly and you would get each month a Basket plus our online courses that would help you achieve the goal you have with your puppy. At least that was the business idea, you know how it gets at the beginning.
Testing the Idea in Pitching Nights
The first time when I tested the business proposition was at this event called “Noches de Pitcheo” (pitching nights) in which entrepreneurs would do a stand-up about their start up or business idea so that we could practice and obtain feedback. By the end of the night I had learned a lot, obtained new ideas and of course networking that looked promising.
It became my mission for the next three months to attend this type of events, to increase exposure and for networking. I met interesting people that produced pet toys and accessories that were interested on including them on the Basket, others were food producers and had high quality meat and treats. So each pitching night the Basket kept evolving into a more gourmet type of product. The main issue was, do we have subscribers? Not really, and that was the next step.
How might we start obtaining subscribers online? How might we convince them that the Basket is the product they need? How might we gain their trust?
So I focused on 5 things:
- Social networks: Facebook Business Page (imagine…2016!!) and Instagram Business Page.
- E-Commerce Site
- Strategic Alliances
- Testing the product with at least 25 subscribers
So on Facebook I focused mainly on sharing different versions of the Basket with pictures and product descriptions, new blog post entrees and on identifying Facebook Groups of my target market. I was maintaining a weekly blog posting of the hot topics discussed on the Facebook Groups, when the entree was ready I shared them on all of the groups, and when they interacted with the post (either on Facebook or on the blog post page) I messages them personally and re directed them to the product information on the Facebook page if they wanted to know more or to the product page on the e-commerce if they were looking fora solution.
Blog posts were focused on education purposes and on demonstrating how the Basket could help them with certain issues. Since Facebook was my main distribution, it started to become relevant even on Google search. This traction helped with organic traffic to the e-commerce site, and since in each blog post I wanted to tie it with the Basket, this same traffic naturally went through the products. Shopify provided this information of the views and with it I could make a hypothesis of the user journey.
Strategic Alliances was more complicated, since nobody really knew me and had little to none subscribers it was hard to work a deal. I talked to food and toy providers, to other pet bloggers, to local influencers, went to a lot of conventions looking for collaborations, even talked to some people at Petco. But it didn’t advance, there were other players already stablished and with a stronger market share.
From the pitching nights and the facebook interactions I was able to convince the first 25 subscribers to test the basket for a month for free and in exchange they would share with me content and a review. So user generated content + success stories = trust by new visitors. In theory. The issue became distribution at this point, I was driving around giving the baskets. But 25 was a lot of work and a cost. This was something to start considering.
Creating the e-commerce Site
How do you Start an Online Store? The very first step was deciding which E-commerce platform to use. An ecommerce platform lets you build and start an online store experience, make sales, and fulfill orders. Most people think an ecommerce platform is like a website builder: you simply list new products and accept payments online. But they can do so much more than that.
Your e-commerce platform acts as the control center for your entire business, controlling everything from inventory to marketing, giving you all the tools you need to sell online and provide customer support.
Key features to look for in an ecommerce platform include:
- Usability. Your ecommerce software should be easy to use, especially if you are DIYing it in the beginning.
- Accessible customer support. Look for a platform that offers support the entire way.
- Friction-free checkout. Streamlined checkout is critical to making sales. Find an ecommerce platform that makes it easy for shoppers to buy your products.
- Web hosting. A web host stores information and content on your ecommerce website in a server database. You need web hosting to let people access your online store.
I chose Shopify, it really does cover everything and is pretty easy to use. Secondly I worked on defining my target audience. It may seem obvious but I’ve seen many websites focusing on the general public vs really leaning on the specific people they want to talk to.
A target audience is the group of people your marketing efforts are focused on. When starting an ecommerce business, knowing your ideal audience is critical. It helps you find new customers easier and attract interested buyers to your website, resulting in higher conversion rates and more sales.
If you have a product already, choosing a target audience is easier. Ask yourself: Who buys my product? What are they like? What’s their age? Compile that information into a buyer persona and include it in your business plan. You’ll want it when you create your website copy and marketing campaigns.
After having the basics, you can start designing your site! This is really fun to be honest, and at the same time it can be very very frustrating. Since I am recommending Shopify, I’ll leve you with two video guides that I’ve found useful:
Don’t forget about the payment gateway. Deciding your store’s payment methods and how you, as a store owner, will get paid. Some settings you’ll want to have are:
- Choosing the payment options youwant to offer, like different credit cards (e.g., Visa), and accelerated one-click payment options like Apple Pay and Shop Pay.
- Sell in multiple currencies, which will automatically convert your prices into the customer’s currency if you enable it.
- Set your payout schedule. You can receive your payout daily, weekly, or monthly — it all depends on your preferences when it comes to your cash flow.
- Toggle extra fraud prevention measures such as CVV and postal/ZIP code verification to add an extra layer of security.
- Customize how you appear on your customer’s bank statements.
Ad then Launch your store 🚀 Is the store perfect? No. But you should feel good enough about it to bet time and money marketing it and learning from the feedback you get to make it even better over time.
Closing the Store Site
After the initial 3 months I kept the e-commerce site running for a year. Mostly I was able to reach balance: what I invested in new provisioning I was able to sell it- the rest of the money went to marketing the site and improving the store experience. What I had discovered after a year of working on this is that it wasn’t my passion.
I was also not selling to the ideal target market that I wanted to, I was aware that it would require time and investment to develop that market but I really didn’t feel like it was what I wanted to do for the next 5 to 7 years of my life. And that’s ok. At the same time of working on PawBasket I was offering my Professional services, and it brought a better opportunity.
I decided it was best to end the store and dedicate my time and efforts on my Predictable Revenue Services. It was a great experience though! Learned a lot, had fun and as an experiment on learning how to sell with an online store I considere it a win.