In recent years the ecommerce industry has had massive growth. I have tried on multiple occasions to grow an ecommerce side project. I started with shirts and stickers in 2015, digital art in 2020, and my podcasting book. Since I never learn my lesson, I am trying again. Now, an ecommerce store that sells website themes. The website is smashingthemes.com.
For now, the store makes money from one-time purchases of themes. Eventually, I plan to add more.
Once enough one-time purchases get made. The store will have enough customers for a different product category. Enough people might have an interest in a subscription.
Some web development companies might want to buy 50 themes at once. When companies purhase in bulk, they want a discount. I can offer them a bulk discount. Then, some other companies find me and would like the same deal.
Digital products can change. After the first release, you can improve the product and charge more. Another option is to charge previous buyers a small fee to access the upgrades. For example, a CMS might add new features to its platform. But my old theme does not have them. I can update the theme and charge $20 for previous customers to buy the product with the updates. At the same time, raise the price from $100 to $120 for new customers.
The more products I have then, the more money I will make. But, I can only make a few themes a year. The solution is to hire theme developers to create themes for the brand. An increase in products, will lead to more traffic and purchases.
For now, I am creating themes for one platform. To diversify my offering, I can expand to different platforms. Expanding to new platforms helps me grow and reduce risk.
New technologies get created every day. Web3 is one of them. But what even is web3? From what I can tell, its Chrome Extensions. But maybe there will be a Web3 ecommerce platform, and I can build themes for it?
I wrote a book because people kept asking me questions about podcasting. The same thing can get applied to theme development or ecommerce platforms. I can teach others about them and sell products that help others learn.
The theme building industry has many people. I can partner with a few makers and grow our audiences together.
The domain of an ecommerce store tells people where to go to find their products. As an ecommerce store owner, you have three options for a domain. You can buy a new made up domain, such as supremerumhamThemes.com. Another option is to buy a pre-loved domain (expired) at an auction, such as oxtheme.com. The final option is to extend an offer for an existing and active domain. I acquired smashingthemes.com by approaching the owner.
An extra transaction to buy an existing domain occurs. A fee goes to the previous owner. Then, there is the yearly renewal fee. For any other domain, the annual fee is the only expense.
For people to buy your products, they need to get stored on a server somewhere. A good programmer can self-host with a payment processor. But then, you need to worry about marketing, design, products, AND back-end. Or you can pay ~ $40 and email support when an issue appears. Up to you🤷♂️
These ecommerce platforms give users flexibility. As a user, you can add plug-ins that will improve the quality of your store. Some of these plug-ins are free. Others cost money or your first-born child.
The fee I always discuss. The 3% credit card fee. Yes, I will talk about this every time, and no, I will NEVER get over it!!!!
On these ecommerce platforms, you can create an affiliate program. Every time an affiliate gets a sale, they get a percentage of the sale. The payout reduces revenue. But the store may have never made the sale without the affiliate. The affiliate does not get a cut of any future sales from the customer.
For digital products, sometimes issues come up. An update makes the product incompatible with the latest version. You have to go and fix the error. You might lose a few sales or have to spend more time helping customers. The opportunity cost of support costs money.
How can I navigate the competition? By playing to my other strengths. Use SEO, paid media, and email marketing to get the store in front of people. Someone else is a better developer than I am. But if they cannot get people to see their products and I can, I win!
Marketplaces that sell themes are another competitor besides individuals. These marketplaces serve specific customers. Within the platform, there is internal SEO. Which can get optimized by sellers to improve visibility.
In any industry, there is an underserved market. I can niche down to find customers. One niche is food bloggers. I can reach out to food bloggers and build custom themes to fit their needs. Then, word would spread in the food blogging community.
Many ecommerce platforms focus on dropshippers. To sell a digital product, an owner might need a plug-in. To make my digital product store look decent, I will need to customize the design myself.
In theory, once people buy a theme, they do not need another one. But previous customers have a lot of value. How can I get previous customers to return? Sell add-ons, icons for their theme or images.
When I started the store, I had trouble finding the right price. To overcome this, I looked at the prices of competitors. I made my prices a bit lower.
Website themes are a visual product. I might have to use social media platforms that use images to promote them.
The big retailers do not sell themes or similar digital products. While this is true, I am at an advantage.
At the same time, people want to give their money to small businesses, and I can promote myself as one. Well, because I am.
I do not own any platform. The platforms will make changes without consulting me, rude!! I have to learn to navigate those changes. They might make an update that forces me to update every product.
The more platforms I create products for, then, the increased risk. But diversification might reduce risk too. For example, I have five products for platform A and 5 for platform B. I only need to make five changes instead of 10. Less work needs to get done with diversification.
In the beginning, people might not trust a new store. I have to build trust. One method of building trust is to give away products for testimonials. Social proof is powerful. Being able to add social proof will build trust.
I have heard there is an “ecommerce season.” At the beginning of the year, people make resolutions to build an ecommerce store. How can I ride a wave and avoid the fall?
Shipping and packaging? Not a fan. Having a store selling digital products that do not need shipping is fantastic.
As these ecommerce platforms grow, the demand for my products grows too.
On other platforms or marketplaces, they control the margins. Running my store allows me to create my own profit margin. I own all the data too.
Many people before me have started an ecommerce store. When I get stuck, there is someone who ran into the same issue. I can read how they solved the problem. Not the case in every industry.
I have a terrible habit of jumping from project to project, except for podcasting. I need to stick to a project. Being that website themes are evergreen, this is the project that needs to stick.