10 Things to Do If Your Online Business Is on Hold

Things aren’t normal anywhere right now. Plans are on hold – and so are lots of online businesses. So we created a list of 10 things that ecommerce store owners can start doing today to improve their stores, even if sales are slow.

We realize that it is a weird, uncertain time. But… while we’re dealing with that, there are still tactics to implement so that when things do bounce back, whenever that is, our stores and our psyches are better than ever and we are ready to roll.

Here’s a 10-point TL;DR version if you’re short on time:

  1. Prepare for delays
  2. Reach out to your suppliers
  3. Learn
  4. Grow your social media channels
  5. Start email marketing
  6. Redo your website
  7. Create a budget
  8. Find alternative ways to bring in income
  9. Create a healthy workspace
  10. Stay sane

Start Yours is a podcast about what it's like to start a business.

Join us as we meet entrepreneurs who have gone through the triumphs and headaches of running an online store, and learn how they managed to survive and thrive.

Transcript

David: Alright Magda, before we dig into these different topics I wanted to ask you first off where you are right now ’cause normally when we do these, you’ve done a couple of podcasts with us before, we are sitting at the same table in the Oberlo office, it’s very familiar territory for us. 

But now I’m just looking at a computer screen. You are nowhere to be found. So, where are you as we speak right now? 

Magda: Well, David, I am actually standing at a makeshift standing table that I made on my kitchen counter. I couldn’t sit at my kitchen table anymore, my back felt like it was gonna break. So yeah, so I’ve pretty much made a makeshift standing table, and I’m just working from home. 

So I definitely understand how people are feeling if they’re stuck at home or any of the struggles they have working from home. The only upside to this is that nobody can see that I haven’t had a haircut in a few weeks, so that is one really nice upside but yeah.

David: Hey, I’m wearing sweatpants. I’m with you.

Magda: Yeah, but otherwise working from home, working from my kitchen counter.

David: Cool, yeah, I’m at the kitchen table. My makeshift area was in the hallway, so I moved from that to the kitchen table. It sounds like you went from the kitchen table to your improv set up. So whatever works. 

I know everybody’s kind of dealing with some, new back pain for parts of their back they didn’t know existed. So it’s getting to be, getting to be that part of this grind where we’re stuck indoors, and stuck at the apartment or the house for weeks now and so kind of a new world we’re living in. But, yes, makeshift desks, makeshift stuff in the hallway or the kitchen wherever. Wherever works. So.

Magda: Yeah, wherever works. And to be honest, you have to get a little bit creative.

I have been moving from room to room and I only have two rooms in here, so I’ve been moving from wall to wall, even, getting a little bit creative with my desk setup.

But we’re gonna make it through this. And yeah, I’m really starting to get to know every part of this apartment.

1. Prepare for Delays

 

David: Great, well, you sound good. So that’s the most important thing for our purposes today. So yeah, without further ado, let’s dig into these and start docking out a little bit on what people should keep in mind during this weird period that we’re talking about. 

Things are turned upside down for everybody on a lot of different fronts. And so the first thing that dropshippers and ecommerce entrepreneurs need to keep in mind that we’re gonna talk about is number one: Prepare for delays. 

Shipping times have always been one of the biggest headaches for dropshipping businesses. And this is a topic that we’ve covered so much on the Oberlo YouTube channel and on the blog, on the podcast, it’s a thorn in the side of everybody who’s ever dropshipped. 

But what’s becoming clear now is that the recommendations and the suggestions that we’ve done in the past, they’re really not bulletproof. So before we would have said, “Be sure to use ePacket shipping,” or, “Be sure to contact your supplier and ask them how long it’ll take.” 

So there’s… In normal times, these are really, really nice, really well-thought-out recommendations. But right now, nothing is for sure. And so what should people keep in mind when it comes to delays and preparing for… Perhaps preparing for the worst when it comes to shipping times? 

Magda: Well, in the past, when dropshippers have had an issue with shipping, it was usually the fact that the shipping took too long. But now, we don’t really even know if there’s availability for suppliers to ship products and for those products to actually get to customers. So I think that this requires just a little bit of explaining so that people really understand what’s going on. 

So now, most of the operations in China are starting to reopen again, suppliers are selling products. However, most countries have very strict border controls and are not allowing a lot of flights or anything really into the country. So your supplier might actually be able to ship a product, but the country that the customer is in may not allow that product as well. 

So it really is becoming quite difficult and extremely confusing on both ends for both the customer and also for the dropshipper. So during this time with the coronavirus, I would definitely suggest preparing for delays.

Magda on border controls amid coronavirus

We’ve been interviewing a lot of different dropshippers and these are pro dropshippers who have worked with lots of suppliers and have shipped out lots of products in the past. Some of them are suggesting to stop all sales because they are worried about products getting to customers. Others suggest using mail carriers that are different from ePacket. 

And what I’ve noticed is that all the information is conflicting, unfortunately, and that doesn’t make it easy for someone who’s trying to figure their way out through this shipping mess, what to do and what is going on. And so for that reason, I think that this is the perfect time to prepare for delays and slow down a little bit. 

Slow or Stop Your Ads

 

To give you an example, I recently ordered a product from AliExpress last week and I actually saw through shipment tracking that it is on its way to Germany. So that seems to be working. However, I ordered a figurine from Etsy that is supposed to be going from Belgium to Canada, sorry if this is confusing, and the seller told me that they can’t ship it for at least a week, because the borders in Belgium are completely closed.

So as you can see even just from my personal experiences, there’s a lot of conflict between what’s able to be shipped, what’s not able to be shipped.

So I think the best thing to do here is to really slow down. And to start, I would suggest slowing down your ads or stop running your ads completely. 

This is a time when you do not want to have the added stress of customers wondering where their orders are, customers becoming upset, and products, potentially, not reaching their final destination. So I would definitely suggest first to stop running your ads and take this time to focus on other aspects of your dropshipping business

Communicate With Your Customers About Delays

 

The next thing I would suggest doing is informing customers of delays. Now, a few weeks ago, a lot of dropshippers were worried because they felt that if they mentioned the coronavirus, customers would know that their products were coming from China, and things would get a little messy. 

Well, now they’re messy worldwide. So, every country in the world is feeling the effects of the coronavirus. So because of this, you can feel confident letting your customers know what’s going on and that there may be delays. 

To give you a real world example, Amazon Prime in Germany is now taking up to one month to deliver some products.

So, if you ever thought that dropshipping shipping times are long, well, not anymore. Now, one month may even be the standard. So it’s really important to make sure that you let customers know. 

They will be understanding. They are also stuck at home. They are also, maybe online shopping at this time because they’re pretty bored. They can see the delays and notifications on every single online store letting them know that it’s going to take a little bit longer due to the coronavirus. And they will be understanding. 

Usually, customers appreciate your honesty the most. So if you let customers know what’s going on, you can either do this through sending an email to them, you can do this by adding it into your product page, you can do this by adding a banner at the top of the page, then you can establish a trustful relationship with your customer. 

So overall, I would definitely use this time to pause, put a brake on the ads, and focus on some other things instead. Before you put a pause, of course, make sure you let customers know, make sure you put it on your storefront. Customers will really, really appreciate that.

David: Yeah, I think the idea of getting communication as a customer from the company about coronavirus is… Yeah, like you said it’s not just something super proactive these days. Now, it’s really expected and so you see banners on websites, in emails, in confirmation emails. 

This is mentioned as a potential complication when it comes to delivery and so it’s not anything that we should be shying away from. It’s really important because people are gonna be scanning for this topic just ’cause everybody knows, it’s no longer… As you said, it’s no longer some obscure thing happening in China, it’s everywhere now. And so, certainly, it’s good to be transparent about that.

Keep your customers updated

What to Say in Your Copy

 

Magda: And I think it’s important to note, if you want to look at, for an example, just jump into your email inbox. Pretty much every single email from a company that you may be subscribed to is regarding the coronavirus. And these are huge companies, and these are companies that make a lot of money. 

So if they are sending out an email to let their customers know what’s going on, then you should take that as a sign that you should too. Lead by their example and if you’re looking for language and if you’re wondering, “Well, what do I really say?” Because I think that it can be difficult when you sit down and you’re trying to write out a banner, or you’re trying to write out a message in your product descriptions, it’s a little bit harder than it seems to explain it, I think in a professional way. 

So what I would suggest, and something that I like to do is, look at how other companies are responding to it. What language are they using? Are they taking a communal tone? A personal tone?

So, definitely, just look through your email, or look at online stores that are similar to yours, and look at the way that they’re talking about it. 

And if you feel that it’s genuine, apply some of that language to your own store. So that way, you don’t have to worry about trying to figure out what to say exactly yourself and you can use some guidance from other companies who pay people a lot of money to write those. So that will definitely be helpful.

2. Reach out to Your Suppliers

 

David: Cool. And before we get to the second point here, let me just put a little byline on where we are right now. So we’re in Germany, recording this, just… I mentioned that because you mentioned that you ordered something here from China. So that’s where, when we say, “Here”, we’re talking about Germany and then time-wise, it’s March 26th. And so, this topic has been changing so fast. Who knows what’s gonna happen when this episode runs? But that’s where we are right now, as far as the location and the time. 

So number two: Reach out to your suppliers. And this is a great recommendation. This was a good recommendation two months ago. It was a good recommendation a year ago but it’s never been more important than it is now. 

And so we talked at the top about the ways that companies are gonna have to navigate new logistical hurdles, new shipping delays, new delivery time windows. There are a lot of variables in play right now. So, what should people… When we say, “Reach out to your suppliers”, what should they be asking? What should they be looking for? What should they be hoping to hear from the other end? 

Magda: So, if you are still committed to running your store and leaving it open, it’s imperative that you reach out to your supplier. Right now, things in China are getting back to normal and because of that, suppliers are really excited to open their businesses up again. 

However, there have been reports that some suppliers may not have stock and some of them are maybe fabricating the stuff that they do have or what is available because they are just so excited to jump back into the business. So it’s really important that you reach out to your supplier and ask them. 

This is really easy, you can reach out to your supplier on AliExpress. If you go to the product page at the top, you can see the supplier’s name, it drops down, and there’s a “Contact Now” button with a little mail icon beside it. So you can use that to reach out to them right away.

Now, when you do reach out to them and you press that “Contact Now” button, it’s really important that you ask if they do have stock available, what the processing time is right now and how long it’s going to take them to ship the product. This way you can get a better understanding of exactly their situation and you can also make sure that they do have products to ship. 

Establish a Better Connection With Your Supplier

 

Now, after interviewing a few dropshippers about their experiences with the coronavirus and how it’s affected their business, we’ve learned that some suppliers may be fabricating their responses because they just want the business. So what you really want to do is establish a better connection with your supplier.

Feel free to ask them to jump on a Google Hangouts or a video call. Ask them to send pictures of the stock of products. Move it to email, get out of the AliExpress chat and move it to a place where you can get more information. There is nothing wrong with asking more questions, it will always provide you with just more information which could only benefit you and it’s really important that you do this because that way you’ll know exactly what the situation is with them and whether or not you’ll be able to sell their products. 

Personally I would still suggest using this as a time to pause and prepare for delays by not running ads. However, if you are still running a business then this is imperative.

What to ask your supplier

Order a Test Product

 

One tactic that I would suggest that is going to prove this all is ordering a test product.

If you are selling a product in your store and you reach out to the supplier they say they have stock but you’re wondering if they’re telling the truth or not, go ahead and order a test product. 

It does not hurt to have an extra test product on hand. You can always use that to make more content or you can always use it for a giveaway or something like that. However, this way you can actually see how long that product is going to take to get from your supplier to yourself. Now, of course, you may not be advertising to the country you live in. 

So, to give you an example, if I ordered a product from AliExpress it’s going to be coming to Germany. Now if it does arrive in Germany that may not mean that it might be able to get to the United States. So use your discretion here. But if you are advertising to the country that you live in that’s a really safe way to just be able to test the product and make sure that suppliers are actually shipping it.

David: And it’s not just a matter of if the supplier is shipping it, it also has to do with the whole delivery infrastructure that’s gonna get it there ’cause I think you could have a video call with the supplier and they say, “Hey look, we are flushed with products, we are staffed, we are ready to roll, we’re back at work,” which would be awesome on the China side. 

But then I know, for example, when you ship stuff to Europe, the Netherlands is the landing point for a lot of those products and then they get distributed to the various countries throughout Europe from there. But there are still a lot of hurdles between the suppliers’ stock room and the customer, who could be… After the stopover in the Netherlands, and then after getting routed through two different countries and then it finally gets to France or whatever, it’s no guarantee that all of that stuff is still in place. 

So what you’re talking about with actually ordering the product it’s a good way to cut through any guessing or any hypotheses you have about how solid the infrastructure is. You can just see for yourself by trying to see if you can get it to your door and then if it arrives, how long it took.

Magda: Exactly, I think that’s just the best way to do it. Also, I think that this advice that I’m giving right now, this is more geared towards a store owner who has a lot of orders or is dealing with a lot of sales. If you are just getting started, trying to get on a video chat with the supplier, prove that they have products, trying to maneuver around this shipping nightmare worldwide right now is not really the most effective use of your time.

If you were just getting started, I would not suggest launching a store right now. I think that this advice is more for someone who is already running a store, they’re getting orders right now, customers are purchasing, and they are trying to figure out a solution for that. But if you are not getting any active orders right now you should reach out to your supplier regardless. 

But this might not be the best time to kind of maneuver around all these uncertainties because it’s going to take a long time and I think that you can use that time elsewhere and then once things kind of settle down, you can get started with shipping products.

3. Learn

 

David: Next up, number three on the list is: Learn. And Magda, I want you to sell me on this one a little bit because I could see some people perhaps rolling their eyes here ’cause learning is not the same as making sales, it’s not as exciting, not as sexy. 

So before we get into these different methods of learning that we’re gonna hit on, tell us why is learning something that’s viable that people should be taking seriously as something to be doing during this weird period that we’re in? 

Magda: I can totally understand people rolling their eyes here. I’m sure they’ve heard this enough, learning, use this time to meditate, I’m sure they’ve heard it more than once from more than one place. But it does ring true and I think that’s for a number of reasons. 

So if you are just getting started or if you were thinking about getting started with dropshipping before, I’m sure at some point you thought, “Yeah, I can do dropshipping. That looks pretty easy.” Now, dropshipping is super simple and straightforward but it’s not necessarily easy because there are a lot of different aspects to it, a lot of things you need to learn. 

For someone who is just getting started, you might think, “Oh, perfect, I’ll just set up a product page boom, boom and then I’ve got sales.” 

Dropshipping is simple but not easy

The Perfect Time to Start

 

Well, that’s not exactly how it works. a product page can take you hours, days to figure out, to optimize, to create gist for, to create content for. Each aspect of a dropshipping business takes a really long time to learn and to master and to properly optimize so this is the perfect time to start learning that now.

Rodney and Kory on a recent podcast said that they were not gonna be running ads at this time or making sales. But they’ve been busier than ever because there’s never a time where you’ve learned everything you need to know about dropshipping. 

You could probably spend the next few weeks learning about Facebook ads and you still wouldn’t have covered everything.

However, you’ll be a lot closer to understanding them and mastering them and being able to use them in an effective way.

In terms of learning, there are a lot of different ways that you can learn. You can either learn through books, you can learn through YouTube videos, or you can also learn through courses. Right now, I just want to mention that Oberlo 101 will be free, completely free until April 17th with the code, “learnfromhome”. So this is the perfect time to go ahead, grab the course, it’s not going to expire after April 17th. But this is the perfect time to kind of jump in and start learning.

David: And that course, I should, you know, just to double plug it here that it’s hardcore. It’s like eight or nine hours long, we dig into every facet of setting up a store. So it’s really, really thorough, and yeah, they’re just top to bottom. It’s really, really comprehensive. So again, like Magda said, “learnfromhome”, use that code before the 17th and you’ll have, you know, lifetime access to that course. And it’s super valuable. 

We’re not plugging it to make money here. We’re plugging it to give you guys a way that you know, to learn and to level up because like we were saying it can be a little bit of a tricky sell to say, “Hey, you know, you don’t need to make sales, just learn,” but we’re gonna put our money where our mouth is, and give this out for free. So yeah, Magda sorry to interrupt. I just wanted to give the hard pitch here.

No Such Thing as Learning Too Much

 

Magda: No, absolutely. And I think that if you are just getting started or are just considering dropshipping, you probably have thought, “Okay, this is pretty simple, I’ll be able to figure it out.” I can guarantee you that once you jump into Oberlo 101 and realize that there are nine hours of content and learning to go through, there’s a lot more to learn than you think. And of course, if you want to start dropshipping, it’s because you probably want to start making money. To some degree, of course, you want to build your business as well, but you do want to start making money. 

However, learning now is going to help you save on advertising costs. It’s going to help you save on a lot of things that might have cost you money if you just jumped into it. Personally, when I started dropshipping, and I started let’s say running Facebook ads, for example. I was just blowing money everywhere. I was putting money here, money in here and I wasted and spent a lot of money just trying to figure Facebook ads out. 

However, if, at that time, I had taken Oberlo 101, this was a few years before Oberlo 101 for everyone listening. Otherwise, I would have known by this point. But if I had taken Oberlo 101 or been able to…

David: You could have watched us screw up and watched us burn money.

Magda: Exactly. You know, why burn your own money when you can watch us burn the money for you? And then you can just take the learning lessons from it. So this is not only a time to be learning, you’re almost preparing. You’re preparing to launch money into your ads later, but you’re preparing to do it in a smart way. And being able to learn now is going to really help you later when it is time to run ads. You’re going to be able to make your dollar go a lot further later than if you just started running Facebook ads now.

You know, I know people will be kind of laughing about it, who are learning and someone will say to them, “You’re just learning like, why are you spending this time doing that?” But don’t listen to those people. Those are also the same people who discourage you from starting a business, who discourage you from trying anything new. 

Magda's quote on learning now

Book Recommendations

When it comes to learning, you can never learn too much.

And I think that it’s really, really important. Even if, for example, if it’s just reading a book. There are a lot of books that dropshippers swear by. For example, The 4-Hour Workweek. Sure, you may be working from home now, but the point of that book is to look into multiple streams of income. You can start learning about that now. Open your mind up a little bit, you know, get a different perspective. 

Another example, Rich Dad, Poor Dad. There’s a great book about, you know how to be more financially free. And that is something that you can learn now and apply once things go back to normal, you’ll be in a way better headspace to start building your store and bringing in sales if you take the time to learn now. And it will pay off. I don’t think there’s a single person out there who’s ever read a book, who’s thought, “Wow, that was a total waste of time.”

4. Grow Social Media Channels

 

David: I’ve read a few clunkers. But the ones you mentioned are good. So those are legit. And then you know, if you’re not reading those books or other books, we’re going to be relentlessly knocking out content to help you learn in the meantime and so you know, on the YouTube channel, on the blog, our ebooks, the podcast, and we’re taking this really seriously as well and so we got you covered. 

If you’re looking to learn, we’re looking to learn with you, so awesome. All right, number four on the list: Grow social media channels. I think everybody who runs a business these days knows that social is an awesome way to drive eyeballs to your store and then to generate interest, build community, etcetera, etcetera. Why is now when the sales might be a little bit dry? Why is now a good time to be growing those? 

Benefits of Building a Community

 

Magda: Everyone is inside right now, David. I think that we all have been on social media probably a little bit extra, maybe even a little bit too much. But frankly, if you’re stuck at home all day, sometimes it’s not much to do. So you probably are more drawn to social media than normal where you might normally be, let’s say, going outside. 

So this is a time where most people are hanging out on their phones and are on social media. So this is the perfect opportunity to start building your community and audience on different types of social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, or TikTok. 

Now to someone who is new or a beginner, they might wonder, what’s the point of building a community? What’s the point of building an audience? 

Well, the point of building a community and audience is that you can use that later to build a customer base. And you can use that customer base to either sell to them, promote products to them, or you can use that customer base to help you build a customer profile, which will actually help when you’re advertising on Facebook. This is a classic and proven free strategy. 

So you might be wondering, well, if it’s so classic and proven, why don’t most people do it? The reason being is that it takes a long time. When you’re running ads on Facebook, you just put up the ad, pump some money into it and show it to people. 

But if you want to build an audience and a customer base, you need to do it genuinely. No one is going to follow you on Instagram, if you’re just let’s say, posting pictures of your product, and how much they cost. People are looking for real content, you actually need to build a brand if you want to take advantage of these social media sites. 

And this is huge because if you build a big enough brand on these social media sites, you actually might not even have to run Facebook ads for quite a while because you’ve got such a huge community and customer base to get started with. 

The importance of building a community now

To give you an example, Rodney and Kory built an entire audience on Instagram and were able to make huge sales by advertising to them without having to actually run ads. They simply shared it with their audience and their audience just went crazy.

David: They used social media to figure out what they were gonna sell. They had… I remember talking to them and they had… They explained this on the podcast, it was several months ago it was… They put up a fantasy games account, they had an account devoted to basketball and a few other things. 

They didn’t know what they were even gonna specialize in and so they had a handful of accounts, they figured out which ones had the most active, the most engaged followers, and then they used that to do their product research and they worked backward from the popularity of the accounts to their store. 

And I think that there is this, kinda the standard operating procedure is that you open up a store, you figure out what you’re gonna sell and then you start building your social community. But we’ve seen with this example and then there are other people as well. There’s a success story about this woman, Jenny Lei, who did over half a million in revenue on the strength of her Instagram following which she built without a store. She was just really good at Instagram and then she put a store on top of that later on.

So yeah, this idea of growing social, you don’t need to have a store yet, you don’t need to be pushing for sales. As Magda said, if your posts are just about products and prices, those aren’t gonna do well anyway. So to have some sort of legitimate social media community before or while you’re building your store, that’s gold. 

And we’ve seen a lot of people do that. You don’t need the store first, and especially if you just started or if you’re thinking about starting, it’s a weird time to be making sales for all the reasons that we’ve been talking about. The shipping’s odd, I think customers are gonna be a little bit tight with money right now. So, do the social first and then once things clear up hopefully sooner rather than later, you’re gonna have these strong organic social channels to play with.

Why you should focus on social channels first

Social Media Marketing Takes Time

 

Magda: Absolutely. And one thing that’s important to know, is this strategy is free and works extremely well. But it takes a long time. It’s not going to just happen in one week. It’s definitely gonna take you a few weeks. So don’t underestimate that. Get started now, just start posting, start following people, start engaging with your community. 

Emma Reid, who we’ve had on the podcast and on our YouTube channel, suggested leaving 100 Instagram comments a day. This is to help you build your brand and build your community. 100 Instagram comments a day is gonna take you a long time. And you know what? Right now most of us, what do we have on our hands? Time. So this is actually the perfect opportunity. 

If you thought before you were going to work and you did not have time in the evenings to be constantly on Instagram and making content for your brand, hopefully, now you do, or at least even a little bit more time. This strategy is extremely effective. However, it is going to take you a little bit of time. So this is the perfect opportunity to get started with it.

Also, if you want to, for example, use influencer marketing rather than just building the community, use this time to start building a list of influencers that you’d want to reach out to in Google Sheets.

There are so many ways to kind of prepare so that when this does die down, you will be ready to go and ready to hit the ground running.

5. Start Email Marketing

 

David: Alright, let’s hit on number five now: Start email marketing. And this one’s cool, Magda, but I think email is the forgotten cousin of the channels that you just mentioned. Instagram and now more than ever, TikTok, these are very kind of chic ways to engage with customers. 

And email is, it’s kind of old school, it’s definitely old-fashioned in comparison to some of these emerging channels. There’s no low-hanging fruit. It’s definitely a system that might seem a little bit antiquated but it’s still very, very valuable. Why is it valuable and what should people be doing now to make it more valuable? 

Magda: I completely understand, David. I know I have been trying to sell email to people for months, maybe even years at this point. Something about email just does not click with people, they either don’t believe it or it’s maybe just not the shiniest strategy out there, which is completely understandable. However, email marketing is effective. That is just the fact of the matter. 

When I wake up in the morning, sometimes I check Instagram, sometimes I check TikTok, sometimes not though, but what I always check, multiple times throughout the day is my email. That is a way that you can get directly into someone’s inbox and it is extremely effective. 

When it comes to email, especially in ecommerce, it’s important because email is a way to get a customer to become a returning customer. And getting a returning customer to purchase is always cheaper than acquiring a new customer. And this is the perfect time to start setting up your email sequence. 

It is going to take a little bit of time. Email sequences can be pretty simple and straightforward, however, you still have to write them out. It’s not going to take you just 15 minutes. But that’s okay because if you have the time now, then this is the perfect opportunity to set it up.

Why email marketing is important for ecommerce

David: It’s one of those things that’s simple but not easy. It can be very tedious and when you set up these sequences you’re gonna need to have different behaviors that you’re writing for and different triggers. So this email goes when somebody makes a purchase, this one goes if they haven’t made a purchase in X number of months, you really have to think it out. So yeah, like you’re saying, it’s not like rocket science, but also it’s like with leaving 100 comments a day, you can’t snap your fingers and get this stuff done.

Take Baby Steps

 

Magda: Yeah, exactly. And if you are not feeling like email is maybe something that you really want to dive into, just dive into it a little bit. So, for example, setting up an entire email sequence… Maybe that seems a little bit intimidating to you. I completely understand, I have helped a lot of my friends who run small businesses set up email sequences and there is something about email that also can be quite confusing, so that’s totally fair. 

However, start with an abandoned cart email. Simple, just one email, all this checkout will do, when your store is up and running, it will make sure that if a customer abandons checkout, it will send them an email.

You can set this up, totally forget about it, and when your business is running and launched, once this has all died down, you will greatly appreciate that you took the time to actually set up that abandoned checkout email. 

Also, you can actually set up an abandoned checkout email in Shopify for free without installing any app. So this is something that Shopify actually built into the admin. So if you are a little intimidated by getting an email app, you can actually set this up right in Shopify, you can find the tutorial on the Shopify Help Center. It’s really straightforward and easy, and I think that this is one small adjustment you can make that will make a huge difference to your store down the line.

David: Yeah, this is a spot where there are really tons to do without paying for stuff. And there are a lot of high-powered email marketing tools that do cost money. It might cost 25 bucks a month or 40 bucks a month or whatever. If now does not seem like a good time to be paying that then don’t. 

But you could still write the copy for these different sequences or for emails that don’t require an app, like Magda was saying with the abandoned cart, for example, you can do that in Shopify for nothing. That’s a default option in Shopify. So there’s a lot of space to play here without spending money, and it’s a sort of channel that once you have it up and running, it’s gonna be up and running, humming along in the background without you needing to maintain it. 

It’s not like a daily sort of thing like social might be or other things that require kind of hands-on maintenance. The email requires a lot of upfront work, which is not always pretty, or glamorous. But once you get it up and running, you know, it’s something that’s gonna be paying dividends for a long time. 

Dividends of email marketing

6. Redo Your Website

 

Alright, the next item on here, number 6: Redo your website. Magda, we had a podcast last week, we talked to four different ecommerce entrepreneurs who are all struggling right now with the Coronavirus situation. Their supply chains are screwed up, their sales are down, they don’t know about inventory or shipping, everything is up in the air. And three of the four had really aggressively redone their website.

This is the thing that they are doing to occupy themselves. This is what they deemed to be the most urgent slow time task. And so we’re talking about new store themes, new designs, new product pages, new copy, that really went to town on their websites. And so why is this a good time to be investing in the look and feel of the website? 

Magda: I’m so happy to hear that three out of the four of them were aggressively redoing their website because that is a great use of time.

When it comes to your online store, it actually takes a lot of time to build it and get all the graphics, have all the product photos, and things like that. It might seem deceptively simple, but it’s not. So this is the perfect time to sit down and just go ahead and redo your entire website. 

This might mean rebranding your website. There are a lot of really amazing tools online that you can use to get a new logo like Hatchful by Shopify, to find a lot of new photos, for example, Burst. There are lots of free stock photo websites, you can find a huge variety of tools online to redo your website from top to bottom. So use them. 

If you are not really a pro when it comes to branding, well lucky for you there are lots of branding experts online, who’ve pretty much built many branding packages for any type of subject, different types of dropshipping niches and you could just use those as inspiration for your own store. Now, it’s gonna take a little bit of research, but this is the perfect time to do that research.

Also, product photos and videos. It seems simple, but you can totally take a lot of new photos of your products, you can use those photos for example on your social media channels, you can use them in your tech talks. Get really creative. This is the perfect time to be making content. I think with a lot of these topics that we’re talking about, you might get overwhelmed with the amount of things that we’re suggesting you start doing. 

Getting creative with content

Start With Product Page

But if you want to get started redoing your website in one place, I would suggest starting with your product page.

In the future when things get back to normal and you wanna start running your ads again after you’ve taken the Oberlo 101 course for free, you will be directing your customers to the product page. Most of the time if you are running ads, you would never send customers or visitors to your storefront, that’s because you want them to have the quickest avenue to that buy now button in the future.

So because of that, your product page needs to be spot on. I would definitely suggest checking out our Instagram @oberloapp or our Oberlo blog because we talk with a lot of successful merchants that have full-proof product page checklists for you to follow. And these checklists, it’s not a simple one-two-three-step checklist. They include gifs, they include features and benefits, multiple products angles, and lots of other things to include in your product page to make sure that it is fully optimized and ready to go in the future.

David: I think videos are an awesome thing to have in those product pages and I think that the videos are not possible with every theme. Maybe you need a pony up for a paid theme to get the video. I’m not sure on that, but I think that more and more big ecommerce stores are just doing that for every single product, that the product video is the new product photo. And so I think that that’s another thing that you can go ahead and record and like you said use it for social too. Repurpose the content. 

But you’re absolutely right that the product page is where most of the attention should be focused. And I definitely screwed that one up in my first store, I spent hours upon hours perfecting every word of the homepage and then I realized that nobody goes to the homepage, they just go to the product page.

Use Your Free Design Time on Shopify

 

Magda: Totally, same with me David, what a waste of 10 hours that was. But that’s why it’s important to learn, everybody, because thanks to you listening to us right now hopefully, we’ll save 10 hours of your time and transfer the 10 hours you would’ve spent on your homepage actually to your product page. 

But as we’re speaking, David, that actually reminded me, before I worked at Oberlo, I actually used to work at Shopify. I just wanted to let everyone know that a lot of the free themes do support video. You can definitely add video to your themes. And one other thing that I want to mention, this is kind of a little insider Shopify hack is that everyone who has a Shopify account.

Even if you have the basic Shopify account, you are entitled to 30 minutes of free design time. 

If you reach out to Shopify support and you have an adjustment you’d like to make, mind you there are some adjustments you can make, some that you can’t unless it is paid. But it never hurts to reach out. You can actually ask them to make some custom changes to your theme. Every new Shopify account comes with 30 minutes of that, so make sure to use it. If you wanted to add let’s say videos to your product page and your theme doesn’t include it, it doesn’t hurt to at least reach out to Shopify and ask them if they will be able to do that for you for free.

7. Create a Budget

 

David: Alright, moving on to number seven here: Create a budget. And this is one that maybe this should be the first thing somebody does. But as you’ve noted before, Magda, it’s actually something that most people don’t do. And so, what’s up with making a budget? How should somebody approach this downtime project? 

Magda: Budget. We’ve heard it all before. It sounds easy, but do most of us have a budget? Probably not. I am definitely one of those people. I always read about how important it is to budget, and then when it comes to actually budgeting, it is not so easy for me to sit down and make one. But it is extremely important. 

When it comes to running an online store, you can have a lot of different potential costs. For example, are you gonna go with that email marketing app that is gonna cost you 25 bucks a month? Or are you gonna start for free with Shopify’s free email options? Maybe you have more in your budget for that. It all depends. But you won’t know that unless you actually sit down and write it out. 

Set Limits and Next Steps

 

When you are setting a budget, it’s really important to set limits for yourself and have next steps available. One example that I have from myself is when I was just getting started with dropshipping, I never knew when to stop running ads for a product and deem it “not a winning product” and move on to the next one. I didn’t know. 

Are you supposed to wait two weeks of running ads with the product? Are you supposed to spend 100 bucks to test it? 50 bucks? It can be really confusing and I would say that it’s really important to set limits for yourself.

For example, many dropshippers will multiply the price of their product by three and use that as a rough guideline in terms of when they should stop advertising the product and move on to the next one.

This can get really confusing to do if you’re doing this in the moment, on the fly while you’re running Facebook ads. This is actually the perfect time to start budgeting. 

Now, look at the products that you want to advertise in the future when things are back to normal, how you price them, and start setting limits for them now. In addition to let’s say your monthly account fees from Shopify, any additional apps, you’ll be actually able to budget out your store. 

Now, if you budget out your store early and you realize, “Wow, I’m definitely over-budget. I definitely do not have this extra amount for Facebook ads,” for example. Well, it’s a good thing that you decided to budget because there are a lot of other free marketing avenues like building the organic social media channels we just talked about, which would be free. This is the perfect time to actually go through the budget and see what your options are beforehand and before you spend your hard-earned money.

8. Find Alternative Ways to Bring in Income

 

David: Alright, next up. Number eight, also tightly related to money, is: Find alternative ways to bring in income. I think a lot of dropshippers, a lot of ecommerce side hustlers, are used to this mindset. But they maybe think about it in terms of online stores or the sort of dropshipping or ecommerce sort of ways to bring in money, but there are a lot of different ways to bring in money. What are some things that people should think about if they are in need of some extra cash these days? 

Magda: That is a great question, David. I think that this entire pandemic has really opened up the conversation about having multiple streams of income. And it’s something that is really not a bad idea for anyone to start looking into just to make sure that you have another way that you can make money. 

Consider Freelancing

One of the things that I would suggest is looking into freelancing.

You might be wondering, “I don’t know if I have the skills to be a freelancer.” But you can freelance for anything. I would suggest looking into Fiverr or Upwork in trying to figure out what you can do to actually make some extra money. 

And the reason being is, whether you would need it for now or to start saving and putting aside into your business for the future, if you’re wondering if you have the proper skills to actually freelance, let me give you an example. A very close friend of mine decided to start doing astrology tarot card readings on Fiverr. She is pretty much an ecommerce witch. Now, when she told me about this idea on Fiverr, I thought, “Well, I’ve really heard it all.” 

But of course, I always support my fellow entrepreneurs. I said, “You know what, if you feel that there is a need for that online, why not? Throw it on there.” Would you believe she has had over 10 orders in the last week? She has a perfect five-star review so far. 

So that should be a testament that you can really freelance anything. If you think that you might not have the proper skills, think about what you can do best or something that you can actually learn. For example, I learned video editing by myself from YouTube. That is something that I could freelance my skills for. There are a lot of skills that you can learn for free that you can also use to start selling on Fiverr or Upwork. Either get creative with the skills you already have or look into what’s popular and learn those skills.

David: Yeah, and this one’s so important ’cause it’s gonna offer flexibility. And I think that this is probably a topic for its own podcast. But staying flexible as things get weirder and weirder with the growing pandemic and the really topsy-turvy situation with the economy, staying out of debt, staying flexible is I think the most important thing you can do. 

And so, just finding little streams of income here or there… I imagine, Magda, your tarot card-reading friend is not about to retire off of these 10 readings that she’s done, but it’s something. And 10 turns into 50 and then all of a sudden, it’s hundreds of dollars or thousands of dollars and that stuff can matter. 

So you don’t need to have a second stream of income that turns into its own lucrative business. But having anything coming in is valuable and the value of it just gets heightened the weirder that the economy is. 

And so that’s something that I learned first hand during the last recession, to pick up a few hundred here and there. It’s really important because assuming things do get back to normal at some point, it’s gonna put you in a better situation. And whether that’s for just living or whether that’s to invest in the business that you’re trying to run, this flexibility and just having something in your back pocket is super, super helpful.

Choosing skills you can freelance with

Start Small

 

Magda: Yeah. And I think it’s really important to mention too, one example I always think about is Chris Wayne. When he started dropshipping, he expressed to us that he started dropshipping because he just wanted to be able to have a little bit of extra money to pay for necessities, like food, and potentially save up to maybe go on one vacation. 

So it always starts small. Most people do not get started with an extra stream of income thinking, “This is going to totally take over and I’m going to be able to do this full time.” But that’s okay because it doesn’t necessarily have to be that. 

As long as you get started, I think that’s what’s the most important thing. Because even if you get started and it doesn’t necessarily work out, you can be proud that you gave it your best shot with that first attempt.

And once that first attempt is out of the way, well, then maybe you can move on to your second attempt. What was your second idea for a second stream of income? 

9. Create a Healthy Workspace

 

David: It’s a good time to be scrappy. Alright. Next up, number nine. We have: Create a healthy workspace. And this is one… We touched on it earlier at the beginning. I don’t know if I’m doing this very well right now, but a lot of people are just stuck at home, there’s nothing to do outside. Offices are closed, restaurants are closed, bars are closed. 

We’re really advised to just be inside and that really shines a spotlight on what your inside looks like. And so, what can people do, Magda, to have themselves a healthy workspace, which these days might be their living space as well? 

Magda: It’s really important to have a healthy home office. I think it’s something that can easily slip your mind. And you can read about it, you’ve probably read about it hundreds of times so far because it seems like that’s what people are talking about right now But it’s for a good reason. 

Get Exercising

 

The first thing I would definitely suggest is exercising. I think that exercise is extremely important. I was reading a lot of interviews with people who work in the military, and they mentioned that the number one tip they all had for being stuck somewhere was exercising. It helps with your endorphins. It just helps you get the day started, and that is really important for your body, but also for your mind. 

Now, this is coming from someone who lives in a 25-meter-squared studio apartment, so I could assure you, if anyone else is thinking, “Oh well, you may be saying exercise, but you’ve got a huge space.” No, no, I’m living in a shoebox and if you are too, we can still make it work. You can do yoga or go for walks in the very, very early morning if you are able to, far away from people. There are a lot of ways that you can exercise and get your day started.

Benefits of exercising

Dedicate Space for Work

 

The next thing I would suggest is making room for your work, and trying not to mix it with personal space. For me, personally, in my shoebox, there are not a lot of places where I could separate the two. 

However, I think that you can also do that in other ways. So for example, when I get started and get ready for work every day, I try my best to get fully dressed, put on the clothes that I would normally wear to the office. Does it always work? No. There are definitely days where I’m working in sweatpants. But on those days, you know I appreciate that I get to work in sweatpants, for example. 

I would definitely suggest either getting dressed, making sure that you do your skincare routine, put on your make-up, do your hair, just try to kind of get started and get ready for the day. Put yourself in the mindset of being in the office or being somewhere else. 

This will be really helpful for you also after all of this has passed because you’ll be able to put yourself in a productive mindset anywhere you are because you’ve learned those skills now. 

Eat Healthily

 

The next thing that is really important is eating healthy foods. If you are like me, you probably rely on eating out at restaurants or eating at the office. But this is a perfect opportunity for you to cook at home more, which is naturally healthier for you because you see all the ingredients you’re using and you are able to just purchase stuff at the supermarket. So use this as an opportunity to maybe learn how to cook some more recipes. 

But make sure you’re eating healthier foods because it also has a huge impact on your mind and on your work. 

Keep Your Surroundings Clean and Organized

 

The last healthy workspace tip that I would suggest is making sure you keep your workspace and your home extremely clean. I don’t know about you, but if things are a mess, my mind is a mess too. I’m in no state to get started on a new thing when I can constantly see a mess somewhere. Even something as simple as just wiping down the table or wiping down the counter is gonna make you feel more refreshed. 

Go ahead and open up the window, since you’re stuck inside anyway, you might as well get some fresh air, and just really clean your space. It’s gonna put you in a way better headspace to get work done and you’ll actually be able to be a lot more productive.

10. Stay Sane

 

David: Magda, let’s do one more, number 10 on the list of things that store owners should do, and that’s: Stay sane. And I’m curious if you have just, generally speaking, anything that you’ve heard or that you’re doing or that you tested yourself to just kind of keep your psyche and your soul in check during these insane times that are going on.

Magda: Yeah. I definitely do have a few tips that I think have helped me stay sane. The number one tip is probably exercising actually. That has had a huge impact on being able to stay sane. 

Focus on the Positive

 

But otherwise, I would suggest trying to really focus on the positive aspects of the situation. I know it can be hard too and that can totally seem like a fake self, but this is a time when most other people are also stuck at home, so I don’t know about everyone else out there, but for me, I have never had a time when so many people and old friends have been reaching out to me. 

And I feel super social, actually even a little bit more social than before because now everyone has nothing to do except reach out to their friends, make sure everyone’s doing okay, staying home and just hanging out with them and being able to touch base with my family, being able to touch base with my friends because we’re all stuck at home has really gone a long way in helping the day go by a little bit faster, keeping positive.

Laugh a Little

 

Also, another thing I would suggest is trying to laugh a little. Of course, this is a very serious situation and you want to take it seriously. But once you’ve done all the appropriate steps and you are at home, well, it would be nice to laugh a little. 

So I actually have used this time to find a lot of really funny new podcasts to listen to. I’ve gone through some old books that used to really make me laugh and I think that that is probably what I would suggest. 

It’s not rocket science. But I think it’s those small things that help you take a moment and kind of get away from the situation a little bit, just to kind of clear your head and help keep you sane.

Try laughing to keep sane

David: Yeah, that’s all good. I totally hear you on the reconnecting with people front and that’s something. I’m in the biggest email thread, I think I’ve ever been in right now and it’s just aunts and uncles and cousins and people that I don’t see and haven’t talked to and some of them for 15 years, which is not great. But it’s a big family that’s spread out all over the place, and so, in a weird way, this isolation is kind of bringing people together. 

Well, Magda, I really appreciate you taking the time to chat. And for anybody who’s not familiar with the Oberlo YouTube channel, Magda is also on a lot of videos that we have over there dishing out some knowledge, video style as well, but we appreciate you double-dipping and joining us on the podcast Magda, so thank you so much for your time.

Magda: Thank you for having me David, and thanks for listening, everyone. Don’t forget to keep your head held high. We will get through this together.

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