Want a super easy / straightforward way of making a few hundred dollars a month from an almost brand new site? I think this strategy would be the one I would pursue if I
This marks the 2nd month of the ECommerce Intern Project. My hope was we were going to move really quickly but like most things, there is a pace to the work we need to work within.
With a few things all colliding…
- 2 ecommerce stores that had very part-time management both moving on
- Significant opportunity identified in the space
- My current lack of paid traffic skills but desire to improve this competency
- Very solid job applicants for a test job posting
I have decided to launch a 4 month ecommerce case study where I invest in an intern, give them an extreme amount of control, train them, provide a budget and some vision then turn them loose to build up a couple of my neglected ecommerce assets.
Along the way this process is going to be documented in a weekly VLog and monthly post.
Annie started with us about 1 month ago and this is the first update from her along with her 3 vlog’s.
Hopefully this will provide a useful over the should case study for…
- Growing an ecommerce business
- How to get started in this space from almost no knowledge
- What it is like to work within my company
Hope you enjoy!
I have recently been hired by Jon to run/grow a few ecommerce sites and document that experience. I will be posting a weekly Vlog with more regular updates but will also be posting a written monthly summary of what I have been doing. If you are interested in following me along in this journey please subscribe to watch the Vlog episodes and stay tuned into the monthly blog updates.
So for starters my name is Annie Pringle; I was born in Ontario but quickly moved to BC and grew up there. In high school I began playing volleyball and became enamoured with the sport so much that I decided to pursue it. That ended up with me being in Birmingham, Alabama pursuing Beach Volleyball and my undergraduate degree and then my masters degree in Business Administration. Covid threw a wrench in my plans and I have had to delay my graduation by 9 months and am hoping to head back to Alabama at some point to play beach volleyball again. I ended up in Collingwood due to the need to return home to Canada and my family had moved back to Ontario, specifically Collingwood. Knowing no one here it has been pretty lonely and a stark contrast to how my busy life previously was so I was extremely excited when I got the opportunity to work with Jon on this ecommerce project.
I have been a business student for a while now and therefore have an extensive background knowledge on business topics but before starting this role I did not know very much about Ecommerce. I had a little experience running social media (which included content creation) due to a few courses and opportunities that I have had in the past but do not have a lot of familiarity with traffic, SEO, shopify, dropshipping or anything else that I’ve been doing.
The position that I have filled is called an “Ecommerce Associate”. I have been running 2-3 shopify businesses. These businesses have previously had some success but have not had a lot of time of work dedicated to them, they have been slightly “neglected” or just not super focused on in the past. Jon decided that he wanted to pour some attention into these businesses specifically increasing paid traffic campaigns, new product sourcing and overall improval of both sites’ SEO, so that’s where I have come in and I’m working on improving and growing this ecommerce portfolio.
Picture me not really knowing anything about running an ecommerce dropshipping business but getting handed over the reins of two (potentially three) of them. If it sounds daunting that’s because it was a little bit daunting at first but once I had received training and really just done a lot of experimenting and trial and error on my own I think things have gone relatively smoothly so far. This job is very exciting to me as I do get to learn how to do something new basically every day and I feel like I’m starting to become fairly adept at the online world of business. I also enjoy that unlike a lot of jobs I get to do a lot of different things every day. No two days are the same and that variability keeps the job interesting and keeps my focus.
My Schedule: I’m currently working around 25 hours a week give or take. The schedule that I have to follow is that every morning we have a team meeting at 9 am. There are usually around 6-10 people on the Daily Meeting and we do these over Zoom due to COVID. The protocol for the Daily Meeting is that Jon will start and everyone follows this short formula to check in with and update everyone else:
- What was done yesterday:
- What will be done today:
- Any Issues:
This is a really efficient way for Jon to quickly combat any issues that have arisen with the team and a good way to encourage collaboration with team members. I pretty much work on my own and then just report directly to Jon but I have heard a few things people have said in the Daily meetings and then subsequently reached out to them and asked for their help on some things and vice versa. It also encourages camaraderie within the team and allows for an outlet of social connection as most of us spend the day working on our laptops.
Here’s a screenshot of one of our Daily Zoom Meetings:
The other part of my schedule that is structured is my weekly meeting with Jon. This also follows a very specific structure which makes sure nothing falls through the cracks and that we have addressed every issue or what’s going to be on tap for the next week. Here is the structure we follow:
For each project that I work on (the 3 businesses and then the production of content) I mark down what was completed last week, Jon and I talk that through in the meeting and then set goals to be accomplished for the next week. Then throughout the week as I go about my work I check goals off and add them to the section “completed last week”. This structure method allows me to know exactly what is expected of me for the week and gives us a model to follow in our meetings which allows us to be as efficient and effective as possible.
Here is a photo of us during our last weekly meeting:
After I complete the daily & weekly meetings, I typically start my day by answering emails. There are usually quite a few emails to deal with as I have three email accounts to check and respond to. Once I finish responding to emails I move on to completing the tasks I have for the week established by the weekly meeting. I work through these tasks starting with the ones that are deemed the most important and ideally finish all the tasks for that day when possible.
That’s a pretty good overview on my job and what it involves. I will now take you through the process of establishing the starting point on the businesses I am running so that we can track growth and progress.
Establish Starting Point:
I have taken screenshots of the analytical metrics that I have deemed the most important and representative of what I wish to measure over the course of this project. Store A is listed first and Store B is second:
Total Sales is a fairly general metric that simply establishes how sales were previously doing and ultimately determines how successful the business is. As of now I do not have a set final goal for percentage of total sales growth over the term of my contract and it’s not the most important metric to me as I am projecting that in the first few months of my post total sales will not increase too dramatically but then towards the end of my contract after I have put a lot of work into the websites the total sales will start to grow. However, this metric just paints the picture to you guys of where the store is at right now and ultimately sales and profit is the most important goal so it’s essential to include in the analytics that will be tracked.
Online store sessions will be quite beneficial to improve for our stores if we can build a strong conversion rate. The fact of the matter is the more people see the website the more chances that sales will occur. A big focus for both stores during my contract will be implementing Paid trafficking using: Google Ads, Facebook and a few other sources. Once these paid trafficking campaigns are set I expect that online store sessions will increase dramatically and if not that’s a key indicator that those campaigns are not serving their purpose.
As I mentioned we are venturing into Paid traffic for both sites and it will be very interesting to start to track where our sales are coming from and if paid trafficking is increasing revenue and ultimately profitable. By paying close attention to our sales by traffic source we have an insight into which Ad campaigns are effective and the portion of traffic our sites are getting from paid vs. unpaid trafficking measures. This is an important measure to pay attention to because the ultimate goal with every advertisement campaign and traffic driving measure we participate in is growing sales. If for both websites we can figure out which traffic sources are leading to the most sales we can capitalize on this and put emphasis on those traffic sources.
Online store sessions by traffic source will help us to monitor our paid and unpaid trafficking and ensure that these measures are performing how we wish them to.
A big project that I have recently started is running a google Ads campaign to start increasing paid traffic. Jon set up a Google Ads account for one of the businesses and then I did some training on how to run a Google Ads campaign and we got started. I have learned that Google Ads are pretty simple to set up, however, it was time consuming inputting all of the information needed to run the ads. The campaign was a really good starting point and has given me a lot to improve with the business and some key points to focus on in order to make our google ads convert to sales. We did profit off the campaign with an ROI of 1.42 and are going to continue running it due to these results. The key takeaway from the Google Ads campaign is to improve the landing page of the website so we can increase conversions. Our ads received a large amount of clicks and grew visitors to our page but we failed to have a strong conversion rate which I’ve concluded is mostly due to our weak landing page.
Ways to improve the landing page:
-Higher Quality Photos
-More Photos (50% photos, 50% words)
-Bundling products for sales
-Improved FAQs & reiteration of it throughout landing page
-Incorporating more numbers and faces onto the landing page
-Making the “Add to Cart” button a colour that pops!
Here are the results of the 5 day Google Ads campaign:
Biggest Wins so Far:
- Making 3 vlogs from scratch; I have never Vlogged before so this was a success for me and I’m quite happy with the time and effort put into the vlogs and the output of quality received.
- Launching the Google Ads campaign and then a subsequent big win was having that ad campaign be profitable.
- I sourced two new products, built the product pages for them then put them live on the website, launched a marketing campaign for the two products and received sales for both of them in that same 24 hours
When I first got handed over the project the one store was making a lot of sales but recently sales have dropped dramatically, I don’t really think that it’s anything I have done because any work I’ve done so far should be building the website up and contributing to greater sales however, it’s hard not to feel a bit dejected by the lack of recent sales. I’m trying to look at this as simply a reminder that there is a lot of work left to be done on the project and it is encouraging to kind of start from the bottom on a project.
Another failure or we’ll just call it a challenge is that since I was handed off this project I did not start with a clean slate or from ground zero, I’ve had to deal with some customer issues that I just sort of got thrown into. I find it pretty challenging to mend and deal with these issues because I’m playing catch up the whole time, I didn’t initially handle the first customer interaction and I’m having to come up with solutions and also have to catch up on the entire situation. At times it’s hard to keep track of what all is going on but I think that ultimately it keeps the job interesting and shows me the flexibility that occurs with shopify businesses. For a lot of customer issues we do not have a set procedure and this is the case with almost any issue so for the most part I have to improvise and come up with a solution that is going to appease the customer while also maximizing or at least retaining the businesses profit.
Goals for future:
- Improvements to all businesses landing pages to increase conversion rate= 3.25% for all three sites
- Setting up google search ads & shopping ads and Facebook ad campaigns for all businesses
- Expansion of product lines for all businesses, reliance on one supplier shifted to multiple suppliers
- Weekly Sales for Business A and B at $2000 or more
Summer (especially in Canada) is short! So how do I optimize my schedule to maximize summer family fun while pushing the business forward?
For entrepreneurs who have the ability to modify their schedule how do you optimize summer while still pushing the business forward?
Assuming my kids will be less interested in hanging out with me by the time they are ~15 (optimistic) given my low level of coolness I am 50% done the summers I get with my oldest.
Maximizing summer family fun is definitely a priority.
This post looks at some past attempts and the structure I have for this unique COVID-19 summer.
However, despite me wanting to maximize summer I also want to make sure the businesses get pushed forward!
Past Summer Schedule:
4 Day Work Week + 2 Weeks Off
This has been my attempt in the past couple of summers to maximize family time while still making sure everything needed gets done for the business.
- Predictable schedule – Allowed for a weekend quality outing planned for each nice day. With me getting home at 3:30sh we were able to go do a hike, paddle, beach afternoon etc.
- Lots of Flexibility for My Activities (biking) – The dedicated Friday allowed me to go for a big bike ride and each day I could squeeze in a ride if I wanted.
- Didn’t Push Things Forward – Because of the shorter days and short weeks I never felt like I was on top of things and able to make a meaningful push on any project. It was a lost couple months of me advancing anything just treading water.
- Didn’t Build Grit – Generally, it was a very soft schedule that never really built entrepreneurship grit.
This Summers Schedule:
This summer I am trying a more extreme schedule to try and deal with the major downsides of the last schedule specifically no growth time to push a new project forward and no grit building. While increasing the amount of time we can spend at the cottage.
2 Work all Day Days, 5 Stay on Top of Email Days
Now my schedule has 2 days where I work from 8am to 11pm at the office and then the other 5 days I work 1-2hrs just staying on top of email.
Total hours is still near full time at 40hrs/wk but highly concentrated making every weekend a VERY LONG 5 day weekend.
- Builds grit… 2 hard days where I set big goals for what needs to get accomplished and limited ability to recover if I have a down day pushes me to be productive. This should have me coming out of the summer more ready to tackle the biggest growth time for my businesses (fall).
- Big Family Time… 5 day weekends provide the ability for lots of extended cottage time and canoe trips etc.
- Growth Work, not Just Maintenance – From a work perspective, I can get a LOT of growth work done since it doesn’t take me long to catch up, and then I have a lot of hours for new work in those 2 days.
The Bad – Not sure yet but could be…
- No recovery days – if I have an unproductive day 50% of my week would be shot.
- Slow Cycle Time – If an opportunity comes up that I need to push along it may sit for too long, the cycle time on my communication or pushing of a project might be too slow.
- Frequency of Adventures – I could miss a fun adventure… today the kids and my wife are body surfing a section of a river around here, last summer I would have gone with them, this year I am doing one of my work all day days so nothing but work for me.
- Fitness – Each day I had a window of time for me to get out and go for a bike ride or go to the gym. Now my work all day days are dedicated to work and the 5 days
Visually what does this look like…
I am interested in hearing other peoples schedules… what do you do?
As companies continue to work remotely many of us are faced with the question of how do we work with our teams remotely better?
- How can we still do team building activities?
- What are the right team building activities for a remote team?
- How does remote work impact each team member differently?
Today I am going to share what we are doing using the DISC Assessment for Team Building purposes. This works directly into our system for how to manage staff remotely.
Some people on our team really enjoy the small chat, sharing jokes while others just want to get to work and be left alone.
It is not JUST up to the leadership to understand everyone but if the team works with each other we all have a responsibility to understand how each of us are most effective.
So… how are we going to go about improving our teams performance with a personality assessment?
We are using the remarkably accurate DISC Assessment tool, create a personalized action plan off of the results and share the findings with the rest of the team.
What is the DISC Personality Assessment?
Here are the steps to implement this assessment we are using with our team…
DISC Assessment for Team Building Steps
Step 1 – Prepare the Team DISC Assessment Plan
In this step decide on the following items…
- Who on the team is going to complete the assessment
- How is the assessment going to be completed?
- Free Online Options – such as my favorite https://www.16personalities.com/
- Paid Consultants or Paid online options
- Is taking the assessment required? In my case I have decided to not make it required although encouraged.
- Setup Google Sheet to share results
- See example here
Step 2 – Introduce the Team to The DISC Assessment Plan
Share with the team why we are doing this and how it is going to get done.
/// my email ///
As mentioned on the morning call I continue to be impressed with how the team is performing remotely.
The purpose of this email is to layout the plan for taking the personality assessment discussed so we can work even better together. The team we have now is crushing through work and we definitely have the core team to keep building from.
Through this process, we might even finally find out what is wrong with all of us 😉
2 parts in this Email:
- ONE – The Plan
- TWO – My Experience and the Why
ONE – Create The Plan
- Go to this site – https://www.16personalities.com/
- Take the 10 min survey
- Read your results and see if you agree with them
- Optional – Add a link to your results in this google doc – LINK
- Add your direct reports to the sheet and share this email with them
- Review each of the entire team members summary with a focus on your direct contacts (manager and reports) – read post at AWI on debrief process
- We will discuss one persons results at each of the morning meetings (with myself going first) – read post at AWI on sharing process
The end result is every person will have taken the DISC assessment, shared with the entire team their results and created an action plan adjusting work to focus on strengths and mitigate weakenesses.
This will also allow us to better understand how to work with each other most effectively.
TWO – My Experience and the Why
As you can guess I am usually fairly dismissive of this soft stuff. However, when I completed it I was like holy shit this is spot on. Get out of my head computer!
I am a big believer in doubling down on strengths and putting systems/people in place to mitigate weaknesses.
The level of accuracy of the assessment certainly supported what were strengths and weaknesses. As a result, I am putting more effort into systematizing parts of the business.
For example… this very effort is a systematic way to put in place an efficient way for us to better understand our differences and allow each of us (myself included) to work more effectively with everyone. Ideally leveraging a strength of mine (systems) to mitigate a weakness of mine (communicating I care about the team).
I welcome feedback and look forward to this process.
Step 3 – Everyone Completes a DISC Assessment
Each person goes in and completes the DISC assessment entering their results into the spreadsheet.
- Go to https://www.16personalities.com/
- Complete the assessment
- Read the results
- If you agree with them and are okay sharing with them team enter into the spreadsheet
If you want you can add in a comment if there is anything you think is worth noting.
Step 4 – Debrief at the Weekly 1:1 Meeting
At your weekly 1:1 with either your manager or a direct report review the summary of the assessment and debrief.
Consultants have gone in DEPTH on this debrief process – http://discmastery.com/media/DISCDebriefingGuide.pdf
For our purposes, I believe a shortened version consistent with an OODA loop is sufficient…
- Any issues taking the assessment?
- What did you think of the assessment?
- Did you find it “fit” you?
- What parts did you relate to the most?
- What parts did you disagree with the most?
- What changes to your work would play to your strengths and mitigate your weaknesses?
- What changes to how you work with the team would play to your strengths and mitigate your weaknesses?
- Add a list of action items to the weekly sheet (or Trello board if used) for tracking to completion
Step 5 – Team Building Share at the Morning meeting
At the morning meeting, I would like to have one person each morning share their findings.
5-10 min and some version of the agenda (your time to share):
- Personality according to the tool – abcd
- My thoughts on if it fits me
- Any insights
- How I am adapting my work to play to my strengths and mitigate weaknesses
- How I am adapting how I work with others to play to my strengths and mitigate weaknesses
- Comments from the team
My hope is this team-wide, efficient approach to personality assessment will have a positive impact on both the quality/quantity of individual output while also providing a framework for helping us work better together.
I am looking forward to the process and seeing how it goes.
If anyone has had experience with this process in another organization comments below would be greatly appreciated!