Why It's Best If Shopify Is Not Your First Online Selling Experience

The Shopify platform is designed to work well for non-technical people. By that I mean, people who don't know how to code. But that doesn't mean it's totally simple either. The best practical training you can get prior to setting up a Shopify site is to have sold previously on another ecommerce marketplace site such as Amazon, eBay, Etsy or even Craigslist.

If you've never sold on one of those platforms, then it'd be a wise idea to try to sell there first. You'll learn what I call the ecommerce basics, concepts like:

  • How to list your products
  • How to write product descriptions
  • How to take professional product photos
  • How to manage customer inquiries
  • How to work with experts to resolve errors, site glitches, and related technical problems
  • How to read analytics and reports and use them to grow

How to create sales volume, plan growth, and forecasting demand based on customer signals

These ecommerce basics aren't complicated to learn and they form the foundation of an effective ecommerce business.

Every ecommerce site owner (all the way up to Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon) has learned to do these things, or built a team of people that know how to do these things in support of their website.

Why not just learn the ecommerce basics for the first time as you set up your new Shopify site? Well, you can. It's completely possible.

But when you launch your Shopify site you're going to be working very hard to answer one massive question.

The Most Important Question Of All

It's the most important question you'll ever answer as an ecommerce web-master. It's the question that will ultimately define your success as an online seller.

What's the big question you'll be working to answer? I call it your "Primary Site Hypothesis". Let's refer to it as your PSH.

Just to clarify the term, a hypothesis is: a supposition or proposed explanation made on the basis of limited evidence as a starting point for further investigation.

Primary Site Hypothesis

Your PSH is: Can you acquire new customers at a cost equal or less than their near-term value?

This question is the same for each online seller - it applies to all of us. From me and you - to Jeff Bezos.

Whether we know it or not, that is the question we are answering as we work on our online businesses. If we can make our site pay - then we can scale it up. I know, I know, there are venture backed companies that never need to answer this question, but at the end of the day, the ones that survive, have figured out how to acquire customers in a profitable way.

Although this question applies to every ecommerce site owner, the answers are as unique as the websites we build. Each site is different. Success depends on things like,

  • Products offered (and related costs of those products)
  • Branding
  • Pricing strategy
  • Effectiveness in coordinating free promotional strategies
  • Effectiveness in managing paid promotional strategies
  • Site costs and other expenses
  • Returns, damage, and other waste

Your overall success on Shopify (or any ecommerce effort) is a result of little victories and minor wins in each of these areas.

So you want to spend as much time as possible on these activities, while "handling" the ecommerce basics efficiently.

Conclusion

So to summarize my main point - as to why Shopify shouldn't be your first rodeo - you want to get insanely good at the ecommerce basics before launching on Shopify.

That way - you can spend as much time as possible on the hard work that helps you answer your Primary Site Hypothesis, which is "can I acquire customers at a cost equal or less than their near term value on my website."

Eventually, you'll have to do your taxes - and you'll add up all of the money spent on these efforts. You'll compare it to your total revenue and you'll see if there is profit left over at the end. Then you'll divide that profit by the time it took you to make it happen - and you'll decide whether all the effort was worth it or not. Frequently the answer will be "no".

When the answer is "no" you'll be tempted to quit, go back to the 9-5, or move on to something else.

Reaching Escape Velocity

A funny thing happens to business owners that never give up. The blood sweat and tears they invest in the first few years can, on some occasions, and for some careful business owners, begin to pay off handsomely. When it does it's magic.

Rocket Ships have to reach something called "escape velocity" to leave the gravitational pull of the earth's orbit. When they do they float in space and effortlessly orbit the earth. The rules change. The break-through occurs.

In ecommerce work - this happens because the sellers have mastered the ecommerce basics and have gone on to answering the PSH with a resounding "YES". Some ecommerce sellers make it look easy. Some people struggle to grind it out slowly over many years. Either way, they've built their rocket and their job is to drive it wisely.