$0 to $100K in One Year: eCommerce Insights From Steve Chou

by 4 09/05/2012

From $0 to over $100,000 in profit in just one year.

That’s what Steve Chou and his wife were able to accomplish when they started Bumblebee Linens, an e-commerce site that sells handkerchiefs and linens for special occasions. The site has grown double and triple digits ever since.

Steve also runs a popular blog, MyWifeQuitHerJob.com, where he blogs about building wealth and entrepreneurship and has also created a course, Create a Profitable Online Store, on how to build a profitable online store.

And if that’s not enough he still has a full-time job as an engineer because he enjoys it so much.

Steve and I first met about 4 years ago and I’ve been following his blog and success ever since. He continually puts out incredibly insightful and detailed information about his successes (and failures) in running 3 online businesses.

That’s why I’m thrilled to have Steve be the first interview we’re bringing you in our new series “Conversion Conversation”. Each month we’ll interview people doing interesting things in the world of conversion and marketing to bring you their unique perspectives and ideas you can use to improve conversions on your site.

Without further ado, here’s the interview with Steve:

Steve Chou

Steve Chou went from 0 to 100 K in just one year.

1. Tell us about one or two changes you’ve made to your site that have had the biggest impact on conversions.

One big change that had a tremendous impact was creating a mobile version of our ecommerce site.  What’s ironic is that I never really took mobile ecommerce seriously until I started reading all of the mobile articles online which have been flooding the blogosphere these past several years.

So I took a closer look at my mobile traffic and low and behold, I noticed traffic from mobile devices was exponentially increasing from year to year but the conversion rates and overall user metrics from mobile traffic were pretty low.

We were shedding a lot of customers by showing a desktop style site to mobile visitors.  Intuitively, this all makes sense. If a customer has to scroll horizontally, if they have to pinch to zoom or if they miss click on a hyperlink because they have fat fingers, you’re going to lose them.  But what really surprised me was the willingness of users to shop online with their smartphones.  Once we had our mobile site in place, we doubled the conversion rate from mobile traffic.

Another big change was fixing our onsite search.  One day, I just happened to be looking at the pages on our site with the highest Exit Rates and the search results page was the biggest offender. When I went to our site and tried typing in a few sample searches myself, I didn’t get any results and knew we had to fix the problem.

And fixing it was especially important because roughly 30-40% of people who visit our site want instant results and go straight to the search bar. By retooling our onsite search to work better, the Exit Rate for the search results page dropped from 95% to around 30%.

2. Tell us about a change/test you thought was going to work in boosting conversions but backfired.

We have certain product categories on our online store that contain over 40+ products and it can be somewhat cumbersome to scroll down and view them all.  Plus, it increases the page load time to load all of the product images.

So I decided to break the main categories down into smaller categories with pagination instead of having just one long category with lots of products. After making these changes, however, I noticed performance in some key metrics such as Length of Visit started to suffer.

I also noticed that people would land on the site through one of the new smaller category pages but wouldn’t click around the site to find other products or categories they might be interested in. After changing back to the original long categories with lots of products, things immediately improved.

The lesson I learned here is that people would much rather scroll down a long page than click on the “Next Page” button.  When you have products spread across multiple pages, most users won’t even notice anything past page 1.

3. What are the top 3 metrics you check on your site and what are you looking for in each?

My answer here partly depends on the stage of the site. For example, early on I spent much more time looking at the Conversion Funnel to see where we were losing people. Now that we’ve plugged the leaks in the funnel, I spend less time focused on that.

Now, I’d say the top three are:

Bounce rate: Specifically, I check all of my landing pages from Adwords and organic search to see if there are any anomalies.  Especially for Adwords, I look at any landing page with higher than a 30% bounce rate.

Value per Visitor:  I look at this mainly from a traffic source perspective. Especially for PPC, I want to know which keywords, ads and landing pages are the most profitable.

Pages per Visit (Length of Visit): This helps me gauge the effectiveness of product categories and my product offerings.  I also monitor how many people insert items into their shopping carts whether they checkout or not.

4. If a site owner was only able to focus on 1 aspect of their website (ie. headline, offer, copy, layout, images) in order to boost conversions, what would it be and why?

For an e-commerce store, the images are everything. Using vibrant and colorful images will almost make your product sell itself.

However, I do have a few examples of situations where the copy made a huge difference.

One big change that improved the sales of one of our napkin related products was completely rewriting  the product description. We changed the copy to make them sound like more of a Premium product and the napkins went from being a strong seller to the best selling product on our site.

The other was changing the name of some handkerchiefs from “Ladies Handkerchiefs with Purple Flowers” to “Purple Monet Inspired Ladies Handkerchiefs”. That increased sales for that product almost 5x.

5. What resources would you recommend for someone focused on improving conversions on their e-commerce site?

conversionxl.com

getelastic.com

6. Do you have a favorite software/tool (not including Crazy Egg) that you use to help optimize your site?

Google Analytics

Google Conversion Optimizer for sales pages

 

To get more insights from Steve on e-commerce and entrepreneurship, visit his blog MyWifeQuitHerJob.com.

If you’re looking to build a profitable e-commerce site, check out Steve’s course ProfitableOnlineStore.com

About 

Adam Kreitman coaches business owners on how to make their websites more compelling to their prospects.. and to Google. He owns Words That Click, a firm specializing in Conversion Optimization and managing Google AdWords campaigns for small businesses.Follow him on Google+

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4 COMMENTS

Ken Savage

What platform does he like to develop new ecomm websites on?

September 5, 2012 Reply

    Steve |MyWifeQuitHerJob

    Hey Ken,

    For a free open source cart, I like OpenCart right now. I used to recommend Magento as well, but after they were acquired I don’t like the direction their free community edition has taken.

    For a fully hosted solution, I like BigCommerce.

    September 5, 2012 Reply

Adam Kreitman

Hi Ken-

I can’t answer for Steve, but if you go to his blog – mywifequitherjob.com – and search for “platform” you’ll find a bunch of articles where Steve reviews and discusses various ecomm platforms. Also, I’m sure his course – profitableonlinestores.com – details his platform recommendations for new ecomm sites.

Thanks!
Adam

September 5, 2012 Reply

Steve |MyWifeQuitHerJob

Just wanted to add that most online shops still don’t have a mobile optimized site just yet. In case some of you aren’t sold yet on the need for a mobile website, I have some conversion data for my store that can be found at http://mywifequitherjob.com/mobile-website-design-guide-for-ecommerce/

Makes a big difference.

September 5, 2012 Reply


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