How We Grew Our Online Store In The First Half Of 2014

My wife just closed the books on the first half of 2014 and I’m happy to say that we are on track for another record year. Following a similar theme to last year, my wife and I have been focusing our efforts on further outsourcing our business.

income report 2014

Our kids are getting older now and they have tons of activities which now require more and more of my wife’s time. As a result, we have invested some additional capital into a larger office space and we’ve taken on another employee. This now makes for a grand total of 2 full time employees and 1 part time/temporary employee on an as needed basis.

As a result of our efforts, we were able to take a 2 week long trip to Florida without closing down our shop and we left everything in the hands of our employees. While we were extremely nervous about this, everything went completely smooth.

Actually I take that back…it wasn’t all that smooth but we survived. Even though we thought we documented every process required to run the business for our employees, there were a few unforeseen disasters which I wrote about in this post. But for the most part it was all good.

Going forward, we learned that we need to have contingency plans set in place in case of disasters like not paying the bills before going on vacation and having all of our office phone lines disconnected:)

Email Marketing And The Blog

Bumblebee Linens Blog

Aside from the additional infrastructure and process enhancements to our online store, our main focus has been on improving our email marketing efforts and blogging.

My wife has been pumping out some great content over at the Bumblebee Linens Blog and she is now working on an autoresponder sequence which should allow her to be more hands off with our outreach.

As a result, whereas revenue from email was pretty much negligible in the first half of 2013, email marketing was directly responsible for about 5% of our business in the first half of 2014. Going forward, I only expect this number to rise.

Furthermore, our email list continues to grow through newsletter signups from the blog and content on our website. By offering a free craft book as a giveaway (Grab It Here), we’ve managed to grow our email list at a fairly reasonable clip.

We Were Featured In 2 Major Magazines

house beautiful country living
Even though we’ve been featured in large publications in the past like Brides, Martha Stewart Wedding and Real Simple, we’ve never ever really gotten many sales from being featured in a major magazine.

But things were different this time around. As soon as the latest issues of House Beautiful and Romantic Homes went on the shelves, we saw a drastic increase in sales for the products that were featured in the magazine.

At first I skeptical that a paper magazine could bring in this much business. After all, you can’t really track sales from a paper publication and sales have never moved in the past from a magazine feature.

But when my wife checked our records, our daily sales volume for the specific items featured were 5-6X higher than normal. We were ecstatic! It actually made me think twice that perhaps we should focus more effort on getting additional press for our products.

Google And I Renewed Our Love Affair

Google Rankings
If you read last year’s income report, our search engine rankings have been slowly inching lower as a result of Google’s favoritism towards the big box stores. As a result, my wife and I have been making a conscious effort to de-focus our revenue dependence on Google.

Today, less than one-third of our business comes from Google search and we’re making additional efforts to become less dependent on the big G. In fact, I was ready to divorce Google altogether until something big happened.

One day in May I woke up, checked my search engine rankings and noticed that all of our rankings were way up! It turns out that Google released another major update to the Panda algorithm to lessen the strength of big box stores and authority sites.

Oooh Google. I never doubted you for a moment. I knew that you’d be back:)

Anyway, the additional traffic from the algorithm change did not significantly affect this income report because it didn’t occur until late May. But expect the increased traffic to have more of an impact on our end of the year revenue numbers.

We Added More Products

Finally in the midst of all the chaos, my wife has been continuing to add more products to our store with an emphasis on finding items that can not be easily found in brick and mortar stores.

Also going forward, we plan on focusing more of our efforts on promoting our personalized products because that is where we see our highest margins. This year, we plan on going back to the Canton Fair to strengthen our existing vendor relationships as well as forge new ones.

Highlights For The First Half

Below are some are some of the highlights of the year for the first half of 2014 vs the first half of 2013.

  • Year over year revenue grew 18%
  • Desktop traffic remained roughly flat vs 2013
  • Year over year profit grew 3%
  • Average order size increased a few percent
  • Mobile traffic increased by 26%
  • Mobile revenues were up 41%

It’s worth mentioning here that mobile traffic continues to explode. If you don’t have a mobile optimized site for your shop, you are likely missing out on a meaningful chunk of revenue. If you want to learn more about our mobile website, click here to read about how I designed my site

Lowlights For The First Half

One big number sticks out in the data and it’s that profit only increased 3% vs an 18% revenue increase. Here’s the reason. In the first half of 2013, we only had 1 full time employee. But in the first half of 2014, we now have 2 full time employees and 1 part time employee.

Couple that with a new larger office and the additional infrastructure took out a major dent in our overall profit numbers. It’s not a big deal and I’m not that worried. I know it’s the right thing to do and freeing up more of my wife’s time makes complete sense.

The other lowlight that I wanted to mention is that we’ve pretty much switched completely away from USPS Express Mail. USPS has become increasingly less reliable and when customers need a package the next day, it needs to get there the next day….period!

Even though USPS will refund you your money when a package is late, they can not make up for the poor customer experience and mindshare for your online store.

As a result of the switch, our shipping costs have gone up but at least we know that our packages will arrive safely and on time.

Conclusion

Overall, I’m pretty happy with our first half of 2014 numbers. An increase of 18% in revenue and 3% in profit is not explosive growth by any means but sacrificing some amount of profit to further free my wife from the day to day is definitely a worthwhile expense.

To be honest, my wife and I have been a bit lax in improving our online store in the first half of 2014 so expect some more action in the second half. I still have a bunch of strategies that I have yet to employ and it’s just a matter of finding the time to implement them without taking away from family time.

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8 thoughts on “How We Grew Our Online Store In The First Half Of 2014”

  1. Hi Steve, thank you for sharing this info – very interesting. I’m relieved to hear about the Google tweaks and the success of the blog projects/ebook. BTW, I’m loving your course!

  2. Steve! Thanks for the update, but WE WANT NUMBERS! What’s that revenue! Bottom-line? Let us know!

    1. Anouk says:

      Agree! Lol

  3. Congrats on your press mentions and all your success so far this year!

  4. Thank you for sharing Steve, this is such a good read! I really want to start my online store too, hopefully, I know someone who is very successful of her online store.

  5. Awesome! Congrats on being featured in the magazines. I like the idea of becoming less dependent on Google. It’s nice to be at the top, but since they like to change the way they rank websites, I don’t count on staying at the top. Great article! It’s great to see the business doing well. :)

  6. Steve, your story is so inspiring! Congrats on the magazine features. I know from experience that they can be incredible for bringing in new customers and generating tons of sales. It’s also interesting to see that SEO also played a part in your success- great work

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