All those who find themselves adding more than just a few things to their virtual cart, say aye! 🙋

We’re plenty guilty of having shopped online more frequently than ever before. It’s no small feat that ecommerce broke record sales due to the pandemic. We saw a global increase of new online shoppers by a whopping 40% in 2020 alone!

🔮  The retail landscape is looking exceptionally digital

Last year’s unprecedented events resulted in ecommerce sales skyrocketing, especially around the holiday season. The months of November and December generated an additional $41.54 billion – yep, billion – in online revenue.

Spending online has yet to show any signs of slowing down. The Wall Street Journal reports that consumer spending on goods in May 2021 was already 20% higher than in February 2020.

In a survey conducted in January 2021, 59% of consumers said they bought more gifts online during the earlier holiday season. So, we expect ecommerce to continue to break records heading into the latter half of 2021.

That’s all the more reason to get your online store up and running! Though starting up an ecommerce business might sound intimidating at first, we’re here to break down the basics before you start.

🔨 Here’s a virtual blueprint for building your ecommerce store

If you’ve been thinking of starting up an online business before the holidays come around, you’re in luck. Now is an opportune time to (digitally) build up your business’s ecommerce store!

Below, we tapped online retailer Honey Pie Art for insights on opening an online store. Having started a highly successful ecommerce store in 2020, Honey Pie Art is no stranger to navigating the online business space. Read on to hear about her know-hows and best advice when starting an ecommerce business!

Q&A with Honey Pie Art

Honey Pie Art is an artist and designer hailing from London, creating apparel and stationery for small business owners. Products in Honey Pie Art’s shop range from lovely illustrated stickers and totes to shirts representing the small business owner community!

When and what motivated you to open your own online store?

During the first lockdown, I started seeing more and more small businesses selling stickers, prints and apparel. They were showing the whole designing, making process and I really got into it. I was always passionate with drawing, designing, but up until the pandemic, there was never a good time for me to make something out of this passion. I thought about it for a few months and finally opened my Etsy shop in August 2020, and this was one of the most exciting moments!

What are 3 important factors for small businesses to consider when first starting an online store?

Marketing: Get your head around the basics. Being a great artist is sadly not always enough, we live in very competitive times. Starting with social media is key for anyone wanting to grow their small shop.

Adaptation: Be prepared to fail and grow from it. It sounds bad to say it like that, but when I look back, I’m so glad I made some of the mistakes I’ve made. I’ve learnt so much by myself in the last year running a small business. I actually made a sticker for this ‘Sometimes we win, sometimes we learn.’ I feel that the more I was challenged, feeling low, the more I would find other ways to succeed and get back up.

Get inspired, but don’t compare your journey too much. The small business community is just unreal. I have had the chance to meet virtually so many kind, thoughtful, funny people. I am always so impressed by the support I get from other small businesses. However, we are all at different stages, some will grow faster, some slower. So it’s important to keep our heads out of any unhealthy comparison.

How has the pandemic affected your day-to-day running an ecommerce store, and do you foresee any changes that your business might adopt as the world starts to reopen?

I’ve only known my business in pandemic times, so I am actually excited to see how it will evolve. I have other projects that I am working on that I feel will fit in this new world, because I don’t believe we will be exactly back to what the world was before.

What are your top few methods of advertising that you recommend for small businesses that are just starting an online store?

By far, social media: Instagram and Tiktok. They are very easy to get on with, as most of us are used to sharing on our personal account and for most of it, they are free.

TikTok can feel a little bit awkward at first, especially if you are not comfortable in front of the camera, however video content is so much more engaging for your community.  One of my Tiktok got over 10M views, and it was an 8-sec video of me, tagging a t-shirt with my brand. Find the type of content that works in your niche.

Instagram is quite oversaturated, but I feel my main community is there, it’s my main channel, the one I use to speak to my favorite small businesses and customers. I use Stories and Reels a lot.

A lot of social media platforms like Instagram and Snapchat are now providing shoppable features for small businesses. What are the platforms that you’ve experienced and have made work for you, and what are some pros or cons of using these features?

I’ve only used Instagram shopping. This is a great feature, especially for smaller accounts that may not have the ‘swipe up’ option, which is only available for accounts with > 10K followers.

Due to lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, many people found themselves spending more time on their devices and influenced to shop via social media. Did you find that new customers who discovered and purchased from your online store would primarily come from your social channels?

Definitely, I have been using Etsy throughout the year, and most months I bring 50-70% of the traffic to my shop through Instagram and Tiktok.

Social media is amazing to keep your customers up to date with new products, shop updates, etc. but also get discovered.

On the downside, it’s sometimes hard to take a break, as we feel we might lose the momentum. So from my experience, it’s important to build a genuine community, otherwise people can forget about you! ☺

What are your top tips for small businesses that want to boost sales of their ecommerce business through social media?

Prepare your customers for any upcoming launch. So many times I have ‘failed’ because I would keep my new products as a complete surprise until the very end. Remember that only an average of 10% of your audience may see your content when you post it. When starting to talk about it at least a week or two before, you will have more chances to be seen.

Also, ask your community their opinion! It can feel lonely being the only decision-maker. From time to time, when I’m facing a tough choice for a design, I will create polls and ask my community their opinion. I honestly always get the most amazing feedback! Plus it’s so much fun, and everyone will feel involved in your new product(s).

What are two great ways in which you create a relationship between your customers and your online business?

Be genuine on social media. I am trying to stop ‘romanticizing’ some of the daily struggles of a small business. We all face challenges, most of my customers are other small businesses. Funny enough, I always get the most DMs and replies when I post about something that did go wrong! We often chat and laugh about it.

Communicate. Believe me, shipping has been incredibly tough during this pandemic. And most of the time, there is not much we can do but wait. However if a customer emails and seems a bit anxious, I make sure to respond and be transparent. Remember that, as an online shop, trust needs to be built even more so.

Most times, all that is needed is to hear from you that it’s okay and it’s on the way ☺

What is something surprising that you’ve learned from running your online business over this past year?

The small biz community. I’ll say it again, but I feel extremely grateful to be part of it. I didn’t expect my own community to grow this fast and I also didn’t expect that most of my customers would be other small businesses like me! We support each other and I definitely feel good that my spend each month is going more and more to other small businesses! There’s something so special about supporting someone you follow and appreciate.

🎁 Wrapping it up

Take Honey Pie Art’s words of wisdom to get your ecommerce business ready for the fast-approaching holiday season. Keep all these insights in mind as a small business owner making strides in a digital world. You’ve got this!

Stop by Honey Pie Art’s online store and Instagram!

Want to learn more about building your business from the ground up? Be sure to check out our other guides under Biz Advice that cover branding, social media marketing, ecommerce tips, and more.