5 Lessons from building million dollar online business in 3 years

Not many online businesses made it big, we had the privilege to worked with one of them.

3 years ago Tribeup was presented an opportunity to help build an online fruit store from scratch. The founder of one of the biggest fruits importer in the region envisioned a service that allows people to buy in-season, exotic fruits from around the world, online, and get delivered to their doorstep.

It was one our first few e-commerce projects back then, and not many case studies we could refer to. It was a great learning experience where we had to figure out the most effective (cost wise too) ways to educate customers, to deliver it fresh, to structure the ordering procedures, and many more.

Fast forward 3 years since 2012, the online fruit store has grown into online business with over RM1mil turnover yearly, receiving 4-digit daily sales from Penang only. Throughout the years Tribeup assisted in terms of digital marketing and technology, supporting the team behind DoReMi Online Fruit Store, we learned a few key lessons worth sharing with everyone who wishes to build a successful online business.


1. Your product CAN sell online

A lot of online sellers tend to have this “will this sell?” doubt before they embark on the e-commerce journey to sell online. DoReMi had the same challenge too – dissenters from within and outside of the company were everywhere, negative feedback, disagreements, etc. can be very discouraging.

We applied market validation and customer discovery exercises to help the brand owner to better understand the market before started. We did market survey, focus group discussion and other exercises to find the best direction for the online store.

After years of helping businesses sell online, we believe almost everything can be sold online – it is just the matter of how you position it.


2. Build a system from the beginning

We started from building the standard operating procedure (SOP). We imagined the flow from ordering to delivery, make sure every touch points are taken care of. How fast can the packaging be done? How soon should the order be shipped after packed to maximize freshness? We asked all possible questions to make sure we build an online business that lasts.

Another critical area is shipping and fulfillment. Many startup online businesses simply do not dive deep enough – depending on what are you selling, different shipping company offers different rates, services, etc. If your product is big, maybe you should consider metric calculation for your shipping fee instead of weight.

Of course we understand that every business is unique and faces different challenge in starting an online business, but having an experienced advisor will save you from unnecessary mistakes.


3. Digital marketing should lead

You’re building an online business, you must accept the fact that what you have learned in conventional marketing may not work well in the online world. I’m not dismissing the power of conventional marketing, if done right the O2O (online-to-offline) activation power can be huge. However to start selling online, it is best to go to places where people are already online.

Along the years we’ve developed a cross-platform digital marketing strategy that can be tailored to different online businesses. We start from imagining the customer journey online, then the customer behavior on reacting to your ads online. We make sure every touch points count on each selected channel, crafting the funnel that leads to sales – a detailed funnel allows businesses to be able to experiment different approaches to maximize ROI.

Digital marketing is all about numbers, and it is important for your business to know yours.


4. Product sells, relationship brings you far

Good product is important, but great service is the key to success. The first step is to work on customer expectations – one of the very important element many online businesses missed. Start from the promises. Communicate your key deliverables throughout your site – the processing time, delivery time, order cut-off time, refund policy, guarantees if any. Setup a detailed terms and conditions to keep both the buyers and your brand protected.

Constantly over deliver, one order at a time. In the online world word-of-mouth marketing runs on steroid mode – we can’t avoid hickups, but do your best to answer and make up for every negative feedbacks. Build ratings on your site, Facebook, or on marketplaces you’re selling. As time goes by and consumer getting smarter, you’ll be searched before they buy from you.


5. Analyze your critical numbers

Numbers matter, they give you the hints and signs to make better decisions for your online business. Build your sales funnel, and monitor how your leads move through your funnel from time to time. Work on your customer lifetime value, cost per lead, cost per order; find out if your advertising dollar is bringing you positive or negative revenue, and what can you do to maximize it?

One thing we observed from the online businesses we helped build, is that often they carry too much burden of their conventional businesses wisdom, which sometimes might slow them down from adopting the online world.


How can we help you?

The world is changing faster than we can ever imagine, and selling online is soon becoming conventional. If you need help to bring your business online, or to setup an entirely new online business, let’s get in touch.

Do you have any success stories to share? Post your comment below!

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