Getting you first sale in your online store

Posted by Thomas Holmes on

In this post, Mark Dunkley relates some of his experiences opening his first two online stores and shares how he generated his first sale.

At the turn of 2013, Shopify's head of marketing bet $100 of his money, challenging me to open an online store and get the first sale by the 1st of March. If you run an online store you know that creating a site from scratch and getting a sale in 2 months is a tough challenge. It's even tougher when you have no idea what product to sell!

After some light keyword research I settled on selling artificial plants, trees and flowers. I registered, sourced some products, and whipped up a sharp looking online store in the final days of our christmas break.

And then I hit the wall. How do you actually get your first sale?

It's an incredibly daunting task for someone that doesn't have a large internet presence, never mind the fact that I didn't know a single thing about artificial flowers. On top of that my drop shipper doesn't even ship to my home country - so forget about selling to "friends and family".

To get that critical first sale for a product that I've never actually seen in real life, I conjured up three different strategies:


1. Organic Search

Luckily my industry has a lot of "long tail" keywords. The search volumne for keywords like "artificial flowers" is huge, but don't underestimate the number of people searching for keywords like "silk lilies purple". I used Google's Keyword Search tool and made a shortlist of 10-20 keywords to aim for.

Unfortunately for me the clock was ticking and the fruits from my link building campaign wouldn't be reaped until late March (past the March 1st deadline to get my first sale.) 

2. Google Shopping

Google Shopping is basically the ultimate shopping comparison engine. You can submit your products and Google will feature your store's inventory to anyone making a search related to that product.

You do have to pay for Google Shopping, but compared to AdWords it is dirt cheap. This is simply because you aren't competing against non-ecommerce sites for keywords and Google Shopping still is a well kept secret among ecommerce entrepreneurs.

Using the official Google Shopping app for Shopify I submitted my store's products and waited.

3. Google AdWords

Classic pay-per-click advertising was the final strategy. Some keywords like "artificial flowers" had $1+ CPC (cost per click) so I would probably lose money on those keywords. I did find some other keyword gems that had a sub $0.50 CPC that were more along the lines of my budget. 


The first sale and beyond!

On February 17th, less than 2 weeks before the deadline, I got my first sale through Google Shopping. Of the next 5 sales, 3 were from niche AdWord keywords and the other 2 were from Google Shopping. Organic sales from Google search did come eventually late March. 

Learning from my success with Silk Artificial I opened up another online store. This time I picked a product that I actually knew something about: DIY Real Estate Flyers for realtors. I created a handful of real estate templates designed for showing off properties to potential buyers.

I named the company SnapFlyers and yet again I was faced with the intimidating task of getting that first sale. I put my original 3-step strategy in place and had a little more luck with organic traffic. In fact in less than 48 hours Bing indexed my domain for the keyword "real estate flyers" and I converted my first sale.



And now to you!

Just remember there is no silver bullet for getting your first sale. Put your back into don't be afraid to experiment.

How did you get your first online sale?


This post was written by Mark Dunkley. He's a product manager for Shopify. And he runs a few online stores including a store selling artificial plants called Silk Artificial and another selling real estate flyers called SnapFlyers.

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