How to turn your blog into an ecommerce business

Woman using a computer

There’s a question that pervades the world of sales: Which comes first, the product or the customer? Like the age-old dilemma of the chicken and the egg, the answer changes depending on the perspective.

If you’re currently growing or have built a large and valuable audience, you might wonder how to make money blogging. It’s no secret that blogging and ecommerce often go hand-in-hand. For you, in the product vs. customer scenario, what comes first is the customer. But you can make the jump to the product side.

Expanding your blog to add ecommerce elements, such as affiliate links or a full store, can be a natural evolution for your website and brand. But how do you know if this is the right path for you? What are the steps involved, and how do you do it properly?

When to turn to ecommerce

There are many different types of blogs, as well as many reasons why they exist.

For service providers, blogs are a way to establish expertise in their field, broadcast innovative ideas, and connect more deeply with their clients and community. This can improve their SEO, attract new clients, and sharpen their brand or niche.

For product manufacturers and brands, blogs are a great channel for announcing new offerings and showing what happens behind-the-scenes.

Otherwise, blogs allow people to showcase their lifestyles or their perspectives.

Regardless of the subject matter or purpose of the blog, this content channel is useful in forming community and building an audience. And if you want, you can choose to monetize.

“If you have a good amount of traffic coming to your blog every month—let's say over 100,000 visits—you are in a good position to build an ecommerce machine,” says Henry O'Loughlin, founder of Buldremote.

Start small and grow your ecommerce organically

As you transition from pure blog writing to also driving ecommerce, you’ll want to take a realistic and methodical approach. Don’t suddenly drop merchandise and expect sales to start rolling in. You have to have an established audience that trusts you and your offerings. What you’re selling will also have to make sense and align with your established brand. Reaching that point takes a lot of knowledge. But when you start small, it gives you the ability to refine and adjust over time.

It may not be advisable to sell directly when you’re first jumping into the ecommerce game. You’ll want to test how willing your audience is to buying before you spend money on inventory and commit to selling products directly.

“Go about it in two steps—likely to take place over a few months or years,” O'Loughlin says. “First, become an affiliate seller for businesses that are closely related to what you write about now. Start to include affiliate links within your content (already published and newly created) to send people to your affiliate partners and receive a cut.”

Refine your content and home in on your niche

Starting out with affiliate marketing is a low-stakes way to test what kind of products your readers will actually buy. Your profit margins may be be lower since you generally make less on each affiliate sale. But because you’re not purchasing any inventory or creating storage and shipping infrastructure, you’ll reduce any upfront risk. Starting out with affiliate marketing also allows you to refine your content to optimize sales. You can approach content strategy both in terms of topic, as well as how you format your posts in a way that optimizes sales without sacrificing your voice.

The key is to experiment.

“Create new articles that could bring in more affiliate sales,” O'Loughlin suggests. “For example, if you rank for ‘pet training tips,’ then write about the best pet training products next. Second, when you start building a profitable affiliate business, plow the money earned into developing your own product or software, or buying wholesale and selling through your ecommerce site. So, if you now rank for ‘pet training products’ and make good affiliate income, reinvest the money into building your own pet training product or video course about pet training that you sell, or reselling other pet products directly through your ecommerce site. This is a profitable way to turn a blog audience into an ecommerce business over time.”

As you work on this, pay close attention to what content and products your audience responds to as well. Research other bloggers in your niche to help generate more ecommerce blog ideas. Read other bloggers’ posts for more insight into how blogging helps ecommerce. If you find yourself reading a post and wanting to buy whatever they’re selling, then you can see the writer’s strategy is working. You can also look to other successful competitors in your niche for ideas on how to monetize an ecommerce blog. This can help you determine what your audience cares about, so you can focus on content and products that are most valuable to them.

Expanding to a full ecommerce store

If you are generating consistent revenue from affiliate links, then your audience is willing to spend money and trusts you enough to buy what you recommend.

If you want to continue expanding your ecommerce operation, the next step is to begin selling products directly.

This is where you’ll have to build your online store.

Drop-ship, fulfillment house, or inventory?

Believe it or not, whenever you buy something online, it’s very possible the seller has never physically touched the product you end up receiving.

The traditional model for online stores require that sellers have inventory on hand, space to store it until it’s purchased, and the ability to physically ship it to buyers from that location. This has a lot of drawbacks, including higher costs to purchase inventory and risk of losses if no one buys—not to mention the manual labor that goes into physically shipping products in a timely manner.

As ecommerce gains traction, new businesses and models have evolved to support sellers.

Fulfillment houses are a way for sellers to outsource the most inconvenient parts of running an online store: the storage and the shipping of your inventory.

Drop-shipping is an even balance between affiliate marketing and ecommerce. As the seller, you are the one who collects the money from the buyer, but the manufacturer has ownership of all the inventory. They handle storage and shipping. But since you’re never actually buying merchandise and assuming risk as a seller, the profit margin is lower than more traditional models.

Choose your ecommerce platform

Unless you’re a major corporation with hundreds of thousands of dollars (or more) to invest in building your own proprietary platform to showcase merchandise, accept payments, and generally handle transactions, you’ll need a third-party platform to build your store and to integrate into your blog.

You may have already heard of many of them: Shopify, Squarespace, WooCommerce, Magento, and Big Cartel. These are some of the most popular names on the ecommerce market, but there are many other options aside from these.

They come at different price points and offer unique benefits, such as how much you can customize your store’s aesthetic. Research other bloggers in your niche utilizing ecommerce to see what might be your best option.

Maintain your integrity

Once you make the shift to ecommerce and start generating revenue through sales, you might feel tempted to change your content and style. Or you may consider selling popular products in your store that are controversial, don’t align with your brand, or are lower quality—just so you can make a quick buck.

This could tarnish your reputation and alienate the audience you worked so hard to build. By now, you should understand why blogging is important for ecommerce, but you should also remember that blogging came first for you.

If you’ve followed all these steps, congratulations! You have expanded your blog into an ecommerce platform. It’s up to you how far you want to take this journey. Will your blog become an ecommerce destination with live support and customer service? Or will you opt to remain small and focused on content? Regardless of which path you choose in ecommerce, this process will expand your horizons as an entrepreneur.

Dustin Clendenen
Dustin Clendenen is a Los Angeles-based writer focused on personal finance, social impact and technology. His work has appeared in Yahoo! Finance, Business Insider, and Upworthy. Learn more at www.DustinClendenen.com.

Hi there! This post exists to offer you (hopefully) useful information and insights, but it cannot take the place of personalized professional advice. Please consult a qualified expert if you have questions about your business. Also, Azlo doesn’t endorse any third-party sites that are linked here.

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