Indie Shop Owners: What is it like to shop at your own store?

Welcome to the last week of Breakthrough Boot Camp! There are only 5 lessons left, plus one wrap-up post next week where we'll bring it all together.

For this last week, we are going to think about our reputation and our platform. We've already talked about how to stand out from the crowd, and how to create a visual experience for customers, but - what kind of shopping experience are you creating for customers?

I'll tell you a secret:

It's all about the details.

Every little detail that you put the slightest amount of effort into is going to create an experience for your customers in some way.


Here's a little Q & A to help you figure out what kind of experience you are giving your customers:

A. When you package an order, do you:
  1. Put your product in a shipping envelope or box with nothing else except maybe a receipt - no wrappings, thank you notes, freebies, or promotional materials of any kind
  2. Put your product in a shipping envelope or box with a little decorative packaging, such as tissue paper, a label, business card, coupon, or a short thank you note
  3. Put your product in a shipping envelope or package, but the product is first: wrapped in a gift box with wrapping paper or a bow; freebies are included; a personable, hand-written thank you note is included; additional freebies, coupons, promos, or business cards are also included

B. When a potential customer messages you with an inquiry, how long does it take you to respond?
  1. 2-3 days or more
  2. 1-2 days
  3. 0-12 hours

C. When you do respond to a customer, what is your messaging style?
  1. No salutations or friendly "thank you" - a short, one sentence reply with only the necessary information.
  2. A template response with fill-in-the-blank answers for what ever question comes my way
  3. A friendly, 2-4 sentence response, complete with a "hello", "thank you", "best wishes", as well as additional contact information if there's anything else you can do for them.

D. In your online shop, what is your profile and/or About page like?
  1. 1-2 sentences about the type of products I sell; I may or may not have my name and location listed
  2. I have a paragraph filled out about what I make, and why I make it
  3. I have filled out 2-4 paragraphs about my background, what I make, where I make it, and what I believe in

E. Are you active online, socially?
  1. I am only active on the site I sell on, such as Etsy
  2. I am active on a site or two, such as Twitter or Facebook, and I may or may not have a blog
  3. I am on every site I can find, from Twitter to Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, and anything else that might build more connections; I also blog and work hard to grow its readership
Now it's time to tally up your points:

5 - 8 Points
Your business style is short and simple - but may not be sweet. If that's reflective of your own personality, there is nothing wrong with that, but it might be hard to build relationships with customers. If efficiency is your main objective, then you are doing well; however, if you would like more repeat customers and more media buzz, ask yourself: where am I lacking? What are two things I could change this week to create a better shopping and customer experience for my online guests?

9 - 12 Points
You have an efficient and friendly business style. You put in the effort to make connections, but you don't spend all of your waking hours online. You want to make an impression on your customers, but the quality of your work - and not the extras - is your main priority. You are comfortable sharing a little about yourself with the handmade community, and try to build positive relationships.

Ask yourself: what one thing could I do to improve my relationship with potential customers? Where can I give just a little bit more?

13 - 15 Points
Wow! You care a great deal about the details. You bend over backwards and go out of your way to create a friendly, helpful, memorable, and pleasurable shopping experience. On the other hand, is it possible you are over-extending yourself in business? Ask yourself: do you ever feel burnt-out? Are you getting enough sleep, sunshine, and physical activity? Have real-life friends or family ever taken a back-seat to internet obligations? If you feel well-rounded with a balanced life, then congratulations! You have done what we are all striving for; however, if you feel like you have taken on too much, or if your life is a spiral of websites and packaged food, ask yourself this: where can I cut back? Where can I ask for help?

If there is anywhere that you are putting in a lot of effort for very little return, that might be the first place to scale back.

This activity was just to get your wheels turning and to take a look at your business from an outside perspective. There is no right or wrong answer here. I do not have all of the answers, and I trust you are doing business as you see fit; however, if you feel there is room for improvement, then start small. Make a small change once a week and see how people react to them - you just might find yourself dealing with more inquiries, more sales, more referrals, more repeat customers, and better feedback.

credits: quotes clip art by The Ink Nest (affiliate link)

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