All any business ever asked for is a little traffic

Businesses on the web live or die because of traffic. Not because of the product, or website, or UI, or purchase process, or choice of credit card processor, or courier company, or a business processes. No, that online business that has been boot-strapped and built during many late nights will die because it cannot generate enough traffic.

This is one of the problems I’m having with We need a little traffic. (No, isn’t going anywhere, I’m just sharing some of our challenges!)

We recently attended the Design Indaba at the CTICC as an exhibitor. It’s a 3 day event for creatives to showcase and sell their wares. This was our first expo where we got to tell the story of and ultimately sell Writables. And boy did we sell. Not only did we manage to generate a 300% return on our costs, we also made a number of connections with people that have come back to us after the event to purchase notebooks. The concept of exhibitions works really well. We pay to be at the Design Indaba and we setup our shop. The crowds arrive, a percentage of them stop at our stall and a percentage of those people buy Writables. would do over R2 million a year worth of sales if we could continually run at Design Indaba levels of foot traffic. And we know that foot traffic is not scalable. Only people that have heard of Design Indaba, are interested, have a few hours to spare, can afford to pay the entrance fee and who are in Cape Town, attend. However, even with these low numbers, they translate into sales for us and actually make the time, effort and money you spend to be at Indaba, worth it.

On the web, it’s another story all together. You need a lot of time, a wide range of skills and money. And even then, you can’t guarantee traffic or sales.

6 months to wait for your on-going SEO work to kick-in. Skills to implement it along with PPC, UX enhancements, A/B split testing, copywriting, content generation and social media which all cost money. You then also need to focus on running a real world business that has to deal with suppliers, manufacturers, staff and balance sheets.

Running a business that solely relies on web traffic takes balls. You can’t just put up a web shop that guarantees foot traffic from day 1 like putting up a real world shop on Long street does.

I don’t expect the business of selling on the web to be free or easy, I just want the ability to generate targeted traffic to online businesses to be more accessible.


7 thoughts on “All any business ever asked for is a little traffic”

  1. Hi Jason,

    If you compare an online with an offline business, why don’t you invest the saved money on rent etc. in paid traffic?

    A retail shop costs you easily 10k – the CPC in your category is around 4 Rand. You get 2.500 highly targeted uniques to your shop a month, that’s more than 80 visits a day. You need to be in a pretty good location to attract 80 customers a day to your retail shop.

    I get your point but the obvious advantage of every eCommerce venture is that you don’t have huge overheads to get going compared to a normal retail store. Perfect to test the market and either withdraw on failure or scale on success…

    1. Hey Nils, I definitely want to do that – put some money into Adwords. However you know as well as I do it’s not as straight forward as setting up some ads and off we go. It takes some time to select the right keywords, writing the correct copy for the ads and then having to work on the site to make sure it’s geared towards conversions.

  2. I hear you on this matter – No amount of Ui / Ux tweaks and marketing banners will change the traffic you are currently experiencing , is still a young child who still has long way to go with regards of building a brand that has a good ROI

    Keep up the Good work, grow the brand via the old word of mouth marketing tactics from Cape town to Alexandra in Gauteng and in a few more years you will look back connect the dots of how you overcame this mini depression of online traffic

    1. Thanks Karabo! The old school method of word-of-mouth is what’s working the best for us at the moment. Social Media and online marketing has no comparison to it.

      It will definitely take time and sometimes I do get impatient and want everything to happen now! We will get there in the end.

  3. A great post Jason. It just proves that sometimes, the more things change the more they stay the same. While in theory e-commerce should cost less than bricks and mortar, there are lots of unknowns or variables that people don’t take into account which might not cost the same in real monetary terms but can equally be resource and time consuming (re: online vs. bricks and mortar).

    I whole heartedly agree, without traffic it’s all pointless. The problem is illustrated quite well by companies like Gumtree et al who still invest in traditional ad spend (tv and radio), which speaks to your point that it’s not just about PPC, SEO or even Social Media.

    I think rocks and I’m sure the time and effort yourself and the team put in will one day look like an over night success, even though I’d argue that it is successful in its own right. Keep on keeping on dude.

  4. Thanks for posting Jason. The insight and honesty from a post like this is so much more valuable than a “3 simple steps to online success” style post that looks back at a journey from a “successful” POV. Love reading about people figuring things out in the trenches – these stories should be told!

  5. Thank you for this! So honest yet inspiring!! I’m also in the beginning stages of having an online shop, it’s worth it to follow your dream, but it takes commitment & ‘balls’ ;)

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