make money with online store
As a digital marketing company, we wanted to experiment with all aspects of online businesses and see what could be profitable. It was more of an attempt to understand what digital avenues new businesses had adopted and whether or not they had the potential for growth. That’s where the idea for Elance Mart came from.

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What is Elance Mart?

Elance Mart was an online store (officially launched on 1st February, 2018) that we ran simultaneously with Elance Digital media. We ran this store for two weeks and made over 40000 rupees in profit.
The online store started by selling pashmina shawls and Dhaka topis to customers in the Kathmandu Valley. We got the required inventory, set up Elance Mart through Facebook and received our first orders, all within a matter of days.

How did we set up Elance Mart on Facebook?

The first thing we needed so that potential customers could identify our business was a logo and a Facebook cover photo. With our brilliant graphic designer’s work, we were set to begin.

make money with online store

We uploaded photos of our products on our page and ran a Facebook ad to get potential customers to know that we’d set up shop.

Apart from that, we also invited people to like the page, and that got us around a 1000 likes in the first week.
To get the right photos, we conducted an in-house photoshoot using an iPhone and our amateur photography and modelling skills.

Our graphic designer Saru edited and manipulated the photos to add information about the prices, and Kabira, our social media manager, crafted exciting captions for the social media posts.

make money with online store

We developed a well-devised social media plan to track reach and engagement and modify our posts accordingly. One of the factors that our customers found appealing was the discount offer, as we got more inquiries for posts regarding the discounts.

One of the things that our customers found confusing, at first, were the discount tags. They would often mistake the discount tags for the price tag, and so we changed it to x percent discount, but it didn’t have the effect we were hoping it would. So we just gave before and after prices with our photo posts and that seemed to work the best among all the other posts.

make money with online store

Then We Got Down To Business…

We got our first order for a Dhaka topi for 700 rupees!!
make money with online store
This was after five days of setting up the online store and on the day of posting the photo of the Dhaka topi. That was, I believe, at that point huge encouragement for us because not only had we set up shop but also got our first customer. The customer sent us a photo back of him wearing the topi, and it was posts like these that helped us portray that we genuinely cared about customer satisfaction.
So if you want to set up something like this, you must focus on customer satisfaction.
make money with online store

How Did We Deliver The Products?

Managing the delivery aspect of the overall business was perhaps the most challenging bit. But because we were running the store as an experiment, we didn’t want to dedicate our resources to hiring any delivery staff. So when the orders started to pour in we struggled with keeping up with timely delivery.
Anish Sah shares his experience….Anish Sah - Elance Digital Media
For instance, this one time I decided to deliver one of the orders on Saturday on my way to one of my relatives while I was with my mum. Needless to say, my mum wasn’t happy with the work I was doing.”
It’s understandable, especially in Nepal, that she was slightly concerned that I was delivering the orders myself rather than getting someone to do them for me. But work is work, and without my getting fully involved with every aspect of the operation, I wouldn’t have understood the various challenges that were constantly arising and hindering the business from running smoothly.”
And our team never backed out either. Our excellent social media manager, for instance, was always on top of all the orders that we received. The order volume went way up, especially in times like Valentine’s Day, and Kabira would be on her phone constantly replying to inquiries about Elance Mart.
Our SEO manager Bijay sir was great with the deliveries, too, in that he would go to deliver one shawl and end up selling two more to the same customer. It’s just about customer satisfaction at the end of the day, and when the customers are happy they are loyal to you and become repeat customers. And that’s exactly what happened in our case.

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Where We Got the Products from

We bought all the pashmina products—which was our main product offering—in bulk from a friend who was kind enough to provide us the products on credit, and we paid him back once we had sold the products. That way we didn’t have to worry about investing a lot of money in the beginning for the products.
And it also reduced the risk factor significantly, as we had a deal with our supplier whereby we could return any unsold products to him without any additional costs. So, if you too are looking to start an online store, perhaps you have a friend who could help you out by supplying products on credit or giving them to you for discounted prices.
As for our Dhaka topis, it was an idea given to us by Saru, our graphic designer. Her mom is a highly talented seamstress and supplied us with the Dhaka topis that she had sewn herself, which we sold through Elance Mart.

Scaling up

 Though we started out selling pashmina and Dhaka, assessing the demand in the market led us to branch out to incorporating other products in the mix.
Because when we set up Elance Mart, Valentine’s Day was inching closer, we thought of selling products that would make good valentine’s presents. Our USP was that we sold products that our site auditors Shraya and Mina made themselves.
We bought material like socks, baskets, wrapping paper, fabric, fiber and chocolates, among other things. Then our super-creative auditors created sock puppets and toys, emoji pillows, and gift baskets out of these materials, and they proved to be a great hit with our customers.
make money with online store
We sold about 15 pairs of sock dolls and we couldn’t keep up with the volume of the orders we were getting; that’s how popular they quickly became. As a part of our marketing strategy, we also organized Valentine’s Day giveaways, which many people in participated in.
make money with online store

Challenges Faced

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of running Elance Mart, and any online store for that matter, is delivery. Our SEO manager handled majority of the delivery work and we could see just how exhausting it could be to deliver multiple products on the same day, most often, to customers on the opposite sides of the valley.
Because location in Kathmandu works like ‘call me when you get to the tree outside the temple’ followed by ‘take a left and you’ll see a red gate’, getting to the right house took way longer than it would have normally.
And sometimes when you got to the place and met with the customer, the bargaining would then begin, and that was after the discount had been provided and the final price had been quoted.

Final Thoughts

 These are challenges I believe that many Nepali businesses face. Despite these challenges, however, the fact that online stores are growing only goes to show that this is an area that has huge potential.
In our case, thanks to the hard work that the staff at Elance Digital Media put in day and night, we successfully earned us some happy customers. But because we were only running the store as an experiment, we didn’t invest full-time resources and were also wary of the work at Elance Mart affecting our primary business.
But because new online stores are being set up and are genuinely taking off every day, anyone who wants to get into the business should do it sooner rather than later. With reduced operation overheads, this is a business format that has great potential for profit.

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About the author

Elance Digital Media Pvt. Ltd. helps start-ups and struggling business owners leverage the power of Digital Marketing by providing best in-class trainings of all sorts.
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