I took my plunge into the Shopify space today. I was introduced to someone who wants to start a line of clothing and wanted to use the platform to sell her wares. I don’t have much experience with online marketplaces, other than eBay and Craigslist sporadically over the years. I had put together some stuff on CafePress years ago, mainly as a way to get a shirt made for myself, but that went dormant a long time ago. Most recently I setup a prototype storefront using WooCommerce and Printful as an experiment for a crypto project, but I haven’t done anything with it since setting it up.
The technical side of all these platforms seems relatively straightforward. It’s really actually pretty simple. The exercise instead becomes one of branding, marketing, and logistics. The just-in-time distributor models from Printful and other integrators makes the barrier to entry so low that literally anyone can do it. It just takes the time and the will to do it.
I’ve been in sales my entire life, but I hate selling, and have this mental block against the type of soul-sucking standard fare that goes along with promotions these days. It’s like the old Bill Hicks routine: “Anyone here work in marketing? Yes? Go kill yourself. Seriously.” I suppose though that to be successful these days we’ve all become brands and have to manage our online identities. In the past we may have called them ‘personas’, but now it’s all about branding. I really surprised myself on the phone with this young woman today, telling her to imagine her brand as a person, literally to imagine her brand as a person, whether it was herself or an idealised version of herself: twenty something, college-educated, married, earning x-dollars a year and driving a Mercedes. Find her voice and make sure every product fit that story. Was trying to describe what the splash page on the storefront should do and told her to find some pictures that tell the story of her brand. Twenty year old me would have thrown up in his mouth if he had said it with a straight face.
Going back to Shopify for another moment; it only took a few minutes to setup a partner account and link to the existing storefront. Another minute or two and I had my own development site up and running to play around with. Anyone who is familiar with WordPress shouldn’t have a bit of a problem navigating around Shopify’s presentation and theme options. The Liquid templating language was actually familiar to me from my work with Nationbuilder — I had no idea it was originally developed by Shopify.