Charmaine Stokman was a digital marketing executive in the Netherlands before she quit her job to travel around the world with her husband, Hamsa. She finances their trips by running an online e-commerce business, selling fitness pants. Because they are always on the move, they can only spend 1-2 hours per day checking the store, researching trends, importing & customizing products, and fulfilling orders from AliExpress.
Charmaine notes, “Before taking our trips, I was working quite hard to set up and automate the store. I learned a lot from Tony of Upinus and some of my friends. Tony is a smart and thoughtful e-commerce expert who invented a powerful tool, which helped me save a lot of time for inventory and have more time to grow my sales.”
“My advice to everyone who wants to start building their own e-commerce business is to find as niche a product as possible,” Charmaine notes.
To find a suitable product, she started to write down everything she saw in her daily life - anything that people could not live without. Then she narrowed it down by checking 2 things: popularity on Google Trends and how many other shops sell the same products, using Google Search. Charmaine came up with fitness pants because there had been a stable upward trend in demand for fitness pants over the year, according to Google Trends. Moreover, many “it girls,” like Kendall and Kylie Jenner and Gigi Hagid, promote fitness pants, so she had a better chance to be successful with this product.
Shopify, with its associated app market, is a very powerful tool to help make any online business accessible. Charmaine used a 14-day trial to set up the shop’s theme, choose and import products using Upinus, and research marketing and sales techniques
“Everything is comfortable, like dragging and dropping. I tried to make everything simple from the beginning, so that I could start very fast and make changes quickly as needed.”
The Shopify article
50 Ways to Make Your First Sale
gives Charmaine a lot of ideas about how to drive traffic to her store.
In addition to Instagram, a channel that is vital for any fashion-related product, she also uses Pinterest and email marketing. She followed many celebrities and found beautiful images of them wearing fitness pants, posting them on Pinterest and Instagram. She also wrote articles and sent newsletters with the coupon to her email subscribers. Apps like Happy Email allowed her to send automated emails.
She retargeted her website’s visitors with Facebook ads, offering them a limited time discount.
“Customer service will be important when start trading from Aliexpress, because many customers will contact you due to long waiting times,” Charmaine says. E-Packet delivery allows her to track shipments and provide information about them to her customers. She and her husband allocate much of their working time to customer service. She uses the mobile app Tawk.to to be notified instantly of customer questions and to respond to them.
Charmaine is always looking to boost her sales without taking on huge costs, so she established a referral program. “It is a very cheap and powerful marketing tactic which boosts your sales, satisfies your customers, and builds your brand.” She receives about 10 orders per day just through referrals.
After 4 months of hard work setting up, optimizing, and automating her store, Charmaine could start her trips to Asia, where she would stay for 3 months before going back to the Netherlands. Her store now makes about $20,000 in revenue per month from 450 customers, without much time or effort.
Looking back at her experience, Charmaine offers two pieces of advice that were crucial for her success. The first is to do thorough product research. It will affect your profits, your marketing strategy, and also your scale. Research the product carefully before you establish a store. If you don’t know whether your customers like your product, reconsider it.
Secondly, work quickly and be persistent. E-commerce is not for people who are not hard-working and self-motivated. In the beginning, things can be difficult. But if you remain persistent, you will soon be reaping long-term rewards. Charmaine recommends, “Upinus is a must-have app for Internet Retailers because it saved 70% of the time I would have had, allowing me to travel around the world while making money.”