I met Stacy and JD Shipman while promoting local marketing at the Weston, MO Chamber of Commerce. Might seem old school to develop a slide deck and speak to groups, like a chamber of commerce, but there's something I've learned about business, "Sell yourself before you sell anything else." So, I would say, speaking at a Chamber of Commerce is a unique opportunity to sell yourself and I wouldn't pass them up or any other opportunity like that in a lifetime.
When I met Stacy and JD, they had just purchased an 800 square foot retail store in Weston, MO. It was a cute little shop on Main Street called The Town Mouse. Since the town of Weston began promoting itself as a destination in the 70's, The Town Mouse has grown to become a well-known gift shop / boutique with all the Weston charm and character you've come to know and expect - if you've been there. Stacy and JD had the dream and taking The Town Mouse to the next level and they entrusted 5 Star Net to help.
Together, an extensive plan with timeline and milestones was developed to create a new logo and new website on a new domain name. Eventually, we'd go full-blown ECommerce, so let's not focus on that objective now, just know and plan for it down the road. Also needed are Google Apps setup on that domain, content and copy written, and website photography must be captured/gathered.
Stacy and JD were committed from the beginning. Within the first month, they had worked with 99designs and received their new logo set. Nice work Stacy, JD and 99Designs!!
While Stacy and JD worked on the logo, I acquired WestonTownMouse.com. I thought it was the best domain available and secured it within a few minutes of looking. It includes the name of the town and the name of the business, so anyone searching should not have any trouble figuring out which Town Mouse we are. There are several out there. There's even one in Australia which is a restaurant. Modern day local marketing can be tricky.
Once the logo and domain were selected, we stuck with the plan to begin collecting information/content for the website. We wanted to start with a simple site which promoted the store, location, hours, history, info about the local town, etc. Also, the site needed to work on all types of devices - responsive design. As we met and discussed progress, I could tell Stacy and JD wanted to move faster and wanted the online store faster than I anticipated. I could tell because in May 2014, Stacy and JC introduced me to Harrison and Tyler - their two sons. They were going to help us.
There are many reasonable platforms for small ECommerce retailers - Yahoo Stores, Squarespace, Shopify and many others. I look at my customer's requirements when I choose a platform for them. How many products/SKUs are they planning to sell? Do they have any specific needs? What kinds of faceted search/navigation are required? Special payment types? What kind of customer account needs setup? Email marketing needs? How techie are they? Many business owners do not know how many different ways ECommerce transactions take place on the Internet. For CamoChic.com, a Yahoo Store was a better fit. CactusCreek runs on Shopify. Stacy and JD needed something simple to use so they could focus on adding new products and integrating shop and online inventories, so I selected SquareSpace.
During our first meeting, JD asked about product photography. I asked about the relative size of all the products they sell. He said they are usually small items, but they have big pillows and some apparel. I advised them to get a simple light tent to use with their Canon 50D DSLR camera. JD bought the light tent, and began shooting all the products in the store. Stacy and her office staff began writing copy for each product and her kids helped organize all the information in Google Drive. The teamwork was incredible. The Shipman family worked together in ways I could only wish some corporations I've worked with would do. Within a month, they had about one hundred products ready.
Before everything was ready to turn on, the social media accounts, which were captured before the domain was purchased, needed to be setup. I've heard horror stories of people having their social media accounts held for ransom if they do not plan well and obtain them first using a temporary email account. I used firstname.lastname@example.org. With all the new logo assets from 99 Designs, it was simple and easy to setup and hook up auto-posting with SquareSpace.com.
Turning on the final Squarespace ECommerce engine took a lot of partner setup and patience. Square is the only payment service that's offered and they hold my client's money for seven days before releasing it. That's got to be the worst terms - ever. SquareSpace and Square - please fix this! Ship Station was another partner that we needed to setup and configure. All products in SquareSpace need to have weight parameters or your customers cannot checkout. Customers also go to SquareSpace.com to checkout, so if you want your customer experience to include customers staying on your domain, SquareSpace is not for you. For that matter, Yahoo is not for you either.
Here's the final site. Check out the Weston Town Mouse.