How to forecast startup DTC eCommerce sales and costs?

You know what to sell, the site is being setup or you’re already trading.

But how much revenue will your Direct To Consumer (DTC) eCommerce brand do and what will your expenses be?

Excel is demanding answers, and your pulling more figures out of the air than Trump!

Sound familiar?

You’re not a lone. To make things worse it’s the most important thing you’ll do in your eCommerce business.

However, to create an accurate forecast you need previous sales data.

If you’re a start up, you don’t have that.

Bugger.

Start up DTC brands need to take a different approach to forecasting

Ideally you’d know your eCommerce conversion rate and how many visitors you can get with all your marketing activity (you have a marketing plan right, course you do).

However, until you start selling you won’t know these figures, and averages, in this case, are about as useful as a drunk bogan at an economics convention. Entertaining but ultimately a distraction.

Every site performs very differently.

You’ve told me all the things I can’t do, what is the answer?

All smart DTC eCommerce sites buy and hold stock so they have higher margins and quick delivery times.

If you’re drop shipping I suggest you pay an online guru who works from a hammock far to much money to help you and find out it doesn’t work. See you in 6 months.

Anyway, you have or need to commit to certain amount of stock. The more stock you buy the greater the opportunity for sales.

Buuuuuut the more stock you buy the greater the risk.

Time to put on the big girl/boy pants and commit some cash. Otherwise this thing will never work.

Take your stock cost amount (what you paid for it), lets just says it’s $10,000AUD (At Boom Ecommerce it’s always AUD, because we’re about helping Aussie Ecommerce stores).

Work out how much you plan to sell that stock for. Lets say your gross margin is 50% your retail value is $20,000AUD.

You can only sell the stock you have, so until you order more, your revenue will be $20,000AUD.

Now split that into months.

The amount of months will be depend on how aggressive your marketing is.

If your approach is “I’ll build my site and they will come”, then forecast those sales to be over 120 months or 10 years. Because unless you get so lucky that you should buy a lottery ticket, you won’t be selling much anytime soon.

Not sure where to advertise? Watch this Youtube video on “Where to advertise your eCommerce business in Australia” (That’s me in the video, hi Mum!).

Back to the forecasting.

You should now have sales by month for the stock you have, but what are your other major costs?

  • Advertising
  • Technology fees (Shopify, Xero etc)
  • Staff or warehouse fees
  • GST and other super fun taxes
  • Usual business costs

These will vary on your setup.

How much you spend on advertising will depend on your Gross Margin and how aggressive you want to be.

After 3 months of trading you’ll have some data to work with that will make for better forecasts.

If you’re not sure of any of the figures (start-up eCommerce costs or % of marketing spend to revenue) or terminology i.e. Gross Margin, how much you’ll need to get your DTC eCommerce business started, signup for the Boom Ecommerce Training course. It has everything you need to know.

Advanced Tip, How to track instore sales from social ads

If you work in, or run, a retail business that has an eCommerce and physical retail stores, this tip is for you.

You can track sales in stores after customers saw Facebook and Instagram ads.

Yep!

As long as the person in store asks for their email address (so they can email the receipt to the customer) then you can connect this to Facebook Ads Manager.

You can then generate a report in Facebook Ad Manager to show sales in stores.

It’s amazing.

I’ve seen 25% of in store sales be “influenced” by Facebook and Instagram ads.

To set this up, you need a service by a company called Yrecipts. They connect your in store tills to Facebook Ad Manager.

Your tills have to be PC based, so they can install a print driver on them.

Find out more here…

https://www.yreceipts.com/#live_purchase_data

What not to do in eCommerce

DON’T (repeat do not) send promotional emails every day to every email address you’ve ever collected.

Not matter who says it’s “best practice” to send emails everyday.

That is the definition of spamming people.

Only drongos do that.

Apart from the fact it’s annoying, customers will ignore them, your open rate will go down, and your email service provider (ESP, aka Mailchimp, Klaviyo etc) will start marking you as an untrusted sender and your emails will be less likely to get to your customers inbox.

If you’re not making enough sales, address the root problem, don’t spam the good people of S’traya.

How to advertise to previous customer with Insta

It’s easy to forget about your previous customers in the never ending chase for new ones.

Don’t!

As long as you have more than 100 customers you can advertise just to them on Insta, or Facey in Australia.

You’ll need either…

  1. 100 email addresses of customers
  2. A page that only customers have seen
    (i.e. purchase confirmation page)

Using either of these, you can create something called a “Custom Audience”. There are many great guides online on how to do this. Below is a good example.

AdExpresso guide to Custom Audiences

However, there are a few things that could be gotchas.

If you’re using email addresses, 100 have to match email addresses users login to Facey or Insta with. You really need 150 to be safe.

Planning on using option 2, targeting people who viewed the checkout confirmation page, the Facebook Pixel will need to be installed on your site.

If that sound complicated, you’ll need a bit of help from an expert.

Need a Facebook marketing expert, contact us. We’d be happy to put you in touch with someone based in Australia.

Boom doesn’t implement these, only train non technical Australians on how to get the best out of your store. Sometimes that means getting the experts in!

Forecasting sales accurately is ESSENTIAL in eCommerce

You want to sell as much as you can.

Sell too much, you’ll run out of stock.

Run out of stock, no cash flow.

Bad

Sell too little, your cash will be tied up in stock.

Bad

The most important activity in any eCommerce business in getting your sales forecast right.

It dicates how much stock to buy and when.

How much you can spend on adverting.

Who you can hire.

The list goes on.

Don’t skip it or half arse it.

Dedicate time to getting it right.

Your future self will thank you.

What’s a good eCommerce email open rate?

You’re using email marketing for your Aussie eCommerce store aren’t you? Of course you are.

However, you want to know how you compare to other stores.

A good indication you’re emails are the right message for your customers is if your open rate is over 20%

I hate giving generic figures, because there are a lot of factors that contribute to it, list size, age and email software you use.

But as a finger in the wind comparison figure, this is a good bench mark.

If yours is lower, sign up for Boom Ecommerce tips to improve this and much much more in you Aussie eCommerce store.

Should I have a long returns period for my eCommerce store?

No.

Even though lots of other eCommerce businesses do (free 100 day trial) you don’t want to.

Just because other eCommerce sites do it, doesn’t mean you should.

Having long returns periods drastically increases the returns you get.

Every return reduces your profit (bad).

As eCommerce businesses, we should offer returns (legally and morally), but promoting long returns periods attracts customers who are more likely to return orders.

It’s not unheard for sites to get returns of 20% – 40%.

Take that directly off your revenue and it really impacts your hard-earned profits.

Don’t do it.

Keep your returns period short and make it easy to exchange or take store credit.

You don’t just want growth from Facey and Insta Ads…

Most people reading this will be getting help with Facebook and Instagram Ads. On the surface you want sales to explode.

Explosions are exciting.

However, what you really need is sustained growth or results.

Facebook and Instagram can struggle with this due to the way it’s algorithm works.

The best thing you can ask of your Facebook and Instagram ad person is consistent results.

A consistent Return On Ad Spend (ROAS), or Cost Per Acquisition (CPA).

Consistency allows you to forecast sales and stock better.

Consistency builds solid businesses that consistency generates returns for owners.

Challenge your Facebook and Instagram person for consistent results.

If they can’t it’s time to move on.

Quick way to increase eCommerce conversion rate, but I wouldn’t do it…

Put everything on sale, the bigger the discount the greater increase in conversion rate.

It works every time.

There is a problem doing that though.

It will kill your gross profit (profit after cost of paying for your product) which will mean less profit and most likely less cash in the bank.

If you need to clear stock quickly to pay for new stock or something else important (not hiring a Lamborghini to pretend you’re doing well) then discounting for a short period is the way to go.

However, to build a truly great Aussie eCommerce business you need to keep gross margin high by finding other ways to sell your product without regular discounting.

Save money and speed up your eCommerce site…

Removing unneeded apps and plugins.

If your website is built on a eCommerce platform like Shopify, or WooCommerce, it’s likely you have installed lots of “apps” or “plugins” (an example of a plugin is Kit or Yotpo reviews).

Plugins give your site more feature, but often have a monthly charge and add additional code to your site, which slows it down.

Slow sites are not only frustrating, but they don’t rank well in Google search results and often stop customers buying from you.

Login to your eCommerce site and check you’re using every plugin you have installed.

Removing unused plugins will speed up your site, get you better SEO results, save you money and increase your bottom line.