What’s my (Internet) strategy?

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Let me start off by alluding to some really zoidal puns involving tetchy and techy.

(silent, propeller-head guffaws.)

Okay, now that’s out of the way, let’s get down to brass tacks.

My “Internet strategy” for Needlepoint Land was initially based on a let’s-see-what-flies content model. But behind it all, I always thought of this strategy as unfolding in 3 stages.

First, I started this blog. The idea here was to maintain a presence in the needlepoint world, even though I no longer worked at a B&M needlepoint store.

So I wrote 353 posts over the space of two years, and built a large and loyal readership that is a privilege for me to have. I also produced needlepoint movies, some featuring animated crabs, and several needlepoint tutorials.

During this time, it was my intent to one day have my own brick and mortar needlepoint store.

This was easier said than done. Not so much in terms of the money side of it (although it does take a considerable investment to start up a needlepoint shop), but finding the right location was a major undertaking.

There was always something not quite right about the potential sites I scoped out: bad parking, bad neighbors, bad landlords, rent too high, etc.

Two months ago I finally found a perfect B&M spot. At that point, I was ready to move to Stage 2 of my online strategy, as my blog evolved to being about recounting the experience of starting up a B&M needlepoint store from the ground up.

After experimenting with a new online shopping service (this was during their beta period), I decided that it would better serve the interests of Needlepoint Land to instead have an online catalog that might lead to phone in orders to the store. I wasn’t comfortable with a number of things that were out of my direct control at this online mall, which of course is the price you pay for the lure of potential torrents of traffic.

And so I launched an online catalog.

The idea of this site was to find a WordPress theme that was explicitly geared to rendering large images on a PC so that I could display my store’s catalog. I also wanted a theme that looked cool on cell or smartphones, as well as tablets.

Plus I wanted to experiment with different ways to navigate the Needlepoint Land catalog via images, as much as is technically feasible.

In addition, I used this theme to experiment with searching the catalog via keywords (you can see this by typing the word “sports” in the search box). There are limitations, however, to how far you can take this.  In WordPress.com, you cannot change the underlying HTML, or use Javascript, or search Categories or Tags, so there are some clear limits as to what can be achieved.

In the next few months, I shall assess the traffic level that is generated on the new site. If it is paltry, or, more importantly, if the actual needlepoint business I generate through this site is insufficient to cover the costs of a full-blown online estore, then needlepointlandstore.wordpress.com shall remain strictly an online catalog.

Of course I can have a lot of fun asking the tech team at Needlepoint Land to spruce up the catalog via a technology called CSS, but basically it will only have a shopping cart if I port it to a self hosted WP site.

This of course is expensive, but, again, if phone in orders (and I have not yet installed an 800 number) suggest the investment would pay off, then I shall do it.

The question behind this really is this: is needlepoint a viable online business? Does it really pay for itself? What does the business model look like?

I am not talking about eBay or Amazon style needlepoint eCommerce. I am talking about high end, quality, hand painted needlepoint canvases that are offered for sale on a self hosted, custom full-fledged eCommerce site (not Shopify, et al.).

Is needlepoint the sort of merchandise that people might buy on the Internet in sufficient quantities for such an online site to be profitable, or, at the very, not lose money? And if there are already enough mega sites that occupy this space, is there really room for a small fry entrant like Needlepoint Land to compete successfully?

Based on my prior experience in stores where I have worked, I must confess that I do have a few doubts on that score.

However, I hope to be pleasantly surprised by Needlepointlandstore.com.

If it performs like an All-Star, then I would certainly welcome any online business that might supplement the traditional slow summer season in Fla.

If not, c’est la vie.

Well, there you have it.

And now it’s time to go meet some customers who made an appointment to meet me at the shop. And I may be testing my new credit card terminal for the first time.

Wish me luck!!!

 

© Erin McGrath and Needlepointland.com, 2012 – 2016

Img from DissertationHelpOnline

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About Erin

Owner of Needlepoint Land, LLC. Professional in the field for more than 15 years, during which I have managed and/or worked with various high-end needlepoint shops. I enjoy teaching both beginners and advanced stitchers, and have created numerous stitch guides, with speciality thread selections, for in-store customers and private clients. I maintain contact with an extensive network of needlepoint vendors, custom artists, and, most importantly, reliable, high-quality finishers. I look forward to hearing your comments on my blog!

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