Welcome to Curious Business

Every Friday, I post a small insight into running Curio City. My most recent posts are directly below. You can also start with the first post, or use the subject labels to the right to home in on particular topics. Feel free to comment on anything that interests you.
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Friday, September 19, 2014

It's a Wrap! (Eventually)





Now that I'm using a mobile-friendly "responsive" theme, I'm courting smartphone users instead of trying to deflect their clicks. Yes, mobile shoppers are still of much lower quality than desktop, laptop, and even tablet users. People seldom buy anything on the telephone unless they do it the old-fashioned voice way. But the mobile market segment is growing too quickly to ignore and Google is bullish on mobile, so one must fall in line.

Therefore it is time, once again, to reconsider giftwrapping. 

When one clicks (or taps) the Add to Cart button of a product that has options, Sunshop opens the product detail page instead of putting the item in the shopping cart. Almost all of my products have options, and most of those are giftwrap choices. Real computer users figure this out quickly enough, but it's less obvious on a phone. You don't want to confuse somebody who just decided to make a purchase...especially not the easily distracted and impatient mobile shoppers. They're too likely to leave when the Add to Cart button doesn't add to cart. 

I'd be OK with some of them dropping away if more than one person in a thousand ever bought giftwrapping, but that extra screen just inconveniences the 99.9% of my customers who take the default "No giftwrapping" option. 

I like giftwrapping because it's pure profit that goes directly into my pocket and pads my paychecks by $100-120 per year. Earning $3 in a few minutes blows away my usual $3 per hour pittance. I dislike giftwrapping because it only ever sells during the Christmas season, when I can least spare the extra order processing time.

Now that we're right on the verge of that season, I've decided to keep the giftwrap option through one more Christmas before I kill it.     
       
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Business remains breathtakingly bad, as next week's numbers will show. This week is going to be the second-worst of the year.

Friday, September 12, 2014

If You Change It, They Might Leave





I had hoped that Curio City's big makeover would quickly bring a noticeable pickup in business -- in fact, with Christmas breathing down my neck, I was kind of counting on it. Instead this month's sales are running nearly 50% behind LY and beating the stuffing out of my YTD gain. To add more injury to injury, I just had to authorize a $95 return. I'm very likely going to have to carry a credit card balance again this month...which means that I have negative money just when I need to drop my Christmas orders.

Spam, however, is booming. The krakenenterprises.com email address that I get through GoDaddy suddenly started getting buried under 30-40 junk messages a day a couple of weeks ago. Virtually all of them are from the same sender (who puts serial numbers in the subject line). I've had this address for 10 years and don't want GoDaddy to go nuclear on it, so I'm just putting up with it until their heuristics catch up.

It pisses me off, though. Every time I hear Outlook's email chime, I check to see if I have a new order. In two days this week I had 68 spams without a single order.

You know what else pisses me off? Many of my customers never get email from Curio City, even when I'm replying to a contact that they initiated. I anybody has ever sent spam from the IP address of my shared server -- and they have -- then I am forever blackballed by some email services. Gmail moves my messages to a "commercial senders" folder that nobody ever checks. Needless to say, Curio City has never spammed anybody. Even my email newsletter is an opt-in list with just a couple of hundred members, and I don't think I've sent two newsletters all year.

Some Russian scammer can hammer my inbox 40 times a day while I can't send legitimate mail to actual customers. Small businesses face all kinds of hurdles. Some of them are so stupid you just want to throw in the towel.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Summer Numbers





August was another decent month. It might have been an excellent month had I not slammed on the brakes for a technology upgrade this week. Excel says that total income beat LY by $700+, whereas Quickbooks only recognizes $508, but it's a win either way. The numbers speak for themselves. 

August

Total income: +14.7%
Total COGS: +9.4%
Payroll: +21.8%
Marketing: +24.5%
Net Income (Profit): +499.6% (+$76)

Year to Date

Total income: +14.1%
Total COGS: +49%
Payroll: -33%
Marketing: +14%
Net Income (Profit): +46.6% (+$4,327)

Sales targets start to get tough next week. Christmas season starts in a month and there's still no cash in the till for new products.

The big news for August, of course, is Curio City's makeover. It took longer than I expected. I paid for the upgrade and turned off my advertising on Monday. The job wasn't completed until late on Wednesday. I've had only three sales all week, but one of them was substantial, so I didn't get slaughtered. I only lit my advertising up again last night. A test transaction went through without a hitch today, but I can't relax until I get my first real sale through the new website. Right now the crickets sound pretty loud.

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