Welcome to Curious Business

Every Friday, I post a small insight into running Curio City and/or Blue Hills Editorial Services. 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, October 24, 2014

I'm Not Dead Yet

Reading about week-to-week sales week after week is boring, I know. But this slow-motion train wreck has become perversely fascinating. October is setting all kinds of records for suckage, not least of which was my smallest paycheck in years. This week finally hit normal for the first time in a month, led by a surprise resurgence in Panther Vision caps. Maybe the mysterious curse is lifting.  

Mysteries beg for investigation. Google Analytics says I'm getting slightly fewer daily "sessions" in October than in September. Analytics reports that September's conversion rate was 1.63% -- below my 2.0% target, but not dramatically so;  October's running at 1.54% so far. September conversions averaged $55.98; October's are $48.09. 

So traffic is basically normal. Slightly fewer visitors are buying anything, and those who do are spending a little less. I can think of three possible explanations:  

  1. The website redesign is driving people away; or
  2. They don't want what I'm selling; or
  3. The quality of visitors has fallen.

I don't  think there's any question that the new design is visually superior; nobody's going "Ew!" and bailing because they don't like the look. The new layout is slightly easier to shop, not harder. One customer called to ask "How the heck do I check out?" The stylized shopping bag icon that replaced the traditional "shopping cart" isn't at all intuitive, and the "Checkout" text link that used to be above the category list is gone. So I added a "Shopping Cart/Checkout" menu item (pat on the back for figuring out how to do it without breaking anything) to make that obvious and fix the only design flaw that I can see.

It didn't help.  

The second possibility, product selection, is my main suspect. Curio City flew through the spring and summer on the wings of Bird kites. Those always fall to earth in the fall, which explains a lot; losing the expensive kite pole dropships explains the shrinking average sale all by itself. However, that doesn't explain the year-over-year decline since kites crash every fall. Ordinarily lighted caps, Switchables, golf balls, and a smattering of miscellaneous stuff rise up to fill the void. Golf balls have been inexplicably dead all year and lighted caps just came back a few days ago.  

I replenished $550 worth of Switchables. I ordered $1,000 worth of mostly new gifty novelties for Christmas from Gama-go. I replenished and expanded Lexco cigarette cases to the tune of $650; they were selling reliably despite the sanctimonious do-gooders at Google and Microsoft who won't allow ads for tobacco-related products (I can't even get around their prohibition by playing them up as marijuana accessories because they forbid advertising illegal products, too, and cannabis still qualifies). I'm going to put more than the usual number of eggs in the Metal Earth basket -- another product line that sells well during Christmas, but only during Christmas. I need to spend at least $1,000 there.

Another $1,500 worth of gifty novelties from DCI and Fred will load me up for Christmas except for a few smaller vendors. By the end of November I'll be about $6,000 in debt. That's OK if I match LY's anemic $18,000 in November-December sales...but this worst October since 2007 makes me nervous. If I can't pay off the debt Curio City will be finished.  

As for the quality of visitors...my site is supposedly mobile-friendly now. It's well known that smartphone users don't buy. Google avers that they go home and use real computers to buy the stuff they saw on their phone. Maybe. By itself mobile traffic is low-quality traffic. So has that increased?

In September, desktop users were 58%, mobile were 28%, and tablets were 14% of all visits. In October, desktop users were 57%, mobile went up to 31%, and tablets were 12%.  

Bottom line: Traffic is down a little bit. Smartphone users are up a little. The percentage of people who buy anything has fallen, and the amount that they spend is down. None of those things are drastic individually. Together, they explain October. 

It's probably a stupid mistake, but I turned my Microsoft ads back on. In the recent past I've spent $75-100 monthly there without any results. But Christmas is nearly here.... I also discounted my keyword bids by 20% for mobile users to discourage them, saving those ad dollars for more lucrative visitors. So much for having a mobile-friendly site design.  


I'm up to 204 Facebook followers. Exactly nine of them saw my last post. I was not among the lucky nine. I'm only still posting there because the posts appear on Curio City's front page. By itself, Facebook is completely worthless. For comparison, a whopping 13 people typically read my blog posts.


  1. There's no accounting for taste. You are a fine writer, honest to a fault and I learn from your business analysis. I might not see every blog post, but I read just about every one I come across.

    1. I'm pleased to number you among the few, the proud, the readers. My last Facebook post actually reached five people, not the nine that I had thought.

  2. I find Facebook just as useless as a sales/reach tool for my game business. Of my 52 followers, maybe 3-4 read my posts. I find Twitter almost as useless in terms of driving sales.

    1. It wasn't always so. Followers used to see our posts until a couple of years ago, when FB realized that its users are its product and they were giving it away. Now nobody sees our content unless we pay for that "Boost" button.

    2. A couple of "Likes" still make a difference, though: this post has reached 19 viewers, and a Share would knock it out of the park. The trick, of course, is getting Likes when nobody can see your post in the first place.


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