1 Project Name Social Shop: Elgg Plugins and Themes Online store. HistoryIt all started with an small experiment with elgg. Our Vice-CEO and Lead Core Engineer introducedus to the world of elgg. In two months we became familiar with the platform and started our ownsocial network called Milocker. We spent days thinking about design, and learning about elggviews system and more. After 9 months of being live and active, we entered the world of themedevelopment.Milocker 360 DS was our first theme. It was extremely different from the classic themes that wereavailable at the elgg community. We released two versions: Lite and Pro. The Pro version wasavailble for twenty dollars on our pseudo-store. Such store was a small and simple page with 3themes. We had some sales but we were expecting even more. Months came by and we did notknow how to improve our small store. 8 months later, we were learning about Open Cart forfuture projects that involved digital products. So, while we were learning we decided to use someof our themes to test how the platform behaved with digital downloads. It was hard, becausethere were some problems with the configuration that did not allow downloading the productafter purchasing it.Four days later, something happened: A person downloaded some of the themes on the onlinestore. I was surprised by the fact that someone found us. The very next day, 6 more came anddownloaded more products. Then we realized that in the meta tags we had “elgg themes”. That’swhen it hit us: Let’s open an elgg store! Why Open Cart?Besides the experiment story, we used to have a simple page with some free and commercialplugins. We had some purchases from time to time but it was very messy. Also, to add anotheritem, either free or commercial, was tedious. Open Cart is very organized. We heard of thisplatform but never used before, and it has become a vital platform for our company. Elgg is good,but the online marketing plugin for it was not mature enough for our venture. If you want to startyour own elgg store venture, Open Cart is the platform to go.
2 MissionTo be an elgg store that helps users to find useful tools for their networks. Objectives Develop a site that will help users find the best tools for their networks Centralize free and commercial themes and plugins in one store Deliver support to our customers Be the best elgg store by giving free tech support and constant communication with our customersHow to start?That was our main concern. Sure we had some that came out of nowhere but we were worriedabout having not only new customers, but returning customers. After some thinking and debating,we decided that we needed to focus on customer service, advertising and free products.Customer Service “Take care of your customer, or fade away” - Rodolfo HernandezOne thing we noticed when we were involved in someone else’s elgg store venture was the lack ofCustomer Service. Right now, just selling without giving any kind of customer service or notknowing who to contact after purchasing anything is not good. No one will trust you and you willget bad reviews on internet. That’s why our main business strategy is to give customer service toall of our customers.For example we have a case we will like for you to read:Case 1Customer A bought a theme. Right after purchase, we communicated with Customer A via email,asking him if he had any problem using the theme. He did not have any, but he replied backthanking us for the good service. Few hours later he bought two of our commercial plugins, andagain we communicated with Customer A and helped set up the plugins at no extra cost.
3As you can see, our customer support got us a returning customer, and profits. If you are going tostart a venture like ours, you cannot leave your customers in the dark. You have to be in constantcommunication, even with the ones who only get free products.Case 2Customer A+ downloaded a free theme. Right after he downloaded he contacted me about how toedit some parts of the theme.We politely helped him out with that, and gave Customer A+ a free elgg consultation. The next daythat same customer bought two of our premium plugins, and told us he was very pleased with thecustomer service.Every customer is important, even the ones who only get free items. It is important to establish arelationship between customer and store. The store has to be human too. Customers love to knowif they are buying from a good or bad website. If you only care about sales and not askingcustomers about the purchase, you are going to be out of business pretty soon.Both cases presented here are for you to understand that one of the most important aspects of astore is communication with the customer. Below we are going to present a case about badcommunication with the client that we saw on another elgg store.Case 3Customer F came to the store, one of the few ones, and bought a plugin, a very expensive plugin.The store had some sort of forum and said customer was asking for help using the plugin.It took four days to get someone from the store to reply. Although the problem was solved, henever went back to such store. He was very angry because of the bad customer service.How do we know he was angry? Customer F bought several items from our store. As we alwaysdo, we communicated with him after purchase. He was pretty impressed for the level ofcommunication we handled and he told us his problem with the other elgg store.When you communicate with your customer, some people use the same template for everycustomer. Every new conversation has to be very personal and very respectful. You have to bealways open and very kind. Updates “Be Creative. Reinvent yourself everyday…” - Rodolfo HernandezUpdates falls under Customer Service. Why? Simple, updates helps your business and yourcustomers.Remember when we said ‘Opencart is the platform to go’? well, we are going to explain here why:
4 Opencart has a nice feature were you can upload updates and automatically notifies your customers that there is a new update available of their previous purchase. It is a simple but powerful feature.We set up opencart in a way that under the customer Account, purchases are saved. So, ifsomeone gets a commercial theme/plugin, the purchase will be there, safe. That helps usdistribute the updates only to the customers who bought the theme/plugin. We notify allcustomers that an update is available by email because we want to let our customers know thatthe store is active and that it has people working on it all the time.You should never charge customers for updates. Updates have to be free always. Everybody willappreciate that and will trust your store.Advertising “If you don’t talk about your store, no one will” – Rodolfo HernandezWhen someone mentions advertising, they only mention Google Adsense. Although GoogleAdsense is good, it will not lead you anywhere if you do not know how to target the rightaudience. Adsense is too general. You need to target your niche, which in this case is elgg.There is no need to pay for advertising. We are going to explain you how we did successfuladvertising.After the first month, we did not know how we were going to promote our elgg store, in fact, ourstatistics showed that we had 18 visits per day, sometimes we didn’t even get a single visit. It wasfrustrating, because we did not want to invest too much money in online advertising, because weknew it was very hard to hit our target audience. It was the first week of the second month online,and visits were in very bad shape. We wanted to increase to at least have 30 visits per day, around800 per month. It was a very hard to reach that amount of visits, not impossible.Downloads were in bad shape too, it looked like not many people knew about our elgg store. Wecouldn’t promote it on the elgg Community, nor buy advertising space there. We actually didn’thave a clue about advertising our store, until one day, I remembered this conference we attendedto.It was a conference about social networks and advertising for companies that took place in ourcity. We were actually bored and disappointed after the conference, because we were expectingsomething else. It was a girl from Spain who was talking about promoting companies on Facebookand Twitter. She was talking about being active, make special promotions for customers, etc.During the conference I thought that was worthless because we were developing social networks,not using social networks as a way to advertise ourselves.I started remembering everything she said about using social networks in our benefit. It took methree days to come up with our advertising campaign, which I called ‘Social Campaign’.
5Such campaign involved three steps: 1. Create Social Profiles (Facebook, Twitter, Milocker) 2. Update everyday our Social Profiles 3. Spread the word Social Profiles CreationOur profiles on Facebook and Twitter were already created. So, we went ahead and createdanother profile on our social network, Milocker. Before you start your own elgg store venture, youHAVE to create your social profiles. Those are important tools for promoting anything you want. Updating your Social ProfilesIt is extremely important to update your social profiles so that people know you are active. Notonly that, you could use them to promote any new theme or plugin relesead on the store. Thebest social network to promote plugins/themes is Twitter. With twitter you can reach your nichefaster than in any other social network. By using hashtags you can reach the right target. We usedthe hashtag #elgg on every status update on Twitter. It increased our daily visits from 1-2 to 90visits per day after two months.When we update our social profiles, we are careful in the amount of updates. We don’t want tospam our fans/followers.. Spread the WordWrite blogs about your store themes/plugins. Notes about it. Talk about your store on your ownwebsite. Write press releases on your website. Send newsletters to your current customers.Improve SEO tags, get followers on twitter, more fans on Facebook. Anything that help your storeto increase daily visits.Free Products “Give Something Back” – Sam WaltonDon’t try to sell everything. You might think that by doing that, your profits will go up. Well, that’snot always the case. We offer free themes and plugins at our store. For every commercial themewe develop, we release two free themes. Same goes for plugins. No, we are not crazy. Freeproducts are what we call ‘la carnada’. Besides advertising our products, we needed something tokeep customers coming back to our store. Not only that, we needed something that would attractpeople to enter our store. So we decided to put some free products in our store. We have around
625 free themes available, all are elegant and professional. Your free products need to be good, nota slim version of some other thing. Customers just hate that. Full working free themes or pluginscould earn you money. How? Read below the following case:Xuum CaseCustomer B downloaded Xuum Theme for elgg 1.7 from our elgg store. He was impressed by thequality of the work done, and more impressed because it was a free theme. However he wantedto change colors and change the views that came with the theme. Right away he contacted us andgave us the job. In about an hour we were done with the customization of the theme and he paidfor that. He was very happy with the work and we established a long term developmentrelationship, and all thanks to a free theme.As you can see on Xuum case, free products can increase your profits. It sounds like a crazy idea,but it works.Conclusion “Keep moving forward, never stop believing in yourself” – Rodolfo HernandezIf you are reading this, it means you know that having an online store requires more than justuploading your digital products. It takes a lot of hard work to keep it up and running. You can run asuccessful elgg store, if you understand that customer will come only because you have the store.You have to grab them and take them to your store.Customer service is vital. There has to some mean of communication between you and yourcustomers.It is hard to build your brand, not impossible. If you follow the advices we discussed about on theAdvertising section, building your brand will get an easier task to do. Keep in mind that you haveto use a good name for your store as well as a good domain name or URL for your store.Unfortunately we did not choose a domain name. We developed and launched our store under asub folder (www.swsocialweb.com/shop) It seems like people like it, but if you are going to startyour own elgg store, you shouldn’t do that. We can’t change our domain anymore, because it willhurt our SEO. So, before you open, you should be aware that once you choose a name and adomain, it will be there forever. It sounds a little bit harsh, but it is true. We are telling you this sothat you don’t make the same mistakes we did. Also, do not open your site on a domain like this:store.store.com It is not an attractive URL and people will be confused by the name.We hope you enjoy reading our study case and follow our advices in case you want to open anonline elgg store.