Why Your First Few Customers are the Most Important, and How You Should Prepare

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Congratulations on launching your new Shopify store! The first few days after launching your store are some of the most exciting but challenging times in your entrepreneur journey.

It’s a great feeling to be immediately immersed into an entrepreneurial environment where you get to make all the calls, but it also means you want to do everything you can to maximize your chances of long-term success, and that responsibility rests squarely on your shoulders, and your shoulders only.

Every Shopify store is unique, but almost all of them follow a similar path in their early days after launch. After spending hours upon hours writing product descriptions, tweaking Shopify theme appearance and style themes and working hard to drive hundreds of customers to your brand new website, you just can’t seem to get anyone to buy anything.

Of course, you aren’t willing to give up just yet. Maybe your pricing isn’t optimal. Or maybe some product photography improvements are needed. The traffic you drive to your website might be high in quantity, but not in quality.

After several more rounds of revisions, you keep at it. Then, finally, you get that notification on your phone: “Shopify has a new order for $40”!

Awesome! It’s hard to describe how exciting, rewarding and exhilarating that first sale can be. After all, this is the first moment you have hard proof that your product has real market demand, and you realize that your hard work and perseverance are beginning to pay off.

You’ll definitely want to celebrate your first order, give yourself a pat on the back for getting this far.

Meanwhile, your first customer is likely having a very different experience. They came across your website, liked the product you offer, and decided to buy from you. But let’s face it: compared to the likes of Amazon, Target or Zappos with billions of dollars in brand awareness alone, you’re a nobody. Naturally, they have their doubts – are you even a real company?

From the customer’s perspective, as soon as they’ve placed that order, their emotions are likely quite different from yours – perhaps they’re looking forward to receive your product, but at the same time, they’re anxious, worried or even suspicious that they may have become a victim of fraud.

You can’t blame these customers for feeling this way. After all, you’re a brand new company with no product or company reviews, and customers will generally view your Shopify store with some skepticism. Until you start accumulating positive and genuine reviews, it will be very difficult to grow your sales to the point where you are able to make your Shopify store a sustainable and profitable small business.

If you’re a new Shopify store, where do you get positive feedback, and get out of this Catch-22? Well, the only source for genuine and authentic feedback would be your customers, and there is no way around this. And, for the feedback to be positive, you obviously have to earn it through ensuring those customers have a positive experience.

That’s why your first few customers are your best opportunity to acquire positive feedback, and you’ll have to put in 200% effort to ensure they are nothing but happy with their purchase.

Your goal is to prove these customers wrong, and pleasantly surprise them through a stellar purchasing and delivery experience which shows that you are every bit as good, if not better than, the big, established eCommerce stores.

How do we make sure that you can put your best foot forward for these first orders? The answer is thorough preparation. Don’t wait until you get the first order, because as soon as that order comes in, the clock is ticking for you to deliver the goods – both figuratively and literally. You don’t want to inform your first customer of a 4-day shipping delay because you’re waiting for some packaging materials to arrive first.

Hopefully we’ve been able to explain why your first few customers are the most important. Below are some of our practical tips on how to prepare for your first few orders, and give your customers the impression that you are a professional and established eCommerce company!

1) Prepare shipping labels and packaging supplies

First impressions are absolutely crucial, and the first thing your customer will see is how you package your shipment. Packaging matters, and in an eCommerce age, the way you package your products is going to be the first physical encounter your customers have with your company.

The most noticeable difference between a box packaged at a professional warehouse compared to one packaged using regular household supplies is the 4×6 inch shipping label.

The reason? Shipping boxes and tape that you might have at home are almost indistinguishable from those used in fulfillment centers. 4×6 inch thermal shipping labels, on the other hand, are quite unique to the shipping industry, and are not found in a regular household setting.

Perhaps you don’t think too much of it when you’re on the receiving end, but think back on the last 10 eCommerce packages you received, and you’ll realize that every single package had some kind of 4×6 inch shipping label on it.

On the other hand, nothing says “your order was packaged in someone’s basement” faster than a shipping label printed via inkjet on a sheet of letter paper folded in half, with eight pieces of transparent tape across the entire label. That’s definitely not a good first impression for your first customers.

Luckily, a thermal label printer is both affordable and compact, and is a worthy investment for any Shopify store. We first recommended the Rollo Label Printer in early 2018 to a Shopify store client we consult for, and their printer has been going non-stop without any issues after more than ten thousand orders. As of August 2020, they are on Shopify order #11575, and the printer shows no sign of wear or tear.

In addition to printing 4×6 inch shipping labels for USPS, UPS and DHL direct from Shopify, they’ve used a variety of other label sizes such as 2×4 inch labels to apply product barcodes and product data to their products, adding an extra layer of professionalism to their operations.

Rollo Label Printer – Available on Amazon.com

What about boxes, tape and packaging bubbles? We definitely recommend getting a few new boxes (in various sizes), a good quality roll of shipping tape, and some bubble wrap ready. You’ll likely get the best deals on Amazon.com or eBay. Once you get to a certain scale, we definitely recommend checking out ULINE for dedicated shipping supplies such as boxes, carton sealing tape, foam bubbles, void fill, etc.

We don’t think these other materials are as crucial as getting the thermal printer ready to go, and that’s because if you don’t have these items at home already, these items are generally available at your local Target, Wal-Mart, hardware store, or even supermarkets that you can quickly head down to if needed.

We definitely encourage re-using packaging foam and bubble wrap, as long as it is clean and consistent (don’t mix different sizes, types or shapes of bubble wrap, for example, as this can look unprofessional).

2) Prepare and configure your communication lines (email, chat, phone, etc)

For your first few customers, you want to be sure that you offer them as many ways as possible to contact you, because you want to do everything you can to ensure their satisfaction. This might include email, chat or phone support, and whatever other communication platforms your customers are most likely to prefer. Regardless of the communication platform, most importantly, you want to make sure you offer the best customer service possible, and that start with a professional appearance.

One of the best ways to offer customer service communications is via email. But there’s a big difference in formatting and appearance between a professional looking email, and the one that you receive from your friends and family.

First is the email address itself. You may be considering using your personal email address, or perhaps you signed up for a Gmail account for your new Shopify store. But an online store with a @gmail.com address definitely doesn’t sound established, and you’ll want to reconsider. Check out tutorials such as this one, which guide you with instructions on how to use your existing Gmail account and have emails sent from your new Shopify domain.

In addition to the email address itself, think carefully about the “From” name that customers will see when you send them emails. Rather than using your own personal name, you may want to consider using a from-line that your customers might immediately recognize, like “ABC Shop Support.”

In terms of email content, be sure to address the customer, write politely and professionally. You’ll also want to have an email signature that looks clean and professional. Not sure where to get started? Try out this email signature generator.

Will you set up phone support? If so, make sure you make it clear what hours you will be available to answer the phone, and be sure to follow through with the promise to be available – you never know when your next customer might call!

Also, be sure to update any voicemail recordings – a recording that says “Thank you for calling ABC company…” is much better than a personal one that says “You’ve reached Joe…leave a message” or no recording at all.

Timely and effective communication with customers is key, and you’ll want to ensure you do so in a way that looks and feels professional throughout. Especially with your first few customers, this is absolutely crucial, and you will thank yourself later for setting these communication lines up before customers start emailing and calling!

3) Have your shipping process and logistics planned out, and expect the unexpected

You’ve probably been told many times that being an entrepreneur means you have to wear lots of different hats. That’s very much true in the early stages of your Shopify store, where you start off with a big sales and marketing effort to attract your first few customers, but you must quickly transition to a operational role once these orders start to come in.

Things can start getting hectic when you suddenly have to switch gears and ship orders out and guarantee deliveries. Especially because your first few customers are the most important, it is very important that you plan out the logistics of shipping your products out before things get busy.

The first key to successfully shipping out your first few orders on time and professionally, is to be conservative with your time management. It’s easy to be overly optimistic when it comes to estimating how long it will take to get a package shipped out. Perhaps the tape roll you knew you had at home goes missing (maybe a family member took it with them), or maybe you accidentally spill some coffee on the last cardboard box you had. While it may seem straightforward, packaging a box involves many individual steps, and there are so many little things that can go wrong.

Even after you’ve finished packaging your orders, you still have to get them to the carrier. Do you know how to get to the nearest USPS drop off location? How about UPS? How much will it cost for them to pick up vs drop off? Will there be traffic on my way there? Is there ample parking where I drop off the shipments? What time is the latest drop-off time?

It can of course be helpful to know the answers to these questions beforehand by doing some simple research. Use tools such as the USPS drop off location search, or even Google Maps street view to understand where you might have to drive to so that you know beforehand what to expect.

Don’t sweat every single detail, as you will most definitely learn things as you go. But in order for you to provide your first few customers with the best possible experience, you want to put your best foot forward. You can do this by planning as much in advance as possible, and when you’re working on shipping packages out, give yourself lots of extra time and don’t cut it close with drop-off times and delivery dates, as you never know what unexpected things can ruin your plans!

4) Be patient and humble with your customers

Our final tip for the day is about being patient and humble with your customers, especially the first few customers you receive orders from. It’s of course absolutely important that you treat all customers with respect and courtesy, but for your first few customers in particular, you want to remember to be both patient and humble.

Patience is important, because even though you might be excited and anxious to complete one of your first Shopify sales ever, you don’t want this to cloud your judgment or over-promise anything to your customers, as this can lead to a negative experience for everybody involved.

For example, if one of your first customers contacts you and asks that you provide them with a discount and free overnight shipping when you know that it is not a profitable sale for you, take a step back and consider politely declining to work with them. Why? It’s far better to be patient and work with the next customer who comes along, who can work within your capabilities and cost structures, than to work with a customer who has unreasonable expectations.

You must also be humble, because it’s easy to allow your entrepreneurial confidence to mislead you into thinking you are always right, when in fact, your first intuition or assumption may very well be wrong. Remember, you are human, and you are actually new to this job as an eCommerce small business owner, so mistakes will happen.

Let’s say you’ve shipped an order to one of your first customers, who then writes in to say that they only received one of two items. Impossible, you think to yourself, I know I packed both items in the box because I did it myself!

Before you reflexively become defensive and insinuate that the customer is not telling the truth, take a moment to consider that you might be wrong. Perhaps you remembered correctly, but applied the wrong shipping label. Or perhaps you accidentally confused this customer’s order with someone else’s. Before jumping to any conclusions, politely and humbly ask the customer for some photos or do some digging on your end first for some other clues, like the total weight that was entered into the Shopify shipping label creation process.

Again, you are new to this job, so you are likely to make mistakes here and there. You’ll be forgiven much quicker if you apologize to the customer for your shipping mistake, but if you falsely accuse them of lying to you about the items received, you may very well lose the sale completely, and earn a negative product or company review, something you must avoid at all costs!

In Closing…

Launching a Shopify store is the start of an exciting journey. We know it’s hard to think ahead when you’re fixated on getting that first sale, and we get it – we’ve been there and it’s quite the milestone!

But remember that in order to set yourself up for long-term success, you’ll want to be sure that you’re consistently delivering excellent products and purchasing experience. Your first few customers are the most important, because they will be the ones that plant the seeds for social-proof and word-of-mouth marketing for your company.

If you can start off strong with your first few customers, you’ll be off to a great start.