Tips on creating and improving your E-commerce website with Anna Tillotson

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On the Wild Success Podcast today, I talk with Anna Tillotson from House of Cart. She’s a super adventurous mom of three who used to be a bookkeeper. Her family motto for life is – collect memories, not possessions. In this episode, we talk all things E-commerce online and Shopify. Anna shares three tips for those who are just starting and for those who already have an established store online to improve your website and make it better.

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Web: www.houseofcart.com.com
Facebook: @houseofcart
Instagram: @houseofcart

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Web: www.lizziemoult.com
Facebook: @lizziegmoult
Instagram: @lizzie_moult

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SHOWNOTES

On the show today, I am talking with Anna Tillotson from House of Cart.  She’s a super adventurous mom of three who used to be a bookkeeper, but she loves to travel. Her family motto for life is collect memories, not possessions. And to me, this resonates so strong. However today we’re talking all things. E-commerce online and Shopify. Anna shares three tips for those who are just starting or thinking about getting online and starting their own store. For those of you who already have an established store online, she also shares a few tips to help you improve your website and make it better. So join us and take a listen. Let’s dive into today’s episode. 

Lizzie:

Hello Anna. Thank you so much for joining me on the show today. 

Anna:
Hello. Thank you for having me on board. 

Lizzie:
I’m so excited about diving into our conversation today because I know that 2020 has been one of those big years where people are moving online. So yeah. Do you want to share what it is you do and how you got to do this? 

Anna:
Okay. My name is Anna and I run an agency called House of Cart and we are Shopify design and development specialists. We only work with the Shopify platform. We do everything starting from the ground up. Building your website, getting you online, getting your business where it needs to be to get out there on the internet. On the other side of that, we also do development work. Once you’ve already got your site up and running, we do optimization, tweaks, rebuilds, getting your site looking, make it personalized and everything in between.

How did we end up here? So originally when I had my first child, I didn’t want to go back to work. I didn’t want to go back to the traditional bookkeeping in an office. I actually started a little clothing label. We were just making little shorts and stuff. We did markets for a long time back before COVID that was, five years ago now. 

Yeah, it’s doing the markets and when I actually put the brand online itself as well. I started a Shopify site to put the clothing online and that’s where I discovered that I really enjoyed doing the website. I have a really creative brain thing and I just went a bit left field and thought, what, I’m going to see if I can build websites with people quickly created a little business for myself and got my first few clients. To be honest, from there, it just snowballed really quickly from client to client. We’ve gone from a side part-time hustle to a full-time agency right now. That’s how we kind of landed into Shopify. 

Lizzie:
That’s amazing. Obviously you’re really passionate about getting people online. 

Anna:

Our main focus is generally on small startups, particularly women in business & moms in business, our main client base tends to be exactly that. Mums just starting out a business and wanting to get their product online, a woman in business, just again, having these little side hustles, not knowing really what to do or how to go about getting them online to getting their websites built up, but any small business in general as well. Yeah, really passionate about the whole process and a lot of the time it’s someone’s dream, they already work in a corporate job or they already worked in an industry that they hide and they’re just going to work through the motions every day. I must have been selling candles or t-shirts, or, products of some sort online and they just really want to step it up to the next level. I feel especially this year, the whole game plan has changed for everybody. 

With COVID and getting online, business are really reinventing themselves about what can be sold on an online store. The goalposts have moved a lot and what’s coming through for businesses is awesome. There’s some really amazing businesses and, guys and girls making some really good forward steps to not be a side hustle into them and they take it a bit further and really make an income from their business. 

Lizzie:
I love this. I just love the fact that you’re like you’re helping people create their dreams. Yeah. 

Anna:
Yep absolutely. And that’s what it’s all about. I’ve always maintained, what I do, it’s nothing that you can’t do yourself. Shopify is a really self manageable platform. Anyone can jump on and build a store on there, but we just want to offer that service to people that don’t really know. They’re not confident they’re maybe they’re time poor. We just wanted to offer an affordable solution for them to be able to do so, not everybody’s at the same level of, tech skills, some people were getting on, they don’t even use Facebook. They haven’t used Instagram, that’s new to them. Other people are completely savvy and can do it themselves but they just need assistance here and there. We get a really broad range of people jumping on there. Our biggest goal is that at the end of it, you take away and you own a website that you can really build your business. 

You can manage yourself from home and, put the work in and you can succeed. That’s kind of what we drive through to our clients. Now you’re a home business as well. Yeah. Yep. I’ve always ran out from home. I have three little children now. Originally it was one child to child in three, child’s just doing a couple of days a week and that was cool, but probably since March and COVID, everything’s just gone ballistic. We were planning to scale this year anyway and get bigger as things were rolling on. COVID really just blown everything up and Shopify and the e-commerce has just gone ballistic. The industry is huge and the amount of people we’re getting every day and every week jumping on and wanting a website built is huge. We’re now working five days from home, my partner got made redundant. He was a traditional office engineer. 

So he’s also a pretty smart guy. I’ve managed to train him up and he’s doing work for me. I have a couple of remote workers as well. And yeah, it’s the same thing. I want to be at home. I still want to be a stay at home mom, but I also want to work. I want it all. This just allows me to be home, be flexible. I can work my own hours, get things done when I need to be, but I’m still available. So for me, I’m very grateful. I’m very lucky. I have the absolute best of both worlds. Yeah. There was also a lot of our clients the same. That’s what they’re trying to achieve. They might’ve had a baby, they just don’t want to go back to work. They want to do something where they can still learn and contribute and just not be stuck away working for someone else’s business really gives you that flexibility to do that. 

So I’m very lucky. I think a lot of people that are joining the e-commerce world are hopefully can achieve that as well. 

Lizzie:
The fact that you’ve got your family, your partner working with you’re able to see your kids. Cause I know for me as well, like, I want to do school pickup. I do school drop off, do that and I want to do. 

Anna:
Absolutely. Modern technology is amazing, while we’re on school pickup, we can be on our phones and we can be on an iPad or at the skate park and I can still work and do that. I mean, yeah, I’m still half available, I’m still working, but I’m still there. You know, and that’s the biggest part. I want my children to see that, I want them to see that they don’t just have to go to uni and get a degree that they may or may not use and then go into an office and be away from their family, for 50 hours a week. It doesn’t need to be like that. I grew up with that very traditional home and it was awesome. We had everything we wanted, but yeah, my dad was hardly ever home and it’s something that’s yeah. Really important for us and my partner. 

I don’t think we quite realized how much we wanted that until. He’s been at home and the reality of what he’s actually been missing out by being in the office traditionally all those hours. Yeah, it’s made us even more motivated to make it really work with both of us doing it because you only get them for such a short time and being able to blend all that together is awesome. Yeah. 

Lizzie:
So what has been your biggest learning experience since you’ve started your business? We’ve actually had several now, so I’m happy for any of them. 

Anna:
The biggest thing I would say, and I often say this to clients as well is collaboration over competition is a big thing.A lot of people can get really caught up in what their competitors are doing. What the same t-shirt store down the road, what she’s doing, what her Instagram looks like, misconduct goes, I guess, in life as well. Just turn off that noise and just focus on your own journey and everyone that you get, just let that be your confidence. I find a lot of people get way too caught up and worrying about how they’re doing and the Instagram looks better about their business and they getting further, they’re getting more styles, that’s wasted energy, put that energy into worrying about what can I do to get my business where I want it to be, not building yourself to a level of someone else and what their goals are, worry about your goals, what your ultimate business looks like and just focus on that. 

I think you can get so caught up and it’s just so negative, just think about the positive block out the noise and just try to move forward with what you’re doing and take success from that. I think that’s the biggest thing I’ve learned along the way. 

Lizzie:
Have you done this from experience? 

Anna:
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah absolutely. Back in the day when I had global Bambino, the clothing brand, especially in clothing, any fashion industry stores, it’s really easy to look around and go, Oh, they’re doing really well. Am I not doing that well? Or what are they doing that I’m not doing? And yeah, it can just bring you down and it can put you into a funk about, should I be really doing this? Am I wasting my time? And if you really got the drive in the first place, don’t worry about it. Don’t worry about what they’re doing and just, yeah. Really push forward and worry about yourself and your own business and your own brand, and it’ll shine through, it’ll shine in the content you create and it will shine through and how you put yourself out there. People will see that and notice that, and bring each other up, not bring each other down, exposing that. 

If you’re publicly exposing that you can see that, other stuff was getting you down or your negative competitors and stuff like that yet it’ll shine through. Yeah, just, if you can avoid that little cross, that’s the best process for what I think it’s easier said than done well worth it. If you can just focus on yourself and your own wins, , 

Lizzie:

 With Shopify being an e-commerce site, what would be three tips that you would suggest to anyone who wants to have their own e-commerce site? Like what are the three things that they must have? 

Anna:
Yeah. So I think the biggest thing. If you’re a non-existent store already and you’ve got a little side hustle, you’re selling something, you’re making something. So you’re new to it. I think the three biggest tips would be is to work out your branding down, Pat, make sure you’ve got a logo and your brand colors, all ready go, something that really represents you and your brand that you’re proud of. The second thing I would say would be to do your research. I guess this is a slightly contradict people, what I said to before, but in the research phase, when you write at the beginning, make sure you cover all your angles, really get out there, look at what’s out there and find your point of difference without a point of difference, you would just one of the many. Let’s just say, you’re a clothing store and your sales phone where there’s a lot of people that sell from where it started, find out why you are really special and what your product has that no one else has. 

No matter what, the point of differences really focus on that. The third thing would be just believe in yourself and believe in your product and your brand. I feel if you’ve had enough guts to start something in the first place, you believe in it at one time. So don’t give up on that. Don’t falter when it gets hard and really just push through because I think anything’s worth the push. If you have an ultimate goal in mind, you can get there if we just keep on driving and just yet just have confidence in yourself, no matter what happens, 

Lizzie:
That’s a big one. This one applies no matter where you are in your business. Cause I think, as you said, it was, if you have enough guts to start your business, it doesn’t matter where you. Are in your journey in business and something hits the fan, COVID happens, whatever, going back to like, well, I started this thing. 

Anna:
Absolutely. And you know, that is the attitude. Often the attitude of entrepreneurialship and being an entrepreneur, you generally have that attitude, you have that real drive and passion, whatever it is you do for that reason,. And that’s why I love working with entrepreneurs because normally, when I talk to them, they have so much passion and this, I have so much drive about whatever it is that they’ve created or made or brought to sell. And yeah, I think just maintaining it all the way through and that ties with, just block it out the noise and just always have confidence and push through no matter what, . 

Lizzie:
What does everyone need to know when setting up an online store, I guess. Maybe on the flip side of that. Maybe three things, if you already happen to have a store and you’re looking at, what am I maybe doing wrong? What can I do better with three really quick tips? 

Anna:

I would say, would be making sure that your store is something to be proud of. They land on your store, you’ve got three to five seconds to capture them. That’s the deciding factor of whether I stay and go and buy your product. Making sure that your site, when you land on your site, you have a beautiful image that says exactly what you do. I click through button to shop for that product. That will be first. If you’ve got a store, these things will kind of make sense. The second thing I would say is make sure, you have a lot of social proof on your website, just having a t-shirt for sale, just a blank t-shirt on a screen is not enough. 

I want to see the person looking cool on the beach, in that t-shirt I want to see the mum will come down the road looking really cool carrying a handbag wearing that t-shirt because when I see those things, it makes me feel like I want to be like them too. That’s a deciding factor to buying. Lots of social proof, lots of reviews on your website and lots of beautiful imagery of your product in use. The third thing I would say is probably the best thing that I can suggest is again, imagery. Not just about the social proof, but invest in a photographer or you can do it yourself. Low-quality images and really bad fuzzy images, or just, stock standard images on a website. They just let you down. We see time and time again, clients will come for review and they just don’t have really great images and it doesn’t give a very professional look. 

If your t-shirt store doesn’t look as nice as John down the road on the other website where we’ve got beautiful imagery, I’m probably going to buy from John because he looks more professional, has images and Alexa, and he made me feel better than when I looked at your site. That’s the best thing I can say is make sure you’re invested in photography to really make sure your images look sharp on the website. 

Lizzie:
I think that does matter like what your business is regardless.A picture paints a 1000 words.
Anna:
Yep. They do, and less wording is better, an imagery or sell a product way more than your product description. Yeah, absolutely spend money and a bit of time just really making sure your images are professional, because it’s going to give you the edge over someone else that doesn’t have professional looking images. It’s about getting the sale over someone else. To really put yourself forward, you need to just be the best, and have the best looking side that you can possibly achieve. I love that and it can also be done on a small budget. It doesn’t have to be thousands of dollars. There’s heaps of really good how-to guides, and if I’m happy to drop some links for you guys to share when you do post the blog, but there’s heaps of tips and tricks doing really cheap photography, with Bunnings props and even with iPhones and just about being consistent. 

You have a search online and get some really good tips. It doesn’t need to cost you thousands. You can also do it DIY and make them look 10 times better than just putting a note with that. It’s really achievable. 

Lizzie:
Yeah. I’m an old school food photographer. Back in the day, I was always on the veranda taking shots of food. I move around and use natural light and then reflect light. 

Anna:
Yeah, I used to do the time, I’d get some coreflew from Bunnings, have it laid out and I’d always go out at the same time of day. I was always assigned life in the same position. So yeah, absolutely. There’s some really easy ways to make it work without breaking the budget. 

Lizzie:
Absolutely. And I love that piece of advice. Before we wrap up, one of the things you wrote over to me in your buyer, I would like to talk about because I just hit the hot. Was that your family motto, which was to collect memories, not possession. 

Anna:
Yes, absolutely. It’s a huge one for us because that’s a lot of the reason why I started house of cards so I could work from home. We could have that time now with my partner getting involved, it’s the same attitude. We just want to have more time at home. For us and our children, it’s about doing stuff and creating those memories rather than collecting the possessions, we’re running our money so that we can use them to make memories. We’re big travelers before children are big travelers and we really try to maintain that with children, although it’s a lot hotter, we’re still trying to make that happen. Yeah. It’s just, they are worth so much more than positions. You’ve got to have your basics in life, but for us, we just really strive towards, that more time traveling, doing what we do and have more freedom to be on the road and just yeah. 

Lizzie:
Creating those memories in life because it’s, yeah, it’s really what it’s all about. So good.
Anna:
We are not minimalist people, but I love a lot of theories behind it, I love, yeah. Just living that life, where do you really need it? Or is it a want or a need and yeah, just the spending on stuff that’s not needed, there’s spinning for fun. There’s spending for just having a position and I mean, I’m not going to, yeah. There’s always treats in life. Everyone has, I’m a  big fan –  I have to have the new iPhone every time and they’ll like my little earbuds that I got my birthday and stuff like that. I love all of that stuff, but yeah, in terms of what we do in our life, that’s really about creating memories, getting out and about going away and doing things being spontaneous. Yet you remember those things over, the nice leather couch that you bought that got covered and do it anyway because he has three children. 

So it can hang on. That’s already good. Anyway. Yeah. You remember those things alive, when it’s, when it gets to the end, it’s about the memories, not about the possessions. We want to do that in reverse and start that now and not just have it when we’re older, 

Lizzie:
Something for everyone who’s listening to this. Anna just shared some of the things that she loves. Like she loves her tech, right? Like this is Anna, she’s got a new like Earbuds. I don’t even know what they’re called. You’re doing and bonds and that’s her signature. Like those are the things, what’s her best self forward. And that’s different for all of us. 

Anna:
Yeah. Everyone has little things, you know? Yeah. 

Lizzie:
Yes. I love that you can share those or openly. I think, listening is like, well, what are the things that make you and celebrate those, but also, making those memories and having those like adventure family time, like that’s important too. 

Anna:
So important. It all comes back to the same as like, run your own race. Don’t worry about it because on Instagram, all those families have gone and got all these new things and they have those and they’ve got that buy and do and spend your money on what you want to do. Don’t worry about the noise of them. Just do what makes you happy? , 

Lizzie:
Thank you so much for being on the show with me too. 

Anna:
It’s been lovely to chat with you so much. I hope I can inspire anyone. That’s got any idea. They’ve got a small business. They want to get online. You know, don’t hesitate. Just just jump in, anything’s achievable and you don’t know until you try. That’s my biggest piece of advice is if you’ve got something on the go, just give it a go because there’s some extremely successful entrepreneurs out there that were just tiny ideas and then completely smashed in it. So yeah, just give it a go. Don’t hesitate. 

Lizzie:

Now everyone can find Anna’s details in the show notes for this podcast. Go and find her on Instagram, Facebook, or look at a website. If you’ve been thinking about jumping online and selling a product on Shopify. Thank you so much, Anna. You are so welcome. Thank you for your time. 

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