A few lucky merchants get a flood of orders the day they
open. But for most online stores, growth is slow
and steady. In the first couple weeks, you see a trickle of visitors,
and, if you're lucky, one or two sales.
If you work hard,
six months later that trickle may have
turned into a small but consistent stream.
Even the most successful online stores grow slowly at
Male opened their online store in 1996. They were laughed
at in the press when they received only three orders in their
first two weeks. But they kept at it, and now they are the
ones laughing. They have grown
into one of the best selling stores on the Internet.
I have seen the same pattern repeated in store after store.
Growth is slow at first for everyone. The
winners are the ones
who don't give up.
So don't be discouraged if you only get a couple orders in your
first month or two. If you work hard to satisfy those customers,
they'll order from you again, plus (and this is the important part)
they'll tell their friends.
When all your customers are telling their friends about you,
your overall customer base grows exponentially, like money
at compound interest.
Growth is slow at first for two reasons. It takes a while for
shoppers to realize you are out there. And it takes a while for
people to order from a site even after they first find it. The
first time you visit a site, you may be a little reluctant to order.
You think, who are these guys? But suppose you come back a few
months later, and the site is not only still there, but seems
and more prosperous. Then you think: these guys are real.
Especially if a friend of yours ordered from the site in the
That's exactly what happens in successful stores. And the cool
thing is, the growth doesn't necessarily stop. Some of our
users have been online for almost three years, and their sales
are still growing just as fast as they were at the start.
The graph at the top of the page shows the growth in sales
for one of our users over a period of two and a half years.
There are ups and downs (due to advertising) but the general trend
is always upward.
The Internet is big. There are millions of users, and thousands of sites
competing for their attention. It takes patient effort to bend
something so big in your direction. But once it gets started, it
has the momentum of a truck. If you can get a small, solid customer base,
and keep them very happy, that and time are all you need.
Text copyright © 1999 Paul Graham. Feel free to reproduce any of this text on your own Web site, so long as you reproduce it verbatim, and include this message. For any other use, please contact the author. Yahoo! and Yahoo! Store are trademarks of Yahoo! Inc. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.