An Experiment in One-Product Ecommerce

February 20th, 2007 by Chris

I just finished a new ecommerce site, Organic Compost Tumbler, that sells just one product. This type of ecommerce site has unique concerns not found in other ecommerce sites, but just because you are only selling one product does not mean you can’t be successful.

The biggest factor in one-product ecommerce I believe is item quality. To sell just one thing that one thing has to be of high quality and unique. If you sell multiple items you can get away with selling both lesser quality and higher quality items and customers will make their decision based on price or another factor. If however you’re just selling one product you’ll need to make sure that product it of the utmost quality. You also have to make sure the product is one that can sell well and provide a reasonable profit as you will have fewer sales than if you had a catalogue of 200 products or more.

So, I decided to provide a step-by-step account of what I went through to launch this site in hopes that it’ll show others the path to do the same. Now if you all go out and make sites selling the exact same thing I’ll be a sad panda, but certainly use this to inspire you to go out and find your own product.

It all started with some shopping. I am a gardener, next to Internet stuff gardening is definitely my biggest hobby. I was looking around, again, for a good compost tumbler. The problem is I could always find things wrong with practically every one I saw. Then I stumbled upon the product that I am selling and it addressed literally all the problems I had with the other competing products. I thought to myself that this was a good quality product that I could sell, especially because it fits my criteria for choosing a product for ecommerce, and just incase you forgot, here it is again:

Chris’s Ecommerce Product Selection Criteria

  • It has to be hard to find locally, or else no one will look online.
  • It shouldn’t be carried by Walmart, or any other national retail chain, or else you will not be able to compete on price.
  • It has to be durable and not prone to technical malfunction or breakage, or else you’ll deal with too many returns.
  • It should be fairly expensive, so that you can make more profit per sale.
  • It should be fairly expensive, so that people will look online for a good deal if they do find it locally.
  • It needs to have a reasonable price to shipping cost ratio. If the shipping cost of a product is too large in comparison to the product’s purchase price the customer will not feel as if he is getting a good deal.

So I did some research and found out who manufacturers the item and contact them about wholesale policies. It turns out that they dropship mostly which is great for me considering having to pay for shipping to me, and then to the customer, would hurt my margins, and the boxes are huge and I’d need to buy warehouse space for storage.

Now at this point I would need to do other things had this been my first ecommerce site. I would have to form a business if I didn’t have one already, I would have to apply for an EIN from the IRS, I would have to register with my state to accept sales tax. If I didn’t luck out with the drop shipping I would have had to open up a UPS account and setup a daily pickup. Then maybe I’d buy some shipping supplies from

However I’m already setup for all of that, so all I really needed to do was get a domain, get the site made, and have a merchant account setup.

The first step was deciding on the site. I thought Garden Compost Tumbler would be best, and I even went so far as to do buy the domain, but then I did some keyword research and discovered that the second most popular compost keyword is “organic compost” so I decided to name my site Organic Compost Tumbler so that I could target both “organic compost” and “compost tumbler” with my title. This is just another good example of why you should always do keyword research. So I bought four domains, both the “garden” version and the “organic” version, and of each I got a hyphenated and non-hyphenated version.

Next I contacted John Conde, known to many forumites as Stymiee, about doing the development. The reason I selected John was because he could provide the whole package as he is an certified developer, a merchant account reseller, and partner in a development company. So the work was done for $850, which included the merchant account setup fees. Then I also ran a $100 logo contest at GFXcontests for the logo.

If you include the domain and SSL the total cost to launch the site lands pretty solidly right on $1000.

With my profit margins I will only need 20-30 sales to makeup that cost, and after that I’ll make a nice profit. I don’t expect this site’s volume to be huge, but I do expect to earn at least 4 figures monthly off of it.

Promotion wise I plan to try something different. I will ask prominent garden bloggers if they will write an honest review of my tumbler in exchange for a free one. I’ll be more than happy to pay my wholesale cost for a tumbler to get that kind of exposure, even without considering the potential search engine benefits. Of course I also have my own garden blog that I’ll write a review on. I expect that once I do the links from my own sites, get the directory submissions done, and get reviewed by at least 5 bloggers I should get to the first page in the SERPs for my keyphrases, and eventually I hope to reach #1, though I’m sure that will take longer, perhaps a year.

I will be sure to update everyone with the progress of this site. I decided to make this project very transparent and open to let everyone see exactly how I go about doing what I do.

First update here.

12 Responses to “An Experiment in One-Product Ecommerce”

  1. Josh P  Says:

    Chris, thanks for this write up! It’s a great idea that would be great for someone to get their feet wet with if they’re trying to get in to eCommerce!

    Side note, your Why 2? link is broken:

  2. Chris  Says:

    Thanks, I completely forgot about that page.

  3. Paul  Says:

    Your already low standing in the internet marketing community will really nosedive with this one. No squeeze page, no yellow and almost no red.

    Seriously, it’s really nice to see a real product, for real people without all the hype.


  4. Nico  Says:

    And someone recently said that you never talked about your projects!

    Great post! Great way to learn about ecommerce. Keep up posted and good luck.

  5. AmbulanceBlues  Says:

    Do you register a new d/b/a for each site as well? What would be your considerations for that?

  6. AmbulanceBlues  Says:

    Great write up, BTW. I’d like to get into e-commerce, and you’ve helped lay it on the line pretty well.

    So, if your wholesaler is dropshipping them for you, then you also had to purchase no stock, right? Was there a bond or a minimum you had to lay out to the wholesaler?

  7. Chris  Says:

    No, I do not register a DBA for each site. I see sites as addresses, not specific businesses, and I always list my registered business name as the domain name owner and in the footer copyright.

    And no, I did not have to purchase any stock or start with any minimum with the manufacturer. Some may require such a thing though.

  8. Christopher  Says:

    Great post and a really nice site. I really like the logo.

    You’ve definitely got me thinking about single produce e-commerce now.

  9. Dan  Says:

    Interesting post. Didn’t expect to be reading about organic garden compost tumblers this morning but go figure.

    Question – Look at the site it doesn’t seem like it would take a lot of bespoke work to produce. What was the main reason you contracted somebody else to do it, rather than using a previous site as a template and doing it yourself. Or, of course, was this the first site like this, or was it simply a time issue?

  10. Chris  Says:

    Time, and also the backend as far more complex than the frontend. Most of the work went into order management & payment gateway integration. By hiring someone who does that type of specific work all the time it allowed the site to get done quicker. If I had tried to learn to do it, for the first time, the site probably wouldn’t have gotten launched until Summer.

  11. Dan  Says:

    Thanks, makes sense.

    I guess a cart solution like OSC is overkill for a one product site.

  12. Paul  Says:

    Thanks for the great commentary. I also like your webiste.

    Who wrote the content text for the website?

    How will you update the content text if you want to add or edit text?

    Paul in Los Angeles

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