Introduce your business and tell us your story: How did you decide on what to sell, and how did you source your products?
We were initially a manufacturing business, importing ironmongery from overseas suppliers for our own manufacturing needs. It became a natural progression to set up an online presence. I regularly travel to India and spend time with local craftsmen working on new and exciting designs. When we first started we worked with the large city-based agents, but as time has passed we now only work directly with the original manufacturer.
How did you earn your first sales? Which channels are now generating the most traffic and sales for you?
Our first sale was through our Shopify store. I remember clearly seeing this strange email notification, it took me a couple of minutes to realise that someone had placed an order on my store. It was one of those defining moments in my life, from that point on I knew things had changed forever. We cannot ignore the likes of eBay and Amazon, they provide us with the majority of income. But there is a very big BUT!!! when someone purchases an item from eBay - they will tell there friends they got it from eBay. If you are the kind of person who desires to grow their own brand, you need to set up your own web presence. Use eBay and Amazon to generate the cash to enable you to develop your own unique brand.
Tell us about the back-end of your business. What tools and apps do you use to run your store? How do you handle shipping and fulfillment?
The kind of tools and apps you use to run your store will grow and change organically as tour store grows. For our main accounts package we use Sage50 accounts. We use Tradebox to collate sales from all our channels and download them onto our Sage package. About three years ago we took on a review company called Yotpo, when we changed to a new theme they were there with all the support needed for the remapping. We are now looking at a company called Cloud Commerce Pro, this is a single cloud based portal that handles everything (and I mean everything). The sort of company that Shopify should purchase. We use two main shipping systems, Royal Mail and Parcelforce. Royal Mail works on a average weight basis and we simply go online and enter the quantity and type of package. Parcel force is a slightly different system; we download a CSV from our accounts package detailing the customers address, then upload it to there system that generates the shipping labels and end of day manifest.
What are your top recommendations for new store owners?
Make sure your customer has a great experience, remember that if someone has a bad experience they will tell 10 people, if they have a good experience they will tell 2 people. The internet is a great leveller, you may be the kind of person who has strong opinions, but be prepared to be proven wrong time and time again. Be open minded, listen to other people, be open to change and don't be afraid to change your mind.