Positive reviews for your brand can create a powerful feedback loop, encouraging others to purchase your products even if they’ve never heard of your store before.
When it comes to online shopping, it’s hard to win over the trust of customers on the first try. While they might like your products, they need to be convinced that the items are worth the money and that they won’t have a horrible experience.
85% of customers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from friends and family; these testimonials from your loyal fans can be the difference between an abandoned cart or eventual conversion.
That’s the problem Singaporean techie Tommy Ong wished to solve when he started Stamped. His Shopify app helps collect reviews and user-generated content for online businesses in order to elevate the shopping experience and boost SEO rankings at the same time.
With an average rating of 4.9 spread across more than 2,600 reviews, it’s clear that the Stamped Shopify app enjoys significant trust from the community too.
“Using Shopify proxy pages, we're able to create branded reviews pages that fits our users' themes easily,” explains Tommy.
“Integrating to Shopify's shipment API allows us to properly time our emails and achieve higher conversion emails as review requests emails are sent to customers only after they have received their products.”
Tommy’s fascination with internet businesses dates back to his early childhood days. He explains how he stumbled across the internet when he was only 11 and was enthralled by what he saw.
His innate curiosity got the better of him. Soon, he was learning how to code via online courses in order to build his own website.
This habit continued during his formative years. At the age of 25, Tommy had already started 3 businesses.
One was a creative agency where his team made custom websites and ran digital marketing campaigns on behalf of clients. Another was an enterprise resource planning SaaS startup that aimed to bring together accounts, inventory, and human resources for retail businesses.
The third was Tommy’s own ecommerce store which he managed to scale to about $20,000 in monthly recurring revenue. After his other two businesses were acquired in 2015, Tommy felt it was time to double down on ecommerce.
When exploring ways to scale his company, the enterprising founder discovered that other ecommerce entrepreneurs struggled with ways to get customers to trust their site.
“Social proof was one of the top topics discussed in forums, Facebook groups, and ecommerce blogs. Trust is a determining factor for customers to purchase from an unknown online store, and we wanted to help with that,” he outlines.
Stamped, Tommy's latest Shopify app
As he searched around for existing solutions, Tommy reveals that competing apps cost anywhere between $2,000 - 3,000 and were prohibitively hard to set up, too.
“With more than 10 years of programming and development experience, and some time to spare, I decided to create a simple app that will serve these needs,” he recalls.
Tommy programmed the first version of Stamped in just 2 days. The app sent out automated emails to customers 14 days after they received their orders, and asked for a review. The process was also very frictionless, as customers could submit the review directly inside the email without needing to be redirected to an external page.
As a test run, Tommy implemented the app in his own store and was blown away by what he saw.
“Reviews started rolling in for our online store and within a few days, we received more reviews more than we ever had for the past 12 months! With the newly added social proof on our site, we saw businesses contacting us to purchase our products in bulk!” he exclaims.
“With these great results, I wondered if this has been working great for us, could this app potentially help other businesses too who are facing the same issues as we were?”
Tommy did some more research and saw that he could make this app into a profitable product in its own right. The decision to launch on the Shopify store was a natural fit because of the considerable ecommerce pedigree of the company.
“I spent the next 2 days rebuilding the basic app we're using in-house into a minimal viable SaaS product and launched it to Shopify’s marketplace,” says Tommy.
“I was able to roll out the app fast thanks in part to the well-documented API by Shopify; it was a breeze as I didn't have to bother about payments and subscriptions since they are managed by Shopify, so I can focus on developing the product and launch it much faster than I would otherwise.”
Going from Strength to Strength
It’s only been a little over three years since Stamped hit the market, but the reviews platform is roping in some dizzying revenue.
Tommy revealed that the team cracked the $1 million revenue figure in its first full year. He declines to give me a precise figure for 2019 annual revenue, rather saying it’s in the “$7-10M” region.
He does add, however, that profit margins are above 90%. Plus, the team currently comprises only 5 people so there’s even more room to grow and build bigger, better products.
Despite these dazzling figures, Tommy says he doesn’t concern himself with revenue or sales targets. He thinks an inordinate focus on numbers creates “unnecessary stress for the team”.
“Our efforts are and will continue to be entirely focused on building awesome products that help ecommerce businesses to increase sales and conversions,” he explains.
Without divulging too much detail, he hints that the team will likely balloon in the coming months with an aggressive hiring push. The plan is to build more products and solve more problems with the addition of data experts and a foray into AI-based solutions.
“Our aim is to bring enterprise solutions that help businesses engage and retain customers [...] and most importantly pricing it affordably for businesses of all sizes,” he maintains.
Despite Tommy’s exceptionally hard work and magic touch, he is, after all, human. There have been challenges along his journey, such as ensuring sufficient cash flow and juggling the “mountains of tasks and todos” that would land on his desk almost daily.
But every challenge presents a learning opportunity, too. One of the earliest commitments was to remain lean and bootstrapped in order to avoid having to raise capital from external investors. As a result, time and resource management became a crucial skill that the team had to learn and it helped prioritize the development and business roadmap.
Growing the fledgling company was hard too, but the workaround was simply to provide the best support and response time that users had experienced before. As a result, word of the app grew to the point that Stamped was discussed in forums and groups. One-time users became loyal fans and passionate brand advocates.
To this day, there has been no focus on outbound marketing; all of Stamped’s downloads and revenue are from word-of-mouth referrals.
For those passionate about ecommerce and looking to enter the industry in the near future, Tommy offers some prescient advice.
“Never think that you can do everything yourself,” are his first words of wisdom.
“Outsource things that aren’t mission-critical and which take up too much of your time. So you can focus on the other critical aspects of your business such as building relationships with people or advocates who are happy to share your products with their peers, forging partnerships that will bring long-term growth and on things that will help take your business to the next level.”
He points to his own growth, explaining how it’s “crazy” that an app that started as an add-on for an existing Shopify app has now grown to this stage.
“It’s surreal that brands we love and which we were distributing/selling products for started to use an app that we developed. It was a market validation for us and the greatest feeling ever,” he beams.
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