Introduce your business and tell us your story: How did you decide on what to sell, and how did you source your products?
Two years ago I bought my own place, and like all new home owners I had to buy furniture. Now for good or bad, probably more good, my parents are in the Interior Design business. I distinctly remember my mother telling me that I was not allowed to go to Ikea - I had to go to one of those “proper” stores and buy some nice furniture. So as a good son I went out to a few high-end stores and what I thought would be one weekend of work ended up being four weekends of showrooms, similar-looking furniture, and salespeople.
I realized that if I didn’t want to buy from Ikea, but also didn’t want to spend $10,000 on a couch, there wasn’t much in the middle to choose from. That’s when I realized there was an opportunity to sell designer furniture direct from the makers, where we cut out all the middlemen and deliver products at an affordable price to customers. It also helped my co-workers and I strong e-commerce experience so we knew how to get started. We spent 6 months visiting workshops around the world to find the right craftsmen who specialized in designer furniture. After a lot of testing, negotiating, and learning, we found workshops who have been making furniture for some of the world’s biggest designer furniture labels and started working with them to launch our own collections.
How did you earn your first sales? Which channels are now generating the most traffic and sales for you?
Our first sales actually came directly from Adwords. I have a background in digital marketing so I set up a few campaigns and set it off. Within the first week we had sold two sofas which was an encouraging sign. From there we started running some giveaways on Facebook which also drove lots of interest and that developed some good momentum. Paid search traffic is a key driver for the business. It builds brand awareness and introduces our brand to people who are in the market for furniture. Once they find us, it normally takes a few days of consideration before purchasing because furniture is a large dollar value item. We then use retargeting to stay front of mind, and when they're ready they’ll know where to find us. SEO is also a key focus and it’s really starting to take off for us. More and more we’re looking to build up organic traffic and build the business as a brand, not just an e-commerce store.
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?
Some of our favourite apps in the Shopify suite include the “Exit Popup” and “Wisepops” apps. They enable us to have conversations with our customers as they flow through the site. It's a great way to draw attention to a newsletter, which works well for us and continues to grow our email database. A strong driver for our business is Google Merchant Centre, which displays image ads in Google search results. We use “Data Feed Management” to maintain and update our product feed on autopilot. Lastly, the most important tools are those for understanding how our customers interact with the store. We analyse and segment our traffic through a combination of Google Analytics and Mixpanel. We’ve actually built an internal stock management system from scratch that integrates with Shopify’s API. Once a customer orders, our system will show the exact location of that item in our warehouse and determine the right courier to use for the item based on the size of the box and the location of the customer. Being in Australia, delivering furniture can be difficult because capital cities are quite spread out and have significant distance between them. We have about 10 different couriers we use who can deliver different items to different areas, which is why our system for assigning the right courier really helps.
What are your top recommendations for new store owners?
Retail is all about the details. That would be my piece of advice for new store owners. There are a lot of moving parts in retail, and you need to make sure to pay close attention to your numbers. Everything from making sure you make good margin, monitoring the cost of acquiring a customer, and how much stock you hold, are what differentiates average e-commerce stores from the great ones. Never be afraid to look at the details and really understand your business. Eventually, you will realize that your business is powered by 2-3 key metrics that you should always monitor. For most e-commerce stores that would be website conversion rates, repeat purchase rate, and cost for acquiring a customer.