Introduce your business and tell us your story: How did you decide on what to sell, and how did you source your products?
We've actually been doing this for a long time (since 2000). It's just that prior to Shopify our online presence was fairly ordinary. People had to hunt for a while to find what we were selling. We now use a very basic, clean and simple theme where people know what we do within a second of arriving on our page. We try to meet lots of price points and provide only quality equipment. For example we don't sell semiconductor-based breath alcohol testers because we know that fuel cell based breath alcohol testers work so much better. We have a range of local and international suppliers.
How did you earn your first sales? Which channels are now generating the most traffic and sales for you?
We were actually providing drug testing services in another part of our business and had customers ask us to provide drug and alcohol testing equipment to provide to their staff. We then decided to call that new part of the business exactly what we do - it's simple - there's 0% confusion for anyone. It also keeps us on track (we aren't going to start selling shoes for example).
We have two distinct sales channels; individuals who buy directly online, and larger corporate customers who research online and contact us directly. The corporate customers are the most lucrative (larger orders) but we have to maintain full-time staff, a warehouse etc to support this channel. Both channels are important, but the corporate channel generates the most sales. This makes our real-store presence extremely important and sets us apart from competitors (which includes home businesses and even one run out of the back of a laundromat).
We can control the storage conditions (and quality of our equipment) in our large cold-room and having excellent logistics management helps to create an excellent experience for customers in both channels.
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?
We have a variety of apps installed, primarily focused upon visibility and making things easy for our visitors; we like Fraud Filter, Facebook Store, Google Shopping, Shopify Order Printer and Quantity Breaks (plus some other inventory management integration apps). We handle these in-house currently, however our markets are expanding. Our store is currently focused at Australia only, however due to quite a lot of international interest we are now looking for international partners. We think it will be more cost effective to establish silo partnerships internationally to service overseas customers.
What are your top recommendations for new store owners?
We live by 3 rules:
1) Ethics; Nothing is more important than reputation. This doesn't mean that you can't service different price points; you just need to be absolutely honest about what each product will provide and if there are limitations about a product to disclose it clearly so the customer can make an informed decision.
2) Deliver; Do what you say. If a customer wants a delivery by COB tomorrow we will do everything in our power to get it there. If we say it will be dispatched immediately and we will support them with after sales service - we make sure we deliver because we want them to come back to us. We've won many customers because our competitors have sent faulty equipment.
3) Plan and promote - we have a clear plan about what we want to achieve, when and how we will achieve it. We're ambitious so we decided to triple our turnover this year - our staff achieved that target in 4 months and are looking forward to their overseas trip. We've isolated "promotion" because it is now incredibly important for any online store to be seen and liked.
Social Media, Google AdWords and other campaigns can be incredibly costly, but can yield fantastic results. This is not a "set and forget" process - it takes lots of work, analysis, budgeting and improvement. It can also be the most fun & rewarding because your efforts produce results but its something a lot of people get wrong (overspend/ harangue customers that previously liked you/ bore people with the same repetitive messages).