Every story needs a hero. At Modern Workspace, Shopify is the hero of our story. We began from an idea that most of the truly great innovations in our history have come from collaborators; people able to share ideas freely and without effort.
Recognizing that the world is getting smaller, we wanted to do our part to empower those collaborators, and just maybe, in an indirect way, have a small part to play in the next great breakthrough that enhances all of our lives. We decided to supply these "Modern Workspaces" with essential tech furniture, state of the art medical carts and personal gear, that's where Shopify comes in.
Our journey, while not impossible, would have been exponentially more difficult without the people, technology and ease of use of Shopify. Any success that Modern Workspace enjoys is due in large part to both Shopify and our customers, people that genuinely want to make our planet a better place through technology and collaboration.
What are the key factors that have helped your store be successful?
There are three key factors that have brought Modern Workspace from a start-up online ecommerce store with 0 daily visitors to a profitable business in 8 months:
1. From the beginning, we told ourselves that we would be customer focused. Sounds nice, right? We’ve all heard the corporate jargon from companies that say they’re customer-centric with phrases like “long-term client relationships”, “customer-focused approach” and “exceed client expectations”.
However, for some companies, it’s not just jargon; it’s not just fluffy mission statements about customer excellence. Some companies genuinely go out of their way to take care of their customers because they believe that a satisfied customer is a repeat customer. A happy customer will evangelize their direct experience to others. In our opinion, 10 evangelizing customers are better than 100 advertisements.
At Modern Workspace, we believe, with 100% certainty, that “happy evangelizing customers based on positive direct experience” is the only sustainable source of long-term profits.
In addition, we believe that companies that use any form of coercion, trickery or misleading advice may indeed generate short-term profits, but such tactics will ultimately destroy the firm.
2. In this day and age of electronic communication, there is absolutely no excuse for not responding to a customer inquiry instantly. We take great pride in being able to solve our customer’s problems quickly and economically; and that’s ultimately the business that we’re in. Call us, send us an email or message us on Facebook. We respond as fast as the speed of light and other general laws of physics allow.
3. We’re not in the retail business, we’re in the problem-solving business. It’s not about us, it’s about what problem can we solve for you. When you come to us, you need a problem solved; you don’t want us to hand you more problems. Let us use an example from a recent interaction of a Modern Workspace employee at a popular large book retailer that she recently visited in person:
Ready to leave, she proceeded to the checkout line to pay for her book. The clerk asked if she would like a membership card that would only cost her $X amount but would save her X% on future purchases. After replying “no thank you”, the clerk then insisted “Are you sure? You will save XY% the next time you make a purchase and you would have saved $XYZ on today’s purchase.” Again, she replied “no thank you, I’m in a bit of a hurry.” In essence, she, like 99% of retail customers, just wanted to pay and leave.
Of course, if we dig deeper into this example, the clerk is not really at fault here. The clerk, in fact, had a problem of his own: his manager told him to push X amount of memberships over the course of his shift at the checkouts. Now the clerk is passing his problems onto his customers in an attempt to solve his own problem. At Modern Workspace, we don't pass our problems onto our customers; we solve their problems.
What are your top recommendations for new store owners?
If we had any recommendations for new store owners, it's these gems of truth:
Gem of Truth 1: You could have the greatest store on the planet with the best product that millions of people will buy the instant that they see it, but if nobody knows you exist, the world will miss out on whatever it is that you're offering. The Internet is a vast landscape where it's easy for your potential customers to get lost or more importantly not find you. This is where SEO (Search Engine Optimization) comes in.
We bought a book and followed it step by step, however, you really don't even need to do that. Most, if not all of the information in our SEO book can be found freely by doing a rudimentary Google search of SEO techniques. And by no means, (unless you have the budget set aside for it) hire an SEO firm to build links for you. They typically run anywhere from $200-$500 per month for work that you could be doing yourself (if you have the time) and spend that saved money on Google Adwords Ads and building your Facebook presence.
Never forget that internet sales are directly related to traffic. On that note, don't neglect offline marketing as well. Many people get tunnel vision and feel that because their store is online, they only need to promote it online. Not true. List your site URL and phone number in the local yellow pages, send press releases to your local news outlets and hand out brochures (we made our brochures ourselves on Microsoft Publisher to save money) at places and events related to your goods.
Gem of Truth 2: Success takes time and optimism. There were months at the beginning of 2013 where, as a result of no traffic, futility and despair began to creep in. But the simple fact of the matter is this. SEO, and by extension Google's algorithms take time; two months at a minimum, but more like six. Condition and prepare yourself mentally for lean times at the beginning as you build your web presence. Quality content helps with this. We used Shopify's outstanding blog system to write short articles relating to technology and videoconferencing containing keywords in our text that we identified by using Google's (Free) Keyword Tool. This alone brought us more high quality organic traffic than many of our other SEO techniques combined. Content really is king.
Gem of Truth 3: You must provide value for your customers and visitors. In the age of Amazon and eBay, it is a safe bet that you will not be able to keep your goods at a competitive price. So why would a visitor buy from you and not them?
Because you're providing (free) information and helpful guides that will keep your visitors on your site reading your content and, they will begin to view you as the authority figure on your subject. After that, they won't think twice about spending a few more dollars on your more expensive product. At Modern Workspace we constantly add new "How-To" articles with pictures showing people how to mount a flatscreen TV to the wall, an A/V cabling guide etc.,you get the point. Add value.
Gem of Truth 4: Always Always Always offer Free Shipping. Yes it will eat into your margin. You will have to adjust your profit projections. This is just something that customers expect, and if they don't expect it, then you have just enticed them to buy from you. Remember, it's okay to take a hit to your profits in the beginning to build a customer email list for your newsletter. Email marketing is still the number one marketing technique bringing in, statistically, the most conversions. Shopify integrates flawlessly with MailChimp (Free), an awesome customer newsletter email system.
And Finally: Feedback. We take customer feedback and actually incorporate it. Large companies are like a cruise ship; when you turn the wheel, you go straight for a long time before slowly starting the turn. At Modern Workspace, we’re like a jet ski; if a customer suggests a better way of doing business we make the turn and BAM! we go in a new direction.
Such examples include a valued customer that notified us that our phone number was off by a digit on our homepage, which we fixed 5 minutes later resulting in triple the call volume at our offices. On a different occasion a customer asked us to add something to our product line so that they could buy from us instead of a competitor because they liked our Customer Service better. Product line added and a customer was made happy.
Any Closing Remarks?
If you're reading this then you're interested in Shopify and ecommerce, or you're already on your way and you need some fine tuning. (Shopify isn't giving us any money to say this, we're just genuinely in love with the people at Shopify because they've been so helpful, so here it goes), Modern Workspace wholeheartedly endorses Shopify as an ecommerce solution! In fact, we were so impressed with Shopify (warning, shameless plug coming) that Modern Workspace founder Wes O'Donnell has opened another Shopify store.