We started as shop.globalhydration.com; targeting our markets of Government, NGO's and Disaster relief with products of water purification. We had consumer and commercial sales, but were not geared to that market's needs. We decided to setup a new brand/division called Elua that would target the residential/commercial markets for water purification; this would allow us to diversify from the prolonged purchasing cycles of our traditional customer base.
We poured a lot of resources, time and effort into elua.com along with our partners. Using our expertise in the water purification market, we found Winix had the best and most versatile product that aligned with our philosophy of great value and excellence. We worked with them for months along with their factories in Korea to refine the product so we could have a product that met our targeted customer needs.
Sales, however did not meet projections and we came to a crossroad; shut down Elua or evolve it by integrating the potential residential/commercial aspects away from shop.globalhydration.com. This would essentially turn Elua into a water boutique. To do so, however, we had to find an alternative to Wordpress; and we had it all along with Shopify.
How did you earn your first sales? Which channels are now generating the most traffic and sales for you?
When we changed our Wordpress shop to a Shopify store, our growth was almost instantaneous. A lot of the work we transposed from Wordpress into Shopify was now actively working for us to raise our SEO. We heavily targeted niche markets using Google and Facebook ads and found that we found a rich vein in Facebook. Our sales quite literally jumped over 500% month over month with our switch to Shopify. We were told by our "SEO Experts" that Facebook advertising would not drive sales, but they did. The conversion rates were outstanding. Oddly enough, Google AdWords did not have strong conversion rates.
We found that giving a little TLC to some of our existing products and expanding our portfolio of bottles was driving traffic to our site and converting to sales. We've been constantly refining the sales funnel to maximize checkouts and the results are speaking for themselves with higher conversion rates and larger checkout totals.
We also customized our free shipping requirements to help drive sales of products that were $6.00 or less. By featuring these small, but complimentary products in the cart, we found that customers were happy to try something new, and get free or discounted shipping as a result.
Our biggest problem has quickly changed from driving sales to maintaining inventory levels. It's a great problem to have; especially when only a few months ago, sales were static.
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 backend of our business is constantly evolving to meet and exceed customer needs and demand. We use an entire suite of tools from Yotpo, MailChimp and PluginSEO to Robin and Shipstation.
In just six months we've had to evolve from in-house fulfillment to integrating Amazon FBA to keep up with demand. We've used a plethora of fantastic tools from netParcel to Shipstation to keep up with fulfillment and each has served their respective purpose exceptionally well during our respective periods of growth.
Preparing ourselves to outsource to Amazon FBA has been a long process and great learning experience about ourselves and fulfillment in general. There is a lot of room to expand efficiency and cut costs by outsourcing to Amazon FBA, but we are maintaining a degree of self-sufficiency by maintaining in house stock and coordinating that with Stitch. This will allow us to customize orders with a high degree of precision when required or put that extra personal touch to customer service when possible. The fact that we can maintain a centralized inventory system and not have to worry about counting what is in or out of stock with Stitch is a huge plus and has helped us make that change to Amazon FBA.
We have found Robin to be an invaluable tool to communicate with customers and maintain a high level of customer service that we pride ourselves upon.
Yotpo has been fantastic at curating customer reviews and helping new customers feels comfortable with our brand and products based on our ever growing base of happy and satisfied customers.
To keep up with demand and track Out Of Stock items, we've integrated the In Stock Reminder app to help keep customers up to date of when an item is available again. For some items we had upwards of 100 customers sign up within a week to be notified when the item came back in stock.
The integrated analytics of Shopify have allowed us to see what products are selling and helping us correlate those items to marketing drives. This has allowed us to seek out and find even more complimentary products to add to our store to meet customer demand.
What are your top recommendations for new ecommerce entrepreneurs?
Of all the advice I can give, the most important is that you have to be prepared to evolve and pivot when necessary. The tools, products, apps and partners are out there to help you change and improve upon and become more efficient at what you're doing. If you stop looking at the data and don't make a short term and long term plan to maximize the tools you already have, then you run the risk of being where we were for months -- stuck.
Once you take that jump and realize a webstore should constantly be evolving and something that worked this week won't work as well next week, you'll be well on your way to finding success. The prime example of this for us is shipping and fulfillment. We've had to evolve our shipping and fulfillment three times in the last six months because our growth demanded it to maintain efficiency. We never had a bad system in place, we just grew out of them at a fast pace. We've now evolved shipping and fulfillment to a point where we can meet virtually any volume of demand without breaking a sweat because we've integrated our supply chain into fulfillment and shipping.
Being flexible will allow every store with its own unique requirements to realize and maximize efficiency.