Write your content with “voice of customer” language. Speak to your best customers and find out what they really want. Use that language in your descriptions. Make the checkout process easy. Give all the shipping and other information they need right on the checkout and cart page. Put content elsewhere that leads people back to your website. Invest time in blog writing, or contributing to stories. Send out newsletters with great insight, and information and have all the links go back to your website. Have literature that you can include in the packages that people can hang on to or share with friends and family. Have photos that reflect the quality of your brand.
As part of my series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Create A Highly Successful E-Commerce Business”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Roberta Perry.
In 2005, Roberta noticed that her skin had become dry, itchy and irritated, so at 43 she finally decided that taking care of her skin and herself was important. She discovered exfoliating products, but like the proverbial Goldilocks, none were completely satisfying her needs and wants. She headed for the kitchen and with lots of research and trial and error, she mixed up a winner. She brought in her sister, Michelle, who has since passed, and together they started ScrubzBody Skin Care, in 2006. The business has expanded to not only retail and parties, but private label and wholesale as well.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started? What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
My AHA moment was really a combination of being amazed that something I whipped up in my kitchen had transformed my skin, and my late sister, who had a retail background and was willing to help me. Michelle called one day and when she said, “Scrubz,” I knew she had thought of the perfect name. We started selling at house parties, craft fairs, holiday boutiques, expos and anywhere else we could set up a table. I began a very basic online store and we were off.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Money and lack of it was the biggest issue. I was still doing freelance design and sales when I started ScrubzBody, so I was able to have some steady income, but materials and monthly fees were starting to add up and I needed seed money. I took savings and a loan from my husband to get us going, because I was too afraid at that point to go to the bank for a loan. I juggled low or no interest credit cards. We started selling, but it was slow and there were many months I wondered if I would be able to pay our bills. It was scary being in that kind of debt. I believed in the product and in the fact that I wanted to serve and help people. I wanted to pamper them. Those were my driving forces to keep it up.
So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
We were expanding enough to move out of my house in 2011, and within 7 years, we had grown enough to move into the store we presently have. This town offered us plenty of walk-in traffic and party opportunities. We were and are still thriving, even during Covid-19, because we pivoted a bit and our customers are awesome. They went from shopping in person to ordering online. We donated to 28 area hospitals and first response units. This gave me so much joy and purpose. Then, we expanded our wholesale to include private label and have been acquiring new clients weekly. I love mentoring each one and helping them to create a business of their own. We are excied for what the next year will bring!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
OMG there are so many. I drove 1.5 hours to a demo only to realize I had left all the demo stuff at home. I turned around, crossed the bridge, got my stuff, drove back and did my demo. Other times I have used words for hand washing that sounded suggestive. Things like, “it will make your hands soft enough so anything you touch will be happy.” The giggles from the person I was talking to have made me laugh out loud as I realized what I said.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Customer Service. Single handedly. I understand that people have choices. They can spend their money at many different skincare boutiques, drug stores, supermarkets and online stores. I have to give them a reason to come here. Having a great product is one thing. But making people feel special and welcome is what brings them back. It’s all about the experience and the joy you bring to their hearts and souls. It’s the solving of their skin care issues. It’s the listening. And then they buy and love what you offer. And then they bring friends and family.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Remind yourself daily of your why. What was your purpose and reason for starting in the first place. And take breaks. And delegate. And take vacations or staycations where you do not answer any business calls or emails.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
My late sister, Michelle. My lifelong friend, Wendy, who helped from the beginning and is now my production manager and all around sounding board. My hubby for doing my books and taxes and helping me get started in the first place. My amazing customers. My mentor, Donna Maria and all the Indies at Indie Business Network, most especially my mastermind besties who know who they are.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The Pandemic has changed many aspects of all of our lives. One of them is the fact that so many of us have gotten used to shopping almost exclusively online. Can you share a few examples of different ideas that eCommerce businesses are implementing to adapt to the new realities created by the Pandemic?
For me it was free shipping during the worst of it. That is something I never really do, so it was a big deal. I also included a free gift of Alegna soap, which was a perfect something extra to include in the box. I updated parts of my website, most especially the private label section, as my business began to pivot. I added a few sets and other special items. I added a few flows to my email marketing.
Amazon, and even Walmart are going to exert pressure on all of retail for the foreseeable future. New Direct-To-Consumer companies based in China are emerging that offer prices that are much cheaper than US and European brands. What would you advise retail companies and eCommerce companies, for them to be successful in the face of such strong competition? The humongous businesses will always be here. But, the middle companies are dying out. They can’t sustain the loss to the big boys. That leaves us, the small business owners. We get to offer what the big boys can’t… the ULTIMATE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE! It goes back to what I said before about treating customers so well that they come back and bring friends. That is what builds a sustainable business.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start an eCommerce business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
I think your website has got to reflect your audience. Don’t try to have it be something its not. I think not having professional or really well done photos is a big mistake. Make sure your customers feel seen and heard when they reach your site.
In your experience, which aspect of running an eCommerce brand tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
Because I have both a brick and mortar store, as well as an online shop, I have to always keep them matching in feel, as I explained above. As I decorate the shop for Fall, for example, I need to swap out the photos on the home page and change the look of my site to match the season. This keeps the site fresh.
Can you share a few examples of tools or software that you think can dramatically empower emerging eCommerce brands to be more effective and more successful?
Askimet for Spam of which there would be thousands if not protected. Klaviyo for email marketing, abandoned cart, segmented marketing etc. Dropbox for transferring files back and forth and for having them handy on my phone when I need to make changes to my website and I am not near my desktop.
As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies an eCommerce business should use to increase conversion rates?
It’s all about UX! I had my website completely reworked by PType https://pty.pe/. First they used a “heat map” which registered what people were looking at, and where, on the site and then they sent surveys to ask what customers wanted to see and how they wanted to access it. The user experience, as customers navigate your website, is key to customer comfort and more time spent on your site. These all help with conversion. We saw our time on site numbers double as well as our sales. My other suggestions are simple and can be done with any site: Have content that reflects what your customers not only need to hear but wants to hear, to know you are listening to their own needs. Have great photos that show professionalism and a real commitment to making the online experience as wonderful as it would be if they visited your brick and mortar shop, if you had one.
Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that an eCommerce business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?
That’s an easy one. Show up for your customers. Deliver on your promise every time. Listen to their needs. Care. Respect their money because they can spend it anywhere and they are choosing to spend it with you.
One of the main benefits of shopping online is the ability to read reviews. Consumers love it! While good reviews are of course positive for a brand, poor reviews can be very damaging. In your experience what are a few things a brand should do to properly and effectively respond to poor reviews? How about other unfair things said online about a brand? Brands are human because they are run by humans and humans make mistakes. If the review is honest about the experience, answer it with humility and dignity. Your response is a great chance to make things right. If the review is not true and just mean, you can either respond to that or have the comment removed, if possible. The key is to make so many other people so incredibly satisfied with your brand that one or two mishaps will do nothing to harm your excellent reputation.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a very successful e-commerce business? Please share a story or an example for each.
Write your content with “voice of customer” language. Speak to your best customers and find out what they really want. Use that language in your descriptions. Make the checkout process easy. Give all the shipping and other information they need right on the checkout and cart page. Put content elsewhere that leads people back to your website. Invest time in blog writing, or contributing to stories. Send out newsletters with great insight, and information and have all the links go back to your website. Have literature that you can include in the packages that people can hang on to or share with friends and family. Have photos that reflect the quality of your brand. I can’t stress this enough. When I first started, I took my own photos and because I had some experience in photography, they were pretty good. And then I decided to hire a professional when I redid my website. The difference was HUGE in both how I felt when leading people there and how the pictures spoke without words! Deliver on your promise. What shows up on the doorstep of your customers, in description and price, needs to match exactly what they ordered. And then give more. We include something like a soap sample as a gift, plus literature on how best to use everything. We even gift wrap for free if asked. This brings repeat orders.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I love making people smile and feel good about themselves. I would love that to be a movement!!
How can our readers further follow you online?
Facebook.com/scrubzbody; Instagram.com/scrubzbody; Youtube.com/scrubzbody; Twitter.com/scrubzbody; Pinterest.com/scrubzbody
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!