In this interview series, we are talking to founders, CEOs, and ecommerce business leaders about how to use social media to grow your ecommerce Business. As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Kandy Robertson.
Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
When I was a teenager, I wanted to have a business. I am an artist as well and sought a career in art. I wanted to have my own store selling artwork, comics, toys, and art supplies. Often, life doesn’t always pan out the way you expected. Instead, I pursued a career in nursing so I can be able to be more secure and financially stable.
During my nursing career, I invested in new skills and side hustles that taught me many things about being an entrepreneur and business owner. I’ve even worked with a costume jewelry store owner who inspired me to jump into e-commerce. He is an Indian man who came to America with nothing but $500. He explained that he used the funds to invest in costume jewelry and now has a large wholesale store in Texas and travels to conventions every quarter. I said to myself, if he can do it, I can do it too. During my short-lived employment with him, he taught me how to purchase products wholesale and resale, with this newfound knowledge, I decided to venture into ecommerce instead of traditional brick and mortar.
Can you share the most exciting story that has happened to you since you began at your company?
I’ve always wanted to give back to the community and not just take from it. My parents were refugees of the Cambodian genocide, and to pay tribute, I wanted to help a common problem that happens worldwide. I chose to become a human rights activist during this journey, I wanted to tackle the human trafficking problem. By doing so, I have fundraised for 3 non-profits to abolish sex slavery that helped offer jobs and resources to survivors. One of the non-profits, called The Freedom Climb, would summit mountains all over the world in the name of freedom. I went to Colorado and summited my first 14,000-feet mountain. It was an incredible accomplishment for me as well as excitement, but it was not as easy as it looked! It took us from 5 am to 5 pm or longer to complete a summit, and the organization had planned to summit 7. I was excited that I summited at least one!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson did you learn from that?
When I first designed my labels for the hair care product, I wanted a type of label that was “shiny,” something I thought was different or could help me stand out. In the process of finding the manufacturer, they created a label, but because I was so excited about my first design, I didn’t read what type of label it was for. This company also adds it to the empty bottles for you as well. Thankfully, I ordered the minimum labels, but they were labels made for BEER cans! So instead of hair product products, I had BEER cans!
I also did the same thing again with purchasing easels for my displays. I didn’t read the dimensions, and the photos looked large. When I bought the easels, they were so tiny they would only hold business cards. This experience taught me the value of careful planning and preparation in running a successful business, but also to take my time and read carefully, especially during the proofing stage.
I also learned that making mistakes is part of the learning process and that it's important to learn from them and move forward. Fortunately, my mistakes weren’t too expensive.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I am currently writing two books, The Viral Fairy®, for business owners that can use to market their business and go viral using social media for business. The other book is a memoir of my life, growing up with refugee parents who were battling PTSD, the traumas growing up in a multicultural America as an atypical Asian American, and starting and running a business. In this book, I hope to inspire people not to give up but also to enlighten people on the Cambodian genocide and its effects on the next generation.
What are three traits about yourself that you feel helped fuel your success?
1. Resilience 2. Ambitious 3. Brave.
I’ve had many obstacles I’ve faced during creating a business for myself. I was surrounded by people who doubted me and didn’t believe in me. Culturally, as an Asian American, owning a business is not something that is revered. Typically, it’s becoming a doctor or lawyer that can make your family proud. I’ve had business ideas that often get criticized for.
For a while, it took its toll on me, and I wanted to give up because I didn’t have the support I thought I needed.
All three traits are the main traits that kept me going and helped me achieve my goals and success. I believed in myself enough not to care about what my family thought (bravery), the drive to keep going because I wanted to break the generational curse (ambition), and I never gave up on my dreams (resilience).
What was your original vision for your ecommerce business? What pain point(s) were you trying to solve for your customers?
I wanted natural luxury hair care products free from parabens, phthalates, and sulfates for a multi-racial home. I have a multi-racial family, and each member of the family has a different texture of hair. We have tons of different hair care products specifically for their hair, but I wanted a product someone with my hair type can use as well as curly textured hair. That way, there is only one product in the house vs. 10-20 different products for everyone's hair.
How did social media help you grow your business? What were your strategic objectives, and how did you implement your social media plan?
For a new business in hair care products in an already overly saturated market, I committed to a target audience that specifically has the same pain points, such as frizzy hair, tangles, dryness, and lack of shine. Once I decided on my target audience, my best marketing strategy on a small budget (because it is important to start with an organic audience and build rapport with consumers) was to reach out to influencers big and small.
As a consumer myself, I understand the importance of reviews but also tutorials or photos of how the product is used or worn. This plays a huge role in decision-making when it comes to purchases. Understanding this, I reached out to influencers with active and engaging audiences similar to my target. I offered the product for free for a trade with a video review of the product.
Which social media platforms have you found most beneficial for ecommerce specifically?
First, TikTok—the community here uses the hashtag “TikTok made me buy it.” Instagram is second, and Facebook is third.
What social commerce trends are you most closely paying attention to, and how are you preparing to leverage them for growth?
Some of the social commerce trends that I am paying close attention to are:
1. Influencer marketing: This trend involves partnering with social media influencers to promote products and services. Brands are increasingly turning to influencers to reach new audiences and drive sales.
2. Livestream shopping: Livestream shopping is becoming more popular as a way for brands to connect with customers in real time and showcase products or services. This allows customers to ask questions and get a better sense of the products before making a purchase.
3. Social media shopping: Social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest are increasingly allowing users to make purchases directly from their apps. This allows customers to shop without ever leaving the platform, which can make the purchasing process more convenient and increase conversion rates.
4. Interactive content: Brands are creating interactive content such as quizzes, polls, and games to engage with customers and gather information about their preferences.
5. Micro-influencers: Micro-influencers are individuals with a smaller following but with a highly engaged audience. Brands are increasingly turning to micro-influencers to promote their products as they can be more relatable and authentic than traditional influencers.
6. User-generated content (UGC): Brands are leveraging UGC to build trust and increase social proof. User-generated content includes reviews, ratings, and photos shared by customers.
I currently use most of these trends but will be focusing more on Live streaming as this helps the algorithm to remain active to those who currently follow me. User-generated content is highly favorable right now, especially on TikTok and Instagram, and we will definitely be prepared to leverage this trend for growth by:
- Encouraging customers to share their experiences: Encouraging customers to share their experiences with my products or services on social media, review sites, or your website. This can help to build trust and increase social proof, which can lead to more sales.
- Creating user-generated content marketing campaigns, such as on my website, social media, or email marketing. This can help to increase engagement and build a connection with my audience.
- Sharing user-generated content on my website and social media to build more engagement and traffic.
- Responding to user-generated content in a timely manner. This can help to build trust and increase customer loyalty.
- Creating user-generated content campaigns that encourage customers to share their experiences with my brand. This can help to increase engagement and build a connection with my audience.
- Monitoring user-generated content and using it to gain insights into customer preferences, needs, and feedback. This can help me identify areas of improvement and make data-driven decisions.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen when companies try to use social media to promote ecommerce? What can be done to avoid those mistakes?
A lot of companies run Facebook ads without any organic traffic to their site and have very little knowledge of how Facebook ads work. Facebook ads will not convert as well with small budgets with ads that don’t offer an incentive. It works best with larger budgets with ad copy that converts well. What happens is: When the ad is run and sent to your site, you have no reviews or testimonials of the product.
Consumers will also look at your social media channels to see how well you are doing. This impacts the decision to buy from you. If people are not talking about your product, it’ll less likely to have the results you’re looking for. Focus on getting your product not just SEEN but USED before running ads.
Based on your experience and success, what are your top 5 ways to use social media to grow your ecommerce business?" Please share a story or an example for each.
- Utilize paid advertising: Social media platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, offer targeted advertising options that can help increase visibility and drive sales for your ecommerce business. As mentioned earlier, it works best once there is organic traffic to your social media channels already.
- Build a community: Creating a community around your brand on social media can help increase brand loyalty and word-of-mouth promotion. Instagram pushes community heavily by engaging with your target audience by liking their photos or responding to questions and comments. Create content that your audience would like to see that can be shared by your followers to get more traffic and eyes on your page.
- Create engaging content: Regularly posting high-quality, engaging content that showcases your products and provides value to your audience can help increase brand awareness and drive traffic to your website. Use vertical videos, and follow trends that match your brand's personality. Vertical videos, such as Reels or TikTok, are heavily pushed by the platforms, and those who do not follow you can see you.
- Leverage influencer marketing: Partnering with influencers in your industry can help expand your reach and increase the credibility of your brand. This works great for small businesses, new businesses, and businesses with small marketing budgets.
- Use social media to provide customer service: Utilizing social media as a customer service channel can help increase customer satisfaction and loyalty. Responding to customer inquiries and complaints in a timely and professional manner can help improve your reputation and generate positive word-of-mouth promotion.
- BONUS: Add shops to your page on Facebook and Instagram, where you can directly tag the product to be purchased inside the app itself for more convenient, user-friendly shopping without leaving the app.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most people, what would that be?
I would want to create a movement that inspires people not to give up on their dreams. This was a constant theme for my life when I battled a lot of unsavory and unexpected life tragedies that affected my pursuit of building a business, fighting off uncertainties, cultural differences, and doubt from myself or outside sources.
When I realized that the opinion of others didn’t matter, that I could live my life how I wanted even if it’s not deemed “traditional” or “normal.” I prevailed. I do not regret any of my decisions when it comes to having a business because I am living my dream now, and it is only going to get better. That is because I believed in myself and that I was capable of accomplishing anything I wanted without the validation of others.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
You can follow me @ikandyland on all social media platforms.
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