In this interview series, we are talking to leaders of ecommerce businesses who can share their strategies for creating a successful ecommerce website. As part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Scarlett Hampton & Niki Wright.
Can you tell us a bit about your backstory and how you got started?
Both: Between us, we have a fairly mixed background but one that has led us nicely to where we are. Our education, training, and experience have meant that we not only have the ability to design our own products, but we can manage our entire retail business from top to bottom.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Niki: There are actually a few people that have helped me along the way for different reasons. When I was a junior product developer, a buyer I worked with really sang my praises and ultimately gave me a huge step up in the company I worked for at the time. One of our business partners, whom I have worked with for many years, has been a constant source of support and motivation, and finally, my dad, who has never failed to maintain interest and offer encouragement in everything I have done.
What does your ecommerce company do? What was the “aha moment” that led to the idea for your current ecommerce business?
Both: We are a lighting design retailer. We offer unique designs that aren't available everywhere and which are affordably priced to make them as accessible as possible. The origin of our idea was fairly straightforward for us, really. We have worked with many different retailers for many years, and having our own outlet has meant we have the freedom to design what we want when we want and to ensure it is available to our audience without having to "sign off" or have to overcome any company bureaucracy.
What was your original vision for your company? How does it help people? What pain point(s) were you trying to solve for your customers?
Scarlett: Our aspiration has always been focused on design. We want to offer high-end design backed up by great quality, and we want it to be affordable to the largest market possible. We take great care over our choice of materials, from aged brass, Spanish marble, and hand-woven rattan. We really consider how we can showcase these luxury finishes and techniques without being expensive. It's not always easy, but we are extremely proud of the products we offer and the level of design and detail our customers have learned to expect from lights&lamps.
There are more than 12 million ecommerce businesses out there. What do you think makes your company stand out?
Niki: I think because we are both self-declared control freaks, we can't help but be involved with every tiny decision! Whilst this can mean a lot more work, it also means every aspect of our business has the same level of attention to detail. That could be anything from the quality and design of the packaging to the user experience of our site (which could be right down to the radius of the corners on the product images!) It all means that our business is full of care and consideration, and all these details are what stand out and what our customers really enjoy seeing, ordering, and ultimately displaying in their homes.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things you need to know to build a highly successful ecommerce website?
1. Navigation: Make it as easy for your customer to find what they want as possible. Even better is to make it easy for them to find something they didn't t realize they wanted.
2. Number of clicks: Once your customer has found what they want, make it as fast and as simple as possible to finalize their purchase.
3. Don't let them leave: Don't give your customer any reason to leave without purchasing. That could be by always offering the best price so they don't need to look elsewhere, offering a welcome discount, or making it easy for them to find everything they need without having to search elsewhere for an accessory.
4. Build their trust: For a new customer, shopping online can be daunting and often a matter of trust. You can build that trust by fulfilling your promises, but for new customers, make sure to share real experiences of customers gone before.
5. Get them back: Keep in touch with emails, social media, and SMS. Tempt your customer back with new products and new offers, but always back it up with a fresh new look. Your homepage is your shop window, it has to look new and exciting every time. Otherwise, they won't want to walk through the door.
If there were one part of the ecommerce website development process you would have spent 50% more time on, what would it be and why?
Scarlett: I think there is always room for improvement. We built our store during the lockdown. We had certain restrictions and time restraints to work around, so there are things we know we would have spent more time on if it were possible. But that's not to say we haven't made up for it since. We are constantly evolving our site, monitoring stats, listening to feedback, and just doing things that we know will improve the user experience.
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?
Niki: Our platform is built on Shopify. As non-technical people, we have obviously had help, but generally, Shopify and its partners make everything easy. From Shopify email helping us manage our marketing emailers, Sparklayer automating our trade account business, Shoelace making sure we recapture all our potential customers to Shipeasy calculating our shipping rates across America. These are all huge and normally time-consuming tasks that are, on the whole, done automatically without too much effort at all.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs and founders make when they start an ecommerce business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
Niki: They either don't stand out enough, or they try too hard and lose focus on their main goal.
Too often, I see ecommerce businesses launch, and I'm not sure if I've seen them before or if they're just a copy version of another site. Adversely I've seen other businesses so focused on being different that I'm not even sure what they're trying to sell. I think the five things above should almost go unnoticed. If your site is working hard for you, then the thing your customers see and remember should be your product.
In your experience, which aspect of running an ecommerce brand tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
Scarlett: Running an ecommerce brand with all the tools and automation available means you can achieve a lot more with a lot less than you normally would with a brick-and-mortar store. However, your store may be online only, but your customers are real! There is a person behind every sale, and the service you should offer means a lot more work than can be expected... and often, it is erratic. One day you could have very little to do, and the next, you could be inundated with inquiries.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most people, what would that be?
Both: This may seem ironic, but I think we both agree we'd reduce the reliance the population has on social media. Our experience both in business and in our personal lives is that it is more anti-social. It distorts reality, distorts people's personalities, and it removes genuine interaction between human beings. We see very few pros versus cons. Whilst this may seem a negative proposition, it comes from a very positive desire. A desire for people to recognize people. To treat others how they would wish to be treated and just like we do with our customers, remember there is a real person with real feelings living a real life, and nobody should be able to or feel they need to hide behind a faceless and unreal persona.
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