Jon Woodford runs, Woodford Design, designing, manufacturing and selling iPhone and iPad accessories. He shares some valuable advice about how to deal with the challenges of selling online.
Why did you start selling online?
In 2011 we started designing and selling our own mobile phone accessories and it was obvious that selling online was going to be our main sales route for these kinds of products. We now sell through our own website and direct to retailers and wholesalers all over the globe, with the Middle East being our largest market.
What have been your biggest challenges selling online, and how have you overcome them?
One of our biggest challenges has been finding an ecommerce site that has a range of functionality to meet our simple needs and shipping. There are tons of ecommerce sites but they either have a terrible level of functionality but are simple and quick to set up or have a vast amount of functionality but are expensive and complicated to set up.
After testing lots and lots we plumped for Shopify. It’s easy, quick and cheap to set up, but does have some major holes in functionality. Most can be got around with add-on apps, but really they should be a part of the normal functionality. Overall we are generally happy, but we are always looking for something better!
With shipping the major issue is setting something up that is fully integrated from end to end. Without this you spend a huge amount of time copying and pasting, as well as answering customer emails about their orders. Having a fully integrated process from website checkout to postal label is very important but actually very difficult as there are not many simple shipping services that integrate with Royal Mail. We have been hunting for years for a simple system that integrates with Shopify and can also print custom labels - therefore we were very happy when Zenstores came along.
Why do you use Zenstores?
Our website backend is running on Shopify, and Zenstores is one of only a very small number of shipping services that integrates with Shopify, and is also UK centric. We use Zenstores to process all our UK and EU orders that we ship direct from the UK and then use a fulfilment house in Hong Kong to process our orders for the rest of the world. Zenstores is great for the smaller businesses as it is fast to setup and the cost is low. Some others are hundreds of pounds per month, which is just far too much for a small business. Zenstores saves us a huge amount of time and integrates well with Shopify.
What are your top recommendations for people starting out selling online?
Work out who you’re going to ship with and the process you are going to use, upfront.
Also, make sure your system is integrated as you will be surprised how many emails you get from customers asking where their order is. This can take up a huge amount of time that you should be using to run and develop your business.
Use a hosted website provider like Shopify and not ones like Magento where you have to install the code on your own server. Yes, you can customise it more, but you are also then fully responsible for technical problems and security. You will be constantly paying for security updates to be performed and will have to worry about the technical set up. With a hosted ecommerce site this is all someone else’s issue on a day to day basis.