Alexey Amerikov runs Vape People, selling vaping products on eBay and his Shopify website. Alexey shares tips on handling customer service, and the importance of social media marketing to his ecommerce business.
When did you start selling online and why?
We officially set up our business in November 2016, but sales really started picking up in February and March of this year. We decided to sell online because it allows the business to more flexible in our products; we’re able to see which products are most profitable. When we started there was new legislation on selling vape products coming into effect, so we do plan to open a high street shop in the future, but at the moment it wouldn’t make sense because the market has been changing so much.
Which platforms do you sell on?
We currently sell on Shopify and eBay. eBay is where most of our sales come from, lots of people have already got an eBay account set up and there’s a whole generation that’s used to buying on eBay so won’t look elsewhere. Even when we offer discounts and free shipping offers etc, customers will still order from eBay because it’s what they know.
What’s your advice for handling customer service?
Do not delay; customers appreciate when you get back to them really quickly. If you put off dealing with customer enquiries or issues then they’ll pile up and you start to confuse customers and orders. You also need to be fair but remember that you won’t always please every customer in every way possible.
What have been your biggest challenges selling online, and how did you overcome them?
Shipping has actually been one of the biggest challenges. Initially, getting orders ready and shipped was time consuming, it would take up to five minutes to process one order. With Zenstores that time has been cut dramatically; we can now ship all our orders for the day in less than 10 minutes.
How do you market your business?
Most of our organic growth comes from social media, we’re on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest etc - that’s where we mainly promote our items and drive people to our site. Half of our organic growth comes from Instagram, and the other half from Reddit - there’s a dedicated subreddit for UK vapers.
What advice would you give to someone setting up an ecommerce business?
Work hard and believe in yourself. There’ll be quite a few times you want to give up, but keep trying different tools and systems, and be ready to take a few risks. You will have some failures but it’s all part of the learning curve.
Why do you use Zenstores?
We first found Zenstores through the Shopify app store. It seemed a bit expensive for us at the time, as we were just starting out, but the 100 free shipments allowed us to give it a go. It’s really convenient and meets our needs for shipping and order management. A lot of services will promise a gold mine and then won’t deliver - Zenstores really delivers.