Mike Daly runs 4 Your Home, selling household items and soft furnishings on eBay, Amazon, and his own online shop. With years of experience selling online, Mike shares some useful insights into overcoming challenges, and how customer service is key to running a successful ecommerce business
How long have you been selling online and why did you start?
I started this company three years ago, but I’ve been selling online for years. There really aren’t a lot of customers on the high street anymore, and online is the future in many respects, especially for the products that we sell. Selling online has lower overheads and you don’t have to rely on the customers physically coming to visit you.
We first started selling on Amazon because I already knew it well, it’s a marketplace that can deliver, and then we started selling on eBay a month later. Amazon and eBay are our main concerns. If you have your own website, and you’re not already a well established brand, you have to pay Google to attract people. Starting out I wanted to spend that money on stock to grow the business, so we waited until later on before developing our own website.
What have been your biggest challenges selling online, and how have you overcome them?
The initial problem was scaling up, listing things on Amazon and eBay took a lot longer than I realised. It’s time consuming but you just have to keep going.
You start at the bottom where you have to pay more because you’re not buying a large amount of stock, and you pay more because you’re sending a small number of parcels, and you have to grow the business slowly.
Customer service is an important part of that growth - we are there to help our customers 24 hours a day, and if you call us you will speak to a real person that knows the product.
How do you handle customer service?
All of our staff are trained for every job, so they can work in the warehouse, add product listings and answer the phones. This means that they know about every aspect of the business and the selling process, they can answer questions about anything from the products to delivery queries.
We try and look at each customer individually; we look over orders and identify where there might be an issue and then contact the seller - whether the address isn’t right, or any other problems.
We always bend over backwards to deliver the products. We try to tailor our deliveries to each customer’s needs, and what we think would be the best way of sending it. We use Royal Mail, DPD, and also Fulfilment by Amazon, and by having these options we’re able to offer postage to all locations for all different sizes and weights.
What are your top recommendations for people starting out selling online?
It’s important that you value your customer, you have to work hard to earn their trust.
And, you need to be aware that selling online is not a cheap way of starting a business, it’s as much hard work as running a brick and mortar store. If you want to make a success of it you have to be prepared for it to take over your whole life - it’s a 365 day a year business, and it’s a massive commitment.
You also need to be aware of the pitfalls; marketplaces will offer you a lot but they also have a lot of restrictions. Learn how they work and what can go wrong, and prepare yourself for it.
Why do you use Zenstores?
Being able to see the orders in one platform from all three sites means we can produce Royal Mail PPI labels a lot quicker. And it’s also helping us work towards using Royal Mail 2D barcode labels, which is something we’re currently trying to figure out.
A key part of any business is planning to make it run as smoothly as possible and Zenstores does the trick - it’s simple and it’s easy to set up. I haven’t got a technical bone in my body and I’m able to use it no problem.