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Posts Tagged ‘customer feedback’

Small Business Interview with Natalie Moody from The Designer Express

Monday, February 1st, 2010

Design Express Interview on KikScore Blog Talking about Small Business

Today’s KikScore Small Business series features an interview of Natalie Moody from The Designer Express.   We came across Natalie and The Designer Express on Twitter at the end of 2009.  Natalie is the quintessential online business owner that makes a living selling one of a kind apparel from the world’s top designers. She is also a veteran eBay seller.  We were excited that she took the time to give the KikScore blog an interview and share with the small business community her wealth of experience and also pass on some guidance for online sellers and ecommerce merchants.

1.Tell us about The Designer Express and who you focus on serving.

The Designer Express is an online designer boutique. We supply savvy shoppers worldwide with 100% authentic designer items at incredible prices – savings are up to 85% compared to buying retail. We also provide our clients with top-notch customer service.

Geographically speaking, the majority of our business is serving New York, Florida, California, Texas, Europe and Australia. We are currently selling through our new website TheDesignerExpress.com and on Ebay as The Designer Express.

2.How did you get your start selling online?

The idea for the Designer Express originated in a thrift shop, where I purchased a pair of woman’s jeans for five dollars, and sold them on Ebay for a substantial profit. I continued to sell items on Ebay as I moved from thrift stores to retail stores, where I bought items at clearance prices. I began to focus on selling new clothing, and my Ebay store evolved into The Designer Express. I have to give credit where credit is due, and looking back, Ebay really was the tool which enabled me to reach a productive global market. Due to our success on Ebay, we are currently expanding sales venues with the opening of our new web boutique at TheDesignerExpress.com.

3.Where will The Designer Express focus most of its energy in 2010?

The Designer Express was founded on customer service, and customer satisfaction will continue to be our main focus moving into 2010. We plan to spend significant time marketing the launch of TheDesignerExpress.com. We would also like to attract more international clients to our Ebay store, but the new website will be taking center stage.

4.What have you learned from your business that you could pass on to others about selling online?

Customer satisfaction is the most important part of selling online and creating a reputable business. If you make a mistake, be honest with your client. The bottom line is that satisfied customers will continue to shop with you, and will generate new business as well by word of mouth.

Not every new sale idea will be successful, so be prepared for some trial and error. The market is unpredictable, creating many peaks and valleys in sales. Don’t get discouraged. Perseverance and patience will be necessary.

Use slow times to fine tune your shop and research new inventory. Keep focused by following a daily schedule.

5.As 2009 just closed, what do you see as two new trends in your business this year?

We are seeing more International buyers taking advantage of the favorable exchange rate and weak US dollar. Domestic buyers are cutting back on luxury items as they wait for the economy to recover.

6. If The Designer Express could have a dream spokesperson for your company who would it be and why?

A dream spokeswoman would be Oprah. The exposure gained from being featured as one of her favorite things would be second to none.

7. Do you have any parting thoughts for our readers and the small business community?

This year is a great time to expand or start your own small business. Take a chance by making your business dream a reality! There will be hard work involved, but there is nothing better than being your own boss!

Please tell us what you think about this interview or if you have any questions for this business?

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Posts Tagged ‘customer feedback’

Small Biz interview with Little Duck Organics owner Zak Normandin

Monday, January 25th, 2010

LDO LogoToday’s KikScore interview is with Zak Normandin, owner of Little Duck Organicsa unique and tasty organic snack food for infants and toddlers – and adults too!  We came across Zak and Little Duck Organics on Twitter where Zak and team are actively promoting their yummy organic treats.  Little Duck Organics is relatively new to the online community and shares a passion for the world of small business and bringing a much needed product to the organic conscious community.  I had the pleasure of talking for awhile with Zak and sharing startup ideas and promotional concepts.  Thanks for your insight Zak and for being a KikScore customer!

1. Tell us about Little Duck Organics and who you focus on serving?

Little Duck Organics is a business that I started developing in February of 2009. My wife and I have always been a fan of all natural/organic/locally produced products, and when we went food shopping for our daughters we really didn’t see anything like that available in the baby aisle. Most of the products that were available contained added sugars, artificial flavors, and preservatives which we preferred not to feed to our kids. When we talked to other parents, they agreed that there was definitely a lack of wholesome, nutritious products available for babies. At the time, I was looking for a new venture to invest in, so I started researching what it would take to bring an organic line of baby products to market. It took me about 10 months to design our first line of products and arrange to have it manufactured and packaged. In December of 2009, we formally launched on Amazon.com and at independent grocery stores in New Hampshire.

2. How did you get started with selling online?

One of our first customers was Amazon.com. They started buying products from us in December to sell through their online grocery division. This was the first experience that we had with selling products online. At the beginning of this month (January), we set up our own online store to begin selling Little Duck snacks directly to customers through our website. This allowed us to have a little bit more control over product placement, descriptions, Etc. Overall, the experience has been great. We’re focusing now on increasing our conversion rate and finding new ways to advertise to potential customers.

3. Where will Little Duck Organics focus most of its energy in 2010?

In 2010, our goals will be to expand our retail and online distribution channels and develop the Little Duck Organics brand. One of our main focuses will be to build customer loyalty and awareness within the baby products niche. We will be working closely with the blogging community, and plan to do a lot of traveling to sample our products at retail stores. In addition, we’re planning on introducing two new products later this year that will compliment our current line of products.

4. If you had 1 lesson that you learned from your business that you could pass on to others about selling online, what would it be?

The biggest lesson that I have learned so far since we set up our online store is that you need to be very aware and organized with all of the external costs associated with selling a product through a website. Credit card fees, boxes, packing materials & shipping costs all add up with you are selling a product with a low retail price. You need to keep these things in mind and adjust your prices accordingly so that what you are offering to customers is still attractively priced.

5. As 2010 begins, what trends do you see in your business this year?

As far as trending goes in the organic baby sector, I think that there will be more of a shift from the conventional baby food companies to upgrade their product lines to incorporate more natural/organic options. Fortunately for us, Gerber will always be Gerber and Beech-Nut will always be Beech-Nut. No matter how they market their products, they will always have the same brand-association in the mind of most consumers. Our advantage is that we were able to start from ground zero and build a brand around a mindset (Creating delicious organic baby snacks with no preservatives or additives).

6. If your business could be any movie or movie character, what movie/movie character would it be and why?

I’ve always loved the movie “Click” with Adam Sandler. I really relate to his character, and although the movie does not directly relate to Little Duck Organics, I can see a lot of similarities between the story-line and our business. For anyone who has not seen the film, the main character is an architect who has the ability to fast forward his life to critical points of success. Basically, he does not want to have to go through the mundane and only wants to experience the promotions, bonuses, success Etc. I don’t want to ruin the movie for anyone who has not seen it, but at the end Sandler learns to appreciate his family, friends, and the journey of life more than he previously had. I’m making a big effort to do the same in my life and at Little Duck Organics this year. I need to enjoy the process of building the business and everything that comes along with it. We’re doing something that most people only dream of , and that in itself should be viewed as an accomplishment.

7. If Little Duck Organics could have a dream spokesperson for your company who would it be and why?

I can’t think of anyone specific off the top of my head, but it would have to be a celebrity or someone famous who has the same mindset as our company. I would prefer a mom who understands the value in feeding wholesome organic foods to their children.

8. How do the folks at Little Duck Organics let loose after a busy day working?

Although most of my time is spent building the business, It is nice to wind down after a long day at work. At home, I enjoy spending time with my wife and daughters. We love trying out new foods and traveling. In the summer, we usually go for a walk every night with our dog. My older daughter loves helping me cook, so I try to do that with her whenever I can. At three years old, she can already make a mean Alfredo sauce 🙂

9. Do you have any parting thoughts for our readers and the small business community?

Know your competition, Work your butt off, Pray for luck.  Cheers!

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Posts Tagged ‘customer feedback’

Diary of a Start-Up: The Challenge to Keep Your Business Focused

Friday, January 8th, 2010

business man watching his business finances grow

As we at KikScore roll into 2010, we are proud of everything we were able to accomplish in 2009.  We launched KikScore. (See Diary of a Start-Up I)  Our blog went live. People actually visited our site!  Actually a lot more than we expected and from some interesting parts of the world.  And we really took the big plunge into social media.  Simultaneously, we are constantly working on gathering feedback from our customers and making changes and enhancements based on that feedback.

So what is the issue facing us in 2010? One word – FOCUS – or better yet the challenge to focus.

We have a lot going on at KikScore.  For example, we are in the process of developing an exciting extension to the KikScore product that we hope to launch in the next 30 days, we are fixing and enhancing the KikScore product based on customer feedback,  we are dealing with customer service issues, we are in partnership discussions and we are redesigning our marketing site at www.kikscore.com. We also have multiple tracks of product enhancements that are being prioritized and slotted in for development. And this list is not even near exhaustive of what we have going on.

So as we began 2010, we took our heads out of the weeds and said its time to climb to that proverbial mountain at 30,000 feet so we could take a broader view of KikScore, our product, all of the activity and the daily grind so we could figure out what do we need to focus on.  In all honestly, this was probably the first time in a while where we did the “focus” analysis.  The reason is as a start-up, especially an early stage one, you keep focusing on getting your product out to the market. Once the product goes live, then you are just overwhelmed to some degree with enhancements, customer and market feedback, service issues etc that can test your start-up’s ability to focus.

So this is what we have begun to do and I would recommend that if you are a start-up you may want to do something similar. Also the key is to periodically update, measure and track progress of your focus against each of these items below.

1. Goals. As a team, set your near-term and long term goals. Near term can be 30-90 days.  Long term is 1-3 years.  Keep them in a place where the entire team can review them.

2. Activities. Then create a list of the activities that flow up to the goals.  Make sure every activity can be tied to the goals otherwise that activity should be eliminated.

3. Turbo Activities. From the list of activities try to determine which activities do you get the most out of and that with all things being equal get you closer to that goal at a faster rate.  I call these Turbo Activities because they can really turbocharge you to achieve your goals faster. So for example, we at KikScore recently uncovered an approach that may really help us with customer acquisition.  Customer Acquisition is a very important near and long term goal of ours and we have various activities that help us with customer acquisition. But this method stood out and so just this week we thought lets really focus our efforts using this method and see where that gets us for acquiring more customers.

4. Regular Update. As a startup works through these turbo activities and regular activities, while also dealing with new issues that come up each day, it is critical that the team on a regular and periodic basis assess where the business is at in regards to the goals.  As the activities, objectives and goals change over time, your start-ups focus may have to adapt and be flexible.  But while I say that, you must also be careful to not have the red herrings pop up and that push you to focus on the wrong things or to lose your focus.  This is a delicate dance that each start up needs to be careful to balance so they maintain the right focus to meet their goals.

5. Team Accountability.  Each team member needs to also dedicate themselves to keeping themselves honest and other team members true to focusing the start-up.  Without team members acting as a check for themselves and other team members, a start-up runs the risk of losing that focus. One of the ways to help ensure that team members are keeping each other focused is asking a simple question during internal discussions: Do you think that activity will get us closer to accomplishing one or more of our goals?

In the end, so much of focus for a start-up can be boiled down to the 80/20 rule.  So often 20% of your activities and work, will end up getting your startup 80% of the results that you need.  Remember this when you try to keep your focus to growing your start-up!

How do you keep your business focused?

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Posts Tagged ‘customer feedback’

Solicit and Listen – Customer Feedback is critical to business success

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

Clip noteSocial media was the craze of 2009 and will only continue to gain ground in 2010. Blogging about your product and/or service is an incredible way to promote your business or product. While customers and passersby can comment on blog entries or Tweet their favorites, how do you convert the blog commenter into a devoted and loyal customer for future success?

As a business owner, you need to provide easy to use feedback tools to ensure that you are in touch with your customers (and would-be customers) and frequently and consistently responding to their needs. This entails listening to comments and being able to categorize them and REACT. There are a variety of tools available (some such asCrowdsound, RatePoint, Yelp) but do these sites bring traffic back to your site? Some do, but some are a link off with minimal options to react to comments. In a previouspost by DojoMike:  customers are sometimes reluctant to provide feedback (positive or negative).

To maintain an open dialog with customers and encourage feedback, the comment avenue needs to be easy to use and promote responses from the merchant/business owner. As a business owner, you also need to be able to solicit feedback and react to it, professionally. If a negative comment comes through, don’t ignore it, you need to respond and make changes that address the issue. At a minimum, sending an email to a customer who recently bought an item from your online store is an easy avenue to inquire if the ordering process was seamless and also to ask for website suggested changes or product improvements. The more you ask a customer for their input, the more likely they will become a repeat customer AND tell their friends about your site and excellent customer service.

At KikScore, we have created a feedback tool within the KikScore seal itself. Comments that are posted here are sent directly to merchants to review and respond. These comments are also available for all to see that are reviewing that site’s KikScore Seal.

How do you solicit feedback from customers? What do you do with the feedback you get? Do you have any feedback/suggestions for KikScore? Please share with us!

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Posts Tagged ‘customer feedback’

7 Steps to Increase Trust for More Online Sales

Monday, December 21st, 2009

Do shoppers think my store is a safe place to make an online purchase?

Nearly all small businesses face a common challenge.  This challenge is demonstrating to potential customers that your small business is credible, trustworthy and has a track record of success and delivering products and services.  This challenge is typically derived from the fact that when someone gets to a small business website, they often do not have any indication whether they can trust that small business if the shopper wants to buy from that business.

Further complicating matters for small businesses online, is the constant threat of fraud and misuse of personal and financial information that weighs heavily on online users minds.  This fear of shoppers online is real and tangible.  In fact, a  Javelin Strategy & Research study found that the fear of identify theft and online shopping in general cost retailers over $21 billion in lost sales in 2008.

A June 2009 McAfee’s study showed that 92 percent of consumers are concerned about their security when shopping on new or unknown websites. Further, that study found that 63% of shoppers will not purchase from a web site that does not display a  security policy or other indications of trustworthiness.  A 2009 Verisign Security Report also found that nearly 50% of internet users avoid buying online due to concerns that their financial information will be stolen. The report also found that 83% of internet users want assurances that their information will be secure.

These concerns are getting the attention of all types of businesses, including industry giants like Microsoft.  Scott Charney, Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President of Trustworthy Computing, said at the 2009 RSA Security Conference that  “When [shoppers] visit Web sites, they don’t know if that Web site is to be trusted or not. For all of these reasons we need End-to-End Trust.”

Steps for Small Business to Demonstrate Trust

Shoppers concerns with buying online are well documented and the data supports those concerns. The good news is that there are some simple steps that all small businesses can take to demonstrate trust on their website to shoppers:

1. Management/Owner Information:  Be transparent to your shoppers. Prominently display under a Management tab the names of the owners of your business.   Make sure you add some background information on that manager/owner.  You can even include  it in story form.   This information gives shoppers comfort that there is a real person behind your business and makes it more personal.

2. Use Online Video to Virtually Introduce Yourself: A hot new trend is using online videos, through a YouTube clip, that introduces the management of your small business to shoppers and potential customers.  Here are some good tips in this prior post on using videos to build trust and credibility for your small business on your website.

3. Contact Information: Another way to build trust is to clearly and prominently display contact information including phone number and email addresses for customer service and management contacts.  By showing shoppers that they can contact you in case there are any product or service issues, you give them comfort that your business is accessible.

4. Return, Shipping, Customer Service & Data Policies: It is important that you clearly provide a list of your return, shipping, customer service and data protection policies.  It is important enough that small businesses should consider devoting a whole tab or area of their website where shoppers can visit and see what are the policies for your business.  Again the goal here should be the more information about these policies the better.

5. Trust and Validation Marks/Seals:  The 2009 Verisign Security Report found that 86% of online shoppers feel more confident about entering personal and financial information with sites that have some type of security indicators, such as trustmarks.   A few seals provides much of the information that is covered in this post through just one seal that resides on an online store’s website. Look for those seals.

6. Customer Feedback: Show that you can be trusted and also let people know your track record with customers by publishing comments about your product, service and business.

7. Actively Engage Customers: Use social media sites and tools like Twitter, Facebook and a blog to profile your business, create a tangible brand and personality and also engage customers.  These conversations with your customer and the community give shoppers a more complete, in-depth and intimate look into your business.  These conversations and having them like we have covered in previously posts via Twitter and your blog only make your business more credible.

Also one of our favorites, Inc Magazine has a good article on this same topic of online trust and you should check that out too.

If you start using these tips, your business and your website will go a long way to clearly demonstrating trust to shoppers and thereby helping you increase sales.

Please tell us in the comments section below what you look for before you buy online.

*Image from Bill Mullins Blog.

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Is your business a trail adventure?

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009
A favorite route - Apex Trail

A favorite route - Apex Trail

Living in Colorado is refreshing and rewarding… and can force one to tackle adventures with a free spirit. The assumption is that if you live in Colorado, you are hitting the slopes every weekend. Well, I’m not a skier, but give me a good pair of trail running shoes, a crisp morning and a trail that winds up a mountain or hillside – now that’s what I call adventure! Will there be the unavoidable tree root to navigate or an elevation change that I wasn’t quite prepared for? Maybe encounter a snake or snow/ice which forces one to slow down and proceed with caution. Starting a business is a similar adventure in putting on those running shoes, climbing up the mountain, yet not certain what you may encounter along the way.

When launching a new business, we are forced to be selective of which trail to tackle first and more importantly to keep track of where we’ve been so as not to make repeat mistakes. The path of a new business needs to be able to react and learn from last weekend’s trail run and plan accordingly for next week’s adventure. My favorite poem, Robert Frost’s The road not takencan be interpreted many ways. In the success of business, we over analyze which can paralyze… How complex should your beta launch be? How are we going to support customer inquiries/issues in a timely manner? What enhancements should we concentrate on? How will we measure success? I can go on…

In trail running, I cannot be afraid to take that challenging trail and have an incredible story to share from my adventure. In starting a business, we need to be brave enough to take that less travelled road that can pave the way for others to follow, which will be our loyal customers.

When in doubt, run uphill! What twists and turns, and unexpected elevation changes have your business taken you on? Share your experience with us.

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Posts Tagged ‘customer feedback’

Why Online Stores Should Blog

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

We get the question a lot these days about whether small businesses and in particular online stores should have blogs?  Often, the question is asked why should a store owner spend their precious time blogging.  Here are some reasons that an online store should blog:

1. SEO Value: It is no secret that Google and other search engines really like and prefer fresh website content.  A blog is a quick, easy way to continually provide new and fresh content related to your store and your website.  The more posts that you create and publish and then syndicate to various blog search engines like Technorati, MyVenturePad and SocialMedian the better.  Also when you incorporate relevant keywords into posts, that content is spidered by Google and other search engines, and that then helps your overall search results for those keywords.  That is because you are creating more relevant content and website pages related to those keywords for your store.

2.Humanizing Your Store: Shoppers and people in general like to shop and interact with businesses that they can relate to and like.  Use your blog to educate your customers, prospects, the community and the industry on who your business is, your business culture and ideals and the personality of your business.  There are many ways to do that including using videos on your blog to introduce employees as we described previously.  Giving shoppers and your customers a more in depth look at your brand and your business allows customers to create a bond with your business.  This can help drive word of mouth marketing of your store by these customers and shoppers.

3. Another Channel to Feature Products:  Online stores can use a blog to describe and introduce new products or product lines to your customers and the market.  You can also have blog posts that describe a special discount on a product.  Some stores even use their blog to outline special features of their products that may not be obvious.  You can even use a blog to create  your own Frequently Asked Questions for your products which can help reduce your customer service calls and call drivers.

4. Way to Engage Your Customers: Having a blog is a great way to interact with your customers.  Your customers and the greater community can visit your blog, read the posts and then comment on those posts.  When they do, it gives you and your store and opportunity to have a conversation with your customers.  This also has the benefit of giving your customers a forum to discuss your products.  That is a great alternative to your customers not having a forum and then posting negative feedback on a third party website that you do not control.

5.  Linking And Traffic Benefits: If you have a blog, it gives you a great opportunity to link to third party websites. BUT, it also allows other websites to link to your posts and your store.  If you can combine this, with an affirmative strategy on your own where you go out and post comments to other blogs, those bloggers will eventually return the favor and post comments on your store’s blog. For some more context, here is a good post from blogging experts on getting more blog comments. If you are active with other blogs,  those bloggers will often also add links to your site and in some cases they will feature your products and store on their blog.  All of this taken together can really help increase the visibility of your store and drive new traffic. It all begins with your blog!

Now let us note that, having a blog is just one step in your overall marketing, social media and branding strategy.  Combine your blog use with a strategy that uses Twitter and Facebook like we outlined previously here and here and you can really begin to extend the reach of your store to new communities, customers and industry experts that your business never would have reached before.

Let us know if you have any tips for using a blog for your online store.

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Posts Tagged ‘customer feedback’

Lexis Survey Finds that Small Businesses Drink the Ratings Kool-Aid

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

A new survery from LexisNexis and Martindale Hubble provided a very interesting trend amoung small businesses and their use and perceptions of rating sites.  According to the survey, small businesses rely on rating and review sites — for service and product choices — at a rate that is double the average consumer.  This is in despite of the fact that these same small business owners indicate a couple of things: (1) that the normal review sites are easily biased by positive or negative reviews; and (2) the reviews can easily be faked by the businesses being reviewed.

Why do small businesses find review sites to be of such value when they can be manipulated?  Despite these short-comings, reviews allow for much needed guidance in aggregating data and sorting out, in relatively quick fashion, where to get your goods and services.  Another point that the survey reveals is what something we already know (so it’s really a stretch to say it’s “revealing” anything) — that not all ratings are created equally.  More trust is put into the rating if (a) its from a independent third party; and (b) is based, in part, on actual customer feedback (but again, for some of these review sites, it can be hard to know if the data is from real customers or the reviewed business faking the review).

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Make Me A Clown Now! While You Are At It Teach Me What to Expect When I Start Selling Online Part 2

Friday, October 16th, 2009

This is the second part of the two part posting about starting to sell online. You can read the first part here.

Yes, you can be a clown and you can start selling online pretty quickly. You can even be a clown while you are selling online. The trick is to make sure you do not act like a clown when you get set up to start selling online. This post will cover some key items that every person who wants to take their business online needs to think about as they get going.

Test, Test, Test

It is painful, but you must be constantly testing changes to the website. The tests should not be wholesale changes, but should be controlled. So many people focus on getting the product line-up just right, or the purchase flows streamlined or the website to have the ideal color. The truth is you need to keep testing changes to your website. Nearly every component should be tested to see how visitors to your website interact with the website. Controlled testing is key. That is commonly known as A/B testing and here is a great summary of A/B testing. It basically means you show a change to the website to only 50% or so of the visitors and 50% of the visitors do not see the change. The analysis that is so valuable is what happens to the other 50% of visitors who see the changed website. Do they convert at a higher rate, do they stay on the website longer, do they click the new link that you added etc. This is the value of testing and more testing until you optimize the various areas of your site, but even then continued testing will help you as shoppers’ habits evolve.

Be Flexible

This may be the most important of all. To be a seller online, you need to be flexible. You may think that customers and shoppers will respond a certain way, but you need to be prepared to expect the unexpected. Inflexible folks just can not make it as merchants online.  Even better, if you are flexible and are addressing your customers needs that will create customer loyalty with your business.  Remember customers like to deal with businesses that listen to them and also take action on customer feedback. This flexibility can also lead to your customers being your best advocates through word of mouth recommendations about your business and products.  All of this from just listening to your customers and acting on their feedback!

These are just a few of the things to keep in mind. Do you have any lessons learned from your experience selling online that you want to share?

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