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Posts Tagged ‘shopping’

Small Business Interview with SJ Trotter from Exclusive Clothing Retail (www.exclusiveclothingretail.com)

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

ECRWhat best defines ecommerce? The lack of boundaries in searching for the best goods/services at the best price.  We here at KikScore came across www.exclusiveclothingretail.com  and its owner, S.J. Trotter on Twitter and have been following ECR for a while (despite the fact we’re on the opposite side of the Atlantic).  We’re a fan of ECR and asked Mr. Trotter to give us a few minutes to talk about the economy, lessons on business, and who is his favorite Beatle.  He obliged.  Here’s our interview:

1. How did you get started with your store and selling online?

As soon as we started our company, Exclusive Ent, we knew we wanted to start by selling online, with the amount of free advertising you can gain from social networks an online store is a must.

2. How would you summarize your survival strategy for the past two years?

Not throwing money into the company! One thing we agreed from the start was to slowly build up our company and not take out a massive loan to try and kick start it. Word of mouth and social network promotion was our route rather than spending thousands on advertising. Resulting in us being in 0 debt at this current time which I believe is an achievement.

3. Have you seen any recent uptick in business activity

Because we are a fairly new company we have had a steady increase in sales since we began 2 years ago.

4. What will be your focus for 2010?

Artist’s endorsements & finalizing plans to open our own flagship shop.

5. What are 2 things that you would pass along as guidance for a business just starting out today?

Just do not allow yourself to built up a large amount of debt. As good as your idea is to you, your never ever know if it will be a reality and sell well so test the waters for a while before you start piling money into your business. Also take full advantage of all social network and free Internet advertising.

6. Have you seen any sales deriving from social media?

50% of our sales come from social networking sites, the chain reaction you can achieve from them is priceless.

7. If you could have dinner with any person, present or past, who would it be and why?

Richard Branson, I think I could write a list of 100 questions to ask him in seconds!

8. Better Artist: John Lennon or Paul McCartney?

John Lennon for simply ‘Imagine’, But really I’m not sure you can pick between them they are both world class

9. One informal economic indicator that you watch more closely than anything else?

Although it may not be an economic indicator what I watch closer than anything is my competitions prices, not necessarily so we are always cheaper but more that we show our customers that we have more value for money.

10. Any favorite piece of advice you’ve received?

Built your company with what you earn, not what you can borrow

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Posts Tagged ‘shopping’

Is There Brand Loyalty In A Recession?

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

sThere are no atheists in a foxhole, but is there brand loyalty in a recession?  In our household, the answer is…nope.  I’ve been noticing this past year the slow emergence of generic groceries cropping up in our cabinets.  Generics?  Dear Lord, the last time I was subjected to generic groceries was growing up with my frugal parents.  Instead of Fruit Loops, we got those Fruity O’s…you know the similarly colored, fruit-flavored cereal that comes in a bag.  Yum.  But my wife insists that times have changed and store-label food products are just as good.  So instead of Irish Spring, we now use Up And Up (Target’s generic brand of green soap).  It’s not bad.  Instead of NyQuil, another Target brand (we love Target).  Instead of Cinnamon Toast Crunch…we continue to get Cinnamon Toast Crunch (you don’t skimp on the important things).  But our household isn’t alone.  It appears that in 2009 there was a surge of generic and store label brands in grocery stores.

But besides my Cinnamon Toast Crunch, I did notice that our household isn’t going generic on clothing…specifically my wife’s boots and jeans.  And she is making the point to go to her favorite small business boutique to get these items (Garbarini, just in case you’re looking to do some shopping in Denver).  When I asked why, the reason she said 1)  because Garbarini has a much better selection than the department stores; and 2) she wants to make sure her favorites stores survive the Recession.

So this Recession may be an opportunity for small and online businesses for a couple of reasons.  First, shoppers are obviously looking to save money and don’t really care where they buy their Sony Bravia — obviously an advantage for online sellers with no overhead cost.  However, ther may also be some brand loyalty to stores and business that specialize on certain product lines and/or customer service.

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Are Successful Entrepreneurs Really Risk Takers? Malcom Gladwell Doesn't Think So

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

malcom-gladwellBy nature, I’m a contrarian.  It could be that I just like to argue, but if the conventional wisdom is one way, I’m inclined to believe the opposite.  Since “Blink” and “Tipping Point” became the reference points for almost everyone in the business world, I started to heavily discount any theory or research posited by Malcom Gladwell.  The great thing about being a contrarian, you don’t even need to read the work or understand the position that you’re disagreeing with — you just take the opposite side.  So, of course, I had a very good handle on Mr. Gladwell’s work without actually reading it.  Unfortunately, my intentional ignorance didn’t last long.  As a reader of the The New Yorker, I kept coming across articles that I really enjoyed.  The problem: these articles were written by Malcom Gladwell.  When does this guys sleep?  He’s everywhere.  I wouldn’t be surprised if shows up on Sesame Street, explaining  supply side economics in a child-friendly way. 

Why this long explanation?  Because I’ve completely abandoned by dim view of Mr. Gladwell, and repeat every single thing he writes as gospel.  I sicken myself.  Today will be no different.  In a recent New Yorker article, Malcom takes on the widely held belief that successful entrepreneurs are risk takers and mavericks.  In his view, that may be true for many entrepreneurs, it just isn’t so for successful ones.

Instead of being risk-takers, successful entrepreneurs are those with unique insight or information that see the value in something that others do not, and strike.  These individuals don’t risk their own money (or if they do, very little of it) and act more as predators than as free-wheeling mavericks.  He profiles Ted Turner and John Paulson to make these points.  And ends the with the results of a survey of individual business owners — where it establishes that this group is much more willing to settle for less monetary compensation so long as it is more certain.

So what’s your view?  Do you agree with Malcom, or are entrepreneurs risk takers?

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Posts Tagged ‘shopping’

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 ‘shopping’

Will Entrepreneurs and Pizza Palors Save the U.S. Economy?

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

the hoffFinancial markets have melted down, real estate industry has a faint heart beat, and Corporate America has been laying off people by hundreds of thousands each month.  People are concerned about job security and not spending any more on expensive trips or dinners.  Not an ideal recipe for an economy or starting a business.  Or is it? 

There is a saying that you should “never underestimate the US consumer” — that is especially true for consumption of food.  More specifically, it is true for consumption of pizza.  Pizza is on my mind for two reasons.  First, we are in full swing of the football season and it seems that every weekend I’m eating pizza and watching football each Sunday. Quick tangent — I’m loving the new Domino’s Pizza.  Throw in some Chicken Kickers with ESPN, and you’ve got a great little Sunday. 

The second reason for my focus on pizza is an article that I stumbled across in the USA Today.  It discusses the rise of entrepreneurs in the form of franchisee owners, with a particular focus on CiCis Pizza franchises.  I did a little research and found that in this recession, Dominos continues to grow (just an fyi, my hope is to praise Dominos enough to get some free pizza out of this blog posting).  The pizza business has only flurished in this environment.  There is also a profile in the WSJ this past week on California Pizza Kitchen — with their founders leaving the law as defense attorneys to create a pizza chain concept. 

As the numbers are showing, Americans love pizza.  It’s cheap and tasty, it’s also relatively easy to start a pizza shop.  Take these facts and couple it with all the successful individuals looking to start a business, and we may be facing a marinara-led growth out of this recession.  Or at least a free pizza coupon for me due to my sucking up to Dominos.

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Posts Tagged ‘shopping’

This Just In: Marketing to Your Own Social Network Works and it's Cheap!

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009
I was just reading an article in the Denver Post today that talked about how social networking sites, like Twitter and Facebook, may have played a part in boosting retail sales this holiday season. In my opinion it is a no-brainer for all retailers, but especially small-to-midsize retailers who tend to be more local and closer to their customers, to use these social networking tools to promote their current sales and to distribute marketing information through.  Who is going to be more interested in coupons or promotional materials for your company’s products than people who have gone out of their way to include themselves in your social network using these online tools?
Not only is marketing to these individuals more effective but it is also more cost efficient when done through these channels.  The article in the Denver Post mentions that ad spending in the U.S. was down 14.7% in the first 9 months of 2009, due in part to these retailers spending more time and money on these non-traditional marketing techniques.  I would think that this type of social network marketing would be especially effective for online-only retailers since consumers could easily follow a link in the marketing materials directly to the storefront to purchase the advertised product.  Another astonishing statistic that I saw today showed that online sales increased 15.5% during the period from November 1 to December 24th when compared to the same period last year and online sales now account for 10% of all retail sales during that time.  I know that I personally did about 90% of my holiday shopping online this year and don’t plan on having that number go down anytime soon!
Retailers are also finding new creative ways to use social networking and blogs to interact with their customer base. As referenced in the same article above, Best Buy has a new group on Twitter referred to as “Twelpforce” that customer service agents use to tweet various product-related tips and suggestions.  Qwest Communicationshas a Twitter team that scours tweets for issues that customers are having with their phone or internet service and contacts them directly via Twitter or e-mail to resolve them. Also, some online retailers (like Simply Astro and Oregon Seafood ) have chosen to use this very KikScore blog to promote their company online by letting us do a short interview with them so that you can learn more about their products and future initiatives.
Finally, in news related to a post I made on this blog a couple weeks ago, Google just announced yesterday that they are holding an “Android-related press conference” on January 5.  Speculation is high that they will announce plans to roll-out their highly anticipated Nexus One phone (otherwise known as the G-Phone) that may have some features not yet seen on a Smartphone and this phone may be sold directly to consumers through their website without a dedicated carrier.  I guess we will find out more next week!

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Posts Tagged ‘shopping’

2009 Blog Recap: My Favorite Postings of the Year

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

It’s the end of the year…a time for reflection and evaluation.  In this spirit, a few of us are going to highlight some of our favorite postings from the year.  Here are my favorite five postings we’ve done (I promise they won’t just be the ones I wrote):

1.  2009 Trends in ECommerce— Typical Raj posting, very informative and a great list of tools available for ecommerce businesses.

2.  Diary of a Tech Start Up: Idea to Soft Launch — Ok.  This is my post, but I like it because it starts our Diary series and it summarizes two years of our company.

3.  Making the Grade — Kristen’s first post and a really detailed view of what KikScore’s algorithm looks at when sizing up a business.

4.  A Few Good Blogs Part 1— A great list of blogs relating to ecommerce and small business.

5.  Brett Favre and Business — Despite the December let down, a got to love a post dedicated to the Minnesota Vikings’ quarterback.

That’s my list.  Feel free to let us know if you agree/disagree.

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Happy Holiday? Do You Take Time Off From Your Business?

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

This week, my parents are doing something that they never do…travel to my house for the holidays. As far as I can recall, I have always traveled back home (balmy Minnesota) to see them. This has been true for the past 15 years. This year, we convinced them to come out.

Why the drought of visits. Is it because they don’t like me? Of course not. Why? Did you hear something? No the real reason is because 25 years ago, my Dad quit his corporate job to start his own business. He doesn’t have a lot of help running the business, so almost every holiday season, he didn’t have time to get away. As he would say, “the longer I’m away, the more work I have waiting for me when I return.”  The Wall Street Journal just touched on the same issue, giving a guide to small business owners on “How to Take a Vacation“. The advice is solid (the best has to be “Accept the Fact that You’ll Lose Money”).

Since we all have day jobs, and our nights and weekends are dedicated to KikScore, I’m getting a sense that it may be quite sometime before I start doing a lot of personal travel during the holiday season.  Just as sure as I’m going bald like my Dad, I’m inheriting his work schedule.  And I’m not alone (with regard to the work schedule…I mean I’m also not alone on being bald).  Simply searching “Small Business Vacation 2009” reveals a wide variety of blog postings about small business owners talking about the difficulty in taking time off.  Here’s a good one from Newsweek.

So, are you taking time off this holiday?  Any plans for a 2010 get-away?  Can I go with you?

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Forget the Store, Lets Just Buy That Online!

Friday, December 18th, 2009

Bad Santa

As the picture above from the classic Christmas movie Bad Santa shows, the holiday season is generally a time to flock to the mall.  Many of us try so hard to overcome the crowds, the aggressive shoppers and the mall traffic to make sure we have all of our gifts for friends, families and co-workers.

My wife and I began this season spending a lot of time shopping at various stores.  A lot of the places were actually home improvement, department and electronics stores like Home Depot, Best Buy and Sears.   Much of the shopping focused around our never ending condo renovation.  And I am not the only person shopping from Kikscore. Others spent time shopping for items like coats for their brother!

Throughout much of our shopping, I kept saying to my wife, “Lets go get some Red Lobster because we can buy these items online.  Its easier, we can get more selection and we can pick it out while we are relaxing on our couch.”  One added bonus of not buying in the store is when you purchase online it gets delivered. Therefore I am saved from breaking my back trying to load the purchases into the Black Dragon (our 2000 Black Honda Accord – @157,000 miles).

Buying online is just so much easier than having to fight through the crowds to get what you want.  Its even better because then I do not have to face the challenge of my pregnant wife being able to outwalk me!

This season we are buying online much more because:

1) Buying online is easy;

2) Buying online is convenient;

3) Buying online allows you to shop at multiple sites from the comfort of your home;

4) Buying online allows you to do real time price and product functionality lookups and comparisons;

5) Buying online gets your products delivered to your doorstep; and

6) Buying online allows you to avoid the hyped H1NI germs, frantic shoppers, bad traffic and interesting characters that roam the shopping malls

Now buying online is not without its issues too. For example, we recently ordered a large sink for our bathroom.  Well the supplier of the sink decided to ship it via ground transportation.  What do you think happened when the sink had to make its way from St. Louis to Washington DC in the back of a truck along beautiful and scenic I-70?  Well that sink was delivered 3 separate times and each time there was a large crack in it forcing us to return the sink.  So watch out and make sure you use these 5 tips for safe online shopping when you buy online.

Let us know if you are avoiding the crowds and buying more online.

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Customer Reviews and Blogs: Do They Matter?

Monday, December 14th, 2009

There are a lot of websites and blogs that track the good and bad customer experiences with online sites and service providers.  The general notion is that these past experiences will help predict what future experiences will be.  The concept makes a lot of sense, but it presumes a few things to be true.  I just finished reading SuperFreakonomics, so I think I’m more than qualified to address these issues in a rigorous manner (did I mention that I am a scientist?  Yep, I graduated with a degree in political science, so you’re in good hands):

Sample Issues: The review sites and blogs are very much slanted towards those actually inclined to share their experiences, and those who actually know how to share them.   There is a large bloc of people not interested in telling the world about how they were ripped off by an unknown online seller (it’s called “loss avoidance” and most of us engage in it at some point…see I told you I was a scientist).  The sample of these comments are further vexed by the fact that some people don’t know how to voice their opinions (or which sites to do it with) — so the sample will likely skew towards more positive and be made by those familiar with technology/online industries.

Fraud: This is also a concern, and likely why most ratings skew overly positive…online sellers/service providers rate themselves (via fake accounts or their friends).  It’s not “fraud” in the sense of defrauding someone out of their money, but it’s not honest and defeats the purpose of customer reviews.  It’s similar to how I used to inscribe my own yearbook to make it seem like I had more friends.

Low Visibility/Little Negative Impact:  An online seller isn’t likely to promote their customer reviews unless  they are positive, so it takes a consumer extra effort to research the negative reviews.  And once you do come across those reviews, what do they mean?  If you’re about to save 20% on the new plasma t.v., it’s likely that you’ll take your chances — it’s likely the previous customers were just complainers. 

Time for the anecdotal: My wife bought a new light fixture online.  She receives it and finds out it can’t be used in a bathroom because of a potential fire hazard.  The contacts the owner of the site, he tells her “she should be fine putting it in the bathroom”).  After realizing she is not going to be able to return the item, she threatens to “blog about her experience”.  Of course, she has other things to worry about and in time she moves one — no negative review, no blog posting, no negative effect for the online seller.

Of course, we here at KikScore think we’ve solved the issue, but until we’re ubiquitous, we’ll have to determine whether customer reviews are helpful.  What are your thoughts?

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