1. Joe, thanks for taking the time to share some insights with your UltraCart colleagues. You've been with us for the last 6 years and in that time you've gone from a successful merchant to an Enterprise Merchant! Can you give us some ideas of what you have done to spur that amazing growth?
Joe - our business began primarily brick and mortar based. In our first year of business, we had an open source, run-of-the-mill site that had generated some significant profits in the 4 th quarter. When we saw such a poor quality site producing so much revenue and profit, we realized that we needed to shift resources to e-commerce development. Our goal when we began to enhance our site was to improve the look and user experience for customers and to enhance the backend utilities including, shipping, data processing, and accounting. We hired Capitol Media to create an entirely new site for us, and we used UltraCart as our backend. Respective to marketing, we began controlled, aggressive Search Engine Optimization for long tail and competitive keywords. We launched an affiliate program in two different affiliate networks, and we integrated Google analytics and used Google website optimizer for conversion optimization.
2. That brings up a very interesting point, once you achieve that level of success the world is your oyster. At this point you can work with any ecommerce platform or even develop your own shopping cart. In fact I've watched other very successful merchants leave to try other carts or develop their own and they end up coming back to UltraCart. You've never gone down that road, what do you know that they didn't know?
Joe - A few years ago, I explored other cart options and I even spoke with other business owners that had gone down that road. None of the other carts provided me with the comprehensive solutions I needed for our website.
Shipping: Within UltraCart I can customize destination & weight restrictions, implement an assortment of shipping variables to maximize revenue and reduce costs, integrate with fulfillment centers or utilize the UltraShip platform for in-house fulfillment, etc.
Accounting: UltraBooks downloads every order to Quickbooks. This sort of automation is priceless to our business.
Auto-responder: I can use ajax to capture customer information before they've finished checking out and I can email them if they abandon the cart. This tool increased conversion rates by 40%.
Reporting: UltraCart provides a comprehensive list of reports for accounting, forecasting, and other needs. You can customize your own order reports to obtain the specific information you need.
Updating: UltraCart allows me to use .csv updates and/or mass edit features for inventory, prices, etc.
Marketing: UltraCart has more coupon types than any other cart I've seen, and if the specific option you need isn't available, they will create it for you. UltraCart is also integrated with various CRMs like Office Autopilot, SalesForce, etc. Because we use Office Autopilot, our customer information is passed through.
to the CRM and customers are automatically dropped into sequenced email campaigns depending on how many times they have purchased.
Support: I've worked with the support to solve many issues on my site. They've worked quickly and happily with me. I recall one situation, a few years ago on Cyber Monday, when we had a tremendous flow of traffic to our site and our server half-crashed. If our site had remained in that state, we would have lost almost a hundred thousand dollars in sales, but one of the top-level executives reached out to us and worked alongside our web development company to restore site functionality. This sort of service earned our loyalty.
3. You know I've bought products from you in the past and I got to experience first hand your customer service team as a result of a mistake I made. My interaction with them and the way they handled the issue caused me to come back and buy again. How do you get great customer service reps?
I think great customer service is a reflection of management's attitude and management's policies. If there are clear policies about taking care of the customer, and if management treats their own employees and their business associates with respect and shows excitement, that attitude becomes infectious. Everyone starts to treat each other and all of the customers that same way.
4. You have done a great job of utilizing sites like groupon.com and livingsocial.com to push sales at different times during the year.
You need to have the right product with the right margins and logistics to be able to make that work. We have sufficient margins and our fulfillment logistics are sound enough that we can still make a profit on heavily discounted orders like those we receive from Daily Deal sites. Niche products with good margins can do really well on Groupon and other Daily Deal sites.
5. How does UC help you do that?
The marketing section within UC allows us to create a variety of coupons that mimic a Groupon voucher or gift card when applied to an order. That system also allows us to easily create or upload thousand of coupons and to monitor their use. Other site owners, not using UltraCart, have spent a lot of time and money attempting to create that sort of functionality.
6. How do you generate traffic?
It's a multipronged approach.
SEO is a long-term commitment; we spent a lot of time and effort learning how to do it. We began targeting longtail keywords, and as we gained traction with the search engines we incorporated more competitive keywords into the mix. Today we rank #1 for dozens of keywords and we are top 5 for dozens more. Affiliate marketing has also given us a great ROI. Our rapid success in affiliate marketing is atypical. Most affiliate programs take at least a year to show significant results (profit).
Social media can be a successful lead generation source. We primarily utilize it to maintain a dialogue with our customers and to learn more about those customers. With the use of surveys and other contests we've learned a lot about our demographic and we've increased some of our customer loyalty.
Partnerships with cross-promoting websites, features on deal sites like Groupon and Living Social, and relationships with other business owners can all be highly valuable.
7. If I gave you three words to describe UltraCart what would they be and why?
Awesome, $, Learning Curve
I guess that's three words and one symbol.
Awesome: That platform is remarkable and provides everything a small, medium, and enterprise level merchant needs.
$: UC cost very little money and makes you a lot of money.
Learning Curve: I would suggest immersing yourself in the UC system and the UC documentation. There's some depth to the platform that can be overwhelming at first. As you become more familiar with UC, the navigation and location of different elements will seem much more intuitive than at first.