Review your website with fresh eyes: Ensure your site is mobile-friendly, easy to navigate, and that your products truly pop on the page. I’ve spent years finding the right graphic designer(s) and web-developers to help me grow my e-commerce platform and increase ROI. Modifications that may seem insignificant — such as posting clearer images, leveraging images to tell your brand story, and removing whitespace — can make a huge difference in converting sales on the website.
As part of my series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Create A Highly Successful E-Commerce Business,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Rekha Brar, Founder and CEO of Blossom Box Jewelry, a brand dedicated to enabling women to express their individuality through high-quality jewelry. Inspired by childhood trips to India, Rekha aims to capture the vibrancy of native colors and textures to breathe new life into everyday fashion. An entrepreneur with a background in accounting, Rekha has run Blossom Box Jewelry since 2011.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I started my career as an Accountant, but after two years of number crunching in a cubicle, I knew it was not my dream career. As a child, I watched my immigrant parents work hard as business owners. I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit and a love for jewelry. I learned very early on how to be comfortable standing out as an Indian child growing up in my small Canadian town. During family trips to vibrant bazaars in India, I saw women making intricate jewelry and clothing by hand. It was inspiring and really made me appreciate my culture. I often wore my mothers jewelry to school and many would comment on my ‘gold gaudy’ jewelry. This is when I realized my uniqueness and culture is something to be celebrated and not be ashamed of. I started Blossom Box Jewelry as a hobby, but it quickly became a full-time business. Our first big break was at a trade show when a buyer from Neiman Marcus approached us and then wrote a significant purchase order. That is when I realized we had something.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
The “Aha Moment” was our first trade show. Trade shows are quite expensive and I clearly remember pacing back and forth in our booth questioning if the show was a huge financial mistake. But, on day two of the trade show we caught the attention of a major buyer and then after obtaining an initial department store account our line was picked up by Saks, Nordstrom and Anthropologie. This solidified me leaving the accounting industry to pursue my own business.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
There were many hard times and occasional days when I wanted to give up, but giving up is just not an option for me. I am determined to keep going even when things get tough. I actually enjoy facing challenges and problem solving. Each day presents new challenges in the life of an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship is truly a rollercoaster journey. When faced with something new how you approach each situation determines your success. I remember when we received our first large purchase order and I did not have enough funds to buy the necessary inventory. I did not want to apply for a business loan nor bring in investors. I didn’t want to pass up this golden opportunity, but on the other hand, I didn’t want to ask for outside funding. I knew that as a CEO raising capital is key. I had to figure out a creative solution to make it possible. So, after an extensive conversation with my manufacturer, he supported me and gave the green light to fulfill the purchase order. For every problem, there’s always a solution.
So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
Blossom Box is continuing to grow day-by-day. Every day brings a new set of challenges that we have to tackle at different angles, but it is an exciting process. I’ve cultivated a small team of individuals who are as passionate about the product as I am, which has been extremely rewarding. My commitment to my business succeeding and remaining confident has helped me.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
When Blossom Box was still in its infancy, I often set up introductory meetings with new clients and vendors. One of my first meetings was with a particularly exciting potential buyer. I confirmed the time and prepared early for an energetic meeting. I logged in ten minutes early. My angst and doubt grew as I eventually waited in front of my screen before realizing that I erroneously scheduled the meeting in the wrong time zone. I can laugh about it now, but I definitely wasn’t laughing back then. This taught me the importance of reviewing every detail, even the ones that seem like “no-brainers.” I now have a habit to double-check time zones, especially as Blossom Box Jewelry grows as a global brand.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
From Blossom Box’s packaging to our casting of models, we stand out in every way! It’s so easy to look at what other jewelry brands are doing and be tempted to follow suit, but remaining true to our mission is always a priority.. Ensuring that our brand is authentic in everything we do is vital to our success. We were originally noticed by major department store buyers because of how unique and special we are, so I always refer back to our mission and values.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
My biggest tip would be to accept that you can’t do everything yourself! I suggest hiring a trustworthy team and be open to their fresh perspectives. It’s hard to let go as your brand is your baby. Blossom Box is definitely my baby, but I also know the value of true teamwork.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
It is imperative to have a strong support system of friends and family. Entrepreneurship brings many ups and downs and my positive circle has been instrumental for me. I don’t credit just one particular person who has helped me along the way, but rather my positive loving circle of friends and family.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The Pandemic has changed many aspects of all of our lives. One of them is the fact that so many of us have gotten used to shopping almost exclusively online. Can you share a few examples of different ideas that eCommerce businesses are implementing to adapt to the new realities created by the Pandemic?
Creating an easy way for people to shop is huge! I want my customers to visit our website and find everything seamlessly. We hire the best of the best web developers who get it and are able to ensure that our site is both fun and fluid. Social media is extremely important! It’s where a lot of people turn to get inspiration and feel some comfort (especially during a pandemic). We want consumers to visit our social media platforms and feel inspired by simply browsing through our photos. We’ve mastered our online persona and implement strategies across our channels to support it.
Amazon, and even Walmart are going to exert pressure on all of retail for the foreseeable future. New Direct-To-Consumer companies based in China are emerging that offer prices that are much cheaper than US and European brands. What would you advise retail companies and eCommerce companies, for them to be successful in the face of such strong competition?
Many overseas companies offer cheaper prices, but consumers are generally seeking their merchandise to arrive within a few days. Consumers don’t want to wait weeks on end or deal with missing packages. I have found that consumers often face uncertainty ordering from overseas vendors. International shipping is moving even slower due to Covid and this is a prime opportunity for American brands to offer quick shipping services. I do believe that American shoppers want to support American brands and if they can receive their merchandise quickly they don’t mind paying a few extra dollars to ensure that.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start an eCommerce business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
The biggest mistake I have seen CEOs and founders make is trying too much all at once. I see it all too often when CEO’s try to implement too many strategies. It is imperative to outline your goals first and then create a bullet point strategy and stick to accomplishing one task and tactic at a time. It’s important to master one strategy first, get sales going and then move on to the next strategy, otherwise you will confuse or overwhelm your customers. Too many new features and calls to action could result in inaction.
In your experience, which aspect of running an eCommerce brand tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
Running an ecommerce business is a lot of work. You not only need to be able to provide quality products, but you also have to be savvy with technology and on top of the latest tech advancements. You have to know about marketing, merchandising, technology, operations, customer service and more. The complexity that comes with running an eCommerce business can be surprising. It’s not as easy as setting up a website, plugging in your products and launching. While not having the overhead or concerns of a traditional brick and mortar are appealing, eCommerce has its own unique challenges.
Can you share a few examples of tools or software that you think can dramatically empower emerging eCommerce brands to be more effective and more successful?
Web-based tools that are game-changing for any ecommerce business include Hot Jar — Heatmap, which provides visual and data-based insights about how your customer is interacting with your webpage. As we’ve had multiple versions of the website and spent years perfecting it, Hot Jar has helped identify what website functions appeal to our customers and where they engage the most. Additionally, with such a dedicated, passionate team, Asana has been helpful with project and task management. It is mission-critical for the entire team to be on the same page and have a seamless communication method, especially in a remote setting. There is even a chat function, so no need to invest in additional add-ons for instant messaging with your team. Finally, the A2X for Shopify app is a former accountant’s favorite! With number crunching being in my rearview and my full focus on other key business priorities, the app does the accounting for us automatically. It puts our transactions in a format that is universal for ease of reporting.
As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies an eCommerce business should use to increase conversion rates?
Your checkout process needs to be seamless, quick and efficient. Keep it simple, make the buttons large so people can click and pay effortlessly. Include Express payment options & options for people to make installment payments. Engaging website content keeps the audience’s attention and makes them want to browse and stay on the site for a longer period of time. Good pictures — imagery is everything. Have a cohesive brand — tell a story. Lastly, quick loading time because no one wants to be on a site that takes forever to load.
Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that an eCommerce business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?
Speak to the consumer how you would like to be spoken to. Be transparent and keep your fingers on the pulse. It’s a two way street on social media now.
One of the main benefits of shopping online is the ability to read reviews. Consumers love it! While good reviews are of course positive for a brand, poor reviews can be very damaging. In your experience what are a few things a brand should do to properly and effectively respond to poor reviews? How about other unfair things said online about a brand?
Even a bad review is a good review (in my humble opinion), because you can always learn from reviews. Sometimes it’s the worst reviews that end up being the best learning experience because they serve as an opportunity to fix issues and make it right.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a very successful e-commerce business? Please share a story or an example for each.
As an entrepreneur and owner of Blossom Box Jewelry, I understand first-hand how important it is to drive sales, increase customer engagement and build my brand. In my personal experience, I’ve learned that using the ‘right’ marketing strategies and following a few e-commerce businesses best practices are key to achieving larger business goals and becoming successful.
Five most important things to create a successful e-commerce business:
- Integrate technology to create an always-on business persona: Consider integrating a chatbot into your website. From tracking data insights I have learned firsthand that consumers look for 1:1 interaction when choosing a company to engage with. A chatbot provides constant, real-time access and immediate communication.
- Build a community: Consumers want to feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves. By sending a thank-you note or video, you can help make a personal connection. It’s important that consumers feel acknowledged and appreciated — this will set your business apart from larger corporations where a customer might get lost in the mix. Capitalize on your size as a small business to make these direct connections.
- Implement seasonal updates: Correlate your packaging with the season. This thoughtful adjustment makes receiving the product — and giving it as a gift — even better for customers. Also, consider updating your website with holiday or seasonal banners, and run promotions to incentivize customers to make a purchase during the busy season.
- Learn from your customers: Consider implementing a quarterly survey to learn directly from customers — what did they like or not like about the website? Was it easy to find and purchase the product? Would they buy the product again? Use the insights gained from customers to make adjustments to your website, selling process, etc. This is also a great way to make a personal connection — allowing consumers to play a role in how a brand conducts business.
- Use data insights to drive engagement: I’ve found that user-generated content, for example unboxings and organic videos, resonate well with consumers. In fact, authentic, user-generated content is what more consumers crave today. Consumers want to be constantly engaged to stay on or revisit a site. I found that organic video content is becoming an increasingly important aspect of driving traffic to sites. Identify what your customers are looking for and reflect that in your business strategies.
- Review your website with fresh eyes: Ensure your site is mobile-friendly, easy to navigate, and that your products truly pop on the page. I’ve spent years finding the right graphic designer(s) and web-developers to help me grow my e-commerce platform and increase ROI. Modifications that may seem insignificant — such as posting clearer images, leveraging images to tell your brand story, and removing whitespace — can make a huge difference in converting sales on the website.
- Tell a cohesive brand story: Align marketing across platforms; be consistent among social networks and on your website. Create authenticity and tell a story with your brand, and ensure that you’re telling the same story through social media pages, your website, and even your product packaging. Brand storytelling helps to create an emotional connection with customers. Think outside the box when it comes to leaving a lasting impression. Consider putting a ‘call to action’ on the product packaging — include a hashtag and ask customers to post about their experience with the product. This is a great way to build a community and connect like-minded people.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
This December for the holidays, my company partnered with FOREFRONT to allow access for girls in India who are currently living in poverty to have a formal education. For the entire month, 25% of every handmade headband and mask went to FOREFRONT. I would like my influence to empower women, especially Indian women to succeed. If I could start a movement, I would want consumers to support brands that are committed to social justice. There’s a great opportunity for consumers to identify brands that are committed to change and moreover spend their dollars on brands that are striving to eliminate adversity and create a better future.
How can our readers further follow you online?
You can find us on https://www.instagram.com/blossomboxjewelry/ on Instagram,
https://www.facebook.com/blossomboxjewelry/ on Facebookhttps://www.pinterest.com/blossombox/
https://twitter.com/blossombox?lang=en on Twitter
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!