Optimize your conversion rate. You can have all the traffic in the world, but if no one is purchasing your products, there is a problem. Optimizing your conversion rate allows you to increase revenue per visitor, acquire more customers, and grow your business.
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 Brian Rainey.
Brian is the CEO of Gooten the globally distributed production and logistics company transforming how online brands manufacture and fulfill merchandise to their customers. As a “big picture” thinker, Brian elevates the organization through pivotal leadership and strategic direction while aiding in the expansion of financing, hiring, and global initiatives.
Before Gooten, Brian gained experience in the accounting and finance industries, previously serving as the Chief Financial Officer of Buzz Points, Inc. At Gooten, Brian maintains an entrepreneurial perspective by which he views every challenge as an opportunity. He solves problems by curating and motivating an inspired, highly skilled cross-functional team to ensure the seamless executions of processes by devising and formulating business strategies and creating short-term goals and long-term objectives. Brian holds a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting and Finance from James Madison University in Virginia and an MBA from the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia.
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?
Before Gooten, I served as the CFO of a fintech company that delivered local rewards for community banks and credit unions. Before that, I primarily worked in the financial services industry at companies like Deloitte and Deutsche Bank. One of the reasons I wanted to move away from the finance industry is because it is a zero-sum game — meaning, for me to give something to someone, I have to take it away from someone else. Instead, I wanted to create efficiencies within inefficient processes so that everyone can win. That is what drew me to Gooten because we only succeed when our partners succeed. It’s one of the reasons why we call our customers partners because at the end of the day, we are their business partner and our goals are 100% aligned with theirs.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
When I took over as CEO of Gooten, I went on a listening tour with both sides of our business — our merchant partners and our manufacturing partners — in order to distill what our true value proposition was as a company. Throughout those conversations, I learned that Gooten provided a fundamental service that was incredibly difficult for each side of our business to deliver. This created a technological solution for merchants to easily access the world’s manufacturing network in a transparent and scalable way. Because of the product and service we provide, over the past 5 years, we’ve been able to power the businesses of 50,000+ merchants.
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?
One year there was a snowstorm in St. Louis at one of our manufacturing partner’s locations four days before 2500 items needed to be shipped out in order to arrive by Christmas. The orders we fulfill aren’t run-of-the-mill, everyday products you can pick up at your local Target. They are personalized and customized. One of the core benefits of Gooten is that we offer redundancies — meaning our product SKUs are available in more than one facility. Even though the St. Louis location was out of commission, we were able to move all those orders to one of our partners in North Carolina, and they were able to produce, ship, and deliver all those items in time for the holidays. We were not only able to persevere because of our production capability and network, but also because of the strength and dedication of our team members.
So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
While the path to understand what our merchant partners needed wasn’t always a straight line, I am extremely proud of how much we’ve grown. Our recent recognition by Inc. 5000 as one of the fastest-growing private companies in the US is certainly a testament to the number of merchant partners that rely on Gooten to power their storefronts. One of the driving forces of this growth is the best-in-class service our team provides. In the past six months, we’ve been able to double the size of Gooten virtually. Our team members and the culture of our team is what is driving the success of Gooten. One of our internal core values is to improve every single day. We can provide best-in-class service because our team is always working together and challenging themselves always to do better.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Our customer support agents are the backbone of our company. During the pandemic’s height in April-May, our customer support team went above and beyond to communicate with our merchant partners and ensure their orders were being fulfilled and shipped.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Burnout happens when you are so in the weeds and you don’t give yourself time to zoom out and disconnect for a day. Taking that time off to see the bigger picture and celebrate your successes is incredibly important.
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?
The first person that comes to my mind is one of my colleagues who recently celebrated his 6th year anniversary at Gooten. He started off as one of the first customer support agents and now leads our primary accounts and is the president of Gooten’s subsidiary company in Serbia. Because of him, we’ve achieved significant growth at Gooten as he is always advocating and innovating on behalf of our merchant partners.
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?
There are several strategies our merchant partners have implemented to adapt to this new normal:
- Set expectations with your customers. During uncertain times, it is incredibly important to communicate uncontrollable delays or disruptions with your customer to lessen any concerns or frustrations.
- Improve user experience. Good UX is critical for eCommerce because it ensures your customers can easily navigate your website, find what they need, buy it, and move on.
- Don’t sell to everyone. In any business, online or not, if you try to sell to everybody, you end up selling to nobody. Especially in the extremely competitive world of print-of-demand, it is essential to find your niche target audience to stand out and be successful.
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?
Make sure to connect with your customer and truly understand what they need. There are factors other than prices that customers care about, such as time, quality, and reliability. Recognizing what your customer cares about is how you can differentiate yourself.
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?
Two common mistakes are 1) trying to do too much and 2) not connecting with your customer. If something isn’t a part of your core business, then outsource it. As I mentioned before, connecting your customer is essential to standing out from your competitors.
In your experience, which aspect of running an eCommerce brand tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
A common mistake that eCommerce brands can overlook is not focusing on a specific target audience. The eCommerce landscape is extremely competitive and finding the perfect niche will help you run a more efficient business in marketing and selling. It will probably make you more excited to get up and work every day in the long run.
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?
Of course, I have to mention Gooten! We founded Gooten to help eCommerce brands reach new heights. Other eCommerce platforms that empower brands and pave the way are Big Commerce, Shopify and Etsy.
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?
- Offer free shipping. Over 50% of customers abandon their shopping carts because of extra shipping costs.
- Make sure your checkout process is user-friendly and easy to understand.
- Give detailed product descriptions. For online stores, consumers can’t check out your products in person, so product descriptions are crucial to help them make educated purchasing decisions.
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?
ECommerce businesses can build brand trust by encouraging user-generated content and asking for user reviews. Both of these strategies are an effective way to build social proof and customer loyalty. At the end of the day, your business has to provide a valuable service that your customer needs and cares about.
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?
There is a three-step process for effectively responding to negative customer feedback. First, research the incident to understand what went wrong and what can be done. Next, reply to the review by acknowledging the issue, assisting the customer with a solution, and assuring them that it’s resolved. Lastly, encourage them to update or revise their review if their concerns have been addressed.
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.
1. Understand your customer. This will help you shape your business’ core value proposition and help you stand out from the competitive marketplace.
2. Be honest about your goals. Are you running a business as a side-hustle or a full-time job? Truly understanding your purpose for running an eCommerce business will help you establish achievable goals.
3. Drive traffic. Simply put, more traffic means more sales opportunities.
4. Increase the average cart value. This is a critical metric for all eCommerce businesses because it will help them scale their profits and revenue growth.
5. Optimize your conversion rate. You can have all the traffic in the world, but if no one is purchasing your products, there is a problem. Optimizing your conversion rate allows you to increase revenue per visitor, acquire more customers, and grow your business.
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. 🙂
Individual civic duty is a priority at Gooten, which is why we are giving our team members a day off on November 3rd to vote, canvas, or work at a poll. Because we are a global company, we ask our non-US team to use that day to advance the causes they care about most. We encourage our team to be civically active because being inactive won’t bring any good to people.
How can our readers further follow you online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!