Spend time creating quality listings and product pages. In our experience, the most successful sellers have high quality product listings and pages. They focus on large high quality images, clear calls to action, complete item specifics, and clear shipping details. These listings and product pages convert well and maintain high rankings.
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 Jason Nadaf, Founder & CEO of SureDone. He is dedicated to the evolution of internet technology which serves as a basis for his experience in implementing complex e-commerce systems encompassing the full range of product, inventory and order management with integration to enterprise systems. With over 25 years of experience in retail, he is obsessed with providing experiences that help people save time and improve efficiencies using the Internet.
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?
Hey there! My mother owns a small jewelry that has been in business for over 40 years and about ten years ago I researched all the eCommerce platforms available to help her find one to use — and they were all very poor or inaccessible. I then met an eBay seller who needed a website and decided to build what I envisioned as a better way to grow an eCommerce business.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
I had built a prototype eCommerce platform that created SEO optimized storefronts and eBay listings. Once launched, it scaled the first customer’s sales from hundreds of thousands per year to over a million within the first few months. That showed me that the opportunity had legs.
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?
After pulling myself out of homelessness by building the prototype for SureDone, I traveled across the country from Las Vegas to NYC with everything I owned packed in a SUV. All I had to my name was 5K dollars and the beta software I had built. I was hustling — doing consulting gigs and closing sales for website clients built on SureDone to prove the platform while also working on a “business plan.” I was motivated by lack of doubt. Giving up was not an option.
So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
We are profitable and recently relaunched as a free eCommerce platform for the next generation of online entrepreneurs and growing sellers. We have partnerships with the largest tech platforms on earth and we are poised to scale by helping eCommerce businesses.
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?
Starting out, I thought a business had to have already grown to a substantial size before securing enterprise partnerships. I waited until we were a proven success before seeking them out, including a tech partnership with Alibaba to white label our software. After doing some research, I learned one of our competitors had white labeled their software to a large bank when they had just started — before they were a proven success. The takeaway is that it is never too early to secure partnerships with large enterprises. Oftentimes enterprises are looking for a problem to be solved without red tape.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
SureDone is currently one of the only mobile accessible eCommerce platforms that is free with strategic partnerships with several major tech companies. See news of our recent relaunch: https://medium.com/@trace_cohen/suredone-introduces-suredone-go-f14ec14a6f96
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Take at least 1 day off per week and ensure you are giving yourself time to do visionary work. It’s so easy to get caught up in everyday details. You need to build in time to “work on the business” instead of “work in the business.”
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?
During this journey I learned how to work consecutive 100 hour weeks without burning out. I only do this when necessary. Here’s what I do: Wake up at 5am and go until 1am several days a week, with minimal breaks and zero tolerance for unnecessary distraction. Then, rest on weekends and work minimally. That ensures you don’t burn out and can power through those 20 hour days when deadlines require it. Then, following weeks, rinse and repeat.
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?
For eCommerce businesses that are not private label brands, automation efficiencies are necessary to ensure high value growth activities are continued. For example, say you have a seller that historically was having a purchase order manager manually generate orders with vendors for just in time deliveries or stock replenishment. With growth, suddenly the volume of orders and vulnerabilities within the supply chain introduced huge risk for unfulfilled orders or worse, order mistakes. We saw sellers quickly introduce purchase order automations and multi warehouse inventory automation to reduce this overhead. Stitching several systems together to ensure seamless data flow enabled eCommerce teams to reconfigure their headcount from administration to operation optimization and hiring.
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?
Focus both on standing out with quality listings and creating a flywheel for ensuring both post purchase reviews and fulfillment. If you are a DTC brand, take care with every aspect of your best selling product listings to ensure you rank high in your category and nurture listing and brand reputation. Many of the emerging competitors mentioned are only focused on launching products with low prices vs the strategy of leveraging the features of each platform to generate sales for high quality goods.
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 spray and pray strategy of putting products online indiscriminately is so 2010. Now, almost everything that can be sold online is being sold online and has fierce competition. Instead, focus on products that are high value and with which sellers can differentiate themselves. Focus on providing exceptional fulfillment metrics with marketing tactics for repeat buyer engagement and securing a solid supply chain.
In your experience, which aspect of running an eCommerce brand tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
Owning the supply chain. Once you have a product or line that sells in high volume it becomes an instant battle to ensure you can provide that product in consistent fashion to maintain a flywheel of sales growth. For example, we know of a seller recently that went #1 in a high volume category and sales started to explode. If they ran out of product, they would lose their ranking. This means they had to ensure their supply chain all the way down to manufacturing was operating perfectly so that they could predict how many units they could hold at warehouses. They focused on ensuring they had containers of product shipped to intermediary warehouses so they could quickly replenish Amazon FBA and Walmart’s competitive warehousing without any listing downtime. This seller is on their way to breaking records on marketplaces.
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?
Software that can help a seller automate processes and unify data sources is very valuable. For example, with SureDone you can manage all of your products, inventory and orders across all sales channels in one place. For eCommerce businesses that are relying on some unique data source (IE FTP, API, Email, etc) for some aspect of the supply chain, it can be stitched into SureDone to ensure no manual overhead from source to sale.
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 high quality product pages focused on high quality assets with optimized loading time and very clear call to actions. Also ensure the shopping cart is mobile optimized with very clear navigation to shipping and returns information.
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?
Start with exceptional fulfillment metrics and ensuring quality support for product sold and ship tracking information.
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?
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.
- Source or make a product and/or category that is solid in quality that your organization can know intimately well. In today’s world, if you are going to stand out you need to be selling something that can a) be well reviewed b) be listed very informationally and c) if possible shared very easily on social channels. We’ve seen great success from sellers that are able to respond well to customer inquiries and that have great reviews. For example, our early clients knew motorcycle parts inside out, which earned loyalty from their repeat shoppers.
- Spend time creating quality listings and product pages. In our experience, the most successful sellers have high quality product listings and pages. They focus on large high quality images, clear calls to action, complete item specifics, and clear shipping details. These listings and product pages convert well and maintain high rankings.
- Focus on being well reviewed both as a business and for best selling products. It’s no secret that in order to sell well on marketplaces such as Amazon, new product lines need to have a minimum number of reviews before ranking well in search. Ensuring product listings and seller rating are top notch is way to ensure your products move and sales continue even when your space becomes more crowded. We know sellers that succeed on Amazon with formula based approaches to launching new lines that have earned them tens of millions of dollars in annual sales.
- Offer stellar support and take advantage of post sale marketing opportunities. For sellers that self fulfill, we’ve seen sales increase when including coupons, thank you notes and other marketing materials in shipping boxes for repeat customers. We’ve seen similar lifts in repeat buying with marketing within tracking status emails and invoice emails that entice buyers with offers. Furthermore, ensuring solid support tends to enforce #3 above.
- Automate everything. Reducing mistakes with automated data flow will help ensure nothing is missed with points #2 through #4 above. We’ve seen brands and retailers alike grow and fail with manual processes that cause critical errors such as overselling on marketplaces and losing seller status. On the other hand, we continue to see sellers grow from seven figure to eight figure eCommerce business by removing all manual friction in their business where possible. Automate connecting disparate systems. Ensure inventory is automated to keep stock levels online as accurate as possible. Ensure your order data is flowing is a normalized way between channels so shippers don’t have to think about where each package is going.
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. 🙂
With the launch of our free version of SureDone, we’re hoping to enable the next generation of eCommerce entrepreneurs with tools to build million dollars businesses on Google and Facebook/Instagram for free!
How can our readers further follow you online?
I’m on Twitter and Instagram @jasonspalace
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!