Technology/Software: Knowing what is the right solution and to keep in mind that technology is always changing and growing so you should always make sure you have the ability to upgrade and be compatible with the latest software.
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 Natalie O’Brien of NOB IT Solutions.
The self-taught, self-motivated go-getter has amassed over 15 years’ experience in IT and graphic design, working in the private sector, however her true love is web/software development. Seeing entrepreneurs’ success fuels her own success and drive and Natalie is passionate about assisting SMEs to transition into conglomerates of the future.
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 grew up and still to this day live on the lovely island of Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean. I started off my career journey in the Accounting/Business environment and while working as an intern as a data entry clerk I was asked if I can help the company build a website. I said yes. I always love working on computers and this was a new challenge for me and I was ready for it I started off as a self- taught then took courses later on. Once I started down this path I grew from learning basic HTML Code to developing Web Application and as they say the rest in history and here I am today still learning and improving my skills.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
My “Aha Moment” was after working on a few projects I noticed a trend that kept coming into play. My clientele’s fear of technology and not being able to grasp and understand the technical aspects that go into web/software development. From there I decided to focus on educating my clients while working on the Web/Software development.
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?
Honestly, I don’t really see the issues I face as hard times but more as a challenge in getting to where I want to be and where I want my company to be. For example when I first started business was slow; instead of getting down and thinking of giving up, I decided to invest in improving my skills and started taking courses that would help me provide more services to my clients. I also look at different business avenues that would work for me and add beneficial value to my business.
So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
With what is going on in the world globally things could be better but with any challenge I face I find a solution to overcome it.
Looking back at what I have accomplished over the years in business I see all the highs and lows that I’ve faced come into play in making me better equipped to handle all that is happening in the business world today.
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?
One was overpromising and under delivering on a project for a client. I took the job on with the expectation of it going to be simple and without documentation (which is a must now). I was under pressure but was able to complete the project. The client was not too happy with me so in my mind I thought that was the end of the relationship.
Then I heard from the client months later inquiring about my services. The client said “Miss O’Brien we just had a misunderstanding on some things but we still need you and we may not all the time agree but we can work out things and come to agreement and move forward.” From this I learned that documentation is important and a must when starting a project and also communication is key for maintaining good relationships with clients.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
What makes me stand out is the way I interact with my clients. I am not afraid of technology and show my clients how to embrace and understand it. Most clients I meet know what they want but not what they really need and what it takes to achieve their goal. What I do is get to know my client and get to know more about their business and goals, then I start by educating them on what it takes and work alongside them in getting to know the business process and show them what would be the best way to use technology to benefit them in the long term.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Hmm I would say to take care of yourself mentally and physically. In today’s world one can burn out quickly with the fast pace of technology . What I have done personally was join a triathlon club which helps me improve my health and wellness and I crochet in my down time which helps me relax away from the computer. After taking a time out I can come back to work with fresh eyes, clear state of mind, energy and new ideas.
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?
Well there are a few people:
My parents who bought me my first computer and encouraged me to be my own boss;
My uncle for getting my first internet account and getting online and family in supporting me along the way;
My first employer who told me to never let work control me but to take control of my work.
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?
This pandemic has forced so many business owners to show up differently. Some of these ideas are as follow:
- Advertising by using more interactive ads , Video ads and animate ads that will encourage potential customers to visit your site.
- Using different platforms to make ordering online easier. In my country I see there implements ordering via Facebook Messenger, Mobile Apps and Whatsapp to name a few.
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?
My advice is to do proper research before starting development by finding what is the best solution for your business and knowing who your target audience is. A new trend is dropshipping which is integrating and working alongside these suppliers to take care of the demand of items. The best thing is that there are no overhead costs as there is no need to hold stock in warehouses,etc. In addition they can use platforms such as amazon and ebay in order to sell their products as well to reach a wider audience.
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?
I think the most common problem I’ve seen is many founders really not knowing what it takes to get an e-commerce business up and running and expecting a developer to present you with a solution without knowing their business process. My suggestion is to do research and know what your plans are for now and in the next 5 years so when you are ready to start you can present to your developer a proposal on what it is you need. From there a developer can start accessing what it would take to provide you with the best solutions.
In your experience, which aspect of running an eCommerce brand tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
- Development Time and Cost: For example some people expect the site to go live within a few days or a couple of months at a very low cost. It takes time to get things done and it also takes a bit of investment to get the right tools.
- Security and Maintenance: Making sure you get the right website security and maintaining your site on a daily basis.
- Understanding of the system and processes it takes in running a site: Not everything is automotive there still need some manual input in the running of an Ecommerce business
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?
Well off the top of my head the following platforms come to mind Shopify, Woocommerce, Magento, Big commerce,Squarespace and Wix. These platforms come integrated with the tools needed to run an e-commerce business e.g for marketing Mailchimp or Constant Contact, for payment processing Paypal or Stripe and for accounting and inventory Quickbooks. Generally most platforms provide the users with the tools needed to run their ecommerce and for a successful business one must know how to use these tools to their advantage.
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?
Some of the best strategies are upselling, rewards programs for new and returning customers, running special promotions. Utilizing your offline marketing strategies to enhance your online strategies and in turn generate more sales.
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?
By providing a good after sales service to customers, interacting and building a customer relationship via social media e,g by going live on one of the social media platforms, by asking customer to #hashtag you in the photos were then you can share via your social media
I would say this is where your marketing or PR comes in to play to work on building the brand.
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?
First work on addressing the issues and amending it in a timely manner. Start tracking and recording all these issues so it can be reviewed and see where the problems are and how best you can work on improving your service or products .
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.
Five of the most import things one should know in order to create a very successful e-commerce business are as follows
- Technology/Software: Knowing what is the right solution and to keep in mind that technology is always changing and growing so you should always make sure you have the ability to upgrade and be compatible with the latest software.
- Inventory: This is important because before a customer can view or place an order you have to make sure you have items in stock then enter it into the system which involves a number of processes and some of these are done manual and may be subject to human error . So it is always good to have a good inventory management process and system in place.
- Logistics: Obtaining the product from your supplier then storing the item and then shipping it to the final destination This is part is sometimes overlook but this is important to optimization and avoiding potential disruptions when shipping your products.
- Pricing: Know how to set your prices now that you are competing with the world one has to know how to price items and over customer value for money.
- Online Systems and Process: This part is a key component . I recommend that you have documentation of your online system and process . This helps to troubleshoot issues and train new employees on how to use the system. Having these documentation makes things easier in the long run because you have a better understanding of how your ecommerce business functions.
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. 🙂
Honestly, I would love to see more women and young persons of the Caribbean get into technology and use this knowledge to be more innovative and recognized on the international space.
How can our readers further follow you online?
You can reach me via
Email: [email protected]
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!