GoECart’s CEO Manish Chowdhary was recently interviewed on the Greenwich Entrepreneurs radio program (news talk AM 1490 WGCH) on a range of ecommerce topics critical to merchants ecommerce success. Chowdhary touches on how merchants can leverage social media outlets such as FaceBook®, Twitter™, and LinkedIn® to enhance the success of their online business. He also talks about the importance of having an effective ecommerce strategy in today’s competitive-but-still-growing ecommerce markets.
Chowdhary said social networks must be used creatively to enable users to “interact with your brand in a social environment.” He offered some examples merchants looking to leverage social media. First, he said that merchants can use customer information available via the social network to develop a relationship with your customer. A merchant could send an email to a customer wishing them a happy birthday coupled with a small promotion. Another option might be to develop a contest or gimmick leveraging to generate buzz about your brand. Chowdhary cites Jimmy Chu’s highly successful scavenger hunt as an example of how a company successfully leverage their network of network of friends to provide a meaningful social experience.
GoECart product pages have buttons where customers can opt to “Like” products on FaceBook and/or even tweet about them right from the storefront.
Chowdhary also emphasized the importance of an effective ecommerce strategy to an merchants success. Among the topics discussed here are:
- Developing an overall ecommerce strategy with clearly defined business goals. Do you want to develop a brand new presence? Drive traffic back to an existing website or your brick-and-mortar stores? Sell and syndicate your content on existing online marketplaces, like Amazon®, Overstock®, Buy.com®, etc.
- Effectively marketing to existing customers. Chowdhary said these are really “the low hanging fruit” online in marketing. Merchants can use their web presence and email marketing to market and stay connected with these customers.
- Selling globally as well as locally. Since the web enables you sell to the world literally overnight, merchants need to be ready and can use to a variety of package forwarding and international delivery services (International Checkout, Bongo International) to deliver.
- Developing a consistent online and offline brand strategy. Merchants must offer a synchronous and connected experience online to their physical presence that provides consistent branding, messaging and customer experience.
- Leveraging free resources available to merchants on sites like Yahoo!®, Bing™, Google Places, Facebook, Twitter, YellowPages.com, Yelp®, FourSquare™, Gowalla, and others to create business profiles, enable customers to write reviews, etc.
- Soliciting feedback from customers, in the form of surveys and two way communications
GoECart’s “software as a service” model includes ecommerce strategy services to help clients address these questions above, while eliminating the IT complexity barriers associated with traditional “shelfware” solutions. GoECart includes not just the Ecommerce software but also a robust Order Management System, Inventory and Warehouse Management, seamless upgrades, backup, security, professional services, and 24X7support-so merchants can stay focused on running their business.
Regardless of whether they are selling online, offline, or both, today’s retailers need to be wary of their overall presence onine particularly in the social network arena. “The voice of the consumer is now bubbling to top,” Chowdhary said.
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GREG: Good morning and welcome to Greenwich Entrepreneurs. I’m Greg Skidmore, President of Belray Asset Management. I am here with a co-host from our firm, Pedro Ramirez. Good morning, Pedro.
PEDRO: Good morning, Greg.
GREG: I was telling Pedro before the show that I’ve been having radio dreams, and I don’t know why. But anyway-
PEDRO: We’ll move on, anyway.
GREG: Yeah, we’ll move on. We got an entrepreneur, of course, this morning. His name is Manish Chowdhary. He is the CEO of GoECart, which is an e-commerce company. Manish, good morning.
MANISH: Good morning, Greg.
PEDRO: Good morning, Manish.
MANISH: Good morning, Pedro.
REG: We just had a sprint over, so we’re all out of breath. This morning, we’re going to spend some time talking about how to use e-commerce to benefit your local business. So Manish, why don’t you start off by telling us about your company and we’ll move on from there.
MANISH: Thank you, Greg. We are GoECart, a leading provider of e-commerce software solutions to small and mid-sized businesses. We basically help businesses sell online and be more profitable online, if they already have existing web presence.
GREG: Right now, most small businesses are working as hard as they can. They’re keeping expenses low, trying to be creative in getting clients. It’s obviously not easy for anybody. So I think a lot of the focus in the last two or three years has been on the expense side. But most businesses have gotten expenses down to about as low as they can, so now they have to look back at the growth side.
E-commerce is one of the areas – and it might not necessarily be traditional e-commerce; it might not be selling a muffin on your website. It might be using social media or some other things to sort of help grow revenue. What are you seeing small businesses do with e-commerce that you think is creative?
MANISH: Well, just to start off, online retail was one of the brighter spots with 11% year-over-year growth in 2009.
GREG: So there’s still growth in online sales?
MANISH: Oh, absolutely. In fact, just the ComScore, which is a measurement company, this data came out, I believe, earlier this week, that again points to about 9% second quarter growth year-over-year. I mean, these growth numbers are really outstanding.
GREG: You mean, in light of everything else, it’s like insane growth.
MANISH: Oh, absolutely. I mean, this is a great growth market, and small businesses are obviously driving it. You’ve got the big gorillas like the Amazon, which are growing bigger and which put a lot of pressure on the small and mid-sized companies to really innovate. Because as a consumer, when you shop on sites like Amazon or Buy.com or Walmart, your expectations are being shaped by these larger providers like FaceBook and you expect the same level of experience even with the small retailer. You still want the same level of security. You want to have the same level of confidence.
PEDRO: Ease of use.
MANISH: Absolutely. I mean, being small is not a blessing or an excuse-
PEDRO: -or an excuse. I thought you were going to say that.
MANISH: Yeah. On the internet, you could be really small and you could still play alongside the big players, but you have to be creative. Some of the trends that you’re seeing, Greg, are definitely pointing to social media – FaceBook and Twitter are the two dominant. Businesses are setting up profiles on LinkedIn.
PEDRO: I was going to ask you. So you know, everybody’s – well, maybe not everybody – but a number of people are on FaceBook and LinkedIn, and people are out there tweeting or not tweeting. But get more specific. How are- because I think there’s a big gap, where “Okay, I have to do something, but what does that actually mean? What do I do on FaceBook or on Twitter?”
MANISH: Right. So it’s all about using the social network very creatively. You cannot just force your way into a social network. You have to sort of allow your users to give you the permission to interact with you and your brand in a social environment.
GREG: Recently, I’ve come to the realisation that is almost like, you know, when you’re using social media – if I’m on Twitter and let’s say I see people discussing their 401K, and I think, “Oh, great. I can help these people with the services that we provide,” and I come in and I say out of nowhere, “Hey, I can solve all your problems. Sign up with us and we’ll charge you 1%.” You know, that’s not going to get a good response. That would be like butting into a conversation on the street and pushing your way and shoving your services down their throat. Correct?
MANISH: Yeah. I mean, each social media medium has an app to use. Most likely, people have heard about social media channels. A lot of them simply end up abusing it or really not utilising it the right way. It’s very apparent, because then you would stop following them, if you were a Twitter fan. So it’s really about providing a meaningful experience and a meaningful relationship just like in the offline world. Those are the brands that really succeed.
So a good example of a good social media application on FaceBook might be, say, you are a local florist and you have access to the customer’s birthdate, or by getting these people to become a fan of yours on FaceBook, now you know when their birthdates are and you can send them personalised messages for their birthday or any significant event in their life. That, they would be very receptive to, with a couple of small promotion or something special. Now, that’s a great example of using social media for a very productive outcome.
GREG: Now, I have a friend of mine who has started a business. She sells custom-made belt buckles. They’re beautiful. It’s interesting that I hear a lot of people talking about using FaceBook and Twitter to generate business, but I’ve heard very few real examples of revenue being created by that work. We’ve done a lot of it – our firm – experimenting, but it’s still experiment.
But what’s interesting from hers is she has 500-or-so FaceBook friends – she knows them all – and she went on and posted these belt buckles and said, “If you click on this link, you’ll get $50 off of a buckle.” I think it’s like $150 or something. She had tremendous success with that. So here is a small business, it’s a local business, but it’s someone using it with success, which I thought was pretty amazing.
Do you think that utilising your network of friends to get something off the ground like that is going to be successful in most cases because they know you, they trust you? That’s an example where there’s a really tight bond of trust. You’re not GE trying to sell something to random people.
MANISH: Well, it boils down to relevance and a meaningful relationship. People – even a brand like GE – can engage very creatively. For example, there was a campaign done by Jimmy Chu, the women’s high-end footwear company. Basically, what they did was they launched this campaign of “Find a second pair of Jimmy Chu.” It’s like a Treasure Hunt. So all the fans of FaceBook – they did this locally in various cities like New York City and London – they hid this pair of shoe in a certain location and they started dropping hints which gives you a clue to the next location where you go and get that clue to go to the next location. The entire group of friends and the community got behind it. That’s a really creative example of a large brand using social media.
GREG: That’s cool.
MANISH: It can be done on a smaller scale, but it really boils down to providing a meaningful experience.
PEDRO: When you talk to clients or potential clients, do you integrate these ideas into your services, into what you’re offering?
MANISH: Yes. I mean, there’s a huge demand right now about social media and e-commerce. People want to be able to set up an online store on FaceBook and be able to sell to their friends and get traffic.
We already have clients who are already on FaceBook. There’s something that you might have heard about the “FaceBook Like” and “FaceBook Share.” Those features are now already a part of the GoECart platform, where you can go to any product page and right there, you’ll see how many people like that product, and so on. You can share that product, you can tweet about it, and people are already driving traffic from FaceBook back to their online store and generating sales.
GREG:So products are almost coming to life, if they have fans and they’re starting to take on more than just- it’s the branding process, I guess. You’re starting to connect with the product and then the brand or the manufacturer behind the product.
MANISH: Yeah. A lot of people are loyal fans, for example, you like Nike shoes or you’re a Green Mountain Coffee fan. So once again it boils down to you can’t just put or slap the products in front of people on FaceBook and expect them to buy. You have to really connect to them in some way by a form of contest or something meaningful to give back to them. There has to be a reason for those people to continue being interested in you.
GREG: You know, I heard a gentleman the other day talking about the importance of being authentic with your business. That’s sort of the new standard. If you think of some of the more successful businesses, they have an authenticity that runs through them from start to finish. So Whole Foods is expected to not only offer you fresh vegetables that are organic, but they’re expected to treat their employees well and they’re expected to treat their customers well.
I’ve always thought that local businesses can have an advantage in that it’s easier to create an authentic atmosphere in a local business. You’re not going to outdo Amazon on low pricing, but you can create an authentic business. How do people, if they have an authentic experience in their store already, how do they bring that online successfully?
MANISH: Excellent question, Greg, I think, and particularly very timely, given the challenging times, because generally, as human beings, our tendency to compromise gets higher when times get more difficult. This is a time to stick to your guns and stick to what you stand for and not compromise, because that’s really what the customers are looking for – translating that brand experience to online. That’s why having a real strategy when you’re going online, “Is this going to support your offline business? Are you willing or committed to putting the resources?”
A lot of times, I’ve seen large businesses, very large businesses, simply do not take the online channel very seriously. 85% of the customers actually go research you – your business, your products, your services – online before they connect with you either offline or online. So do not underestimate the power of online. Even if you’re not getting that particular order online, chances are, those people are visiting your online store or website. That’s why you’ll see-
GREG: And I think your point is that if they go to this website and you have it very flashy and trendy, and then they walk into your store and you have a very quaint, classic feel to it, there’s a huge disconnect and that might be a turnoff. It’s not consistent. It’s that what you are saying – that you need to have this sort of experience be consistent from the first time they research you to the time that they purchase?
MANISH: Oh, absolutely. I mean, if you stand for high quality and you find typos on somebody’s website, that’s inconsistency.
MANISH: You go on the website, they’re colors, and you go to the store, the color scheme is red, you know. It’s about the same level of experience that you had put on your store billboards or your store cutouts and whatever else you have. It has to be synchronous and it has to be harmonious and connected.
PEDRO: I think it’s interesting, too, the point that you make. As business people, everyone looks to the bottom line and they say, “Okay, Activities A, B, C, D.” At some point, they’ll do a review and say, “Did this generate income?” Usually, that’s the metric. The point that you just made about the web, even if you’re not doing business per se, it’s giving you a brand or it’s helping your brand or hurting your brand. It could be, in many cases, the first point of interface with someone. So that becomes incredibly important, whether or not you’re actually doing business from a click on the website.
MANISH: Yeah, most businesses sometimes do not realise the real attribution of the sale. That may very well have originated from the online channel but you’re not giving credit. Online is here to stay. That’s why merchants should not be looking strictly at how many orders they got online, but looking overall at their entire business where it’s strategic. Are they going to stay online for the next five-ten years or forever? I think they need to evaluate this more carefully.
Use some other methods of measurements, such as surveys. Ask the customers when they come to your store where they found you. Those are some anecdotal and less sophisticated ways, but they’ll give you a great glimpse into what your website is doing for you.
GREG: I was going to take a break. Then, when we come back, I was thinking we could talk a little bit about Yelp, Foursquare, Google Maps. There are a lot of sites that when you do a search, they can tell a lot about a local business and they provide advantages to local businesses. I don’t think business owners are using them to their maximum potential. So let’s talk about that when we come back.
Anyway, we’re talking to Manish Chowdhary, who is the CEO of GoECart. You can visit his website at www.goecart.com. We’ll be back in a second. This is Greenwich Entrepreneurs, 1490 WGCH.
GREG: Welcome back to Greenwich Entrepreneurs. I’m Greg Skidmore, President of Belray Asset Management. I’m here with Pedro Ramirez, who is a wealth manager at our firm and Of course, I’m here with Manish Chowdhary, who is the CEO of GoECart. You can check out his site, www.goecart.com.
Manish, let’s just do a case study for a second. Let’s say I’m a business owner, I’m aware that I got to do something but I’m not quite sure what the heck I’m supposed to do. The reason is I’m busy operating my business every day. Where do I get started?
MANISH: Well, depending on the kind of business. Obviously, we cater more to the businesses that have products and merchandise to sell, as opposed to setting up just a service or web presence for a service business. So say for example, you are a clothing store and you want to get started online, we’ll take you through a series of questions or we have some strategy services that we offer to our clients. Or if they have already figured things out, then we provide them with the e-commerce platform and we provide them with the training on how to set up their products, their content and how to utilise some of the best practices.
So, in terms of strategy, we want to find out, “What’s your goal?” I mean, some merchants really want to drive traffic back to their store, whereas some merchants really want to adopt an online sales strategy. Some merchants want to take that even further; they not only sell on their own website but also syndicate their content on other popular marketplaces like Amazon or Overstock or Buy.com.
So it really boils down to what your business goals are, and then we kind of break it down from there, like “Okay, have you had an online presence before? Is this a brand new presence?” Then we come up with “What kind of resources should we allocate and what resources are you working with?” You can have great grand dreams but you don’t have the sufficient capital investments.
GREG: I would think the first place to develop into would be your existing clients, because they’re the most likely to buy. And you’ve been in the garment industry, Pedro, so if you have any thoughts because – I’m going to use a dress shop, a lady’s wear, they sell dresses; you can be more eloquent with the language, Pedro – but they sell dresses.
Every season, there’s a new line that comes in and I want my local customers to know. Not everybody’s is going to come in to my store, so I’m thinking, “Here’s a great opportunity to show the new line every time it comes in, so they can check things out and then come in and try it on if they see something that they like.” Is that the type of thing that you can offer? I mean, maybe they can be it online or-
MANISH: Oh yeah. I think that’s the low-hanging fruit. You already have a relationship that you want to leverage because people may not have the time to come to your store all the time. If you have any significant event that you want to share about in your promotion, off season clearance – all those stuff that people [let love] your products – set up a good online store, online website, and then couple with email marketing to stay connected with those people.
A lot of the businesses that we deal with have been offline businesses or have been selling offline for years and are now looking to extend that, an online channel to those people in addition to finding new customers.
GREG: I think in that example, you’re giving your current customers a chance to obviously buy in. But also, a lot of times, I think people think, “Oh, I want to sell clothes globally now.” Well, you can migrate that way; you don’t have to just go from being a local mom-and-pop shop that’s been very successful to a global retailer overnight.
MANISH: Oh, absolutely. In fact, it is literally overnight; that’s how easy it is now. Because there are services out there – say you have a unique product, you manufacture something very unique – obviously, that’s the unique value proposition. Somebody in Japan, say, loves your skateboard; they love skateboards out there, for example, what you can do is you can subscribe to some of these services, where you deliver your product to a local address in the US and they will take care of sending that product all the way to the customer, taking care of customs and duties, and all of that. To you, it’s almost selling to anyone local in the US, but it’s your products that are traveling all the way. These services, for example, International Checkout, Bongo International, have made it really, really easy for merchants to go international almost overnight.
PEDRO: Is that part of your evaluation and overview in terms of going to that level of detail and saying, “Okay, we’re going to set up the web and we’re going to do this and that?” Then when orders come in, you can go and have them [feel 22:57] doing this? Do you take the person through that level of detail?
MANISH: Yeah. I mean, what we do is we come up with all the top ideas that can have a meaningful impact. You come up with a list of ideas, and then along each idea, you put the probability of success and also the time and cost of implementation. Then you come up with a grid that helps you prioritize, what your top ideas ought to be and where you should invest your resources.
GREG: Essentially, what you guys are is Software as a Service. I mean, you offer software package but there’s a service associated with it. Can you talk about software service and trends and how it has developed over the last few years?
MANISH: Absolutely. In fact, the software used to be the domain of IT, where you need an IT guy to come and set things up for you, maintain it, and so on. But with the new world of “Software as a Service” with folks like GoECart, we are directly talking with business users. If you want to set up an online store, we want to talk directly to the person who’s in charge of marketing and merchandising who has little or no technical knowledge. As long as they’re tech savvy enough that they know how to operate the web and they use a web browser, they can set up their online store, so there’s no more barriers that used to be.
It is also offered in way- seamless upgrades, we take care of all the uptime, continuous innovation – all that great stuff packaged to you on a browser with full backup security, the whole nine yards. You simply focus on running your business.
GREG: I mean, the software is part of it, but there’s a lot of service in there, which is, I think, why the software can be more successful. I mean, a lot of times, people, as business owners, all had experienced buying software and not using it. If you get the service with it, there’s a chance you’re going to use it.
MANISH: Yeah, the old software is nowadays called “shelfware.” It looks nice and pretty with a box in your shelf but it really doesn’t do anything for you. So we really help right from the beginning, from onboarding or getting the merchant started, because if they are not successfully onboarded, every day, if they have a question, problem or issue, they can talk to our support to our support reps directly every day. They are there to support it 24/7.
PEDRO: It’s interesting. We’ve had this discussion in different facets. The entrepreneur of today has this ability to segment their business and business needs. It’s almost as if, more than ever, they are the team leader and they are just touching base with professionals in whatever various businesses are. So as you’re describing it, they have the discussion with you on what’s going on with online sales, what’s going on with our online brand, and that point of view. Then they could move on to another function and have the same sort of setup, where they’re talking to a professional in that specific area. We’re seeing that it’s almost one of the biggest challenges now managing these various facets of business.
GREG: You know, we’ve got a few minutes left, so I think one thing that would be kind of cool is to just talk about a few free resources out there for business owners that they can use to promote their businesses. We’re kind of talking about this before, but there’s a lot of local-based – I don’t even know what to call them – applications on Yahoo, Bing, Google that allow people to promote their businesses. Can you talk a little bit about those?
MANISH: Yeah, I can touch on a couple of them. Well, most of these search engines obviously allow you to create a local business profile – Google, Yahoo, Bing. That’s generally tied to the respective mapping applications and Yellow Pages, which each of these companies manage and maintain. Additionally, you can invite people to rate your business and write reviews for free on Google.
Now, with Google’s integrated universal search, that’s becoming a really big thing, where the voice of the consumer is now bubbling to the top. That’s good for the consumers because they’re having a better experience. You cannot fool the system anymore. Then you have places or things like FourSquare or Gowalla, where you can actually promote your local business by assigning a “Mayor.” You can become a Mayor of the Foursquare. So there’s a lot of that happening, obviously: Yelp which is great for ratings and reviews, and Trip Advisor which is great for travel. So there are a lot of great resources, and if you want to talk more, people can reach out to me anytime.
GREG: I think they can reach you at your toll-free number.
GREG: So it’s 877-243-3612. Manish, thank you so much for being with us today.
MANISH: Thank you, Greg. Thank you, Pedro.
PEDRO: Thank you, Manish.
GREG: Pedro, I love your company. We’ve been talking to Manish Chowdhary, who is the CEO of GoECart. You can visit him on www.goecart.com. All you have to do, if you have a bookstore, Google “books Greenwich Connecticut” and see what pops up. If you’re not there, then fill out your profile. Get yourself some local exposure.
This has been Greenwich Entrepreneurs – we’ll see you next time – 1490 WGCH.