EveryPlaceISell Merchant Profile: Garden Party Tea and the Enchanted Dog
By Ina Steiner
Jo Flora sells two product lines on Garden Party Tea, The Enchanted Dog and Amazon. She got hooked on eBay in 2000, and is now sourcing unique, unusual and fun items to sell in her own stores.
Jo got to this point through trial and error. She knew she didn't want to deal with the technical side of setting up websites, but finding the right person wasn't easy. She had to walk away from her first site after having problems with her web designer, who eventually filed for bankruptcy, taking $1,000 of Jo's money with her.
But Jo persevered. Using the network of colleagues she built up while selling on eBay, she got recommendations for a service that set up both of her websites using the Zen Cart shopping cart. Jo now pays a total of $21.99/month to maintain both sites.
The GardenPartyTea.com website includes features such as, "Customers who bought this product also purchased..." and "We Also Recommend," which Jo has put to good use to encourage shoppers to keep clicking on products they might like. Jo said she has access to lots of features in Zen Cart - "so much more than I ever even knew I wanted."
Read on to learn more about Jo's experience as a multi-channel seller and the challenges of selling online!
What is your first and last name?
What are the names of your businesses?
Garden Party Tea and The Enchanted Dog.
When did you start selling online and why?
In 2000, my daughter introduced me to eBay. One day and I was hooked. I started selling to offset my collecting habit!
What was your background?
Sales. Many, many years of sales both retail and wholesale. In person and on the phone. Online wasn't a big jump for me once I learned how to list.
What do you primarily sell and why?
Garden Party Tea carries whimsical ceiling fan pulls, fun garden decor, Geeky Beeks, handbags, pashmina scarves, plush animal toys and more. The Enchanted Dog stocks pet beds, dog apparel, dog angels, dog throw pillows, dog figurines, pet urns and more.
What are the unique challenges you face with the types of items you sell?
Finding things that are not all over the internet. Finding unique, unusual, fun items. If it's something awesome that just stops us in our tracks, and it isn't all over the 'net, it WILL be in our inventory asap. Finding that type widget is becoming more of a challenge every day. And with some of the manufacturers/suppliers letting the stock deplete, we may have had something great and be unable to get any more of it for months to come.
On which marketplaces and venues do you sell?
Garden Party Tea, The Enchanted Dog and Amazon
What are the pros and cons of each marketplace and venue?
Having my own websites continues to be a learning experience. I just had them both moved to Zen Cart. So now I get to learn about Zen Cart. But now they're both mine and I get to call the shots. Amazon is one of my favorite websites and has been since my first foray into cyberspace. Amazon is a very trusted site and brings in a lot of buyers. Listing can get quite interesting sometimes.
When considering all the places you sell, which channels are most profitable?
At this point in time, Amazon. I am hoping that the move to Zen Cart for both websites will help me get them into better shape and a better position for more sales.
How does your revenue break out by channel (what percentage of sales come from each channel)?
Amazon 75%, both websites are very close so 12.5% each.
Which payment methods do you accept?
Google Checkout and PayPal temporarily.
What are the pros and cons of each payment method?
I have no cons with Google Checkout. All positives for 2.5 years. I was one of the first to sign up. PayPal has too many black marks against it for me to be comfortable with it for long.
What was the impetus for starting your own website?
Control. More sales, less fees, but mostly it was about control. MY website. MY way. :)
If you hired any companies to set up your website and/or design your logo/branding, how did you find them?
Found the logo designer on eBay. She's terrific! I wanted to move my websites and thought I had someone doing it for me when out of the blue, he posted that we needed to find our own hosting. So I was scrambling to find help and hosting. I posted about it on several of the eBay forums that I continue to frequent and got an email from someone whose opinion I value. She recommended someone else that I had known for years on the 'net and respected. So I emailed her. I hadn't been aware she was setting up Zen Cart and that she was hosting. I'm now happily relocated with both websites.
What software/service powers your website, and would you recommend it to others? Why or why not?
Zen Cart. It's really new for me so all I can say at this point is that so far, I really like it. It's a LOT easier to list than some of the other places I've been.
Does it have a checkout system, if so, what do you use, and what do you like/dislike about it?
Yes. I'm using Google Checkout and Paypal. Google Checkout was a bit interesting to get set up but I think it's doing just fine now.
If you use an ecommerce service or shopping cart, how would you go about the evaluation process if you had to purchase one today?
Just did. Listen, read, ask for comments on various ones,...and hope I got lucky.
What did you pay to set it up, and what are the monthly costs of running it?
My websites were on 2 different hosts. One was more difficult to set up than the other. I paid $200 for one and $350 for the other. Costs for running both websites are $21.99/mo.
How difficult was it to set up?
I couldn't have done it. I'm a techno dummy. I don't want to learn that alphabet soup: html, php, sql, etc. I know just enough html to do my listings. I want to sell. I want someone else to do the tech stuff.
Does it have analytics, reporting?
What features do you wish it had?
So far, it has so much more than I ever even knew I wanted. My website lady gave me lots of mods to play with inside of Zen Cart.
What are the challenges you faced in starting your own website?
Finding the right person to set it up. I was burned to the tune of $1000 on my first site several years ago. Finally after 4 months, I just shut it down and walked away. That "designer" eventually filed bankruptcy I was told, due to so many people wanting their money back from her.
What would you do differently if you were setting up a website today?
I just finished getting one set up so I can answer this in the "now." I was more proactive. Instead of just accepting that this was such and so, I knew enough to ask for things, request changes and actually give some input as to what I wanted it to do. I guess after having 6 websites (all defunct but the current 2), I was much clearer on what I needed and wanted.
How do you control inventory as a multi-channel seller? In other words, if you have the same item listed on multiple channels, and it sells, how do you make sure you take it down from the other channels?
My never ending nightmare. I am a one woman band, so to speak, so I have to make sure the inventory is deleted from all venues. But I have a lot of inventory on each venue that isn't on the other venues too. Probably ranks up there in the top 3 biggest challenges. Maybe number 1!
How did you create the logo/branding for your business/site?
Garden Party Tea was a take off on a logo that an eBay seller had listed. Gave me some ideas and she was very quick to come up with what I wanted. The Enchanted Dog is a picture of my own Sheltie with a fairy, etc. This was done by the same eBay seller. I emailed her and while I wasn't sure just what it was I wanted, she read my mind and came up with it in less than an hour!!! She's amazing.
How do you differentiate yourself from others selling similar products?
I try to find something unique. I try to write a good description and get good pictures. I'm getting better at these two, I hope. I started online selling antiques/collectibles. I still try to remember to write descriptions the way I did then. As though I couldn't see it and had to have every little thing described.
How do you drive traffic to your listings, and which channel do you primarily drive traffic to?
Inserts in every box that goes out. Networking. Twitter. Facebook. I'm not very good at any of the above.
Can you talk about some of the SEO techniques you employ to drive traffic to your site(s)?
My website lady is in charge of that now. Thank God.
Do you participate in social networking sites? If so, which ones?
Twitter and Facebook. Not nearly consistently enough, however. I hire a wonderful gal to do this for me from time to time also. She gives me a great boost!
Which ones work for you? Which don't?
Jury is still out. If I'd do it consistently, I think twitter would be really good for me.
Do you have any advice for other sellers about how to utilize social networking?
If you can't/don't want to do it yourself, hire someone that is good at it. Even if you do it on a hit and miss basis, some is better than none.
Visit Jo Flora's listing on EveryPlaceISell.com for the links to all of their storefronts and websites. If you are a multi-channel merchant with your own website, you can learn more about being featured in AuctionBytes on this page.
About the author:
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to email@example.com.
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