Posted Apr 19, 2010 by Qetzal, Head of Product

Interview with an Ecwid Merchant: Steve Calabrese, Natural Body

We continue interviewing Ecwid merchants about e-commerce and their shops. Today we feature Steve Calabrese, Natural Body Partner, who will share some experience on how to run a successful online store.

Please describe your store, what does it sell?

Natural Body Inc. is a sports nutrition/vitamins store that offers a wide variety of vitamins/sports supplements and fitness accessories at wholesale prices. We here at Natural Body Inc. have a passion for health/wellness and take pride in our personal customer service. We research each and every product we offer to ensure that we are ready to answer any question you may have regarding anyone of our products.

How did you start your online store?

Natural Body Inc. was founded back in 1996. It started as a small sports nutrition retail store which has increasingly grown and expanded in the past 14 years to be the top selling sports nutrition/vitamin store per square foot in New York. As our customer base grew and stretched across the Northeastern United States we started taking orders by phone. We needed to develop a website where our customers could conveniently shop Natural Body Inc. from anywhere.

While looking for an eCommerce solution and examining different types of shopping carts, we came across Ecwid and fell in love with its extended features, extreme user-friendliness, and of course it’s appealing price tag — FREE :) It was the perfect web solution to meet our businesses needs and goals.

How do you promote it?

Currently we use Social Networking tools such as Facebook and Twitter. We have an increasing fan base and interact regularly with our customers. One of our major daily goals here at Natural Body Inc. is to strive to keep in touch with our customers. Since Ecwid v3.0 has been released, we’ve began utilizing coupon code functionality to offer promotions such as free shipping and other various discounts which will provide opportunities for our customers to save even more money in addition to our already guaranteed lowest prices.

I see you have an active community in your Facebook page. Any advice on running it?

Stay in touch with your fans — start interesting topics and polls for fans to interact with and comment on. Make your page a community where people can express their feedback and share their experiences shopping at your store. Integrate it with your site, such as posting a mailing list to your fan page so fans can quickly sign up to receive newsletters and promotions, set dates on your Facebook calendar for upcoming promotions or events. It’s important have your fan page be as personable and enjoyable as possible for your customers and fans.

How do you ship items? Any advice on setting up shipping methods and rates?

Currently we use UPS as our shipping service. We’ve found that their shipping software, UPS WorldShip, is user-friendly and an easy to manage tool that simplifies the entire shipping process immensely.

In the beginning we ran into a few bumps with Ecwid and WorldShip. Our business needed a solution for importing orders from Ecwid into WorldShip’s necessary format. I was amazed with how fast Ecwid’s support was on the issue working towards a resolution and within hours actually developed an online converter tool, which we use daily, to streamline the process of importing orders from Ecwid into WorldShip.

In deciding which shipping method is best for your store, I advise to consult with your courier and figure out which average pound class most of your items will be shipping in. They will advise you on which shipping method is right for your business. Ecwid’s ability to select and switch between shipping methods is brilliant. However, if you’re on a negotiated-rates contract setting up rates and zones can be a somewhat difficult task even with a user-friendly interface such as Ecwid’s. This is an area we really hope Ecwid focuses their development on. We’d like to see Ecwid become more integrated with Online Tools provided by the shipping companies, so that retail businesses who hold negotiated-rates can fully utilize these features.

What do you want to improve in your store in near future? Why?

Currently our main priority is expanding our online catalog to more closely match our retail store. We carry up to a hundred brands and several hundred products, which will all soon be available through our website.

What challenges have you had? How did you solve them?

Our first challenge was creating an online shopping atmosphere that was different from the rest. There are millions of cookie-cutter shopping carts that you couldn’t differentiate one online store from the next. When we found Ecwid and learned about its unique features we decided that it was the right solution for us. We believe Ecwid’s drag-n-drop functionality and lightning fast interface make our website a more enjoyable experience for our customers.

Ecwid’s comprehensive support including server administration, seamless upgrades, and support forum relieves us of the time, worry, and the expense of these activities so we can focus more on our business and customers.

What can you advise to other store owners who’ve just started to sell?

Find ways to maintain a personal connection with your customers even though they’re shopping online; whether it is by phone, contact, e-mail, blogs, forums, social networking sites, etc. This all helps the customer to continue to feel a more personal connection to you and your business.

About the author
Qetzal is Head of Product at Ecwid. He loves to create new things to make people's lives easier.
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