Interview with Audrey Kerwood – Ecommerce Entrepreneur

I had the pleasure of meeting Audrey at a conference some years back and have always admired how she had grown several of her e-commerce stores on different platforms. She was kind enough to let me interview her for my blog. Below she shares the different entreprenuerial hats that she wears on a daily basis.

Q: You have several online stores, can you tell me a little more about them, like, when you started them?

A: I started my first store, A2 Armory in 2002. I started that store on the Yahoo Store platform, it is still a Yahoo Store today. I started my second store, The Tapestry Standard, about 6 months later. That store runs on the X-Cart platform. I have three other stores that all run on ShopSite, they were started over the past five years. The most recent was just started this past summer.

Each is a niche store targeted to a specific market. That is one of the key points store owners should focus on when creating their stores. You want to go after a market that is specific, and position yourself as the expert (whether it be you or your store) in that niche.

Q: Do you stock inventory in your warehouse?
A: I do not stock any inventory. Each of my stores is based on the drop ship model of online business. Basically, I form a relationship with a vendor (they are sometimes manufacturers, sometimes wholesalers) and I sell their products at whatever price point I decide. When I get an order, I collect the money from my customer, then place the order with my drop shipper and they ship the product directly to my customer with my company information on the package. This way my customer has no idea that I’m not shipping the product myself. I pay a little bit more per order for this luxury, but to me it is worth it, because I don’t have to tie money up in inventory, warehouse space, and extra employees to handle the shipping.

Q: Why do you prefer drop shipping over wholesaling for your stores?
A: For me, it is about convenience and being able to keep my company very small. Those two things make drop shipping the perfect model for what I want to get out of my business.

I don’t want the responsibility of running and maintaining a warehouse full of goods. I want as hands-free a business as possible. I think of my vendors as outsourced labor. The drop shipping model removed a lot of stress from running a physical goods based business.

Q: I’ve heard you mention in the past that you have a method for Advanced Market Research that actually makes you money while giving you important data. Can you explain that idea?
A: Yes, when I find a market I’m interested in, I often create an affiliate site for the niche. That way I’m able to check out the market and decide if I want to build a store around it based on more than just supply and demand numbers.

I design these affiliate sites so that they look very much like a typical eCommerce site and I put my contact information on them so I get feedback from customers. This gives me a much clearer picture of what selling in that market will be like, so I can decide if it’s something I want to dive into with my own store.

And while I’m getting all this great data, I’m also making money from the affiliate products I’m promoting on the site. If I decide to build a store, I use the URL I have the affiliate site on so my store starts off with traffic and rankings. If I decide I’m not going to move forward with a store, I leave the site up and continue to make money from it.

Q: I really enjoyed your webinar. I was particularly impressed with your Action Plan 2010 Calendar, can you share how you came to create this guide? Is this something that you use on your eCommerce business?
A: Yes, the calendar is my schedule for holiday promotion. You can actually follow along with it and my stores and see me doing everything I laid out in the calendar. I came up with that schedule after going through 8 holiday seasons. It works for my stores year after year.

Q: Is it too late to make money this Christmas if I don’t yet have a store built?
A: No, you can still make money this holiday season, even if you haven’t started building your site yet. Get a bunch of products in your store right away and start promoting. The fastest way to get traffic is to use PPC advertising. If you don’t have the budget for that, get some guest blog posts on industry blogs, put out some press releases, and start marketing your store via social networks and you’ll start seeing traffic.

Q: If a store owner just doesn’t have the time to implement your suggestion action plan, what are the 5 key campaigns that you strongly recommend that they must execute to maximize their Holiday 2010 revenue?
A: 1. Target the big money days.
2. Use your social networks.
3. Use your existing base – email marketing is a major money-making strategy.
4. Put out some press releases for sales you’re running.
5. Use PPC advertising to drive traffic to your biggest money-making products.

Q: When you’re not busy growing your eCommerce stores, what else are you working on?
A: I’m generally looking into new markets and helping other entrepreneurs build their eCommerce businesses with my on-going training program.

Q: What is eCom Incubator and eCom Catalyst? 

A: eCom Incubator is a 12 module eCommerce course I created for those just starting out or struggling with their current online store. It covers every aspect of building an eCommerce store from market research all way through automation and outsourcing. The steps in the course are the exact steps I use when creating a new store.

eCom Catalyst is monthly on-going training. Each member has access to a 24/7 forum to ask questions and get answers and advice from me and other members. There are also 3 monthly calls where members can directly ask me questions about anything related to their eCommerce business. The first call is a training call followed by open Q & A, the second call is with a guest expert (past experts have included Leslie Rohde, Vin Montello, Chris Malta, Ray Edwards, and other high caliber online marketers) these are also followed by live Q & A with the experts, and the third call is open Q & A with me. The calls last as long as the questions do and benefit every member even if they only listen.

Q: What is the benefit of becoming a member?
A: The benefits are direct access to me for all your eCommerce needs. Whether you need a simple question answered or you want a full on site review, I’m here for you. Members also benefit from the specialized knowledge of the guest experts, some of these people charge hundreds of dollars for calls, members get to access them for the monthly cost of only $67. Members also get bonus material created by me (action calendars, graphics packages, special reports, etc) and special deals from people I partner with (deeply discounted store templates, special pricing for traffic software, etc).

Q: Any final thoughts on eCommerce in general?
A: I love eCommerce. I was recently asked by a student, “If you had to start all over again, would you open an online store?” My answer was, “Absolutely”. I love selling physical products. There is something about selling something tangible that makes a big difference in how satisfied I am with my business.

I have nothing against Internet Marketers and Info Product Sellers, but I don’t get the same level of happiness selling that kind of stuff as I do actually putting a real product into a customers hands. To me happiness in business is key, otherwise it’s just another job and that’s not what I want. I want a business that I run myself that makes me money and brings me happiness; my online stores have always done that for me and I’m confident they will continue to for as long as I continue to run them.

Below is an image of the Prediction for the Holiday Season for 2010 – This calendar was created by Mike Ober, Senior Manager, Merchant Development with Yahoo. Based on last year’s Yahoo Merchant data and Comscore Data, Mike shared his prediction for the busiest holiday days for 2010. I took a snap shot of the presentation slide with my camera. Please forgive the unsophisticated photo. You can also follow Mike on Twitter by clicking this link:

Click image to see enlarge version.

By: Shirley Tan


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