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E-Commerce Business Case Study: Cedar Spring Recreation

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Welcome to this e-commerce business success story! In this profile, we interviewed Will Stewart, the owner of Cedar Spring Recreation. We hope you find this interview enlightening and inspiring as you seek to grow your own online brand!

Interview with Will Stewart

Thank you for joining us for this e-commerce business success story! We’d like to start by getting an understanding of your backstory. How did you come to own your business?

After a decade building and advising venture backed technology companies I was ready to own my own business. I have a passion for the health, wellness and livelihood elements our business offers customers and in the preliminary research I had conducted there looked to be an opportunity to bring in a new business and model to market. ECommerce in Australia and New Zealand is a few years behind that of North America and Europe and incumbents in our space, for the most part, haven’t focused on transitioning to a digital-first world when it comes to marketing.

Terrific! Now, this article is about profiling successful e-commerce businesses. So – can you share your top 3 keys to running a successful online brand?

Absolutely, and this feedback on success in ecommerce is speaking about the post-iOS14 world of building a completely new online brand where you can’t just rely on cheap social ads to drive sales and awareness.

First, you need to build a strategy on the ‘where, why and how’ you plan to outcompete incumbents trying to find your product or are researching your category. If you can engage with someone who is looking for a resource or researching your product category you are starting to build brand awareness from a great position. Before Digital, new businesses competed for general awareness in newspapers, billboards, on radio and TV, etc. Nowadays rather than yelling all around town you can focus your resources on being the most well-known on a single block (so to speak). To do this you need to build strong organic and paid acquisition strategies across search and social.

Second, seek to establish trust immediately wherever people find you ‘first’. This means all your landing pages, collections, products, blog posts should include elements of company authenticity, relevant customer reviews or references, additional resources and ways to easily (or immediately) connect with your business, for example, via chat, messenger, contact box, a request for a quote, or how to guide. Same goes on social media: all your profiles, regardless of how much energy you’re putting on them, are part of your online storefront, so keep clean, tidy and consistent profiles, descriptions, and recent content or media.

Finally, first party data is paramount. The days of just paying for cheap retargeting are gone. The goal of a new website visitor is to capture some of their information. Experiment with pop ups for first time buyer discounts, how to guides, free resources, chatbots and anything that can help grab potential customer emails or phone numbers. Complement this with smart and targeted email automation and even look to try email only sales, perks, or other reasons for potential customers to look forward to hearing from you. Play the long game.

Excellent. Now, I’m sure it hasn’t always been that easy. Can you tell a story about one challenge, setback, or mistake that you’ve had to overcome on the road to success? How can others learn from your mistakes?

I think the main mistake we made was trying to be too many things to too many people at the beginning. We called this ‘customer research’ but it was really just a headache and waste of initial ad spend. For example, we started with about 5X the amount of SKUs we have now. If I could start over again we’d have started with an exceptionally simple offering and decided later how to grow our business.

Thanks for that. Now – we want to know what’s next! What new initiatives are you rolling out at your business and what results are you hoping to see? 

Our ultimate goal is to become the company Kiwis and Australians turn to when they’re looking for science-backed and health and wellness amenities both at home or for local resorts, gyms, pools, and studios. We’re excited to be rolling out a lot more content that can help people make meaningful changes in their lives through daily routines like the regular use of a sauna or ice bath. We’re going to be creating a lot more content ourselves and hope to be working with a few industry professionals on both sides of the Tasman and even have a couple projects up our sleeves to try and make this stuff more accessible to a wider audience in both countries – so stay tuned!

Sounds exciting! Any final words of advice for our readers?

A couple things. Firstly, if you’re in the research phase of looking for your next opportunity try and look in places that align to your value system: “monetize your hobbies and you never have to work a day again in your life.” Secondly, especially in the vast world of The Internet, regardless if where you are on your journey, stop comparing yourself to other entrepreneurs who are many levels ahead of you, you’re better to look around and find others that are just ahead of where you’re at and try to learn from them instead. I can almost guarantee you will learn more from someone doing “X” dollars in revenue a month more than you by trying to apply Jeff Bezos’ trillion dollar Amazon strategy.

Brilliant! We want to thank you for participating in today’s interview. Hopefully our readers agree that there is a lot to be learned from your brand’s story. What links can our readers use to follow along with your journey?

You can take a look at our website to see what we’re up to. We’ll be focusing on content for YouTube and Instagram for the most part (maybe a little TikTok, also). If you’re interested in my own personal learnings you can say hello over on Twitter or subscribe to my newsletter Business Stacking that dives into the strategy and logic of creating overlapping revenue streams rather than putting all your risk and reward into a single income source.


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