Merchant Talks: How to Start an eCommerce Business Selling Gourmet Fruits & Nuts
Updated: Nov 9, 2020
Ever wonder what it's like to start an eCommerce business selling edible products?
Well, in this edition of Merchant Talks, we sit down with successful eCommerce entrepreneur Varun Sharma to chat about just that.
Varun is the co-founder of Laumière Gourmet Fruits - a luxury food brand that's reinventing how consumers think about gourmet gifting.
You'll learn how Varun got started, the challenges he faced, and how he's planning big things for the future.
If you've been wondering how to start an eCommerce business that's focused on long-term growth, sustainable business practices, and revolves around a brand you can be proud of, you'll get tons of value from this interview:
Check out the full episode here 👇 (abbreviated text-version below):
Can you kick off the interview by telling us a little bit more about Laumière Gourmet Fruits' history?
Laumière Gourmet Fruits results from 5 years of dreaming about setting new trends in healthy eating, gifting, and self-indulgence.
We launched in August 2019 as a D2C brand that focuses on producing artisan fruits and nuts based delicacies made with all-natural ingredients packed in premium gift boxes.
Our delicacies embody attention to detail, uniqueness, and savoir-faire.
As we build the brand, we focus primarily on building a relationship with our existing customers instead of just acquiring customers.
Building that relationship is an excellent opportunity for us to outshine the competition and achieve ever-higher success levels.
A milestone that was extra special for us was hitting our first $1 000 USD revenue. We were able to do it in under one month of launching the website, and from there on, it's just been an even more exciting journey.
How did you go about increasing your traffic to those levels? Early on, what were some of the most successful strategies you used to boost your store's traffic?
Some of the most important strategies we have followed are SEO, Facebook Ads, Google Ads, and word of mouth has been great for us too.
Being a food product, people need to see the images of the product if they're going to buy it. It needs to be super enticing visually. One of our main goals with digital marketing is to do just that.
Once we find customers who love our product, they speak to their friends about it; hence word of mouth plays a crucial role in building the brand.
Great word of mouth is a priceless asset for us and is hands-down the most effective and reliable type of marketing.
Has your traffic strategies changed over time?
Our traffic strategy has recently focused on retaining existing customers, building better relationships with them, and getting them to come back and buy again.
Our product may only appeal to a relatively small audience in global terms, but our goal is to make a product so good that customers can't help but tell their friends about it. That way the audience multiplies by itself.
This approach has been more beneficial than merely trying to attract and convert new customers who know nothing about your brand.
In addition, we're working on a partner program right now which will allow us to work with influencers to promote our products across social channels.
Fantastic, with regards to testing customer retention strategies, could you tell us a little bit more about what you've tried, what worked, and what didn't?
We have basically tried changing everything on the product page. Sometimes we change a button's color, sometimes how the photos display, sometimes the order of the content on the page, and sometimes what we show on the page.
We've come to realize it's less about what tools you're using, and more bout how you use them. Getting the number one app on the app store is not the way to go. Instead, it's about choosing the apps that let you reach your retention goals.
When it comes to retention, our goal is simple: to continually strive to improve the customer's experience.
In terms of tactics, email marketing has been really beneficial for bringing customers back. Discount codes for existing customers have also worked well too.
We've also used ReConvert - which allows us to upsell customers on the thank you page by giving them the option to reorder with one click.
It means you don't have to upsell on the checkout page which can increase conversions. It fits with my thinking that the simpler you make the experience - the better it is.
In terms of metrics, we've started focusing more on increasing our customer lifetime value (CLV) than simply looking at revenue as a barometer of our growth.
When your product is great and you've built a relationship with your customers you'll naturally see your CLV start to rise. It's fantastic to see how many customers are coming back to buy two boxes, three boxes, or more.
Great, let's talk about products. How you go about finding winning products? Can you walk us through your product sourcing strategies?
For us, it's less about finding a 'winning product' and more about creating a product so good that customers associate it with an occasion and all the feelings that go along with it. If your product is outstanding, it's much easier to sell.
This approach also requires us to prioritize customer service over anything else, and we try to give them personal attention.
We try to find the right balance of personal attention without crossing the line into pushiness may seem tricky, but it's really about letting customers know you are there for them and their needs.
Got it. When it comes to scaling Laumière Gourmet Fruits, what are some of the biggest challenges you face, and what are you doing to overcome those challenges?
The biggest challenge we face is knowing when to scale and to what degree. Many people think once the ads start performing well, you scale, and it will be all good.
I wish it were that simple. We always look at multiple factors and get the right message across to the right audience at the right time before scaling up.
One way to minimize the chances of wasting a lot of money is to do rigorous testing before making any major changes.
Do you use A/B testing website design elements to see what impact shop design has on sales? What have been some of your biggest A/B testing wins?
Every single day we are A/B testing! From changing the color of a button to adjusting how the images show, we are continually trying to create a better website for our customers.
Some of the most vital A/B testing we do is with our product and homepage images. That's because customers love the visual appeal of our products. As a result, we're always changing up our photographs to see what converts best.
When it comes to time management, what are some of the biggest time-saving tips, strategies, or automation tools you use to help you reduce the time commitment to your store each week?
Email Automation. If set-up right, it can do wonders for you. I recommend all stores to focus on it early on.
Have you any email automation tips? What email automations have been the most effective for you?
The most effective email flows are Welcome Series and Abandoned Cart. Definitely recommend anyone who is opening an online store to set up good email flows that are personal, short, and crisp at the same time.
The welcome series can generate up to 20% revenue for the store! Currently, we aren't doing that much, but with the constant testing idea, we are sure we will be able to in a couple of weeks.
We're also working on sending out one-off campaigns to promote new product launches or advertise new collections.
One last tip: while automation is super powerful, it's important to not lose the human touch while doing it. Your customers don't want to be spoken to like they're just a random number in your automated system.
Write your emails so they're as personal as possible - often that might mean foregoing fancy email designs and just using plain text instead.
And for really important emails, like customer complaints, or order cancellations, speak to your customers like a valued friend. It all comes back to developing that personal relationship between the customer and your brand.
👉Suggested Reading: How to Write Super-Effective Abandoned Cart Emails
What tools do you use to power your eCommerce business?
Shopify: The platform our store is built on - we wouldn't be able to do without it!
Trello: For internal tasks management, we use Trello - essential to make sure our team knows what's going on and what's pending.
Slack: We use this communication with multiple teams that we work with globally. - We have grown to a reasonable size to work with numerous partners from all around the world. Slack has been an essential tool in communication with them
Klaviyo: For email marketing and automation we use Klaviyo. We've found it easy to get the hang of while still all the advanced features we need.
Can you tell us more about the specific paid advertising strategies you use?
Facebook and Instagram Ads have worked out well for us. We are continually trying to work on other platforms to see which works well.
For search ads, Google has shown promising results since our customer base tends to skew slightly older, we've also had some success with Bing.
Our entire budget is currently going into digital ads, we're not spending any money on traditional advertising like radio spots, or print ads right now.
How do you go about targeting cold traffic on Facebook ads?
The cold audience requires them to be educated about the products and have enough information. Drip feeding them this information is a crucial strategy to build on.
Videos work well because you're trying to sell your brand and its identity; you're trying to sell who you are. If you're not bringing a new audience in, you're going to have a hard time growing.
If you have to back and start your Shopify store over again from scratch, what are three things you'd do differently, and why?
Focus on building the brand and the connection with customers more deeply before working on selling the product
Emphasize email marketing more (start collecting email addresses as soon as possible)
Start with A/B testing from day one
And lastly, based on your success, what advice would you share with others who might be just starting with eCommerce?
Focus on building a brand instead of hunting down the next hot dropshipping product. Dropshipping might sound appealing initially for quick money but if you're in it for the long term, build a brand.
"Build a mobile-first website and create a product that you would be proud to sell to your own friends & family"
Once you decide to do that, focus on the relationship with your customer and deepen it. Treat them as part of the team and grow together. That's how you become successful.
Thanks so much for your time Varun. Where can readers find you?
You can check out Laumière Gourmet Fruits to see our store.
I'd be happy to help any aspiring entrepreneurs who want advice for building their first eCommerce store.
And That's a Wrap!
We hope you enjoyed this interview with Varun as much as we did. He shared lots of valuable insights and advice that'll are sure to help you build a better eCommerce business.
Have you got an eCommerce success story you'd like to share with other entrepreneurs? We'd love to hear from you and get you on an episode of Merchant Talks. Simply fill out the form at the link below & we'll be in touch:
Until next time, keep hustling!