Practical Ecommerce

Lessons Learned: Bicyclinghub.com Owner Doug Duguay

“Lessons Learned” is a biweekly series where we ask ecommerce business owners to share their experiences and advice. For this installment, we interviewed Bicyclinghub.com owner Doug Duguay about his experiences selling cycling apparel online. Duguay’s business has three employees and is based in Portland, Oregon. Bicyclinghub.com sells about 600 individual products and garners more than $1 million in revenue each year. Here are Duguay’s experiences with and suggestions for a variety of ecommerce-related topics.

Doug Duguay

Shopping cart software

“We use the Yahoo! shopping cart, implemented by Solid Cactus. One of things with the default Yahoo! cart, when you go to checkout it looks like you’re on a completely different site. We customized it, so it looks like a Bicyclinghub.com page. This is important in giving customers confidence.”

“I had a store in 2000 that sold cameras and electronics. The margins were so low that I quit on it, but at the time I tried working on Miva Merchant and just found it too difficult. When I originally put together Bicyclinghub.com, it only took me about 8 hours to do everything. We have preferred to use them because of the ease of use, but we have considered other platforms because of the transactions fees we have been charged by Yahoo!”

“Because we’re a high-volume dealer, we get a little better support with a direct line and an account manager. They were pretty difficult to get through to for a time if you didn’t know who to talk to.”

Hosting

“We use Yahoo! for hosting, too. There haven’t been too many problems. We’ve had occasional downtime and glitches. Our customers haven’t complained about downtime a lot.”

Employees

“Our employees focus on order processing, customer service and inventory management. We’re fortunate, being in cycling, that we get people who are actually passionate about what they’re doing. Hiring can be a crapshoot, but try find people who are passionate about the products you’re selling.”

Marketing

“We have a Facebook page, Twitter page, a blog, and we use Google AdWords and Yahoo! search marketing. We’ve done some trade website stuff, but we will never do anything in print. We don’t promote much to local business as much as a worldwide audience.”

“We have our pages translated to Japanese, and we run AdWords campaigns in Japanese. We noticed there were a lot high volume orders coming from Japan. We went to a Yahoo! user forum looking for a translating service. We plan to do more with other languages like Korean and Spanish.”

“I was actually at Solid Cactus boot camp two weeks ago, and I was talking to another merchant there about translating pages. He just said, ‘But people buy from us anyway.’ Perhaps, but people will be more appreciative of you going after their business by using their language.”

Pay-per-click advertising

“The more specific [keywords] we can get, the better the click-through rate. With more specific ads, the conversion rate is also higher. Right now our PPC campaigns are as specific as we can make them. At one time, we were spending about $10,000 a month on PPC. It’s probably a quarter of that right now.

“I think a good thing would be to check PPC at least every two weeks to see what terms are converting well for you. If it’s not converting, either lower the budget or get rid of it.”

Search engine optimization

“We do the blog, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and social media. We also build pages that are friendly to search terms. Read all the information out there. It’s not like SEO is a great secret. Just keep up with current market trends.”

“One of the things we really had to work on this year is when people search ‘cycling jersey,’ we’re number one on Google. But I need to clean up the landing page because it is kind of a mess. We have a fairly low bounce rate, but it’s just not converting people right now. I have to have some conversations with people about how to make that page convert better.”

Expense control

“Last year at this time, we had the physical retail store. That meant our overhead was quite a bit more expensive. We closed the store and moved to a new place that was quite a bit less expensive. Keeping rent under control keeps overhead really low.”

“The other thing is we were paying huge transaction fees to credit card companies. We sat down with a lot of different credit card companies and tried to find most competitive rates. We ended up saving about $1,000 a month.”

Accounting software

“We use QuickBooks.”

Order management software

“We’re in the process of looking right now. We tried to use OrderMotion in the past, but it didn’t work too well. We’re looking at Cactus Complete, Stone Edge and Mail Order Manager. We’re looking for quick shipments and handling of inventory.”

“Automation is one of those things we really need to get done as soon as possible. We waited way too long to get it done. We get bogged down and have back orders. The Yahoo! system is terrible as far as that goes.”

Shipping and order fulfillment

“We keep almost everything on inventory. There are a couple of major suppliers in Portland that we purchase and ship from the same day. Essentially, a customer can order something from us, we can pick it up from our suppliers and ship it all the same day. Our focus has always been on turning around inventory quickly. We don’t want people to be waiting for two weeks for an order. We eliminate a lot of variables by keeping our location stocked.”

Credit card payments

“Having the checkout page match the actual site is important with that. One of the other things I need to do is put security seals on the site, so when people are entering their information they don’t have second thoughts about that. We don’t actually have that right now. When we first started in 2002, it was a situation where people would call us because they weren’t secure with giving their information. Now it’s a part of our culture, and people aren’t as insecure as they once were about giving their information online.”

Social media

“I just heard stories that social media does help with SEO, so that’s why we embrace it. As far as direct results, we’ve had a few sales but not enough to really get too excited about it. We’re in the process of trying to hire a social media person to handle it part-time for us. With everything else, it’s hard to keep up with it.”

Email marketing

“We have collected a lot of customer emails over past few years and now have about 13,000 and use Constant Contact to send email blasts. Like the blog, it’s one of those things we need to do more often. For the most part, we do specials about what’s going on with the site, but we also try to focus on articles we’re putting in the blog and other things that are relevant to cyclists instead of just what’s on sale now.”

Blogs

“We use Blogspot. Like I said, we’re trying to find someone to hire for that. Sometimes we get involved in the day-to-day and don’t update blog as much as we should. That’s probably the last thing we think of.”

Customer service

“We want to create win-win situations where the customer feels he or she is actually getting something, and we feel like we’re not giving something away completely. Just last week, we sent a customer the wrong color jersey. We sent them a one-use coupon for the site, saying we goofed up.”

General business attitude

“I’m not sure if this is my life’s work, but it is fun doing something I love and working with a product I love. It makes life a lot easier. I could never see myself working for someone again. I can walk to the office from my home, and I bring my dog to work with me every day. Life is great!”

 

Brendan Gibbons

Brendan Gibbons

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Comment ( 1 )

  1. Chris "Cartel" English May 7, 2009 Reply

    Great article very inspiring.

    "Read all the information out there. It’s not like SEO is a great secret. Just keep up with current market trends.”"

    I love that line. I read EVERYTHING I find everywhere though sometimes it feels like it’s too much to digest. I’m trying though.

    "I’m not sure if this is my life’s work, but it is fun doing something I love and working with a product I love. It makes life a lot easier.”

    Amen to that.