If Erica Tevis had passed her firearms test as a rookie New York police officer 12 years ago, it’s highly unlikely the New Jersey girl would have become a wedding products online retailer.
Tevis, who has a bachelor’s and master’s in criminal justice from St. John’s University and Iona College respectively, passed all her physical and psychological exams to be a homicide or special investigations detective in 2001. But she failed the final test to pull the trigger 16 times within a minute.
Instead, she became a revenue officer for the IRS. It was while she was working there that Tevis battled to find all the “little things” for her destination wedding — ranging from wedding favors to bridal accessories — which was expensive with shipping charges from multiple websites.
The personalized coffee packs she gave as guest favors proved such a hit that when she had her son a year later, Tevis decided to sell those online.
She researched wholesale wedding products, and sold about 2,000 items under her eBay store, "littlethings*favors," in 2003. Within months, she realized she couldn’t compete against rivals undercutting her prices, while the eBay selling fees consumed her profits.
“I read everything I could find about building a website to learning SEO and developed my first website, Two Hearts Favors, in 2006. Over the next year, I realized that the platform in which I built the website, while it was ranking fairly well, the backend management system left much to be desired,” Tevis said.
In August 2007, she relaunched Two Hearts Favors as wedding-products retailer LittleThingsFavors.com, which was complemented by her baby shower favors and gifts website, LittleThingsBaby.com, in 2009. Tevis says she has been on the front page of Google for many of her main keyword terms since 2007.
From her initial sales on eBay in 2003 of $12,000, annual sales grew to $1.3 million in 2010, $1.9 million in 2011 and a slight increase to nearly $2 million in 2012.
Shopping Carts, Order Management, Hosting
Tevis cannot remember how she found the entry-level ecommerce template company CityMax — “it was a basic drag and drop template website service on the web” — when she was running Two Hearts Favors. But she moved to the Yahoo! Small Business platform in 2007 after doing some competitor analysis.
“At that time, 8 out of 10 top-ranking websites for my main keyword terms were running on the Yahoo! Small Business platform. I thought there must be something in the way Yahoo! stores are indexed, or possibly the ease of use, that so many of my competitors were using them.”
Fees start at $33.95 per month with a 1.5 percent transaction charge on the basic plan. Tevis pays Yahoo! $254.90 per month with a 0.75 percent transaction fee on her annual contract.
“I use them because they have fabulous uptime, support and features. I have a dedicated account specialist and any site issues are handled immediately. They have everything I need to support a huge catalog. The support is outstanding. The ease of backend management is great. It includes analytics and a host of resources. We've never had any issues with downtime or issues with hosting.”
Little Things Favors had a major redesign in August 2012. In November it introduced product reviews, which Tevis believes will help SEO by bringing in original, unique content.
Tevis advises new retailers to write unique product content as the search engines penalize vendors with exactly the same descriptions of products.
“If you and 100 other ecommerce sites carry the same product, your item won’t rank in the search result pages if your description matches everyone else’s. Rewrite your content, and take your own photos and videos as well. This will help differentiate you from your competitors – both with the search engines and with customers.”
Tevis was browsing online when she discovered a website she liked, a Yahoo! store design by Solid Cactus, in 2007. She has used Solid Cactus since then to implement the design, and subsequent redesigns, of Little Things Favors’ websites.
“Their support is phenomenal and I would highly recommend them for any company looking for a web design firm for an ecommerce store or blog.”
Credit Card Payments
Tevis has been using PayPal for merchant processing since 2003 and has a dedicated manager there.
“We have never had an issue with them. PayPal is easy to use and install and their rates are competitive. Our rates vary from the standard rates due to the volume of sales we process through them. We pay 1.9 percent plus a $0.29 cent transaction fee.”
Inventory Management, Shipping
Little Things Favors does not stock much inventory. It drop-ships its merchandise with a few select products carried in-house. Those few products that are shipped directly to customers are sent via UPS, which Tevis has found to be the most reliable.
“We don’t carry inventory as our showroom location and offices are quite small. Carrying products would ultimately drive up costs, which in turn, would cause increases in our retail prices. We’ve been drop shipping for almost 10 years and have had very few issues with it. The key is to work with reputable suppliers. By drop shipping, we can keep our retail prices low.”