Nic Haralambous, founder of NicSocks. Photo by HumanIPO.
Haralambous spoke about his most recent venture NicSocks, an e-commerce business selling Bamboo-manufactured socks, at the WordPress Cape Town community event on Thursday, July 25.
Traffic, rather than sales, is the largest challenge to conquer in the e-commerce space, the serial entrepreneur said.
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is not the key, but rather obtaining an audience.
“I got off my ass and I met people, people with audiences,” Haralambous said.
Media partnerships are advised, with online publications being the best option and radio the least effective way to go.
He has recently secured an affiliation with South Africa’s Mail & Guardian to launch in August.
Press relations are also significant as it aids in building a story around a brand.
The media should know what the business does and why it has to report on it, with ‘local’ often being the key since local support is big.
Haralambous does not see retail as a platform, but as business being business regardless of the selected platform.
“Platform is actually irrelevant to the retail,” he said.
When it comes down to business, hustling is important for growing the brand.
The difference between businesses online and retail stores are the forms of traffic, though it remains important in both.
“They (physical retail outlets) sell items for people coming through their doors. We sell stuff with eyes coming through our doors. It is sometimes easier to get eyes than feet, so I broke the rules,” he said.
The eight months-strong NicSocks wanted to prove selling limited edition designer socks online could work, despite retailers laughing at his idea.
“I started looking online and I saw a need for it. You know what the trick is: I was the biggest customer I had. I wanted socks,” he said.
His advice to e-commerce entrepreneurs is to find people on the internet with the same need.
Mailing lists are also recommended to keep customers coming back, with discounts being a magnet.
“Don’t let anyone mock your emails. Emails work better than anything else I am getting done,” Haralambous said.
One email recently gave him 12 instant sales in one day after hitting a 12 day no sales spiral, before a ZAR10,000 (US$102) successful sales week, illustrating the unpredictability of the industry.
Furthermore, social engagement such as picture posts on Instagram for visual brands can earn followers.
According to statistics, every 1,000 likes result in 100 followers, converting into 10 sales, although social traffic is no guarantee for customers.
Good service to keep customers pleased is also essential, he added.
HumanIPO reported earlier this week on Bernadette Homor, founder of online boutique LushBerry, saying the fashion is the most challenging area to sell in on the web.