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Lessons Learned: Eco-friendly Products Require the Appropriate Ettitude

Melbourne-based Phoebe Yu is CEO and founder of Ettitude, an Australian ecommerce website that sells eco-conscious clothes and household products.

Yu’s first role after finishing her bachelor’s degree at Shanghai Institute of Foreign Trade was as a sales and marketing executive for Shanghai Light Industry Trade Corporation, an importing and exporting company.

Phoebe Yu

Ettitude, which Yu started in November 2008, calls all Yu’s expertise in business development, manufacturing, outsourcing, branding, ecommerce, online advertising, and social websites.

Her site has increased steadily in revenue, from $2,000 a month to around $40,000 a month now.

Shopping Carts

Yu started Ettitude.com.au with a Melbourne software company, Equik, now called Arctic Fox Internet Engine, which had a shopping cart and content management system. It cost Yu about $8,000 on web layout with this turnkey solution. Yet she was not happy with the results.

“I knew nothing about how to run a web site or what functions were crucial for a successful ecommerce website. I must have done more study and homework. The system was difficult to use,” Yu said.

“I could not change the meta tags or descriptions because I did not understand how to code and the URL structure was not SEO-friendly. So my earnings growth was quite slow.”

After a web designer said Bigcommerce, she investigated that organization and other shopping carts like Magento and ShopFactory.

“I listed the vital features I needed for my site and compared the shopping cart solutions. Bigcommerce had the best functionality and the price wasn’t expensive. So I changed to that firm in August 2010, getting my web designer Dvize to redesign the entire site and transfer all of the item information across.”

Yu said Bigcommerce is simple to use, and contains many self-managed search engine optimization attributes that allowed her to enhance Ettitude’s Google ranking quickly, helping earnings to grow.

“Bigcommerce integrates with many third party software programs like MailChimp. I am on Bigcommerce’s Gold plan, which is $79.95 per month. On the program above that, they provide cart abandonment notifications.”

Yu utilizes Bigcommerce’s new features when they’re released; Ettitude’s Bigcommerce Facebook shop was among the very first.

“Due to this I had been asked to talk at a seminar to talk about Facebook advertising, and that I had been showcased on Mashable.com.”

Credit Card Payments

Ettitude accepts payment via Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Diners Club and PayPal. Customers can also pay directly into Ettitude’s bank account.

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“While the majority of our existing payments are through credit cards and PayPal, we intend to bring those payment options which are now unavailable in Australia — such as Google Wallet and Checkout By Amazon — once we expand more to the U.S. market.”

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Order and Inventory Management

Yu has been using Bigcommerce until today to print invoices and packing slips. But she has just begun to use Ordoro for stock management, as it supports multiple warehouses.

“This means we can better handle our warehouses in Australia and China. But Ordoro is a brand new company, and it’s still adding and enhancing features. So it’s tough to judge at this instant.”

“We began using Temando for sending Australian parcels in 2011 but are beginning to change to Australia Post’s eParcel today,” Yu said.

She’s waiting for Bigcommerce to incorporate Australia Post and Temando to the system so sending orders can be carried out automatically.

“They do so with a few U.S. couriers, but not yet those in Australia.”

Employees

Yu works fulltime on Ettitude. All four workers began as part-timers three decades back. Her helper in China, who manages manufacturers, is currently fulltime. Her Melbourne helper handles shipping, customer service, and management, the U.K. worker does social media marketing. Ettitude includes a part-time sales representative in New South Wales, Australia. Ettitude’s web designer, SEO specialist, and accountant all work on a contract basis.

The Ettitude home page.

Search Engine Optimization

Yu formerly used Sydney-based SEO Technologies, which she discovered expensive and not generating enough results.

While Bigcommerce manages all the SEO, Yu is always learning how to do it herself.

She currently outsources SEO into an Indian firm, Wildnet Technologies, which has attained a page ranking on Google.com.au for key search phrases, such as”bamboo sheet” and”bamboo bathrobe.”

“[Wildnet] assisted our Google.com.au ranking, but I do not believe they will have the ability to help us rank on other Google sites as we grow internationally.”

Following the Google Panda update — visit “SEO: Preventing Penguins and Pandas,” our latest post on that topic — Yu has discovered SEO is more about creating relevant high quality articles to have a better ranking.

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Her first attempts at Google AdWords were ineffective because, she says, of her lack of knowledge. She had previously hired an agency to do so, but said its support was terrible.

A month before, Yu contracted Sasha Gilberg from 2xConversion to undertake Ettitude’s Google AdWords program.

“It appears to be working this time, as we have almost broken even on the AdWords’ cost of $2,000 a month. We’ll increase this once it is profitable.”

Product Sourcing

Yu’s background was in product sourcing. So this is the simplest portion of the company for her.

“I have a broad manufacturing system in China making bamboo flooring bed linens, towels, underwear and socks, cotton baby and children’s clothes, and eco friendly laundry solutions.”

“The baby and kids’ clothes were the major focus at the start, but the bamboo bed and bath products have removed, so we’re focusing more on people and will add more bamboo fiber solutions.”

Yu with some Ettitude solutions.

Accounting Software

Yu’s accountant has been utilizing MYOB until lately, but now uses Xero, which she said is simpler to use.

Social Media

Up to now, Ettitude has 904 Facebook lovers, 1,263 Twitter followers and Yu’s U.K. helper writes about a single blog post weekly. Yu hasn’t ventured into Pinterest or Google+ yet, but intends to establish a YouTube channel.

“All of this social media helps the Google rank because Google now puts weight on social standing. Folks interact with us more on Facebook — because our clients are largely female.”

“We can definitely see sales via Facebook via Google Analytics. Occasionally we post discount codes on Facebook and see clients using those. In addition, we use Facebook for customer support occasionally, like if a client posts a direct message about their purchase, or merchandise.”

Expense Control

Yu uses contractors rather than fulltime workers, when possible, to control overhead. She likes to build steady relationships with providers.

“[With long term, stable relationships,] you get better prices and better payment terms, which helps a lot with money flow. Because this is an eco-friendly brand and company, we also conserve paper and electricity as much as we can. This not only helps with cost savings, but it means less waste and helps to save Earth.”

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Customer Service

Yu won’t outsource customer support: She and her part-time helper are hands on.

Because nobody knows Ettitude’s products in addition to Yu, who develops them, she conducts the live chat , which she said helps when customers or possible wholesalers have questions.

“More than 50 percent of the men and women using live chat with us place an order then.”

Yu intends to compile the questions which are most frequently asked into a normal manual.

“They can also reach us via Facebook, Twitter, and email. In addition, we have a free phone number if they would like to call. It is sensible to give customers more stations to communicate with us.”

Biggest Mistakes

Yu regrets selecting the wrong software for her website, which wasted money and impacted her position in Google.

“I wish I had known about Bigcommerce before.”

However, she’s disappointed that Bigcommerce is not yet set up to help her expand her site into the international market.

“I have another challenge as I need to go into the international marketplace but Bigcommerce does not support multi-language or multi-countries. But I believe they’re working with it.”

Biggest Successes

Yu considers the Mashable article, which led to an invitation to speak in the 2012 Social Media Marketing Revolution conference about Facebook advertising, is her biggest achievement.

Her additional success to date has been showcased in The Age newspaper in Melbourne, which generated a spike in traffic and decent exposure.


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