Welcome to our exciting new series on the AbandonAid blog: Tales from the Trenches. Each week, you’ll get to meet an online shop owner or e-commerce site manager. They will share their personal journey, tips & tricks, and advice they wish someone had given them! Catch up on thewhole series here.
Name: Stephanie Bealing
Company: Replacement Lens Express
Thanks for joining us Stephanie. Please, tell us a little about your business.
Replacement Lens Express is the highest quality prescription eyeglass lens replacement service on the web. Simply select your lenses (we can help make sure that you chose the one that is right for your needs!) and send in your frames to us. We return your frames with the new lenses installed!
That sounds like a great service! How did it evolve into the online business it is today?
My family has owned and operated an optometry practice since 1982. I worked there since I was 8 years old – answering phones, helping customers pick out eyeglasses… When I was in business school, I envisioned this online business and made a business plan for my Entrepreneurship class. The rest is history!
What a great story! Where are you now on this journey? Any recent big win that you’re particularly proud of?
I was recently honored to be a part of Hartford Business Journal’s “40 Under 40” article, which will be published in July 2015. This award recognizes RLE’s contribution to helping thousands save money, as well as my own personal outreach to the community. I serve on several small business boards and do a ton of guest lecturing in an attempt to help other “want-re-preneurs” get their start!
Congratulations! That’s very exciting. It certainly seems like business is great. Tell us, what is a typical day-in-the-life of a successful online shop owner like yourself?
I manage the business development side at this point, so I am always trying to find new products and services to offer my customers. I also do extensive price analyses to see which products we can offer at even lower prices. I also spend some time reaching out to individual customers, seeing how their experience was, if they are happy, and if there is anything that I can do to improve things for them. I love connecting with people!
It seems like you’re very busy. What is the hardest part of being an online shop owner? What is the best part?
I love servicing customers all over the world! I love knowing that my products are being used in far away lands and interesting places. It also makes me so happy to think that my business has helped people to save so much money. Eye doctors charge way too much!!
With such a far-reaching customer base, it’s clear that you truly understand the e-commerce atmosphere. How do you think that landscape is shifting?
The competition for all sorts of businesses is getting more and more fierce, since the barrier to entry is so low. I am lucky with my chosen industry – there are very few labs that can do what mine does, servicing customers with very specialized prescription needs in such a fast turn-around time. But with many businesses, you are just selling a commodity and it is hard to compete on anything but price since there are so many players.
You certainly seem to have a handle on the competition, and a firm grasp on the e-commerce sphere in general. If you went back to the beginning of this journey, what are three things you wish you knew when you started your online business?
(1) I wish that I had been a bit bolder when I first started out…I wasn’t sure if the business was going to make it, so I was very cautious to start.
(2) I thought that an e-commerce business could be “passive income.” Boy was I wrong! Even when you hire a team of great people, you still need to spend a lot of time with your baby!
(3) I built my website myself when I started out, using an out-of-the-box platform. I wish that I’d used professional web developers from the beginning rather than a few years into it.
As someone who has long been active in the online marketplace, have you seen a difference in your revenue and business since using abandonment emails to tackle the challenge of shopping cart abandonment?
It used to make me sick to see how many abandoned carts we had! Nw, using AbandonAid, we are seeing those numbers drop dramatically.
Finally, Stephanie, what advice and final words would you give to new shop owners?
Do your research before you start! Is your industry a growth industry? Will your suppliers allow you sell online? Will they insist on specific pricing? Know all of these answers before you open up shop!
Follow Replacement Lens Express on Social!