At a time when many e-commerce platforms are migrating to large enterprise-level customers, Volusion is doing the opposite. It is focused on small and medium businesses, even startups. To discuss all this, I recently spoke with the founder of Volusion and C.E.O., Kevin Sproles.
E-Commerce Practice: Thank you for updating us on Volusion.
Kevin Sproles: Volusion has been in existence for 17 years. More than 30,000 companies use our platform to develop and grow their businesses. About 185 million orders were placed by buyers on websites powered by Volusion. This year we released a new version of Volusion, called V2. It is 100% mobile optimized for buyers and traders.
V2 launched a few months ago. We are delighted with what it brings to the market. With mobile experiences, you can build your entire shop from your phone, the iOS app or the Android app or the web version, as well as the desktop. It's so easy to use.
PEC: How much does the model cost?
Sproles: We focus on the small business market. The price varies from $ 15 to $ 135 per month.
PEC: Volusion has undergone some changes in recent years. You are back to the top of the business and you have sold Mozu, the platform for big business.
Sproles: Volusion was in growth mode and I moved away when my first child was born, to focus on the family. I've tried to let others run the business. I learned a lot through this process. Fast forward four years and I realized that the company had deviated significantly from our mission to help small businesses, and it was not working. So, two years ago, I returned as C.E.O. with four things on my agenda.
One was to improve our culture. Two had to repair or sell Mozu. Three were to improve our product, and four to stimulate growth. I am proud to say that the first two are complete. Our culture is fantastic now. Employees refer to their friends and the Net Promoter score of our employees is higher than ever. When we sold Mozu, we became profitable again immediately.
PEC: Is Mozu still available?
Sproles: Yes, that is true. It was acquired by Kibo. We had the best outing for the company that was good for employees who were part of the Mozu team. Kibo has caught most people in his Dallas office and here in Austin.
PEC: Why focus on small businesses?
Sproles: We are talking about millions of potential businesses. When at Volusion, we think of the company, it is only the very, very big companies. Amazon is the top of the list, just like Target and so on. It's the part we realize that it's so different. Our target market is now S.M.B.s, small and medium businesses, up to 50 million dollars in revenue. We have a lot of customers today, a lot of companies. Our top 100 clients generate revenues of more than $ 10 million a year, each one of them. So we serve what I consider to be big merchants, but they are not the best companies.
PEC: Given the dominance of Amazon, what is a profitable strategy for small independent e-commerce businesses?
Sproles: I love this question because Amazon is a good place to make sales – there is no doubt about it. Amazon is the number one ecommerce retailer in the world. They are number one on this list of companies I 've talked about, and they are growing. But it's not a place to build a brand like a small business – Etsy either. These market companies are therefore a risk for small businesses because they can replace you in an instant, and that is what they do.
You can find many examples of how Amazon works to create its own clothing brands and other types of products. They took the batteries and expelled even big companies like Duracell and Energizer.
PEC: Say that an entrepreneur comes to you with an idea for a new ecommerce business. What is your advice?
Sproles: The first thing we advise you is to build your website and optimize it for the search engines, which is free. You can start indexing your site in Google. The next step is Facebook. This is a great way to start your business and start selling. Again it is free to start, and then you can increase it through advertisements on Facebook.
If you create great content and an excellent website, you'll do well and drive traffic. In the end, it's when you add Amazon, to continue adding strings and not putting all your eggs in one basket and enjoying the place where the buyers are.
PEC: What are the common mistakes that you have seen from new e-commerce companies?
Sproles: New merchants often set up a website and blindly look at clicks and analytics, instead of really trying to connect with potential customers. Merchants should invite customers to talk on the phone. Throw local events in person to meet these people and you will see them watching your products and asking you these questions. You do not receive this information from the analysis.
PEC: Does Volusion's Revenues Increase?
Sproles: Yes, and we are also profitable. We realize annual revenues of about 50 million, 30,000 customers and we are growing.
PEC: Something else?
Sproles: I like the spirit of enterprise. I love helping founders build and grow their business, as they are just starting out or as they reach $ 10 million, $ 15 million or more. It's the small and medium-sized businesses that feed our economy. It's a humble lesson to be part of this community.