Volusion C.E.O. Bullish on Smaller Ecommerce Firms

In an era when many ecommerce platforms are migrating to large, enterprise-level customers, Volusion is doing precisely the opposite. It is focused on smaller and midsize businesses, even startups. To talk about it, I recently spoke with Volusion’s founder and longtime C.E.O., Kevin Sproles. What follows is the complete audio interview and the transcript of it, edited for clarity and length.

Practical Ecommerce: Please bring us up to date on Volusion.

Kevin Sproles: Volusion’s existed for 17 years. Over 30,000 companies use our platform to develop and grow their companies. Roughly 185 million orders are set by shoppers on Volusion-powered sites. This year we published a new version of Volusion, known as V2. It’s 100-percent mobile optimized for both shoppers and merchants.

V2 launched a couple of months ago. We are excited about what it is bringing to the marketplace. With the mobile adventures, you can build your entire store from the phone, from the iOS app or the Android app or the web version, in addition to the desktop. It’s so user friendly.

PEC: What’s the price?

Sproles: We focus on the small business industry. The price ranges from $15 to $135 a month.

PEC: Volusion has gone through some change in the past couple of years. You’re back running the organization and you have sold Mozu, the platform for big businesses.

Sproles: Volusion was in development mode and I stepped away when my first child was born, to focus on the family. I tried letting others run the corporation. I learned a lot through that procedure. Fast-forward four decades and I understood that the business had deviated significantly from our mission to assist small companies, and it was not working. Two years ago I returned C.E.O. with four items on my schedule.

One was to enhance our culture. Two was to fix or market Mozu. Three was to enhance our merchandise, and four to induce expansion. I am pleased to say that the first two are complete. Our civilization is fantastic now. Employees are referring their friends as well as our worker Net Promoter score is greater than ever. When we offered Mozu we became profitable again, instantly.

PEC: Is Mozu still accessible?

Sproles: Yes, it is. It had been acquired by Kibo. We had the best exit we could find for the company that was great for the workers who were part of the Mozu team. Kibo retained all the people, in its Dallas office and here in Austin.

PEC: Why concentrate on smaller companies?

Sproles: We are talking about millions of possible businesses out there. When we at Volusion think of venture, it is only the very, very largest businesses. Amazon is the top of the list, as is Target etc. That is the part that we realize that it is so different. Our target market today is S.M.B.s, small and medium companies, around $50 million in earnings. We’ve got a great deal of customers now, a great deal of businesses. Our top 100 customers generate over $10 million in revenue annually, all these. Thus, we do support what I believe big merchants, but they are not the top enterprise businesses.

PEC: Given the dominance of Amazon, what’s a profitable strategy for smaller, independent ecommerce businesses?

Sproles: I really like this question because Amazon is a terrific place to get earnings — there is little doubt about it. Amazon is your number one ecommerce retailer on earth. They are number one on this enterprise list I spoke about, and they are growing. However, it is not a place to construct a brand as a small business — is Etsy. These marketplaces companies pose a risk to small companies since they can replace you in a minute, and they do.

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You can discover a number of examples about how Amazon works to make their own brands for clothes and other sorts of products. They shot over batteries and kicked out the large companies like Duracell and Energizer.

PEC: Say an entrepreneur comes to you with an idea for an ecommerce startup. What is your advice?

Sproles: The first thing we advise is to build your site and optimize it for search engines, which is free. You may begin to get your website indexed in Google. The next step is Facebook. It’s a terrific way to launch your company and begin to get sales. Again that is free to begin, after which you can scale this up via advertisements on Facebook.

If you make great content and a excellent website, you’re likely to perform well and drive visitors. Down the street is when you’d add Amazon, to keep adding stations rather than put all your eggs in one basket and to make the most of where the shoppers are.

PEC: What are common mistakes you have seen from new ecommerce businesses?

Sproles: New merchants often put up a web site and kindly examine clicks and analytics information, rather than really trying to contact potential customers. Merchants should invite shoppers to talk on the telephone. Throw local events in person so you meet these people and you see them looking at your products and asking you these questions. You do not get those insights from analytics.

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PEC: Is Volusion’s revenue growing?

Sproles: Yes, and we’re profitable, too. We are about $50 million in annual revenue, 30,000 customers, and we are growing.

PEC: Anything else?

Sproles: I like entrepreneurship. I enjoy helping founders build and expand their companies, whether they are just getting started or they are growing to $10 million, $15 million, or more. These are the small and medium companies which are occupying our market. It is humbling to be a part of the community.

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