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Entrepreneur Builds a Million Dollar E-Commerce Business In the Toilet Accessories Niche

bidetsPLUS.com

Jensen Lee, based out of Los Angeles, is the owner of bidetsPLUS.com and one of my favorite customers here at RewardCamp.

He went from working in corporate America and not knowing what product to sell to building bidetsPLUS.com into a million-dollar e-commerce business.

This is the story of how he did it and the nine tips that powered Jensen’s e-commerce success:

Tip 1 – Start This Year.  Your Risk and Opportunity Cost Only Increase as You Get Older

Tip 2 – Researching the Market Helped Lay the Foundation for a Million Dollar Business

Tip 3 – Developing his Unique Value Proposition from Day 1 Helped Spur Sales

Tip 4 – SEO to Grow Revenues from $0 to $50,000 per month

Tip 5 – Growing Through Cash Flow Instead of Loans or Investment

Tip 6 – PPC to Supercharge the Business to the Million-Dollar Level

Tip 7 – Customer Rewards and Email Marketing to generate $15,000/month in Repeat Orders

Tip 8 – Investing in Trust Badges to Grow Conversion by 10%

Tip 9 – YouTube for the Triple Win – SEO, Traffic & Conversion

Tip 1 – Start This Year.  Your Risk and Opportunity Cost Only Increase as You Get Older

Start TodayBack in 2009, Jensen was 32 years old, working the corporate grind at AT&T Interactive, AT&T’s internet advertising division.  He had a growing young family, a beautiful house, and a six-figure job that provided a lot of security.

The problem was – Jensen wasn’t happy.  Ever since high school, Jensen dreamed of running his own business.  He kicked around some business ideas in his 20s, but never found something he truly believed in.  As time went on, Jensen’s standard of living increased along with his salary.  He felt the corporate noose tightening.

Jensen realized – the older you get, the harder it becomes to start a business.  It’s easier to quit your job when you’re 25 and making $50,000 than to quit at 40 when you’re making $150,000.  The more money you make, the harder it becomes to quit your job because you’re leaving so much money on the table.  This is compounded by the fact that your lifestyle increases as your income increases.  So now, the cost of business failure becomes much, much greater.

So if it’s your dream to start a business, start this year.

Tip 2 – Researching the Market Helped Lay the Foundation for a Million Dollar Business

While working at AT&T Jensen became interested in e-commerce but didn’t know what product to sell. That changed during a visit to South Korea.

There in South Korea, he used a bidet toilet seat for the first time. A bidet toilet seat is an electronic toilet fixture that is used for washing yourself after using the restroom.

He was blown away by the experience. It was significantly more comfortable and hygienic than using toilet paper.

After coming back to America, he tried to buy a bidet for his house, but they were hard to find.  He found a few websites that sold bidets, but they did a poor job explaining the features and how to choose one bidet over another.

The average bidet sold for $500 to $900–a price point that appealed to Jensen.  He wanted to sell a product that had an average sales price of $500+ because he felt it would be easier to grow a company that sold expensive, high-end products.

He wasn’t interested in selling $20 items because you have to sell so many.  Just a handful of $500 sales a day would be more efficient, and easier to scale.

This was Jensen’s moment.  He found a product he really believed in at a price point he really liked.

Bidets are very common in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and South America, so he knew they had universal appeal.  He felt that in the United States, it was more an issue of awareness and education.

Using Google keyword search, he looked up the monthly searches for bidets. He assumed he could capture 1-2% of the monthly search traffic. Then he applied a 1% conversion rate to the monthly seo traffic. Now he had a rough estimate of the no. of orders that his business could theoretically generate each month.

Using an average unit price of $500, he arrived at a monthly revenue figure that could help to pay the bills and support his family.

Next, he carefully studied the competition. I write more about Jensen’s clever analysis of the competition in tip # 3 below, ‘Developing his Unique Value Proposition.’

Finally, he called up bidet manufacturers and learned about the logistics of the market – variables such as margins, distribution, shipping, warranties, etc.

This research allowed him to answer three crucial questions:

  1. What is the level of monthly demand?
  2. What is the weakness of the competition?
  3. What are the basic economics of the product (margins, warranties, suppliers, terms, etc.)?

Armed with these fundamentals, Jensen quit his six-figure job and using $10,000 in savings, he launched bidetsPLUS.com in March of 2010.

Tip 3 – Developing his Unique Value Proposition from Day 1 Helped Spur Sales

Before launching his website, Jensen took time to study his competition. He’d visit each website and ask himself “Would I buy from this site? How can I make my site better?”

He found the bidet sites at the time to be very sales focused. They had very little content. They just put up the products, told you to buy, and offered a coupon.

They lacked in-depth descriptions, videos, high definition pictures or comparison charts. They didn’t explain why one product was better than the other.

He read their customer reviews to understand what customers valued and what made them upset.

By studying the competition, Jensen was able to come up with his unique value proposition, which was to provide a content rich website about bidets that would educate shoppers as well as help them make the buying decision.

As simple as this sounds, back in 2010, none of the bidet sites offered any content.

By developing his unique value proposition, his site was better than competitors from day 1, which in turn helped him to get sales early on.

Tip 4 – SEO to grow revenues from $0 to $50,000 per month

Jensen’s focus on building a content rich site lead to the next logical move – which was to focus on SEO as the primary method for attracting traffic.

The beauty of content is that it helps with two crucial steps:

  1. Bringing traffic via SEO
  2. Converting the traffic into buyers

Although Jensen had previous internet marketing experience at AT&T, SEO was not his forte.  So he went to his local bookstore and bought a short book called “SEO Made Simple.”

That book helped him understand how SEO worked. It also taught him the SEO tactics that were successful in 2010, which included press releases, submitting articles to article directories, obtaining directory links and link building.

Jensen wrote three articles a week that first year and spent a lot of time on optimizing those articles for SEO.  The SEO efforts showed promise right away.

He got his first sale that first month in March 2010. But from there, it took nearly 12 more months to receive his 100th order.  That’s an average of just 8 – 9 orders a month.  So it was a very slow sales ramp.

Looking back – Jensen said there were some dark days.

“We would go 5, 10 days without a sale.  That’s when you really look within yourself.  You wonder if everything you’ve been doing is wrong.  There were many doubts that crossed through my mind.  I thought of shutting down the company several times that first year.”

But he really believed in bidets and their potential in the US market. He really believed that everybody would love them once they tried them.

If he was selling something he was less passionate about, like pencils or bookshelves, he might have given up when things got hard.  But itwas his conviction and belief in his product that got him through those tough times.

Jensen persevered.  By the 24th month, bidetsPLUS.com achieved enough SEO and word of mouth traffic to generate $50,000 in monthly orders.

Tip 5 – Grow the Business thru Retained Earnings, Not With Bank Loans or Additional Capital

I mentioned earlier that Jensen had started bidetsPLUS.com with $10,000 in personal savings.

That was the only time he put his own money into the business. Since then, he has grown bidetsPLUS.com using cash and profits generated by the business.

This is a rule that Jensen feels strongly about and something that he ascribes as one of the key reasons for his success – that he grew the business through cashflow instead of taking out bank loans or putting in more of his own capital.

It forced him to be disciplined, to stay focused, and to try things out quickly.

Jensen believes you must be able to grow the company by re-investing the company’s profits.  If you are not generating enough profits to re-invest, keep grinding until you get there.

It is risky to keep pumping money into an unproven, unprofitable business.  Make the business prove to you, that it’s working. And the best way to do that, is to avoid taking on more expenses until the business can afford it.

It requires tenacity and creativity to make sure your e-commerce business is profitable.   Once you’re able to re-invest profits back into the business to fund growth, that’s when you know you’re on to something.

That’s when it becomes really exciting.

Tip 6 – PPC to Supercharge the Business to the Million Dollar Level

Jensen started looking into PPC, specifically Google ads in 2012. By then, his business was generating enough cash flow to re-invest into creating a second source of traffic.

More importantly, Jensen had improved his website conversion during those first two years while focusing on SEO.

Jensen’s background in AT&T was useful here. He had managed google campaigns on behalf of clients at AT&T, buying millions of clicks each month from the major search engines.

He started with a monthly spend of $3,000 managing the Google campaigns on his own. He increased the ad spend only when an ad was profitable.

Eventually, he would increase his Google ad budget up to five-figures a month.

Unlike SEO, Google ads showed results very quickly. By 2013, bidetsPLUS.com had hit the $1 million revenue level, a mere 3 years after launching.

It was a special moment for Jensen. His gut instinct about the potential of bidets in American had proven correct.

Tip 7 – Customer Rewards and Email Marketing to generate $15,000 of monthly repeat orders

With SEO and Google ads bringing a steady stream of new customers, Jensen no longer worried about generating new business consistently.

He set his sights next on increasing repeat orders.

This was particularly difficult in this market because once someone spends $500 on a bidet; they rarely need to buy additional items for several years.

He did some basic research and narrowed on two tactics to spur repeat orders:

  1. Implementing a rewards program
  2. Email marketing

For the rewards program, he began offering 3% cashback rewards using RewardCamp, a loyalty app that focuses on making it easy for customers to earn and use rewards, which in turn increases their repeat orders.

Interestingly – getting repeat business was not Jensen’s primary motivation for implementing RewardCamp at first.  His primary motivation was to increase visitor conversion rates on the FIRST sale.  He thought if he offered a 3% rewards program, it would increase the likelihood of a first time customer buying.

But as it turned out, RewardCamp was great at getting repeat business too!  The RewardCamp system periodically sends out e-mails to bidetsPLUS.com’s customers reminding them of their unused rewards.

He also liked that RewardCamp sends a monthly report of the revenue generated from repeat orders.  This was an easy way to measure the ROI (Return on Investment) of the rewards program.

With email marketing, he started by sending a monthly coupon with an expiration date.

Between RewardCamp and email marketing, Jensen was able to increase revenue from repeat customers by $15,000 a month.

It was remarkable.  And it was so easy to do.  There’s a little bit of work up front but once it’s set up, Jensen says the rewards and e-mail marketing programs practically run themselves.

Tip 8 – Invest in Trust Badges

We all know that trust is the most important factor in converting a visitor into a buyer.

It becomes an even bigger factor for those who are spending thousands of dollars on paid traffic each month. Even the smallest boost in conversion translates to big gains in revenue and profits.

Several factors build trust in an e-commerce website – listing a phone number, a decent design, customer reviews, etc.

Although these elements impact the trust factor, what Jensen noticed was that using trust badges had an even bigger impact.

Trust badges are logos from 3rd party sites that establish a website’s trust credibility.

He started with implementing the BizRate trust mark in 2012.

The following year he added the Reseller Rating trust badge as well as the Better Business Bureau trust mark.

In 2015 he started working with Google Trusted Stores (which later became Google Reviews).

Another step that made a big difference was moving all the trust badges to the footer of the website, so they could all be seen in one place.

Now granted – it takes time to build up enough history and reviews to acquire these trust badges.  It is something you must work at each day.  But the long-term pay-off is visitors trust your website more, which in turn leads to higher conversion rates.

Tip 9 – YouTube for the Triple Win – SEO, Traffic & Conversion

I already told you that Jensen was writing and optimizing three articles a week when he first launched his store back in 2010.

But since he was trying to educate his market, he also started creating videos about each of the models that he sold and posted them on YouTube.

These videos showed how to use a bidet, the benefits of the specific model, and it gave a feel for how the bidet would look at home.

Jensen implemented video SEO tactics on each video and uploaded them to YouTube.

These videos helped with conversion as well as pulled in traffic from YouTube. They also helped with his search rankings.

Nobody was doing bidet videos in 2010, so it also gave him an early advantage.

Recently the bidetsPLUS YouTube channel hit a milestone of achieving 1,000,000 views.

9 KEY TAKEAWAYS FROM BIDETSPLUS.COM’S MILLION-DOLLAR SUCCESS

Building an e-commerce business does not have to be a mystery.

Take a leaf from Jensen’s playbook and you too can build a million dollar business that is not reliant on 3rd party marketplaces.

  1. Start your business this year. The older you get, the harder it becomes to start. Plus, if your business fails, you’ll still have youth on your side to try again.
  2. Research Your Market To Lay The Foundation For a Million Dollar Business. Jensen did the research to figure out demand, the competition’s weakness and the profit margins, using nothing more than basic google search and phone calls.
  3. Develop your Unique Value Proposition. During the research phase, Jensen studied each competitor’s website and used the insights to develop his unique value proposition – which was to provide high-quality content that educates and helps his visitors make a buying decision.
  4. Use SEO to build a $50,000 per month business. Jensen wrote 3 articles a week for the first year and implemented SEO tactics as his primary traffic strategy. It helped him to go from zero to $50K per month in revenue.
  5. Grow your business by re-investing profits, not by putting more of your own money into the business. This part is the hardest to achieve, but also one of Jensen’s most important tips.  If you can do this, you have a model for success.
  6. Google PPC (pay per click) to supercharge the business to the million dollar level. Some businesses make the mistake of starting out with paid ads like PPC from day 1. But Jensen dived into PPC only after using SEO to build a solid business first. By then he had improved conversion so that his PPC campaigns became profitable quickly.
  7. Customer Rewards and Email Marketing to generate $15,000 of monthly repeat orders. Jensen offered cash back rewards using RewardCamp and a monthly email deal to keep his customers coming back and buying from him. It added an extra $15K in monthly sales, with very little work.
  8. Invest in Trust Badges To Grow Conversion. Trust badges are effective at establishing credibility, which leads to trust, which leads to conversions.
  9. YouTube For The Triple Win – SEO, Traffic & Conversion. Jensen created YouTube videos about each of the products he sold from day 1. He also added these videos to each of the product pages. These videos not only brought in new traffic from YouTube and Google, but they also helped with conversion.

Making $65,000 a month with RewardCamp

I got a bottom line question the other day from a retailer while doing a demo.

Question: Raheem, how much money can we make from RewardCamp?

Answer: One retailer used to make $45,000 a month in repeat orders (orders that were placed by repeat customers) before using RewardCamp. After RewardCamp, their repeat order revenue jumped up to $65,000 per month.

For another retailer, the repeat order revenue increased from $17,000 to $28,000 per month.

Time for a disclaimer: One retailer’s results does not mean you will have the same results. And these results do take at least 6-9 months to achieve.

Having said that, RewardCamp makes it easy for your customers to earn and spend their rewards. And when you make things easy for customers, they tend to come back.

Sign up for a free trial of RewardCamp and increase your repeat orders.

He Insulted and Chased Away Chevron

It was winter in Boston and George was an unemployed chemical engineer looking for a job. He had prepared the night before for his phone interview with Chevron for a chemist position. The interview began with the usual pleasantries and they asked how he was.

George responded “It’s 70 degrees and sunny in Boston in November, so I certainly can’t complain.”

They chuckled at his line. Feeling encouraged, he followed up and said:

“Haha, you guys at Chevron keep up the good work with this global warming!”

Silence pursued for 5 solid seconds. George never got a callback from Chevron.

Just as George unintentionally chased away Chevron, e-commerce retailers sometimes chase away customers. Sometimes the shopping cart is broken. Sometimes the website is down. Sometimes prices are marked incorrectly.

And the customer ends up leaving without buying.

But repeat customers are different. They won’t abandon cart when they encounter a problem. To the contrary, they’ll try repeatedly to complete the order and even take the time to let you know of the problem. They’ll give you a chance to fix the problem and return to place the order again.

A customer friendly loyalty program can go a long way towards helping you get more repeat customers. Sign up for a free trial of RewardCamp and get the kind of customers who return to buy again and again.

Beware of Demon Possessed Customers

Here’s a bizarre incident. A demon-like possession was caught on video in Malaysia.

A guy walked into a convenience store, opened the fridge door and pulled out a drink. Just then he began shaking violently, fell to the floor and it looks like he is having a seizure of some sort.

And then it gets really strange.

While still shaking violently, he points at stacks of toilet paper. Seconds later, the toilet rolls fall off the shelves and a ghost like apparition moves through the fridge. Customers can be seen freaking out and running away.

Strange indeed. And not good for business.

Similar things are happening in e-commerce. Mean-spirited (and maybe even demon-spirited) customers walk into your business and leave negative reviews that scare away prospects and customers.

One way to prevent this is to grow your repeat customers.

Repeat customers love what you are doing. Instead of scaring away customers, they tend to attract new customers by word of mouth and positive reviews.

Sign up for a free trial of RewardCamp and get more repeat customers.

Bringing Competitors To Their Knees

Jack Aubrey was the captain of the Surprise, a frigate in the British navy. At the time, Napolean was waging war across Europe. Twice Captain Aubrey’s ship was attacked by the bigger, faster and more powerful French frigate, the Acheron. Twice captain Aubrey escaped through luck and cunning.

After the second attack captain Aubrey had, had enough. He said: “This is the second time he’s done this to me. There will not be a third.”

After escaping from the attack, Captain Aubrey’s first order of business was to repair his ship and shore up its defenses. Next, he started a rigorous training regime of his crew to get them ready for a swift attack. His ship’s advisers were hesitant about captain Aubrey’s plans to win against the bigger, faster and more armored Acheron. They tried to change his mind but he wouldn’t budge.

After repairs were completed, the supplies replenished and the crew sufficiently trained, the Surprise set sail, looking to capture the Acheron. But a string of storms, bad weather, and loss of crew demoralized the crew. And yet Captain Aubrey remained focused on his mission.

This story is from the movie Master & Commander. You’ll have to watch it to learn the ending.

If your e-commerce business is under attack from competitors, then use the captain Jack Aubrey playbook to start winning.  First, shore up your defenses by making sure you are not losing your best customers.

Second, go out and find more new repeat customers.

Third, offer deals to your competitor’s customers and convert them into your  customers.

This is the Jack Aubrey way of going on the attack and bringing your competitors to their knees. RewardCamp can help you – by converting new buyers into loyal customers. Sign up for a free trial of RewardCamp and make more money.

Rewards That Make Customers Buy Frequently

Here’s a question that I get frequently:

“Raheem, what kind of rewards will motivate my customers to return frequently?”

Most people think the answer is to offer fancy rewards. Or that they have to offer generous rewards. In reality, those are not important.  The best rewards have three qualities:

  1. The reward is cash or cash-like (e.g. store credit)
  2. It is easy for the customer to earn the reward
  3. It is easy for the customer to use the reward (rewards that require codes to use are usually not the best)

When you offer rewards with the above qualities, customers are more likely to earn and use rewards.
That’s when the magic happens.

That’s when their likelihood of doing business with you greatly increases.

This is the entire product philosophy behind RewardCamp – to make it easy for your customers. This is why RewardCamp has a high retention rate.

Sign up for a free trial of RewardCamp and make more money.

Don’t Lose Money Like Target Canada

On January 15, 2015, Target Canada filed for bankruptcy protection after trying and failing to expand into Canada. It lost $7 billion, tainted its reputation and put 17,600 people out of work. Target is well-known in the retail world for being a very effective operator. But this was a rare blunder from Target.

A big mistake that they made was picking a very complicated, new software for their Canadian operations instead of using the home-grown system used in the US. This new software had all the latest bells and whistles and was supposed to allow Target to manage their stores, warehouse and inventory in a more effective way.

But managing stores, warehouse and inventory using the same software also meant that it had a very complex installation and setup process that takes several years. This is where they made the next big mistake.

They tried to rush through the software setup. What normally takes five years, Target tried to do in two. The result was that opening day was a big mess. Shelves were under-stocked, checkout machines were not working and the system was ordering the wrong products from suppliers.

Target tried to fix these problems over the next two years but it just never worked right. Target finally gave up and pulled out of Canada.

Picking software can be a dangerous move and can take down even a giant like Target. You can avoid this kind of risk with RewardCamp. It is easy to setup.

We provide you with advice on the best way to setup your loyalty program (worth hundreds of dollars). We help you to test it. And once it’s running, you can set-it and forget-it!

RewardCamp will work behind the scenes to increase your customer loyalty and make you money. Sign up for a free trial of RewardCamp and make more money.

They Made An Extra £14 Million

During the great recession of 2008 and 2009, UK based sunshinetravel.co.uk was floundering just like everyone else. Thousands of people were losing jobs. Consumers were canceling travel plans. Airlines were going bankrupt.

The UK travel industry lost £2.1 billion in profit in 2010 alone.

Amidst this turmoil, Sunshine Travel with help from Conversion Rate Experts, made changes to their site and ended up making an extra £14 million dollar. Here’s how they did it.

They began by surveying their customers. They asked customers what they liked and disliked. Anyone who filled out the survey got a chance to win the cost of their last vacation. They asked open-ended questions like “How would you describe us to a friend?” The customer survey yielded gold.

They learned that their prices were confusing. The prices were so low that customers found it hard to believe.  So they made prices more clear by adding details like price per night and price per person.

They learned what their best customers liked and then highlighted those points on the site.  Talking to their customers is how Sunshine Travel survived and thrived.

But which customers should you talk to?

There are two types of customers that are the best for surveying:

1. Your current best customers – these are customers who are buying frequently from you. They love what you are doing.

2. Your lost best customers – these are your best customers that you have lost. These customers used to order frequently but then they stopped. Talking to them will help you learn what needs to be fixed.

RewardCamp’s analytics shows you both, your current best customers and the ones you have lost. Sign up for a free trial of RewardCamp and make more money.

She Lost Money Even After Her Product Was Featured on GMA

Few years ago, marketing expert Melanie Duncan started an online home decor store.

She achieved a major coup by getting a spot on Good Morning America. As part of the deal, she agreed to give away 350 gifts to the audience. GMA has 5 million national viewers. On the day the spot aired, Melanie’s website received thousands of visitors but only a handful of orders.

She lost a lot of money.

It was a tough start for her new store. Months later, Melanie began noticing little streams of traffic coming from Pinterest. Unlike the Good Morning America traffic, a lot of visitors from Pinterest were placing orders.

She began studying Pinterest. Learning about the audience and the site. Within a short time, Pinterest became the # 1 traffic source. It was contributing to thousands of dollars in sales each month.

Here are 5 tactics Melanie used to get more sales from Pinterest.

* Tactic 1 – Add a Pin It button

Melanie added a “Pin It” button to her site. Pinterest now offers a “Pin It” for business, which is what Melanie recommends.

She suggests adding the “Pin It” button to all your product images. When someone pins a product, all of their followers see it. Over 80% of the pins are re-pins on Pinterest.

* Tactic 2 – Post inspiring messages

Melanie posts images with inspiring messages on her pinterest page. Her audience love these inspiring images and often click on them. Which brings them to her online store and many of them end up placing an order.

* Tactic 3 – Use an easy tool to create content for your pinterest page

She used picmonkey to overlay text onto beautiful images. This allows her to quickly and easily create inspiring content for her pinterest page.

* Tactic 4 – Pin Youtube videos

She pins Youtube videos of her products on her pinterest page. Videos  do phenomenally well on pinterest.

* Tactic 5 – Use Keywords on Pinterest to increase SEO ranking of your store.

Melanie found that Pinterest can significantly increase SEO rankings. She suggests using keywords when setting up your account in the about section. She also used keywords in the captions and the board titles. All of the above tactics will help you land new customers.

RewardCamp can then help you to convert these new customers into repeat buyers. Sign up for a free trial of RewardCamp and make more money.

Will Customers Buy Even If Prices Are Higher?

I got a question the other day:

QUESTION: Is it possible to keep my customers coming back even if they find better prices and deals with competitors?

ANSWER: Yes, this is possible.

But first, let’s take a step back. One of the pressures faced by e-commerce retailers is the downward pricing pressure. Pricing is the main reason why everyone is losing customers, all the time.

So how does RewardCamp keep your customers coming back, even when your competitors offer lower prices?

Here’s how —

When your customer places an order, they receive store credit as a reward. This is like free money. It immunizes that customer from price competition. Why go through the hassle of finding deals, when you have free money with a retailer?

RewardCamp goes further by making it easy for your customers to earn and use their free reward. They don’t have to jump through hoops, remember codes or any of the hassle usually associated with loyalty programs.

This is why customers keep ordering from you when you use RewardCamp. Sign up for a free trial of RewardCamp and increase your revenues.