Artisans in the Mediterranean and Mexico have crafted and painted intricate ceramics by hand for centuries, passing down skills of the trade from generation to generation. Today, mass produced ceramic replicas made in factories and sold in major retail chains threaten the livelihood of the very artisans who have spent generations perfecting this exquisite art form. With an appreciation for genuine, handcrafted ceramics and a commitment to superior customer service, one Norfolk Massachusetts based company is doing its part to preserve this ancient art form and defend the livelihood of indigenous artists in the Mediterranean and Mexico that have relied on the trade throughout history.
Since 2002, Prevailing Winds has hand selected authentic ceramics crafted by artisans primarily in Italy, Spain, Turkey and Morocco, and made them available for purchase through its online store. The company’s devotion to customer satisfaction is backed by its generous 90-day “Relish It or Return It” policy, promising customers a full refund for items returned in new condition within that timeframe.
After facing a multitude of limitations with a previous provider, Prevailing Winds owner Leslie Kirschner moved the company to a hosted Volusion storefront in February of 2007. “My previous provider was not a hosted solution, so I had to deal with performance and hosting issues on my own. I owned the software, but did not receive any updates without purchasing the newest version, so the capabilities were lagging behind other software options,” Kirschner says, adding, “the software did not provide any of the SEO capabilities that Volusion offers, so it was harder to achieve high search engine rankings, which is the primary way that customers find our site.”
Prevailing Winds has more than doubled its profits since the move to Volusion, thanks largely to improved search engine visibility afforded by Volusion’s SEO friendly architecture. Kirschner, of course, is more than pleased with these results, noting “the SEO capabilities have significantly helped customers to find us online. The continuing software updates and regular addition of new capabilities makes sure that we stay current with (or ahead of!) other web vendors.”
While most e-commerce businesses ship multiple identical products based on a single product photo, Prevailing Winds faced a unique need – showcasing the actual one-of-a-kind items offered through its storefront. Volusion’s dynamic shopping cart software gives Prevailing Winds the flexibility to display multiple unique designs for each product, enabling customers to view the actual hand-painted items for sale and giving the company an edge over the competition. “Our customers really, really appreciate the ability to choose their exact design on many items where each piece is unique. Most other web vendors do not offer this,” says Kirschner, noting “they also like the ease of navigation to find the subset of items that they are interested in and the ability to see detailed photos.” Volusion’s vZoom feature, which instantly displays an enlarged view when the mouse rolls over a section of a product, accentuates the intricate detail of the company’s hand-painted ceramics and gives shoppers an up close and personal shopping experience.
Kirschner’s emphasis on customer satisfaction and search engine friendliness shows that she knows a thing or two about success in the online arena. Her advice to other online store owners embraces the transcendent sentiment of the golden rule, “put on your customer hat. Think about the experience you want when you deal with online businesses,” and “treat people the way you want to be treated – with respect, honesty, responsiveness, and customized, personalized service.”
-Pam Westbrook, Ecommerce Marketing/Copywriting