After opening teadog.com, owner Paul Gerst has turned his passion for tea into a successful online business. By focusing on exceptional customer service, teadog was honored with the 2010 Bizrate Circle of Excellence Platinum Award.
Paul Gerst has always been passionate about tea, but he never thought it would turn into a profit. Paul got the idea to launch teadog after a horrible shopping experience on another tea selling site. With boxes arriving bent and the tea being a less than satisfactory product, Paul knew he could deliver a better experience to tea enthusiasts.
However, the decision to start a business was a difficult challenge that was personal in nature. Comfortable with his secure corporate job, Paul decided to make the transition to owning his own business and learning the ways of entrepreneurship one lesson at a time. Paul never looked back and continues to believe teadog was worth the risk every step of the way.
teadog offers brands of tea from around the world; selling the leading brands from England, Ireland, Scotland, France and more. Passionate about sharing his enthusiasm for tea with the rest of the world, Paul needed an ecommerce solution that would provide an exceptional shopping experience to his customers.
Paul’s initial experience with an ecommerce solution proved to be a huge disappointment. With little support, and no flexibility, Paul’s online business was limited to being a basic ecommerce site with a poor shopping experience.
After two years, Paul discontinued using his previous ecommerce solution upon realizing that ongoing technical issues hindered teadog’s growth. Instead of focusing on a top priority of SEO implementation, Paul was consistently putting out technical fires just to keep his online store running.
Thus, the search for a new ecommerce solution began. Among other solutions, Paul debated between Yahoo! Stores and Volusion, based on reviews and required features. After his evaluation, Paul chose Volusion because of the transaction fees Yahoo! Stores charges their store owners – he didn’t appreciate the penalty for succeeding online.
In addition, Volusion offered a cost effective, customizable, and reputable solution with an understanding of the importance of marketing and support.
Paul was very specific with his goals. Instead of just an increase in traffic, he wanted an increase in quality traffic that would convert to sales. Volusion’s platform helped teadog exceed these expectations, which resulted in overwhelming revenue increases despite the economic downturn.
Volusion also made it possible to give teadog.com a competitive advantage through innovative features that streamlined marketing initiatives. After switching to Volusion, teadog.com immediately took advantage of the innovative feature releases and simple marketing tools. In particular, stock requests, gift certificates and the loyalty program helped differentiate teadog from their competitors.
Integrated SEO played an integral role in giving teadog.com the ability to excel in a space where they had no prior experience. Handling all their own SEO in-house proved to be a significant cost advantage over competitors who hired consultants or firms.
Last but not least, teadog.com saved time and money due to Volusion’s user-friendly shopping cart software. Instead of providing expensive training on the software, employees could jump right into the user interface with little to no confusion. The intuitive nature of the software, combined with the online training videos and documentation, was more than enough. If a complex question surfaced, Volusion’s technical support team was ready to explain and solve any issue quickly and thoroughly. The hands-on approach proved to be an overwhelming success, leading to less time on spent training and more time to focus on customer satisfaction.
Increased traffic, competitive advantages and efficient business practices all played a vital role in teadog.com winning the 2010 Bizrate Circle of Excellence Platinum Award. The award is given to online merchants who go above and beyond to provide exceptional service to their customers. Being 1 of only 34 online stores to win the award, teadog.com was proud to be recognized for what they truly believed in: outstanding customer service.
Transitioning from an unsatisfying ecommerce solution to one that better fit his needs, Paul learned many lessons along the bumpy road to success. The biggest lesson he learned was the necessity of being flexible and adaptable. Paul went from focusing on a value proposition that highlighted technology to one that highlighted exceptional customer support. “Providing superior service is the key to getting one time customers to become loyal customers,” says Paul, “Great service is a real differentiator for any online store.”
Focusing on exceptional customer support as their value proposition originated from the ambition to achieve the same great reputation for tea that Zappos has for shoes. Paul’s business philosophy is to be “spectacular in one area, rather than mediocre in multiple areas.” He chose to specialize in high quality tea, dedicate his business to customer support, and make marketing a priority in his online initiatives.
Thanks to Paul for sharing his story and lessons with us! If you or someone you know if a tea enthusiast and fan of customer service, be sure to check out teadog.com.
-Caroline Lim, Marketing Associate, Volusion