Another day, another interview. Today we sit down with Gary Amstutz of Stickers and Labels South Africa to talk about their ecommerce journey. We go over how they got their start in the competitive field of Print on Demand, what obstacles they faced, and how did they overcome the challenges in their field.
So, without further ado, here’s what he had to say about his ecommerce experiences.
Harris: For our readers, tell us a bit about yourself and your experiences.
I have been in business since 1996. After completing my law degree at University, I had a brief stint working and travelling overseas and then returned to South Africa to start practicing law. An opportunity however arose out of the blue to get involved in a courier and print franchise and I jumped at it. It was a great grounding for business generally, customer service and marketing. The opportunity also gave me valuable insight into the print and courier industries as a whole.
In 2005, I decided to open an online shop selling customised Rubber Stamps, as this was one of the products that we were already manufacturing and retailing offline. It was a steep learning curve, but we were the only ones doing it at the time, so we could afford to experiment
The business is now the market leader in South Africa and continues to grow year-on-year.
Harris: From where did the idea behind Sticker And Label (and the other print-on-demand stores you have) emerge?
We now have a loyal customer base of over 40,000 and it soon became evident that we could leverage this base to sell other complementary products and services. We have since launched NameBadgeSA.co.za, BusinessCardSA.co.za, PlanPrintSA.co.za and StickerandLabelSA.co.za
The business model is pretty much the same for each and we have successfully managed to cross sell products and service to our common customer base.
Harris: What is it like building a brand in a competitive industry like print-on-demand?
I think there are two ways to achieve this. One is to throw a ton of money at the problem and the other is to slowly build a sustainable brand through a laser focus on customer service. We chose the latter. It takes time and patience – the story of the tortoise and the hare often comes to mind…. – but it is worth it in the long run.
It also obviously helps to be first mover in a particular market.
Harris: What was the marketing strategy that worked best for you, and what platforms helped you the most?
Over the years a combination of Organic SEO, Google Adwords, Word-of-Mouth marketing, Email Marketing and most recently some FaceBook paid advertising have worked well in combination.
Harris: What’s the biggest challenge facing your business today?
Our challenges are perhaps not industry related but focus around specific challenges in running a business in South Africa. We have an amazing country, but it is still going through a painful transition and the uncertainty is a tremendous threat to any business. Some of the unique threats we have to deal with are:
A postal service which has all but collapsed
Vast distances to ship orders
Erratic power supply by a State Owned Enterprise that is on the brink of collapse due to mismanagement and looting
An unstable currency – so imports are negatively affected
High rates of crime, with the courier, drives regularly being hijacked
Record high petrol prices and VAT rate
Frequent protest action by various sectors of society
Harris: How do you plan to grow and scale your business in the future?
I think pretty much more of the same. Our strategy at the moment is to:
Grow the current sites organically
Launch new complementary sites
Acquire sites offering products we currently offer or similar
Harris: Any unforeseen problems that you ran into that people wouldn’t normally think about or be prepared for?
I think, see above :). Aside from those, running an ecommerce business is not for the faint-hearted. No day is the same, and a lot of my day is spent dealing with threats and opportunities.
I am also often at the bleeding edge of technology – testing out new SaaS products before carefully selecting, setting up and rolling them out in our business. This takes a lot of time – perhaps more than one realises.
If you like routine in your life – don’t go down this road 🙂
Harris: Lastly, any advice for struggling entrepreneurs looking to break into the ecommerce specially Print on Demand business?
I think if you are offering a customised/personalised product/service, you already have a head start. It is difficult competing with the Amazon’s of this world when you are simply selling widgets.
Choose a very tight niche, become the resident expert and differentiate on service.
So, that’s all for today. If you have any questions or comments then feel free to comment below and let us know. In the meantime, don’t forget to checkout Stickers and Labels SA for your customized label needs.
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