Interview with Glenn and Lori Stockton, Owners of Swing Set Mall
How did you get started with your business? What products do you sell?
In 1986, we started a business on the side, doing wholesale distribution for a line of playground structures. The idea first occurred to us when we bought a swingset for our kids. Pretty soon we were spending a lot of our time on this new business, though we had other jobs. We were operating primarily by networking locally with schools and parks to sell large structures.
In 1999, as ecommerce started getting popular, we decided to start an online store and put up about 600 products, which immediately began to sell. The business took off really well, and within 6 months we had quit our full-time jobs. We saw the promise of selling online, and being able to do so from our home office.
Today, Swing Set Mall is an established business with a vast catalog of products. We specialize in the parts and accessories that make up a swing set – like swing seats, slides, rock holds, and hardware. We also sell complete metal and wood swing sets, structures and components. We appeal especially to the do-it-yourselfer, and to parks and schools in need of replacement parts.
What channels do you sell through?
Because playground equipment is enough of a niche market, we couldn’t have grown our business this far without going the ecommerce route.
Our two main stores are PlaysetParts.com (built on BigCommerce) and SwingSetMall.com (built onInterspire). In March 2012, we launched our newest store, PlaygroundCompany.com (built on BigCommerce), which focuses on commercial playground structures and components.
We have a limited amount of products on eBay and none listed on Amazon. We have chosen to stay away from eBay and Amazon mainly because we want to ensure our customers are properly taken care of. We can offer better service through our own websites that we control and keep things better organized than having to manage several channels.
What is the secret behind your marketing strategy? How do you get your customers?
Most of our customers find us through Google, so our success over the past few years is due in large part to our efforts to improve our visibility on Google through SEO and advertising. But, we also focus a lot on customer retention and word of mouth. We provide our customers with a vast catalog of quality products, low prices, an enjoyable shopping experience, and attentive customer service, all of which we have found brings customers back for future playground needs and leads to good referrals.
We are constantly adding new products that are relevant to the needs of our customers, which is why we are the #1 source for swing set parts and accessories. And with the launch of PlaygroundCompany.com, we hope to be the #1 source for commercial playground equipment as well. We are always looking to improve our business to make it more streamlined and scalable.
What is your advice to other small businesses that are trying to grow their ecommerce presence?
Don’t be afraid to invest in quality SEO and advertising. If you manage these things on the cheap you will likely end up with poor results and bleeding money. Also be on the lookout for ways to improve and automate your daily workflows. That will allow you to better grow as a company.
Why did you choose Bigcommerce as your shopping cart platform?
At the time we decided to switch to Interspire Shopping Cart it was fairly new to the market, but looked very promising in what it could do for our business. They have since improved the platform quite a bit to make it more stable and launched their hosted version, BigCommerce, which we use to run PlaysetParts.com and the PlaygroundCompany.com. Though there is still room for improvement, we have found BigCommerce to be the best for creating an attractive storefront and having a powerful backend that helps us stay organized with order inflow and product management.
Do you dropship? Would you recommend that as a strategy to other small businesses?
We began by dropshipping everything we sold online. After a few years, we made the decision to warehouse most of the popular parts and accessories ourselves, but dropshipping remains a large part of our business. This model has allowed us to offer a wide variety of playground equipment.
Dropshipping is a great solution for many small businesses because it frees them from having to warehouse products, manage shipping and hire additional employees. With dropshipping, business owners can also work from virtually anywhere with an Internet connection.
How has Ordoro benefited you?
Ordoro has made it possible for us to handle the amount of orders we get on a daily basis since our company has been growing significantly in the last few years. Before Ordoro, we were hand-typing the customer shipping info into USPS.com and UPS.com, which was both laborious and open to mistakes. With Ordoro, we can create labels in half the time and print them all in a batch. This has saved us hours each week and enabled us to get more orders out the door each day without having to hire additional help. It is hard to imagine our business without Ordoro now!