For this week’s Shop Spotlight, we asked Joseph Castonguay, Director of U.S. Operations for Autoslide of America to share his Shopify experience and best tips building an ecommerce business that sells groundbreaking home automation devices. Read on to learn what it takes to get a product off the ground in a very nascent industry.
Tell us a bit about yourself and what you sell.
I’m an entrepreneur at heart. I’ve had experience in product development and was excited to take on Operations for Autoslide. Our company sells a product called Autoslide that we developed and manufacture. Autoslide is a home automation device designed to automate sliding doors and windows.
Autoslide’s automatic door systems are recognized as an affordable, convenient, and practical solution for everyday’s little inconveniences, but it also a long awaited necessity for many, including the elderly, physically challenged, and pet owners who are tired of getting up to open the door for their pets to come in and out.
When did you get started selling online? Why?
We “officially” started selling online in April 2014 through our North America office, Autoslide USA. There were a few online retailers selling the product before then but we didn’t have an office or staff in the U.S. We had contracted out labor that ended up causing more harm than good. With the launch of our Autoslide of America website, the focus was to provide accurate information, good customer service, and improve a semi-broken reputation that was left online. Our product was designed as a DIY project and allows the handy consumer to automate doors and windows in their homes on their own. As Autoslide has grown and evolved, we have turned to a dealer network for some of our higher end systems.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in building and running Autoslide of America?
Our biggest challenge as overcoming poor reviews online from the previous online retailers we sold to. They did not manage their listings well and our subcontracted out labor was adequate at best while destructive at the worse points. It has taken time to overcome this through reputation management on our branded website, where we have stellar reviews and publish them through social media.
A second challenge has been selling a product in a new category. There were no automatic sliding door systems designed for the home prior to us. We’ve had to establish a new market, build awareness, and create a valid reason to buy. The best asset a new product can have is that it solves an existing problem. Fortunately, our product does that. So, through education and targeting the ADA and Pet market, we’ve been able to grow steadily in an organic manner for the most part. The small amount of advertising we do is through social media and YouTube.
We have come to a point now where we need to scale our growth to get to where we want to be. Optimization of time and money spent on sales and marketing is our biggest challenge. We have multiple markets to sell into and we need to run test campaigns throughout them to determine the order in which we should move.
How do you attract new customers?
I believe one of our biggest assets is that our Autoslide product is helping to increase the quality of life for many. On the ADA side, Autoslide provides an accessibility solution for opening sliding doors throughout the home. Many of our customers had a hard time or could not open those doors before. Autoslide has granted them a freedom to enjoy life better.
For our customers with pets, turning their sliding patio doors into an automatic pet door has been a huge help in their lives. In some households, everyone is out of the house most of the day and the pet is stuck inside. Our secure, automatic locking motor provides a secure entry and exit points for pets to use via our i3 Pet Collar Tag System.
We create lookalike audiences to target through Facebook for our pet market and for our ADA market.
Can you share a tip or something interesting you learned in the process of building and running your shop?
Appreciate every order that comes in no matter how small or large. Focus on your product, its benefits, and the differentiating factors that it has versus your competitors’ products.
We’re fortunate to have a unique product without a competitor. Our competition is awareness. Bringing awareness to the market that our product exists and getting the consumer away from the “usual” product options for their situation.
If your store or shop is a t-shirt company, your service, style, or personality may be your differentiating factor. Assess your product and store assets and maximize their potentials.