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Customer Spotlight - Jerky.com

Posted on January 10, 2013 by Lynne Brehmer

Today’s customer spotlight is Doug Iske, owner of Jerky.com. Jerky.com is an e-commerce site built on the Spree platform that you guessed it, sells jerky products online. Read below for Doug’s story, his tips for how to grow your business and how to make the most of the Spree platform.

Tell us about Jerky.com and why you started the company?

I have a long background working on niche focused ecommerce projects. I enjoy figuring out how to develop a successful business model for selling very targeted products online. Four years ago, my team and I were looking for a new project to work on. After looking closely at a handful of categories to go into, it was decided that Jerky seemed to be a no-brainer. We like jerky, it looks to be a fun category…so why not? Plus, we already had the domain Jerky.com, and it would make the perfect brand for the business. We then started our market research including what the competitive landscape looked like to determine who the players are in the space and what we thought they were doing well and what we could improve upon. Ultimately, we determined that we could really add value to people shopping online for Jerky and Meat Snacks and not just be another me-too site. We could make improvements in several areas including product selection and user experience. From that point on…we dove in head first.

What have you learned about how to successfully sell niche products online?

My experience has taught me that it is very important to be customer focused and analytics driven. We reviewed the Jerky.com sales data over a period of time and identified which products sold the most and were most profitable. This information helped us to determine how to expand into specific areas and where we needed improvements. We think its important to “keep a pulse” on these sorts of things and adapt appropriately. One important result from the first year led to us developing our own brand of jerky in the best selling and most profitable product categories. Now those products are our best selling products.

What marketing techniques have you found to be most effective?

We use a lot of the traditional marketing techniques such as PPC and SEO to find traffic. Identifying which keywords perform the best has helped us learn a lot about our customers and how to customize our marketing efforts. Another interesting source for generating new customers has been our beef jerky recipe blog. We turned the beef jerky recipes into a free eBook which we make available at four different jerky recipe sites. We send follow up emails to our eBook readers with information about how to make jerky. While most of these people are primarily interested in making their own jerky, we’ve found that over time they end up buying jerky products from us to supplement their supply. We’ve been using this technique for about a year and have found that it has been an effective way to build our customer base.

What is your most popular jerky product?

We try to continually add products to our selection that you won’t find at all of the usual places that sell Jerky. Our customers are looking for high quality products with unique flavors and jerky types. Specifically, Turkey jerky and all of the exotics are really popular. Where else can you get alligator, ostrich even kangaroo and bacon jerky?! Gift giving holidays are always very busy. We actually hand build all of our gift baskets from scratch and they present very well. We understand that gift givers really want to make an impression to their recipients and a hand built gift box conveys to our customers that “we spared no effort in making this gift for you.” We are pretty proud of that.

How did you find out about Spree?

In one of my previous business ventures we built our own e-commerce platform. We learned a lot about what worked, what didn’t, and what we would do different the next time. When it came time to put Jerky.com on a new platform, I didn’t want to spend a ton of time and money re-inventing the wheel. I wanted an e-commerce platform that had a very solid core that could be easily customized for my needs. Spree is exactly that. The basic functions of the cart are done very well without being unnecessarily complex while also allowing customization to be easy and clean. I have also become partial towards the Ruby on Rails framework, so it really ended up being a good fit. In my experience, the Ruby on Rails community is filled with some of the sharpest minds in the industry and they are very willing to help and share each other. Having the support of that community is a very valuable asset that can not be understated. All of this together made Spree an obvious choice.

What do you like most about the Spree platform?

The core shopping cart is really solid. My engineering team didn’t have to do a lot of customization work on the Jerky.com site to get it up and running. This allowed me to start making sales and profits fairly quickly. There are a lot of existing extensions and resources available to us which really helped streamline our development process.

What’s next on your Spree development road map?

We want to keep expanding our ecommerce business. One of our biggest projects is a multi-store platform. Our goal is to develop a platform where we can run unlimited storefronts from one backend. We’re leveraging our e-commerce experience and the flexibility of Spree to make sure we do this right. We’re also working on personalizing the merchandising experience for Jerky.com in order to customize the content to each of our customers interests. I hope to have more to share with you soon.

Shop the Jerky.com website and follow them on Twitter and Facebook.