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Interview with Benjamin Trotter (Storefront Social)

Storefront Social is an online service enabling quick creation of a Facebook shop.

I interviewed Benjamin Trotter, Storefront Social founder to find out more. This interview is the sixty second in a series of DW interviews. Big thank you to Benjamin for the interview!

How would you describe Storefront Social in under 50 words?

Storefront Social is a leading custom storefront marketing platform that imports existing ecommerce website products into a beautiful storefront on Facebook. Users can easily bring their products into Facebook to create better engagement with their fan pages while subtly marketing their products for the word-of-mouth marketing that Facebook creates.

What made you decide to start working on Storefront Social?

As a director of eCommerce for a clothing company based in San Francisco, I was tasked with driving more traffic to our store online. One of the channels I focused on was Social Media, since we already had a page that had > 1000 fans. We came up with the idea to show our newest items on our page through a storefront tab, and thus was born Storefront Social. When we saw how well it enabled us to engage with our fans and promote sharing of products, I branded it and put it out to the masses.

What planning did you do before you started up?

Since Storefront Social was born from a side project, there was really no planning involved. The planning more came from after it was providing service to eCommerce customers that were ready to get their stores into Facebook. My side project quickly needed an engineer, so after identifying a partner to create this for customer processing, that’s where the fun began.

How did you come up with the name?

The name is self-explanatory, thinking on an SEO front, as well as describing what we do, I felt a new wave of companies focusing on Social Integration would help Storefront Social be recognized in this industry.

What were you doing before starting up Storefront Social?

Where I learned a lot about ecommerce, web-marketing, and the tricks of the trade was at my position at Inflection. A dot com silicon valley startup, I was employee #7 and watched our team create, grow, and succeed — and I knew I wanted a project for myself that I could cultivate into a business and manage from the top, rather than being managed as a company grew. I have a lot of ideas, and being able to execute on them is where I enjoy work.

How have you promoted Storefront Social?

Luckily, the beauty of Facebook applications is the ability to create a footprint that grows due to exposure to fans. A lot of our traffic comes from existing storefronts that shows our brand. Our blog provides tips and news in the Social Commerce world, and I actively contribute interviews where we can. Google Adwords proved unsuccessful due to the nature of our customer however, so mostly we are all organically grown.

What was technically the most challenging part of developing Storefront Social?

Facebook’s ever changing platform. They would make changes without notification and cause interruptions to our service. Amazon’s web service has also not been the most reliable host, but over the last year it has been quite stable. And as always, finding gifted developers is a struggle, but our team is very strong right now.

How long did it take to put together Storefront Social?

The proof of concept was created in a couple of months, and our full version that accepted credit card payments was rolled out in about 3 months. Continued development on our framework has enabled us to be agile and create quite a robust application for our customers.

What appealed most about running your own startup?

The pride of working on a project that was created by me. I’ve always enjoyed creating, designing, developing, and this project was going to allow me to continue moving forward with a viable product that served a market need. That was extremely exciting. And the fact that I can work as much as I want, but at varied times throughout the day. Give me a schedule that is more relaxed and flexible than the pressure of facetime at an office, that’s never as productive as I can be alone with no blockades.

Do you have any new features in the pipeline?

Yes, we recently just launched Real Estate Social, the first application of its kind for DIY real estate showcases on Facebook. We partnered with the global leader in Real Estate auctions online, and are very excited to be working together in creating the best Facebook real estate listings showcase possible.

Has Storefront Social got the feedback and growth you expected since launch?

Feedback has always been difficult to solicit. We provide easy ways to contact us, and we answer emails back typically within the hour. However, when someone is staying on as a customer, they rarely will actively tell us why, and when a customer is canceling, they rarely tell us why. The few that have given feedback are usually quite positive and put the onus on themselves as to not being organized enough to create the storefront, but will return in a couple of months.

Any retailer success stories you care to share?

We have had great companies use Storefront Social — currently Zumba Fitness and LiveScribe have great stores that have gained them press and recognition for having such great Facebook page presences. We also had Borders before they went out of business, and were happy to see how often they had their page updated and visited by fans.

Where do you see Storefront Social in 5 years time?

Storefront Social has the ability to penetrate more verticals with the robustness of our framework. We have proven success in Social Commerce and our lean team enables us to be agile enough to quickly react to market changes. The introduction of Google Plus has made us very excited to begin offering Storefront Social on Google Plus as well.

Who would you say is your biggest competitor?

Our biggest competitors know who we are, so no need to provide extra SEO here by giving their names :) However, we do know that this market is only the  beginning, and there’s plenty of room for friendly competition because we will all be able to win as Social Commerce continues to grow worldwide.

What is the biggest hurdle you have faced or are still facing?

The biggest hurdle is finding talented developers who have the drive and desire to see the success of ‘your baby’ as much as you do. Often times, new opportunities arise and it’s difficult to bounce back into agility with new teams.

What one piece of advice would you give to startup founders?

My advice is before starting any business, identify a team early on that you can depend on. No matter how friendly, spell everything out in written terms and agreements, and while it’s extremely difficult to do at the beginning, there have to be terms of all the what-if scenarios that can happen with the business. Discussing this openly and fairly to all will ensure that everyone’s on the same page and when anyone chooses to leave, there are no surprises as to what was agreed upon.

Can you convince the reader to start using Storefront Social in under 50 words?

Own an ecommerce website? If so, make sure your products are seen by as many people as possible with Storefront Social. Quickly and easily import your products into our beautiful storefronts and syndicate your storefront to your business page. Sign up for a free 7 day trial today!

Finished reading? Check out Storefront Social!

This entry was posted on Tuesday, February 21st, 2012 at 9:49 pm GMT. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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