3rd Power Outlet specialise in urban accessories and jewellery.
I interviewed John Lawson, 3rd Power Outlet founder to find out more. This is the sixth in a series of DW ecommerce interviews. Big thank you to John!
How would you describe 3rd Power Outlet in under 30 words?
We specialize in urban street accessories. Particularly in the area of shoelaces, sweatbands and flags.
Why did you decide to launch 3PO in 2005?
We had already been online since 2001 on Ebay as a vendor. At that time we were all over the place. I have sold everything from Books to Concert Tickets. I started to explore some items in a local wholesale store near my house in Atlanta. That is how we ended up trying certain apparel and jewelry and that is what got me focused.
You’ve had past experience at Accenture and Bank One Corp, did this previous experience help in getting 3PO set up?
I know working for a consulting firm did acclimate me for the rapid changes that came with ecommerce. I have been used to being put in situations and teams where you had lots of change and flux. So the Accenture environment prepared me well for what I embarked on in ecommerce.
When and why did the ColderICE persona come about and how has your personal brand helped your business?
The ColderICE thing really came about because I missed the social environment of the workplace. Once I was at home and working basically alone, I just had no one to talk to. So I turned on the video cam and starting talking to it via YouTube. The weird thing was, that people actually started to listen. Then I moved the conversation between videos to this new Twitter thing at that time. There were only 200k people on Twitter back then, and I used it a lot to interact. That was how ColderICE started.
How long did it take to get from idea to launch?
I think I launched FIRST and then had an idea LOL. So I was out there as John, but I had no URL for me to do the blog. What I wanted to do with a blog was to simply have 1 landing page for all my videos. When I went to Go Daddy to buy my name url of JohnLawson.com, I was disappointed to find it was already taken. Of course with such a common name, I guess I should have known. So I had to come up with something and I wanted it to feel unique.
I had kicked around dozens of names for the site and one day I remembered a story. There were massive amounts of African American businesses in the days of segregation that severed “Blacks Only” in the separated Jim Crow of the south in America. Once the integration took hold, many of those business owners were harmed by the new competition of Blacks being able to leave the “Black part” of the town and shop and interact where they were previously not allowed to go. Out of that, there was a saying in the African American Business Community that “the Whiteman’s ice must be colder”…I laughed to my self about it, flipped the words around, Googled “colderice” came back with few results. Went to Go Daddy and it was available and that was IT. Cause I knew I wanted to use the ICE as an acronym for Internet Commerce Education. The rest….history.
With the knowledge you have today, would you do anything differently if you were to go back to 2005?
Yes, I think the one thing I would have done completely differently would be to have focused MORE on building my own webstore a little earlier than I did. I didn’t take that seriously in the beginning.
Who do you see as your target market? How are you reaching them?
I have a couple of targets. We deal in both B2B and B2C sales. On the B2B wholesale side of things, we reach them through many of the normal channels for wholesale retail ready merchandise. However on the consumer side, we use a lot of social commerce and we are very heavy into channel marketing with sights like Amazon and Ebay to reach the demographic.
What have been the most successful ways you’ve found in driving traffic to the website?
YouTube videos are probably one of the MOST successful things I ever did. I created a short video on “How to Fold a Bandanna” which today has more than 260,000 views. We have tracked over 10,000 actual sales from that one video. Nothing has ever been that successful as far a ROI, ever. That is ROI to the infinity really.
Where do you see 3PO in 5 years time?
We are in the process of redoing the entire thing. We are niching our product mix, beginning to manufacture our own brand and the 3rdPO you see today will most likely be an entirely DIFFERENT entity. Changing from a caterpillar to a butterfly. That is where I see us in 5 years.
Where do you see the future of e-commerce?
The future of this ecommerce industry is BRIGHT, vast and set for a RAPID increase within the BRIC nations. As they come online, they will move this method for product delivery forward in ways I can not image. The future of the industry is also being driven by the hardware more than ever. As consumers now get the ability to interact 24×7 with the virtual world through mobile devices along with advancements of mobile payments what we see today will be UNRECOGNIZABLE tomorrow. We are living in ancient history right now.
With the high competitiveness of e-commerce; which strategies do you implement to differentiate yourselves from your competitors?
You have to engage with your customers, your engagement makes you different. Even when others engage with them it is still the uniqueness of your company and its persona that makes all the difference. Plus when all things are equal as far as product, price and availability it will be SERVICE that tips the scale. Offer the best service possible.
What advice would you offer to anyone starting up an e-commerce business?
Research! It is so easy to do research on your industry today online. You do not have to fly blind, you can listen to the echos. People are telling you what is needed, where the opportunity is. Put up the radar and listen and you will breed success.
What are you most excited about at the moment?
I am most excited about the marriage of social media and ecommerce. I think social + commerce = business … and not just online business…ALL business. That is exciting to me because this is the industry I have studied, been apart of and have been immersed in for over a decade. Now the world is catching up finally to what we are doing and what we have been doing now is positioned to go main stream. The technology is making the connection from “brick stores to click stores” and they will not be that hard line between the two.
Can you convince the reader to start shopping at 3rd Power Outlet in under 30 words?
I got more shoestrings in more colors than anybody else… LOL
Finished reading? Check out 3rd Power Outlet!