Could you tell us a bit about yourself, what you sell at Chasing Planner Place and how you got started?
I’m a 32 year old mum of three kids aged 7, 5 and 2. I first fell into using a planner after my second child was born. I felt so overwhelmed and really wanted an organisational system to help me keep track of appointments, finances, meal planning and everything else. I discovered this crazy world online of “planner addicts” and was quick to join them and become a planner addict myself - swooning over stickers and pretty pens.
When I became frustrated with the range of printed inserts here in Australia (everything was from overseas or a “print it yourself at home” digital download), and realised that the quality and range of “off the shelf” inserts was very limited, I decided to start printing my own refills and inserts. And Chasing Planner Peace was created.
We started on Etsy and opened our Shopify store in March 2017 - and at this time focused on expanding our range to include some items we have manufactured overseas like our beautiful planner binders, bullet journals and travellers notebooks. We now sell over 200 types of planner inserts - everything from weekly and monthly layouts to finance bundles, study inserts, meal planning, habit trackers and more.
All of our planner inserts are printed to order so you can grab a planner and start it any month. We are proud to say we are now the biggest seller of “print to order” printed planner inserts in Australia.
Such an interesting name for a business. Is there a story behind it?
“Planner Peace” is a term used in the planner community for when you finally have a planner system that works for you - that gives you peace and keeps your organised. I myself was “chasing planner peace” and so thought it a fitting name for my store, as the main aim of designing the first inserts I sold was so I could use them and finally find planner peace for myself.
What did it take to get your first products in stock? Has that changed since you started?
We started our Etsy store selling only planner refills with a tiny inkjet printer and a handheld hole punch (we now have three big commercial printers). We were already well established on Etsy when we opened our Shopify store, however when we discovered that many of our new customers that were finding us through other means didn’t have a planner to put their inserts into, we decided to get some planners (ring binders) manufactured overseas.
I was surprised at how intensive the process was, to find a manufacturer who could produce what we needed and at the quality we were happy with. The first order was quite a small one and took around 2 months from when we first contacted them to when we had the planners in stock to sell. I can remember how excited I was when they arrived on my doorstep - it felt like I was taking the next leap with our business.
I am so glad we have now found a wonderful supplier who we have a great relationship with. Richard and I have sent each other thousands of emails and we have the process down to a fine art. It still can take around 3-4 months between me contacting Richard with what we want before we have the planners on our doorstep.
How did you get your first sale?
My first sale was on Etsy. I was lucky to already be part of a supportive online Planner Addicts Facebook group and I advertised my products there - there was a huge demand for them as there were very few similar products on the market at the time.
Since we’ve moved to Shopify we have gained many brand new customers through Facebook advertising and the exposure we get through Afterpay - both in Facebook groups and the traffic from the Afterpay website directly. (Afterpay is a “buy now, pay later, interest free” service in Australia and New Zealand.)
What obstacles and challenges have you overcome along the way?
So, so many! So many times I have been in tears because our printers wouldn’t work properly and we couldn’t figure out why. I could tell you many stories about our printers and the specific obstacles and unnecessary expenses they have caused us.
We also had our Shopify hacked in August 2017 and the hacker diverted over $1600 to their PayPal account before we noticed, and we had already filled most of those orders.
The main challenge I face everyday is like a lot of working mothers - balancing working at home around looking after our three children and trying to give both the business and the kids enough attention (forget about the housework!).
What influenced your decision to use Shopify?
We were extremely keen to set up a “backup” option for Etsy. Shopify was simple to set up and inexpensive to run. We were able to get it up and running within about a week and could import all our listings from Etsy across. We didn’t anticipate it would end up being our main source of traffic and income. Implementing Afterpay was a huge thing to grow our business, and Shopify is one of the main platforms that supports Afterpay.
What was the process like to get started? Is there anything you wish you had known then that you know now?
We started Shopify with a very basic theme and layout as we only imagined it would be used by our existing customer base and we anticipated most of our sales would keep coming through Etsy. I wish we had spent more time creating the website before going live as going back and redoing it later was time consuming and meant updated versions of the website were released with issues that we hadn’t thoroughly tested first.
What Shopify apps do you currently use? Which apps are most important to your business?
I’m also loving Kit which I’ve only been using for a few weeks - the retargeting ads seem to be working very well for us.
What strategies have you used to attract more leads and grow Chasing Planner Place?
Facebook is our major source of traffic. We have a solid customer base in our VIP group, and we also advertise in other planning related groups and Afterpay groups. We also occasionally run ads on Facebook. We are finding we are growing steadily each month due to a good reputation and word of mouth, and haven’t had to spend much money on advertising.
We noticed you sell internationally. Have there been any challenges associated with that? Any “wisdom from experience” you can share with others considering doing the same?
Yes! To begin with we used Australia Post but most orders went without tracking as Australia Post charges so much for a tracked international service (and is super slow). We now use DHL eCommerce and the cost is similar to Australia Post (even cheaper sometimes) and our orders usually arrive within two weeks, and tracking is included.
We would love to sell more overseas, we are well known in Australia but not so much overseas. When we fill international orders on Etsy, we have a printed message on our invoices directing them to check out our Shopify store, and we have noticed our international customer base growing slowly on Shopify.
What are some of the most effective ways that you interact with your customers?
The most effective and enjoyable way is through our “Chasing Planner Peace VIP Group” on Facebook. Our customers can all interact with each other and with us, ask questions and share pictures of their planners. We also give these customers exclusive access to sneak peeks of new designs, and regularly run sales and giveaways especially for these customers.
That’s awesome! Do you have any advice, tips or hacks you can share about setting up a VIP group and generating engagement?
When we were first establishing the VIP group, we offered a discount code for members to use. Now we gain new members mostly by mentioning the VIP group wherever we can - on invoices, on the website and in our order confirmation emails to customers.
We are lucky to have great organic engagement with customers - we get lots of posts from our customers asking questions or sharing pictures. I always consult the VIP group before we do new releases and have had so many brilliant ideas come from this group - I think people love being able to have an input into our designs. I feel very lucky to have such a great group of amazing customers.
Are there any metrics you can share in terms of order volume, monthly sales, increased revenue, growth %, etc.?
We have more than doubled our sales from April 2017 to April 2018, year over year. April is one of our slowest months so we are super excited for November and December this year.
To what do you attribute those positive metrics?
It sounds cliche but I think our business has been a success because customer service and satisfaction is so important to us. We have a solid and loyal customer base and each new customer we get is more likely to stay with us if we treat them well. We have made some errors in the past and our customers have been forgiving, I think because they know how much they are valued.
The planning community continues to grow and Chasing Planner Peace is well known within the Australian planning community as a great place to grab a new planner or inserts for your planner. I think the fact that we sell planners as well, for people who are new to planning, has been a huge win for us as well, as it opens up a whole new customer base.
What are you working towards now?
We want to continue the success of 2017 by expanding the lines we have manufactured overseas. We also have hundreds more styles of inserts to design, and we want to continue to improve our social media presence, especially on Instagram.
Are there any blogs or other resources that have been helpful for you?
We have a wonderful group of “planner bosses” on Facebook who have been extremely helpful. Apart from that, I’m really just winging it and have no idea what I’m doing most of the time.
Based on your own success, what advice would you share with others who might be just starting out with Shopify (or with eCommerce in general)?
Play the long game. Don’t get disheartened if you have a slow week, or something goes wrong with your products. If you want to turn this into a career, there will be bad weeks and good weeks. Don’t get upset about losing money on a single order. As my husband tells me:
“The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried.”
Thanks so much for your candor. Where can we learn more?
~ Jessica Yasuda, Founder of Chasing Planner Peace