Could you tell us a bit about yourself, what you sell at ThirdShift Vintage and how you got started?
I started ThirdShift Vintage in 2011 as an Etsy shop, selling unique, authentic vintage items. I launched my Shopify store in May 2016 to expand my business, and to have more control over my shop...and I couldn’t be happier!
I “discovered” vintage while shopping for a set of beverage glasses and a matching pitcher. I landed on Etsy to make that purchase and I immediately fell in love with vintage items. I already had a successful ecommerce store (for educational products) and just knew I had to start a vintage shop! In addition to my educational ecommerce store, I also owned and operated a computer training company, so my vintage shop was something I started as a “third shift” job, which is how I came up with the name.
ThirdShift Vintage has been my full time job ever since, and I am having a blast at this business! I am passionate about vintage items, and about my job. Vintage items have sustainability and quality that you just don’t find often in items manufactured today. They have genuine, well loved character and I find that very appealing. I love that I can rescue these pieces and find new homes for them with people who appreciate vintage as much as I do. How cool is that?!?!
What did it take to get your first products in stock? Has that changed since you started?
Finding my first products to stock was an exciting challenge! I had never been to a thrift store, garage sale, auction, or flea market before. Shopping at these places for inventory was all new to me, and it was so much fun!
I absolutely LOVE sourcing unique vintage at estate sales and flea markets. Finding items at estate sales usually includes interesting stories from previous owners or family members, and those stories make the items even more special. To me, shopping flea markets is like finding buried treasure! And don’t even get me started on how much fun it is to dig through dusty barns and old warehouses! When I find something that is unique, quirky or unusual, it makes my heart beat faster with excitement and I can’t wait to get the item listed in my shop so I can share it with others!
Over the years, I haven’t really changed the way I find inventory - I am still searching for awesome vintage in all my favorite places, and all items are hand picked by me - I’m very selective in what I buy for my shop. But since I buy a lot of vintage, I now have regular vendors who know the kinds of things I am looking for, so it is helpful when they come to me with things that they think I will like for my store.
How did you get your first sale?
When I first opened my shop, I promoted it on social media. I shared my excitement and my stories of how I found the items I had for sale - and I think my enthusiasm rubbed off onto my customers, and the sales started rolling in. My first customers contacted me to say how excited they were to have found my shop. I know many of them share the same passion I have for unique vintage items, and that’s what makes my job so enjoyable!
What obstacles and challenges have you overcome along the way?
When I first started my vintage shop on Etsy in 2011, things were going great and my shop sales and success grew rapidly. My Etsy shop made it to the top 1% of Etsy shop sales, and that was exciting. At the end of 2015, Etsy started making changes to their platform and those changes have been very challenging to overcome. It was at that time that I knew I needed to expand my business outside of Etsy in order to continue being successful and grow, and I ultimately started my ThirdShift Vintage store on Shopify.
When you first start a new website from scratch, there are always obstacles. It takes hard work and time to gain exposure. These are just standard growing pains - but when you are passionate about your business, you can overcome these obstacles and grow.
What influenced your decision to use Shopify?
When I made the decision to expand past the Etsy platform, I thoroughly tested many ecommerce platforms. I had previous experience with one of them, but I knew I wanted to move away from that one. After over a year of testing, I finally decided that the Shopify platform had everything I was looking for, and more.
One of my main draws to Shopify was the founder, Tobi Lutke, and his outlook on what ecommerce should be. I could feel his passion and that really resonated with me. I do believe Shopify has a very forward-thinking attitude toward ecommerce and I am THRILLED to be a part of it!
Having available support was extremely important in my decision process - and I contacted Shopify’s 24/7 Support center several times during my search efforts. I was really sold on Shopify just based on the instant, helpful responses I received - and I hadn’t even launched my website yet! Coupled with easy, intuitive, user-friendly set-up using provided templates, my decision to use Shopify over all the other platforms was a no brainer.
The availability of a built-in blog platform and apps to enhance my shop were enticing too.
What was the process like to get started? Is there anything you wish you had known then that you know now?
Getting started on Shopify was easy! I had ecommerce experience on two different platforms, so that helped, but even if I hadn’t had that experience, I still feel that Shopify was easy to get started with.
I love that Shopify provides 24/7 support and I found that support very helpful. I highly recommend new store owners take advantage of this!
When I opened my Shopify store, I didn’t know about all the support groups that are out there, especially on Facebook. I recommend new store owners seek out and join a support group. Just search for the platform you are coming from, along with the Shopify keyword and I am sure you will find a group that fits your needs. For example, if you currently have a shop on Etsy, simply search for “Etsy to Shopify” :-) .
What Shopify apps do you currently use? Which apps are most important to your business?
The Order Printer, Order Printer Emailer, Order Printer Templates and OrderlyEmails are the apps that are most important to my business. I appreciate being able to customize the look of the email messages my customers receive for their order confirmations, shipping updates, receipts, etc. These apps fit perfectly with my needs, and help make my email look more professional, and branded to my store.
I also use Smartsupp Live Chat and find that app to be very useful for customers that like to use live chat. It’s a free app, and it includes recordings of your visitors, which helps me learn where customers might be having problems navigating my store.
What strategies have you used to attract more leads and grow ThirdShift Vintage?
Like most store owners, I have a marketing strategy and goals in place, and use social media, ads, email lists, and all the standard marketing practices to achieve those goals.
But I also like to use quirky strategies that stand out. I have used my truck as a driving billboard for my shop with window signs and scannable QR codes - curious people can scan that large code while at a stop light and discover my shop! I’ve also parked at events where my customers shop (i.e., auctions and flea markets) with my truck loaded with balloons to attract attention, signs on my windows (with QR codes), and business cards describing my business with big “Take one” signs offering a special deal.
I use what I call “outside the box” advertising with specially designed stickers I put on the packages I ship, so everyone who handles that package has a glimpse into what my shop has to offer. The QR codes I use are trackable, so I know which methods of advertising are most successful.
What are some of the most effective ways that you interact with your customers?
I really enjoy interacting with customers on social media. It’s fun to share interesting articles and photos with them, and I love to hear their feedback.
I also enjoy talking with customers by phone. Customers occasionally call to get more information about an item and we end up in a fun conversation, sharing stories and memories of vintage pieces from our past. I think this interaction lets my customers know that I am a real person with a real passion.
Here’s a phone tip: You can get a free Google Voice phone number to publish on your website and then have that number ring through to your home phone or cell phone (or both). This keeps your home phone (or cell phone) number private, but gives your customers an easy way to contact you.
I do have live chat on my website, and customers do occasionally use that, so that’s another fun, instant way to interact.
I also send handwritten postcards to my customers, personalized to the things they have purchased, and I have had good success with repeat customers because of these postcards. Again, I believe the “human touch” element really helps connect me to my customers - and they appreciate the extra attention I provide.
Are there any metrics you can share in terms of order volume, monthly sales, increased revenue, growth %, etc.?
My Shopify store has been open for 22 months now. Over the past year, sales are up by 34%, store visits are up by 92%, and average order value is up by 24%. My goal was to increase sales each year by a minimum of 30%, so I am happy to have achieved that goal. I’ve raised the goal for this year, and feel confident that I am on track to meet that goal as well.
To what do you attribute those positive metrics?
Hard work and lots of time! Seriously. Having a business is not just about having a website, sending a couple Tweets, and hoping customers will find you. You have to work at it. You have to go out there and find traffic and customers.
I found early on as a private business owner, that if I’m not willing to put the time and effort into growing my business, it just isn’t going to grow or thrive. I love what I do, so putting in this time and effort is very fulfilling to me. And it really is FUN!
What are you working towards now?
I’m working on growing my email subscribers. I want to provide value and interesting things to the people who subscribe, and I think it’s a great way to keep in touch.
I’m also working on reaching out to influencers to establish relationships with them that fit our common interests.
Increasing my digital marketing strategy is also something I am working on.
Because I enjoy this journey with Shopify so much, I am also now helping other Etsy store owners get started on Shopify as a mentor. I love seeing others grow their businesses and it’s exciting to be a part of their success!
Are there any blogs or other resources that have been helpful for you?
I find the Shopify blog and all the resources Shopify provides on their website to be very valuable. I sincerely appreciate all the effort Shopify puts in to helping their customers (the store merchants) be successful. That is so refreshing and makes me even happier that I have selected this platform for my business!
I mentioned it earlier, but I also think finding support groups can be very helpful.
And when in doubt, remember that Google is your friend! Search for topics you need help with, and chances are you will find information to help you.
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)?
I think if you are passionate about something, that passion will show in your business and you will have a better chance to succeed. You have to really like what you do. Once you determine your passion, put your plan in place. Here are a few key items to consider:
Know your target customer.
- Everything you do while planning for your business revolves around your target customer. Writing compelling product descriptions, focused marketing strategies, picking social media platforms to engage with, even choosing the overall look of your website - all of these elements should be customized towards your target customer.
- With Shopify, choosing a theme to start with is easy. You can filter themes by desired features and even by categories of types of stores.
Have a strategy to market and promote your business.
- Email marketing, social media, blogging, digital marketing ads, etc. - one or all of these may fit your business model. Know what marketing your competitors are using, and then plan to do it better!
Study up on SEO.
- Have a good understanding of SEO (search engine optimization) and what is needed to write SEO and user-friendly product titles and descriptions - it will definitely drive more business to your website.
Perfect your photography skills, or hire someone to photograph your products for you.
- Being an online store means customers can't touch and feel a product, so you need to make your photos clear, uncluttered, and as appealing as possible.
Be professional in what you say and display.
- Customers gain confidence in YOU directly from your website. Something as simple as spell-checking content and using proper grammar can have a huge impact on customers opinions of you and your business. Having a clean, polished, professional looking website may turn browsers into buyers.
Network with other shop owners for support, ideas and best practices.
Above all, don’t “wait for tomorrow”, jump in and get started right away. Let your excitement propel you forward. Work hard and make it happen!
Believe in yourself. You can do it!
That’s fantastic advice! Thanks so much for sharing. Where can we learn more about ThirdShift Vintage?
~ JayDee, Founder of ThirdShift Vintage