Body Thrills: doing eCommerce the natural way

Natural Body product company Body Thrills launched recently launched its eCommerce play. The site, formerly a blog with a basic ordering form, has rebranded and gone full eCommerce just in time for the holiday buying season. We sat down with majority shareholder and founder, Tamaryn Watkins, to get the scoop behind their products and approach:

Memeburn: Tell us more about how Body Thrills started.
Tamaryn Watkins: It all started three years ago. I was a new stay-at-home mom at the time, finishing off my Masters degree part-time. I needed a way to make some cash and I needed to be able to do it from home. I’d made a few body scrubs as Christmas gifts for friends,bottled in old Purity babyfood jars, and they were enthusiastically received.

A very special friend inspired me, a few weeks later on Twitter, to turn those handmade Christmas gifts into a business. Enter Body Thrills. Many months later — I’ve finally progressed from printing my own labels, amateurishly created using Microsoft Word, on my mono-laser printer and cutting them out and gluing them by hand — to having all new, gorgeous shiny labels. Body Thrills has gone from having a WordPress blog with a simple contact form — to a spectacular online store and we’ve grown from being a team of one, to four. It’s homegrown and handmade all the way — grown in my garden or sourced from local farmer’s markets and I make all of the products in my own kitchen, from scratch.

MB: What is the philosophy behind your natural products?
TW: Your skin is the biggest sensory organ your body has. It’s more than vitally important to look after it properly – it’s absolutely essential.
Store-bought soaps, shower gels, cleansers and moisturisers might seem to do the job, but they’re so full of chemicals and preservatives, that in the long run they’re doing your skin (and your entire body) more damage than you can imagine. We felt the need to create a range of products that are natural, preservative-free and entirely delicious, and we wanted the product to be handmade, wholesome and to ultimately do what we think body products should do. We’ve specifically left out chemicals like sodium lauryl sulphate which clean your hair and body through a corrosive process and we’ve jammed our products with only the good stuff.

MB: Why did you go the eCommerce route with your site?
TW: Internally, we felt that having a blog about our products was one thing, but in order for consumers to take us a lot more seriously we needed a proper shop front, with a cool display of our products that is a true reflection of our brand. We wanted the site to be easily navigable and we chose thrilling colours to keep users excited. Having an eCommerce site allows us to firm up key areas of our business like customer service, logistics and our user’s experience with our brand. Being a boot-strapped startup means we have to be light on costs and having an eCommerce site means we don’t need to build, staff or maintain a physical store or print and distribute mail order catalogues, and of course, having the automated order tracking and billing systems automated means that we don’t have those additional labour costs.

Externally, it’s obvious that we’re seeing a shift in consumer behaviour towards buying online; we need only look at the shake-up that happened this year and their growth in order to see the growing eCommerce trend in South Africa. Where we feel we have the advantage is that we’re focusing on a niche set of skincare products and not on a whole range the way Kalahari and Takealot do. We find that this focus is going to allow us to better engage with our users and create great content around a really awesome product.

MB: How does a small business like yours, find the money and resources to launch an eCommerce site like Body Thrills?
TW: In a sense, we are and aren’t your average internet start-up: we’re cash-strapped like the rest of them, but we have a team that is quite experienced in what they do. Our team has been carefully chosen to execute on their functions and trust in the rest of the team to execute on theirs. The South African start-up and development community is still quite small, everyone knows everyone, so it’s not hard to network and find good resources for your projects.

MB: Who is the team behind the site?
TW:Lexi Fontein designed the site and rebranded our products, she’s had a lot of experience in the print field from working for Titan Publishers in the UK and she’s recently designed the 4Anthing Business Social Network which she won an SA Web award for.

Byron Rode started is the co-founder and lead developer at Tangram, a full-service creative agency which focuses on brand, web, iOS & Mac development, which he started together with designer Ben Lewis in Sept this year. He has previously worked Forward Slash as an SEO developer and most recently the IT and Web Manager for The Bobs for Good Foundation.

Graeme Lipschitz shouldn’t be a strange name for you, he’s in your top 10 all time contributors, has previously worked for Google UK and South Africa over a multitude of different industry accounts like Expedia, Hilton Hotels and Avis. He’s currently the new business development and social media guy at Clicks2Customers.

MB: What is the strategy to get people to buy and then come back?
TW: We’re going to concentrate heavily on the Paid Search side of digital marketing. We believe that if we employ the correct Pay Per Click strategy that we can get interested users to our site at a fraction of the cost of our products. We are also going to try to list our products on established sites like BidorBuy, Takealot and Jump – all of these plays offer interesting lead models that we’d like to explore. We’re also heavily into our social media (every single last one of us!)- so expect a few thrills on Twitter and Facebook.

MB: What are the future plans for the site and the brand:
TW: A big one for us right now is being able to accept all types of credit cards as at the moment we only do EFT, ideally we’d like any credit card or Paypal account holder to be able to purchase our products — but that’s already in the pipelines.

We also have a very small production facility so as the demand for our products grow, we are going to have to scale up to accommodate that. The thinking is that because our products are handmade and homegrown we will start to employ previously disadvantaged folks and create a grassroots (excuse the pun) company. Once we’ve turned a profit, we’d also like to align ourselves to a cause that we believe in and support it.



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