After building a massive social brand and online community, Jeep People is bringing their expertise to ecommerce with unique Jeep parts and accessories. We spoke with co-founder and CEO Taylor Pierce on how he converted a forum into an industry-leading online store.
How does a social brand build an online community?
Two things. We’ve always believed that content is king, so a key factor in the success of the forum has been posting great content and consistently interacting with members.
We also actively sought out partnership opportunities with larger communities and social brands. The combination of these two tactics led to multiple videos going viral, which brought large amounts of followers in a short period of time.
(Jeep People built a community of over 250,000 followers in less than a year.)
What was your content strategy?
We really had to focus on building content that we thought would get high levels of engagement. Posting a lot of really good content and making a lot of really strategic decisions. Getting other large influencers to share your content and in turn, you share pictures of their Jeep.
Making these out of the box kind of partnerships to get a lot of eyeballs on your content and a lot of engagement. And I think that’s what allowed it to grow really quickly.
What ignited the transition to ecommerce?
Originally, the goal of Jeep People was to create a forum for owners and enthusiasts to share recommendations for parts and accessories. As the community grew, so did the demand to connect members with parts.
In October 2016, the forum expanded from Instagram to Facebook, which was a better fit for our initial drop-shipping strategy. We quickly found that an ecommerce store would better allow us to operate the business the way we wanted, and launched our online store in January 2017.
What makes your business unique?
Looking at the market for Jeep parts, Jeep People was really the first vendor to build its business on the foundation of a social audience. In launching the store, we wanted to appeal to that audience.
After testing a variety of parts from different vendors, we decided to manufacture our own products. Our idea was to make parts that were both affordable and easy to install, created for anyone that wants to drive a cool Jeep.
We’ve also created an ecommerce experience that’s consistent with what our forum members have come to expect. Again, content is an important part of this strategy.
To help bring the forum experience to the store, we partnered up with Rivet Works, a user-generated content platform that allows customers to share visual stories and reviews directly with the store. What I like about Rivet Works is that it allows us to control our story and build credibility, and the photo and video content coming through has been great.
What is your advice to aspiring entrepreneurs or social brands out there?
First, don’t take shortcuts. Building an audience takes consistency and discipline; buying followers will get you nowhere. Work to understand the needs of your audience and engage with experts in your space.
Second, move quickly and keep growing. There’s somebody out there that’s watching what you’re doing and waiting for that opportunity to see you slack it up or stop innovating, stop growing. So always try to push the envelope, come up with new things. See what you can do to further gap yourself from your competition.
How has ShipStation changed the way you operate your business?
Shipstation saves me 30 minutes to an hour every single day with its shipping automation. I am a tough reviewer when it comes to technology, and I must say that ShipStation is SaaS executed phenomenally. There are a lot of solutions out there that do not scale well with quickly growing companies, especially when it comes to pricing.
ShipStation delivers us a ton of value, and scales nicely as we continue to grow.
What’s Next For Jeep People?
The store’s product line will continue to grow, increasing our offering of unique Jeep parts and accessories. Jeep People has also recently applied for our dealer license, with the plan to begin building and selling customized, turnkey Jeeps. These vehicles will come with a high level of customization for prices that appeal to the broader market of Jeep owners.
This Q&A was co-authored with Rivet Works, a user-generated content platform (for a social brand like Jeep People) that integrates with Shopify, BigCommerce, Magento, Volusion, WooCommerce, and other ShipStation Partners.