Luke Battiloro: “I learn from people every day”
Marketing for sure, you can have the greatest website in the world but if nobody sees it, you’re not gonna sell anything.
Customer Service: They really can make or break your business.
Setting up achievable goals: Set goals that relate to how much money is coming in, your total business structure
As part of my series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Create A Highly Successful E-Commerce Business”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Luke Battiloro, founder and CEO of Vavoom Vodka. He is an entrepreneur who has worn many hats in various industries during his career. He is passionate about every side of business — production, engineering, software, technology, design, marketing, and philanthropy. Battiloro was inspired to start Vavoom Vodka when he wanted to show up to a dinner with a fun conversation piece but didn’t find what he was looking for at the liquor store. In response, Vavoom became a piece of art and branding became the focus for the company. Taking on the billion-dollar distilling and distribution industries, Battiloro launched Vavoom Vodka directly to consumers and exclusively online.
Vavoom is not Battiloro’s first business venture. Prior to creating the high-end vodka brand, he focused on internet marketing, selling CBD and dietary supplements on a large scale. Battiloro built his own CRM software to service his merchant processing company before programs like Shopify existed. He has also served as a business consultant in internet marketing, production, customer service, and human resources. Battiloro’s most noteworthy services are showing companies how to drive significantly traffic in sales to their websites. He is a Shopify partner, Google partner, and iOS app developer.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I mean I just started producing leads for companies at the very very get go. I ran traffic, meaning I was an advertiser and a publisher at once. So companies would come to me and say things like we want 100 leads per day at xyz CPA, but every project was different. So I’d just go out and use my innovative ways and place and advertise where I saw fit. And then I got into doing more of the supplement business, in 2013 I was running supplements online, like diet pills. Whatever Dr. Oz was pushing, that’s what we’d push. Then I went into the CBD. My group and I were the first group to put CBD online and sell it successfully. It all started with a cannabis grove from a partner of mine that I was working with. We were just discussing what we wanna sell online, and we started it with CDB, and we spent 860,000 dollars testing on Facebook, and it was because no one knew what it was. But before that I was used to selling the sizzle, something everyone knew about. But then I switched gears to CBD, and it was brand new. No one knew about it, and so spending all that money to create and educate an audience, and back then it was complicated, but essentially we’d remarket to that same group. It was a lot of fun for me, it was almost like betting in the stock market, but I had some control over it. SO I’d create a market and create a company, and then it was my job to sell it. So that aspect of it was always super interesting to me. Then I stepped into the vodka world because I had already done it with CBD, and in turn I was the first one to put it online and be able to ship before any of these big companies. Now that COVID has hit, and now all the big companies don’t know what to do, they’re coming to me asking me how I managed to do it. So I had to go through and learn all the challenging parts of this success before I could reach where I am right now.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
“Then I stepped into the vodka world because I had already done it with CBD, and in turn I was the first one to put it online and be able to ship before any of these big companies. Now that COVID has hit, and now all the big companies don’t know what to do, they’re coming to me asking me how I managed to do it. So I had to go through and learn all the challenging parts of this success before I could reach where I am right now. Not to mention there weren’t any cool Vodka bottles so I just thought it would be cool to make one.”
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
“First off, I never give up. The hard times were always come and go, actually looking back on it, the hard times were always the best times. They were the biggest learning experiences that I’d achieve. I always found myself vacationing a lot and reflecting on those times I realized I needed that challenge. I don’t like following whatever everyone else is doing. I’ve never liked it, and I love it when someone tells me I can’t do something because then I just go and do it. I love breaking through barriers that have never been broken through before because that’s the most exciting.”
So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
“Everything is going wonderfully right now. Vavoom is growing so fast and every day and even during COVID, we have the optimism to push through with all the hard times, and this has been another challenge to really create and explode a company when the economy is the strangest that it’s ever been. And so every aspect isn’t really normal and so every day is an exciting roller coaster. So being able to stay calm and navigate through this ocean of different waves that are batting at the company, has been a really fun and thrilling experience for me. And the results have been just absolutely astounding, to be able to grow and do what we’ve been doing at this time. It’s just been a really good time.”
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that? What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
“Well my company, with Vavoom Vodka, there’s no other bottle like it in the world. We have the whole stai bella which means be you, be beautiful, and the bottle is a woman stretching to the sky and she’s just showing herself. She’s being herself, she’s being beautiful. That makes us totally different from any other alcohol that’s out there. We’re not just pushing alcohol, we’re pushing a movement, and we’re pushing a movement to encourage people to be beautiful and powerful and take back the power. Alcohol’s always been kind of a man’s world and we wanted to change that. There seems to be a stigma in today’s society that women can’t be both powerful and beautiful as well as intelligent. But that’s what Vavoom is all about. Maximizing women being beautiful and powerful, but allowing them independence in the traditional alcohol world. We’re a different brand, we stand for something. For this month especially, we’re matching up to five dollars for breast cancer. So we’re giving back to the women community and it’s more enjoyable. When you buy Vavoom Vodka, you’re also giving breast cancer awareness, and any time you’re buying it you’re contributing to some form of charity that deals with women.”
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
“In E-commerce, alcohol is relatively new so there’s not much data to be looked at. If you don’t like to be an innovator in the online alcohol world, I just don’t know that this is the right thing for you because this is a lot of new aspects to explore. The tip is just to not stop. Keep with it, and go with your gut. Trust your instincts. With E-Commerce, it’s hard to read people, especially now with COVID, cuz you can’t really get their energy over the phone or on a zoom call. You can’t really get their vibration but, my tip would be to, just know that facebook fluctuates up and down. So ad spenders have just gone crazy, and it really depends on what business you’re in. Don’t think of quarters in terms of a day. Don’t focus on that. Break it down into months, and that’ll help dealing with the noise in your head that makes you constantly think about “why aren’t the sales coming in?” so you can focus on the core problems of your business.”
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
“I learn from people every day, and I learn something new every day. I watch youtube, so I don’t think there’d be one specific person that would stand out with the E-Commerce. I take a little bit from what I think applies to me from a bunch of different successful people on Youtube. I’m reading and watching every day, and I’m learning. I’m constantly learning new things, from a variety of the top professionals. I wouldn’t attribute it to one individual. I constantly have my headphones in, it’s not music playing, it’s a book, or a podcast that’s all about my industry and being mindful and how to control your mind. I’m just constantly learning new things.”
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The Pandemic has changed many aspects of all of our lives. One of them is the fact that so many of us have gotten used to shopping almost exclusively online. Can you share a few examples of different ideas that eCommerce businesses are implementing to adapt to the new realities created by the Pandemic?
“Shipping. Shipping is a big deal. The speed of shipping, putting insurance on the packages for upsales. Really trying to compete with Amazon, and Amazon Prime. I mean Amazon has really set the standard for shipping purposes, and like before you could ship something out and have it take 7–10 days and that was acceptable, but now it’s just not. Everyone is used to Amazon and so these long wait times aren’t acceptable now. Also, ease of check out. Amazon has made check out with things like paypal and other payment mediums have streamlined the process and made the entire thing so much quicker. People like the express check out experience.”
Amazon, and even Walmart are going to exert pressure on all of retail for the foreseeable future. New Direct-To-Consumer companies based in China are emerging that offer prices that are much cheaper than US and European brands. What would you advise retail companies and eCommerce companies, for them to be successful in the face of such strong competition?
“With speed, when you’re buying products from China it could be 2–3 weeks before you get your product. It comes down to speed. If you can figure out a way to warehouse products and have it to your consumers in less time, you’re just going to have a much bigger advantage. And then customer service is just essential. If you can offer a better customer service experience, you’ll have an edge over Amazon and Walmart who deal with a lot of retailers and thereby have something of a disconnect. So with speed and customer service.”
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start an eCommerce business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
“Don’t think that an agency can solve all your problems. These agencies don’t care about your success, you’re just a number to them. They care about their own success. Really pay attention to reviews and see all the experiences that other companies have had. Who’s gonna do the best for me? See what other companies promise, and find somebody that has the experience and reading their reviews. Talking to other owners and finding out their experience with other consultants and agencies. If you’re not making money every day, then you can’t run a business. Customer service can make or break a company as well. They relate to reviews that other customers or business owners can use to talk about you. You have to take it from different angles, and there’s a lot of movement on the internet. It comes down to doing your research and finding and reading the reviews of other business owners that have worked with these different agencies.”
In your experience, which aspect of running an eCommerce brand tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
“The little guy. The guy that knows how to get the sales can be very underestimated. You can work with an agency and pay them 100,000 dollars / year, but there could be a go somewhere who just really knows how to funnel customers and knows how to get the buyers to buy. You know he or she is just someone who understands. A person like that can disrupt an industry, where with traditional e-commerce, you have 50 employees, but just one person knows the route and it changes everything. They don’t have to be wearing a suit, they don’t have to be playing at the country club. Just finding someone who knows what they’re doing. Being able to recognize the talent in others, and who can fill up the bank account?”
Can you share a few examples of tools or software that you think can dramatically empower emerging eCommerce brands to be more effective and more successful?
“Shopify for one, and I’m not just biased because I’m a partner. I’ve been through all the other softwares, but Shopify gives you the tools to build an e-commerce platform on your own. There are countless apps out there that can do so many different things for you. Before you’d have to had three employees, but now you can download an app for 10 dollars a month, and it replaces the employees and does it better and more efficiently.”
As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies an eCommerce business should use to increase conversion rates?
“Urgency, create an urgency. That can be a sale. What really works the best are two hour flash sales, or six hour flash sales. That urgency creates an urgency in the customers, and sticks to those urgency sales. So next time the customer will opt in. Also, it’s good to make it simple, the checkout process should be simple. Also button colors. Making the colors recognizable and good based on your business. These colors evoke different emotions and base them around what you are looking for in your business.”
Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that an eCommerce business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?
“This again goes back to the reviews and the customer service. People like to know that they’re being taken care of when there is a problem. When you get reviews about your customer service, it instills this confidence that if I have a problem they’re going to help me.”
One of the main benefits of shopping online is the ability to read reviews. Consumers love it! While good reviews are of course positive for a brand, poor reviews can be very damaging. In your experience what are a few things a brand should do to properly and effectively respond to poor reviews? How about other unfair things said online about a brand?
“With unfair things, you just try to stay positive, try to compensate for the thing you couldn’t control and stay positive. And then with poor reviews just try to help everyone. You’re selling a service, stand by your product and really stick to your guns and help the people who genuinely need it and ask for it.”
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a very successful e-commerce business? Please share a story or an example for each.
The five most important to success in e-commerce business:
- Marketing for sure, you can have the greatest website in the world but if nobody sees it, you’re not gonna sell anything.
- Sales channels: Finding the right sales channels that are producing results.
- Customer Service: They really can make or break your business.
- Setting up achievable goals: Set goals that relate to how much money is coming in, your total business structure
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
“Well I have started the movement, so my nonprofit is, I Choose to Live, and it’s going to be a movement where we pay for cancer patients everyday bills and serve and help others.. So by buying a shirt you’re supporting Cancer patients. So much comes back to when you’re serving other people and not expecting anything in return.”
How can our readers further follow you online?
“Well, I’m an extremely busy guy, and the only place they can find me is my Instagram page. It’s just @lukebattiloro, so I run my Instagram differently. I don’t post all the time, but I DO post a lot of stories about a variety of things. It helps people relate to me and helps them get to know me better. So every story I do every day, I put them in my highlights and there’s hundreds of them.”
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!