Road ID’s Edward Wimmer: lessons from 20 years in eCommerce, all about the customer (episode 190)

Edward Wimmer is the co-founder and CEO of ROAD iD. Founded in 1999, they’ve grown from Edward and his dad in the basement to 45 staff and shipping millions of units.

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About the Business

road id podcast
  • Based in the US
  • Launched in 1999
  • Just Launched in the UK
  • Platform: Shopify
  • Plugins:,, ID discounts

ROAD iD Begins

When Edward was a senior in college he decided to start training for a marathon. Every few weeks he would call home and give his dad an update on his activities.

On one particular occasion, while the two were having a conversation about Edward’s marathon training on rural roads, his father brought up some concerns regarding his son’s safety. He wanted to know what would happen if Edward was injured while running without any identification. His dad envisioned the danger of an accident without anyone’s knowledge.

Edward brushed it off until he had a near miss with a pickup that same week. While he was able to avoid being hit by jumping into a ditch, it made him rethink the issue.

“From that ditch, I had two very scary realizations. One, I could have been hit by that truck. I could have been fighting for my life. I could have been unconscious and unidentified in a local hospital and because I didn’t have any form of ID, nobody would know who I was. The second realization was that for the first time in 22 years, I might have to admit that my dad was right.”

A few months later, the two started ROAD iD out of Edward’s father’s basement, armed with two $5,000 credit cards and a passionate desire to address the problem.

Listen to learn how ROAD iD got started.

The early years of ROAD iD were lean. Edward says that they were motivated by the belief that even if they only helped one person, the whole venture would be worth it.

When a mother called to thank the pair for helping local emergency responders identify her son, the idea was validated.

Today, Edward says they get calls nearly everyday from customers whose lives have been changed by the product. From small accidents to lives saved and the occasional heartbreaking story about loved ones getting to spend precious last moments with a family member thanks to ROAD iD, the product is clearly making a huge impact. Edward says that the team’s goal is to see a day when wearing ROAD iD is as common as strapping on a seatbelt.

Listen to learn how the team stayed motivated through lean times.

ROAD iD Evolution

ROAD iD is a unique company that was built online in the very early days of eCommerce. The team had to build everything custom–largely because there weren’t many existing platforms for eCommerce businesses. On top of that, ROAD iD bands are custom products and the company has to figure out the logistics of collecting, engraving and delivering their product in a timely and effective manner.

Just last year, the company switched to Shopify Plus and says the transition has been a good one even with some bumps along the way. While everything the team needed wasn’t available out of the box, Edward says the Shopify community has been amazing.

While their team is great at experimenting in-house, with Shopify they can test a lot more often and with better agility. Things that they have been anxious to test in the past, like reaching out to customers via Facebook messenger are easier to test in a controlled, scaled manner.

Favorite Shopify Plugins

  • for reviews
  • ID Discount (formerly ID Services) verifies the first responder community including military, EMS and other first responders so the company can easily extend their generous 50% discount to them
  • for online management

ROAD iD Team

Unlike a lot of other retail product companies, ROAD iD functions with a robust staff and does almost everything in-house.

Development, creative, administration, customer service,and manufacturing, pick, pack and ship are all kept in-house. Edward says the team works strategically with some partners on certain marketing and development pieces but feels strongly about the group of passionate individuals they have hired over the years.

As they expand, there will be more opportunities for partnerships developed to suit the needs of individual locations.

The company’s first major expansion, into the UK, has been done in close partnership with a UK marketing firm, Red Hot Penny.

The Complexities of Personalized Products

Not only did ROAD iD have to figure out the eCommerce industry as it was developing, but they have also been faced with the added challenge of offering a custom and personalized product. Edward says that for years they were really proud to get a product out the door in three days.

When Amazon went to same day shipping, expectations changed. The company knew it had to get on board and Edward says it was a challenge, but one they ultimately figured out. ROAD iD has the distinction of being one of the first companies to offer seller fulfilled Prime for a custom product.

Leveraging Word of Mouth

ROAD iD focuses a lot of energy and resources into providing amazing customer experiences. Edward is a firm believer that word of mouth is still one of the most powerful marketing tools and they make sure customers have nice things to say about ROAD iD products.

The company invests a lot in order to ‘wow’ ROAD iD users–from excellent customer service to product packaging and social media, they have been able to cultivate a palpable sense of a much larger ROAD iD community. Edward also says that when they do move into other markets, they want to be sensitive to local preferences. They want to be the sort of American company that people would actually invite over to dinner. This kind of thoughtful sensitivity and rock solid community that ROAD iD has comes in part from being in the game for nearly 20 years. When we asked Edward what his most valuable lessons learned have been, he pointed out how many resources available now weren’t around 20 years ago.

Seeking people out who are experts in their field is easier than ever. Podcasts, online articles and blogs, and even email have made accessing experts a real possibility. In addition, platforms like Shopify are doing a great job of democratizing eCommerce.

More important than any of that according to Edward, is staying the course and not giving up on your business.

Looking Ahead

For 2019, ROAD iD is focusing once again on customer service.

Edward says they are striving to make products and services so ‘blindingly awesome’ that people have to share with friends and family. Part of that puzzle will be reducing time to purchase as the company catches up with an ever-faster-moving consumer.

For years, the formula for success in eCommerce was:

Sessions X Conversion Rate X Average Order Value = Revenue.

Today, Edward says time to purchase needs to be included in that equation.

Book Top Tips

Traffic Top Tips

  • Word of Mouth is Edward’s most powerful marketing tool. Provide great customer service and begin having conversations with consumers as people, not purchasers.

Tool Top Tips

  • While the team uses a lot of online tools including Trello and Asana, Edward says that it’s the 10-minute stand up meeting at a
    Kanban board that proves the most powerful, bringing up more important conversations that need to be had.

Growth Top Tips

  • Focus on the purpose behind what you are doing.
  • Nail the product and the customer journey.
  • Nail the service and let the customers do the selling for you.

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