How to fast track a move into the e-commerce space

Thinking about moving your brick-and-mortar business into the e-commerce space? With the impact of COVID-19 resulting in online sales skyrocketing, it’s a smart move. Here’s what you need to consider…

So your brick-and-mortar business sales have dropped (thanks, COVID-19), and you’re considering launching an online store to bring your sales back up. Well, if there were ever a time to make a move into the e-comm space, it’s definitely now.

When the coronavirus pandemic resulted in lockdowns and the government introduced social-distancing measures, online sales skyrocketed while brick-and-mortar-only businesses suffered.

In fact, Australia Post reported in May that based on its deliveries data, there was an 80 per cent increase in online shopping compared to last year. Consequently, more retail sales have gone from face-to-face to online, and this shift in buying behaviour looks like it is set to stay, even as lockdown measures ease.

Moving into the e-commerce space may sound daunting, but it also presents your business with a whole new set of opportunities. Namely, lower operating costs, tracking your customers thanks to web analytics and significantly expanding your reach. Need more convincing? We speak to Jacqueline Arias, DWEN and founder and CEO of Australia’s República Organic, who shares her tips for businesses wanting to fast track into the e-comm space.

Start small with the help of your competitors

Figure 1 Source: Unsplash (@freestocks)

Launching an online store doesn’t mean moving your whole business online. Instead, this is a great time for you to trial, test, and learn before you decide to go all out. Be selective with the products you want to sell online, starting with your 3 – 4 best sellers to gauge interest as well as work out the customer experience from ordering to fulfilment.

Additionally, looking at what your competitors are doing can help you further define your niche and decide which products to launch online first. Jacqueline also recommends carefully considering what your unique offering can provide customers: “Think about why will they [customers] come to you and not someone else.”

“And remember, it's not just about price. Find your unique proposition and drive that message hard.”

By looking at what the bigger players are doing who aren’t targeting your niche directly will allow you to assess which products to launch for your business to thrive.

Consider revisiting your brand comms

Figure 3 Source: Unsplash (@xps)

Your brand personality is one thing, but your brand’s purpose is another. The online market is saturated, and consumers are purchasing based on thrift and value more than ever. So how do you ensure you stand out from the crowd and establish a distinguished relationship with both your new and existing customers?

Jacqueline recommends businesses use their move into the e-commerce space as an opportunity to re-align their brand message and market position. Early in the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, Jacqueline recognised there was an opportunity for República Organic to highlight the very essence of her brand, which in turn strategically aligned with the community sentiment of supporting Australian businesses.

“We really got behind the ‘#SupportLocal, #SupportAustralianBusiness’ sentiment, because that's who República is, an organic Aussie coffee brand. We live and breathe who we are and pay tribute to our Aussie love affair for quality coffee by naming some of our blends after iconic cities like Melbourne, Sydney and Byron Bay, where a great cup of coffee is never far away.”

“We re-focused our market positioning about who we are: a small Australian coffee brand, competing on supermarket shelves against some of the global giants in coffee,” shares Jacqueline.

Jacqueline saw that communicating loudly and clearly to her consumers about how they can support an Australian company like República was important; highlighting the fact that their purchases with República meant keeping locals employed and keeping money in Australia during these tough times.

However, whenever working on your brand comms, it’s important to remain authentic. “Be cautious,” Jacqueline warns. “Tread carefully, you cannot simply change a brand positioning without ‘walking the talk’. Consumers are critical; they’re watching you and can smell a fake a mile away.”

República has reaped the benefits from taking the time to authentically connect with customers and pivot the brand communications since the pandemic outbreak, which resonated exceptionally well with consumers.

“We received emails and private messages from the public, thanking us for bringing a high quality ethical coffee product that is Australian-owned. And word of mouth gets out, so many more coffee drinkers have discovered República since and spread the word.”

Leverage existing platforms

Figure 4 Source: Unsplash (@xps)

When considering your move into the e-commerce space, it doesn’t always have to mean starting from scratch. Jacqueline says an important fundamental when entering the e-comm space is to consider tapping in to where your consumers are already buying - whether it is from platforms like Amazon or eBay, or larger retailers like Coles and Woolworths.

“I'm a strong believer in the power of leveraging existing platforms that give the opportunity to reach millions of people fast,” she says. “This can fast track your e-commerce launch and be very cost effective. Doing it on your own is complex, costly and above all, time-consuming.”

At the height of the pandemic, República launched their Biodegradable Coffee Capsules – which are compatible with Nespresso coffee machines, and one of Jacqueline’s proudest business ventures – on Amazon Australia.

Jacqueline encourages business owners to think about the possibility of a ‘plug and play’ solution where possible to start seeling fast: “We could never build a platform where there are already millions of customers ready to buy. That is the power of leveraging.”

Promote your business

Figure 5 Source: Unsplash (@lenneek)

Sounds obvious, right? But once you have covered the basics such as getting your products online and having a working site, your next step to fast track into the e-comm space is to promote, promote, promote.

This starts with simply adding signage to your shop front, updating your product packaging to feature your online retailers or web address, and emailing your existing customers to let them know about your latest e-comm venture.

Thinking digitally, there are a number of things you can start on right away that aren’t too costly and will be well-worth investing the time in. These include having an SEO strategy, updating your local listings such as your business on Google and your website homepage to communicate your new online availabilities.

Once those are ticked off your list, you can start exploring the world of digital marketing; experimenting with Google Ads, content marketing, and social media ads through Ads Manager to advertise across Facebook and Instagram. Being present in the digital and social media landscape is a must for your e-comm business, and for República Organic it’s no different.

“By 2021, millennials will make up 17% of the Australian food and grocery market,” Jacqueline explains. “It's important to remember that millennials and every generation after is a digital native. A fact no business can ignore.” And with República’s Facebook page boasting over 42K Page Likes, they’re clearly doing it right.

República also utilised social media by amplifying their marketing spend during the pandemic to tell consumers they could buy their products online at Coles and Woolworths. “Our job was to drive the message hard online as to where customers could buy us online during the shut-down.”

República Organic was founded by Jacqueline Arias in 2006, and was the first brand to carry both ethical certifications of being Fairtrade and organic on supermarket shelves across Australia.

Through the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network, Dell is connecting female entrepreneurs across the globe with networks, sources of capital, knowledge and technology, giving them the power to do more. Dell and 10 play are proud to bring you inspiring stories and key insights from incredible business leaders across Australia, showcasing the clever and inventive ways in which businesses have had to adapt during the pandemic.