In this guest post from Dafina Smith of Sunny's Hair & Wigs, we offer tips for running your business from someone who learned them the hard way - an eCommerce business owner! Read on for her tips on making sure your customers have an equally amazing experience online as they do offline.
Anonymity, convenience and location independence have fueled the growth of eCommerce. Anonymity can be a powerful tool, but in order to really grow a business I’ve found it imperative to create an In Real Life (IRL) Customer Experience as much as possible.
As you look to grow your online B2B or B2C business you need to think beyond trade shows and traditional brick and mortar retail shops to stand out and accelerate your business. I am a former Buyer at Bloomingdales, Director of New Business Development at The Lionesque Group a Retail Pop Up Shop Agency, as well as the CEO of Sunnyshair.com, an online hair extension shop, for over a decade.
As such, I’m extremely familiar with the possibilities of connecting with your customers beyond the screen. When I expanded my family business, we used our online sales as an analytic roadmap of where to expand.
Sunny's Hair & Wigs has three retail locations as well as an online presence in totally different geographic areas of the country. Each location and sales channel has to craft an IRL experience that marries the brand vision and our budget.
Here are three successful strategies that have worked for us.
Add in the small touches
As a smaller online retailer your budget and resources can’t compare to those of major retailers. But if you look at the trend now, small is winning. When brands like McDonald’s advertise products as artisanal and Bloomingdales is pivoting to be a collective of small personal brands, it indicates everyone big wants to be small.
Small companies are playing big when they need to play small. A small handwritten note still wins. Seasonal candies placed in your orders makes a huge impact.
Ditch the custom coded emails and send personal emails from your personal Gmail account to your top accounts! Whenever possible call accounts rather than emailing them.
When your big wholesale account places a large order, don’t hesitate to jump in your car and personally deliver it along with some bottles of wine.
On a larger scale, record personal messages and embed them on your website or landing page after people place an order. Don’t be afraid to be exposed for the relatively small company that you are! The small touches are winning!
Teach to Reach
When Trade Shows feel redundant, expensive and impersonal consider reaching out to your wholesale accounts in a new way…teaching them. You’d be surprised at what topics you can use to entice buyers and account managers to show up for an hour or so of learning.
Is there an emerging technology for dyeing fabrics that you learned about on a recent buying trip, is there a new way to reach influencers with live video or is your business able to provide insights into new technology or trends that can help your clientele? If so invite them for a training class at your offices or come to their offices to conduct a brown bag lunch series.
Reaching through teaching is a low cost way to improve on your expert positioning in the marketplace while solidifying client and customer relationships.
Working as Buyer at Bloomingdales, I saw the power of experiential marketing through their events and shopping nights. Shopping night events were spectacles within a spectacle. I learned from Bloomingdales how to bring out the clowns and open the pocketbooks.
An event can be a small as a trunk show or as full on as a pop up shop. Where I see a lot of brands go wrong is that they focus on having an immediate ROI for an event and you can feel the desperation in the air. Sales staff armed with sales goals and management fretting about how much they are spending vs what they are making per hour.
Events are all about crafting a relationship, touching and engaging in your customer to make sure that they viscerally understand your brand. Create a brand experience by hosting a lovely event first… and focusing on the sale later.
Just how do you do that if your budget is small? Get creative and resourceful. If you don’t think that you can afford to do a pop up shop on your own, then you probably can’t. Opt for instead a trunk show at a complementary business where you offer them a percentage of the evening’s sales for allowing to host your event.
If you have done a few trunk shows then consider taking an incremental step to partnering with a brand to do a bi annual pop up shop. With the money saved by partnerships, leverage your savings to telling your brand story through a immersive brand experience. How does your brand smell, taste and feel? Then walk your customer through that for every person who walks through the door.
Record and photograph every element of this to use for future branding opportunities online and on social media. Collect emails, and encourage social engagement at every opportunity and that paired with a strong post pop up email campaign will be the largest ROI you can imagine.
eCommerce doesn’t have to mean impersonal. Use these 3 tactics to make the online shopping experience for your customers as personalized as popping into their favorite neighborhood shop and saying hello to the owner herself.
Check out more from Dafina on our blog here.
About the author
After graduating from Georgetown Dafina Smith began a career in Retail Sales & Branding. As a former Buyer at Bloomingdales in the Men's Fashion Dept she was responsible for purchasing & cultivating brands such as Fred Perry, Sean John and G-Star.
In 2007 she expanded her family business Sunny's Hair & Wigs to Atlanta. Under her guidance, the brand became a fixture of the Atlanta beauty community and was featured on shows including The Real Housewives of Atlanta, The Braxtons, Love & Hip Hop and What Chilli Wants. The brand developed partnerships with Film & TV Productions including Flight, The Fast & The Furious, The Hunger Games, Being Mary Jane, Teen Wolf and The Game.
Smith now manages all aspects of the e-commerce division for Sunnyshair.com as well as all social media and marketing from New York.