By homegrown entrepreneur and founder of hardtofind, Erica Stewart.
Erica’s tips on building a successful online business:
1. Find your point of difference
Stay focused on your brand, be clear on your USP and don’t deviate from that. Try to ignore the competition and ‘white noise’ around you. For us, finding a niche in the cluttered e-commerce market has been a key factor in defining our point of difference. hardtofind is a business that disrupts the traditional retail experience by connecting customers who are hungry for something genuinely different, with independent craftspeople and manufacturers from around the world – all hand-selected by us. As a brand we’re all about things that are fresh and new and interesting and remarkable, not only in the people we work with and the products we select, but also in the way we run our business. We’re not afraid to show our personality either.
2. Cash flow
Think carefully about your revenue model and how cash flows into your business. If you get it right, you can bootstrap for longer and not have to raise funds until you’ve built up equity.
As the saying goes, data is king. The more you know about your customers, the better equipped you are to give them more of what they want and ultimately scale your business.At hardtofind, we have an in-built data dashboard, which displays key metrics such as average order values, purchase frequency, customer segments, lifetime value etc. Google analytics is also a great place to gain important insights about your audience including demographic profiles and on-site behaviour.
4. Utilise social media
Focus on building up a strong social network. Having a Facebook page, Pinterest board or Instagram account is free, and a clever, engaging social content strategy can really help drive traffic. hardtofind’s social reach is currently 300,000 and we’re the #1 ranked gift site (according to Brand Data) in terms of social engagement, so we understand the benefit of engaging with our brand’s followers.
Sponsoring a Facebook news feed post that your followers particularly liked/engaged with means you’ve already tested the content with your existing audience before spending money on advertising.
E-mail marketing is another low-cost way to increase sales. Entry-level platforms like Mailchimp or Campaign Monitor make it very easy for non-tech people to design and build templates and set up automated workflows. Email strategies such as ‘abandoned cart’ only need to be implemented once and then they just fire away in the background, driving revenue without having to think about it.
6. Build an influencer network
Building an influencer network is something we’re very focused on for hardtofind. We’re lucky that platforms like Instagram are highly visual, so the fresh, fun and beautifully shot products available on the site are very influencer-friendly. We generally look for influencers with at least 5,000 followers, and high engagement rates for their posts. With ‘fake’ followers rampant, engagement is key. An influencer with a huge following and virtually no engagement should send warning signals. With around five million monthly users from Australia on Instagram and 70% of them using Instagram daily, now’s the right time for brands and businesses to be plugging into this new marketing channel.
7. Keep evolving
With so much on offer in the market, retaining the attention of customers can be tricky, so it’s important to come up with fresh ideas for your business.At hardtofind, we’re constantly evolving and innovating, with a big focus on brand, technology and service. We continually look for ways to make the shopping experience better for our customers, the brand more engaging and our customer service even better than it already is (our feedback score sits at 95%+). Driving traffic and customer acquisition is only half the equation. Retaining those customers and making the hardtofind experience so wonderful that they keep coming back again and again is key. Our repeat purchase rate is greater than 50%, which we see as pretty high.
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From those in Heels