What prompted you to start selling your products online?
Given the way people now live and shop, having an online presence is the way to go. Without it, people are more likely to forget to shop with you and can be tempted by the plethora of other brands that are internet savvy. Selling online also means you can reach a worldwide audience and it's a great way to advertise your brand and make your products accessible. It means I can sell something even while I'm asleep.
We launched our first website around four years ago. Initially my hubby created our website as a trial on the back of his website for his photographic business. My customers then demanded I make it easier for them to access products and purchase with confidence; they wanted to be able to view my new products and make purchases at any hour. I then decided to create an ecommerce site using a widely recognised template, which is user friendly and easy to maintain.
What's worked well for you in terms of selling your products online?
Being prepared with the right systems and freight forwarders is key for fast and reliable delivery. We want consumers to have the same trust in our online products and service as they do in our stores. I think ensuring as much information is given at point of sale as possible is also important to reduce returns, and queries should be answered quickly and personally.
Our Facebook presence, which we set up in 2011, has been the biggest support to our online store and has given us the highest measurable return. What's more it's free and takes seconds to update. I think it's also less intrusive than the kind of email mailouts that flood people's inboxes daily, as people choose to look at your feeds, and they're quick to share with friends. It's also easy to link images to the website and people don't expect a high quality image - they just want the latest update on what's new and to be inspired. The more you can do to make your product visible, the more people will be inclined to purchase and share their excitement with friends and family, which in turn creates more demand.
You launched a new ecommerce site last year. What were the major factors you considered during this process?
It's a work in progress and still needs refining. However, one thing that we thought was important for creating trust was placing the phone number for one of our retail stores in a prominent position - on the top right hand corner of the site - so people know they can get in touch and talk directly.
We have had great great feedback about mobile usability, too. A lot of people are shopping on their phones, and the payment process is quick and easy.
I also think integration with our POS system will be vital. At this point these channels still have separate systems, which means not all garments are available online that we have in store.
And it's vital to allocate time to all aspects of running the site, including new product shoots, maintenance and promotion of the site.
How does the relationship work between your retail and online stores?
Having physical stores as well as the online presence gives consumers the confidence they are able to talk with someone with regards to their products.
We've found customers are searching online for products and that then draws them to come and try garments on in store. Many of the online TK shoppers are existing customers who already know and trust our product who have moved out of town or overseas, or their friends who have been recommended our brand by them.
Having said that, we love to meet our customers in person, give personal advice and allow them to feel the quality of the fabrics in a relaxing ambience - and quite often our clients enjoy a glass of champagne or wine at the store with us. It's why we started doing what we do.
Coming up in Small Business: The use of cloud computing is also on the rise in small businesses. If you've got a good story to tell about how you've used cloud computing to make a difference in your operation, drop me a note: firstname.lastname@example.org.