Erica Stewart, founder and CEO of giftware online retailer Hardtofind, shares some of her top tips how to thrive as a pureplay online business, including putting your customer first and expanding the online experience offline.
The power of pureplay
As a pure play online marketplace, the number of sellers and products we can feature on Hardtofind is infinite. We currently have close to 40,000 products – far more than we could ever hope to hold in a brick and mortar store. We also save on rent, shop fit-outs, sales staff and all the other overheads associated with traditional offline retail. And there’s much more traffic online than there is passing by a shop window.
Align your values with those of your business
A founder’s core values are integral to the success of a business. Founders who believe in what they’re doing, who live and breathe their cause, will infiltrate that fervour into everything they do, and this in turn will infiltrate into their business. I couldn’t do what I do unless I believed in Hardtofind 100 percent. I’m passionate about helping small creative businesses succeed, I’m excited about the genuinely different products we sell and I’m dedicated to bringing a new retail experience to customers who are tired of the same old same old.
The customer comes first
Unlike a traditional retailer, we don’t have that face-to-face contact with our customers which means we have to go above and beyond to ensure our customer service and UX is exemplary. We have a ‘customer first’ strategy at Hardtofind, from the way we connect with our customers through the brand, to the curation of sellers and products on the site, and the continual improvements to our technology and the buying funnel. It’s a strategy that’s definitely paying off for us.
Don’t ignore mobile
Over Christmas, we saw a 60 percent year-on-year increase in mobile visits to the site, and an 80 percent year-on-year increase in mobile revenue. These are not numbers we can ignore. Mobile UX is high on the agenda for us in 2017.
Extend the experience offline
We launched our first-ever market event the week before Christmas, with 70 Hardtofind sellers setting up stalls. The event was a huge success, measured not only in the sales our sellers made on the day, but also by the genuine surprise and delight of the customers who attended. Bringing the brand to life in an experiential way (rather than a permanent brick and mortar store) makes sense for us, and we’ll be doing more of these activations in the future.
Experiment by testing different marketing channels, partnerships or adding new technology to identify the most effective, efficient ways to grow your business. We recently acquired competitor, Down That Little Lane, including their database of 80,000 customers and subscribers and many of their 1,000 sellers and 25,000 products. The deal has further strengthened our position as Australia’s leading curated online marketplace for genuinely different gifts and lifestyle products.
Thoughts on Amazon
I don’t think Amazon will ‘destroy’ Australian retail (as they’re fond of saying). Retailers who are constantly thinking about the customer, who are looking for ways to innovate the shopping experience, and who focus on optimising their online presence will continue to thrive alongside Amazon. There’s still a lot of online growth to be realised in the market, so if anything, Amazon will help grow the market for the rest of us. Luckily, the products we sell on Hardtofind are not available on Amazon and we don’t compete on price. We’re all about supporting designers, makers and artisans, not big brands.