An SMB’s Take on Online Retail

April Davis By April Davis | 25 Mar 2019

We hear a lot of talk about some of the bigger online players in the Australian e-commerce sphere, but what about the smaller ones? The co-founder of homemade chocolate company, Only Mine, shares his perspective.

The following content is an exclusive excerpt from Power Retail’s ‘2019 E-Commerce Leaders Playbook’, which is available in both hard copy and digital formatshere! 

Only Mine is a small gourmet chocolate business that was conceived out of Jason Stockton and Anya Tran’s kitchen in late 2015. According to Stockton, the now married duo stumbled upon the initial idea for the business after they both realised they shared a passion for chocolate.

“One day while baking I mentioned to Anya that I loved working with chocolate, and she replied ‘That’s funny because I always wanted to open a dessert store.’ And that was it, we cancelled all our plans and started to learn the art of chocolate making and crafting our first product range,” Stockton jokes.

Four months later, the company was launching its online business.

Early Challenges

As with most new business ventures, Only Mine faced some setbacks in its early days. One such challenge was finding the right shipping solution for a delicate product selection that melts easily, especially during the harsh Australian summer.

“One of the biggest challenges for us taking this business online was how to ship chocolates in 30-degree heat around Australia,” he says. “To solve this we searched long and wide to find a company to assist us with crafting insulated packaging and cooler packs to ensure the chocolates can withstand the crazy heat waves Australia goes through.”

Because of the unique and customised nature of each of the company’s online orders, the business has chosen to have its order fulfilment process start and end from its shop front in Olinda in Melbourne’s Dandenong Ranges.

“We fulfil all orders from our shop… Our team is highly trained to ensure all the goods are packaged both beautifully and securely.”

Stockton, like many other online retailers, has also faced a number of challenges around the cost of shipping in Australia. For being such a big, widespread market, offering fast and cheap delivery options can be tricky, especially for small businesses that don’t have the scale of some larger players in the space.

“I lived and breathed e-commerce for eight years before starting this business. This gave me the foundation to take things online. But, I still had to learn a lot around shipping in Australia. Particularly the costs involved with dealing with return to senders,” Stockton recalls.

Thankfully, a relationship with Shippit has helped the company overcome a number of these early dilemmas.

Marketing the Only Mine brand when it had been previously non-existent was another big undertaking for Stockton and his wife. However, he did find that working with buy now, pay later service, zipPay, gave the company a good starting point.

“In the early days we got a real kick-start when we introduced zipPay, which actually helped us drive our first sales. At the time, zipPay and the other pay later initiatives were still small, so the directories were the go-to place to find when you wanted to spend,” he explains.

The company has also found success listing and marketing its business on Google and social media sites like Facebook and Instagram. According to Stockton, getting listed on Qantas’ online mall along with a number of larger brands has been great for driving sales, as well as PR campaigns and word of mouth in general. As Stockton puts it, “you can never do too much marketing”.

Choosing the Right Technology

For any new retail business, finding the right technology providers is essential.

“If you have poor systems in place it makes it difficult to do everything else,” Stockton says.

“Our website is built on WooCommerce, which gives us a highly customisable and stable foundation. We also use MailChimp for email marketing and Xero for accounting. Shippit has also been instrumental from a shipping perspective. All these systems work really well together and give us the opportunity to focus on the important stuff.”

Providing a good mobile experience is another e-commerce feature Only Mine has placed a lot of emphasise on, as Stockton says that it gets more sales from its mobile site than it does from its desktop one. However, he does feel like people often overcomplicate what’s involved with providing customers with a good mobile shopping experience. As far as he’s concerned, all you need is simple navigation, a clean design and a straightforward checkout process, which has been customised to suit smaller screen sizes and a range of different devices.

“In terms of our [mobile] strategy, it’s not complicated. Just make sure the mobile experience is super easy for consumers,” he says.

Looking Towards the Future

Growth is definitely on the cards for Only Mine, and Stockton is excited to see how the new trends and developments in the e-commerce space will help shape the business’s growth.

The growing popularity of online marketplaces is something he has his eye on. But, the highly competitive pricing wars and practice of applying heavy discounts to products on a regular basis concerns him.

“The challenge for a business like ours that doesn’t discount, is how to use these platforms effectively while making the margins we need to grow our business,” he says.

He also adds that online retailers should be taking advantage of the access to consumer data that most online businesses have.

“We need to enjoy the access to marketing we get right now – we can pinpoint exactly what consumer we’re after and how to reach them, which is incredible. The world is fighting to take that away so we need to make the most of that right now.”

Despite the challenges Only Mine faced in its early days, Stockton loves that the e-commerce realm gives small businesses like his the opportunity to get out there and compete on a grander scale.

“I love that small businesses like ours have the opportunity to go head-to-head with the big guys, and in many ways show them how it’s done. We can talk to the same people with the same spend and give them access to a product that could have been made out of a home kitchen – how cool is that?”

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