I was asked to moderate a fine group of women entrepreneurs May 17 at Webcom Montreal. I enjoyed hearing their stories during our prep meetings. Each of them have their own unique journey and their reasons to go online. The common driver for them all: Passion. I mean really, we’ve been hearing left and right how it’s important to have a mix of smarts and passion into what we do but there’s nothing more convincing then when entrepreneurs walk the talk. Starting with our two pure e-commerce entrepreneurs: Karyn Climans, Owner of Tail-wags, offers whimsical helmet covers that fit over any type of helmet used for sporting activities, Tail Wags empowers children and adults all over the world to individualize their helmets, thereby encouraging the use of those helmets. In this age of tech start-ups, Karyn exemplifies the true entrepreneurial spirit. She started out in her basement (remind you of someone?), does everything by hand (100% Canadian made) and is one of Canada’s most influential advocates on safety. Sophie Guinet, co-owner of Mini-bulles, offers a selection of decoration and accessories items -from birth to adolescence- from the best European and Canadian kids’ designers. Sophie has now launched her own collection, the “Triplettes”. One visit at her site and you know you’ve stepped in a world of soothing comfort and high quality standards. You could tell from speaking with her that she loves what she does. Family is at the heart of her mission. Now, for our social-sharing stars. Cassandra Girard, founding partner of Buyosphere. Who doesn’t know Buyosphere? As their slogan suggests “Fashion suggestions from real people”, this social platform empowers buyers to find what they want by asking their peers. And it works! Cassandra is a long time veteran in the tech start-up community and she knows that tenacity and determination are key to her success. Lifestyle and entertaining expert Kim Vallée launched At Home with Kim Vallée five years ago. Kim shares stylish living inspirations, time-saving tips and great ﬁnds to busy women from her office in Montreal but the scope of her blog is global. She is very saavy when it comes to detecting new trends in e-commerce and shopping ideas. Her distinctive feature is in the way she stages her finds all in colour and elegance.
E-commerce has gone through more changes in the last year or two than it has from its beginnings back in the 90’s.
- Today, launching an e-store takes a few hours with tools such as Etsy
- Remember when we used to say that the Web si empowering customers, making them more informed? This has never been truer with tablets and smartphones giving them the leisure to decide in the spur of the moment.
- Mobility pushes the limits of space and time. Customers are always connected and e-stores interact with them at all times.
- Social platforms are amplifying this phenomenon. In fact, product information found across social networks weigh more than the products themselves!
- Women, women and more women are taking that route.
- The online communities play an increasingly important role in spreading the word.
E-commerce Today : Four Success Factors
Our panelists agree that their active presence on social networks is key. Sophie talks of the community that has shaped around her store, Karyn nurtures the proximity with her customers through twitter and her blog, Kim IS a social network with 65 000 monthly unique visitors to her site and nearly 3 700 fans on Facebook, and Cassandra talks of the many sharing features on the site (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Linkedin) to get the word out on the latest nifty finds.
Social isn’t an end to a means. As is having a transactional site or a catchy name. The distinctive offer remains the main driver and how to best represent the product or service attributes? Our panelists agree: Storytelling. With the creation of a new product or a new line, comes a story, an anecdote, a legacy perhaps. And this is a differentiator, according to Sophie. Today, there are way too many products to chose from. Telling a story around it, adds value to the product and can be a decisive factor.
High quality photos and illustrations are a must today, says Kim. People have become more sensitive to visual content and online stores must meet these high standards in order to stand out. That’s why so many are turning to social image-sharing sites, such as Pinterest. Recent study shows that this is the new trend
32% of online buyers in North America have made a purchase as a result of seeing an image on a social image-sharing site, such as Pinterest
Another trigger that has contributed to the growing number of women in e-commerce start-ups : the personal-work life balance. For Sophie, managing an online boutique has allowed her to spend more quality time with her family. This has not stopped her from showing creativity and extending her product line because as she says, she’s always tuned in to her customers’ needs.
The Physical World
Let us not forget that customers buying online are not digital beings! Our entrepreneurs make it a point to meet with their customers regularly at physical touch points. Sophie, in collaboration with other Montreal creators, organizes events in public places to show her latest product lines and chat with her customers. Having a virtual boutique is not enough, she adds, you must go out there. Kim even talks of stores that have started online and now have extended their activities offline, i.e. in retail outlets or coffee shops.
Last piece of advice ?
“Be transparent in your offer, the more information you provide on you, your brand, the better”, “Shopping remains an emotional experience so build stories and proximity with your customers” “Passion always. It will transcend online!” “Be always aware of the upcoming trends and changes in customer behavior. Managing an online business is managing a business. The same rules of thumb apply in both worlds.” And another one that Karyn has just reminded of and that I rarely see mentioned: “Together, we are stronger…We need to help and support eachother so that everyone thrives.” Please leave your questions or comments below and our entrepreneurs will gladly answer them.