4 Things I Learned From My Ecommerce Business in the First Year At the end of the day, online businesses are all about people.
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When I started my floral venture, I was well aware that I was entering a territory where business usually passed on from generation to generation. Floral executives tend to be reluctant to change and think twice before rolling out innovation. Yet, I knew that I simply couldn't miss out on the immense opportunity that floral ecommerce represented.
The flower industry, valued at a staggering US$5.8 billion as of 2021, operates differently than many. While importing and exporting flowers, the end product is actually intangible — after all, how do we measure the happiness and satisfaction our customers perceive with our arrangements?
Due to its abstract nature, gaining a competitive edge within the flower industry with the help of technology can be both extremely promising and challenging. However, I saw that it's precisely the technology that helps bridge the gap between flower vendors and customers, building an unprecedentedly close relationship. As my journey began to guide industry leaders towards a more sustainable and tech-savvy future, I learned four key lessons along the way.
1. Listen to your clients
You often hear about the importance of always listening to your customers, but my personal experience has taught me just how easily you can forget this crucial aspect. Quite often, clients are not always as communicative as you wish. They might use the wrong terms or focus more on their frustrations rather than their solutions. But the bottom line is: They always have something to tell you.
Upon building my website and offering an ecommerce platform for local retailers, almost our entire client base expressed that they wanted different font sizes, colors and layouts because the site was difficult to navigate. My team and I didn't think these changes were necessary and ignored these constant requests for two years.
Finally, one day we had our lightbulb moment and realized that our client base is creative floral experts, just looking for simple changes to navigate our portal easily. They don't read buttons or labels and click-through our platform intuitively by color and contrast. These changes took a two-day fix, and upon completion, we had improved our sales by 25%.
2. Prepare the market for innovation
Sometimes, it doesn't matter how attractive your product may seem. If your client base is not ready for a change, your product or feature faces an inevitable doom. This is why it's imperative to perform due diligence before pouring precious resources into a feature or product development.
In the floral industry, it took three years for our platform to resonate with our clients. There was a strong opposition towards digitization, so our approach was geared towards how these digital advances can maximize sales and optimize processes. I was convinced that my platform can increase or double our customer's daily orders, and this was a promise I delivered, paving the way for resilience and greater innovation in the future.
3. Stand out among your competitors
When penetrating the market in an industry with well-established behemoths, it can be difficult to succeed without differentiating your service or solution. Valuable qualities, such as impeccable customer service, really help businesses stand out among multiple vendors and competitors.
In my experience, I quickly saw the value in offering solutions and support to local florists, readily available even on holidays and weekends. This approachability helped build rapport and trust with our clients, and before long, we learned that our business was growing thanks to word-of-mouth.
4. Client success is your success
Like in other industries that revolve around customer experience, the perception of value with the end user is abstract, not exact. This is why placing the customer's needs first ensures satisfaction and pushes businesses to enhance the supply chain and deliver high-quality end products, securing success.
The recent pandemic, which devastated several small businesses, represented both a challenge and an opportunity for our company. We quickly realized that if our local florists go out of business, our existence would be at risk. My team and I acted fast by doubling down on providing our clients with more online support to grow their business and sustain through the pandemic. The results were quite overwhelming — we ended our 2020 in much better shape than in earlier years.
In sum, the lessons learned within my first year in business have helped me build a sustainable and successful ecommerce platform in an industry that wasn't prone to change. So don't take the humanity away once you implement technology — this is when you should pay more attention to your customers than ever.