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I’ve always liked solving problems. In 2017 I worked as a public policy analyst, analyzing data and suggesting solutions to the legislature. In 2018, a friend and I recognized the need for more affordable CBD products. Neither of us had any experience selling consumer products or running an ecommerce business other than some sales on Amazon or Poshmark. We also had very little money, so we had to be strategic and careful because every dollar we used needed a positive return. One of the advantages of ecommerce is that it’s quite an equalizer for small businesses because the start-up costs are relatively low compared with brick-and-mortar businesses.
Building a solid ecommerce brand requires the ability to think creatively and strategically from a business and marketing perspective. When developing an idea or a brand, the two components I’ve found to be the most important are:
1. Figuring out your purpose. If you are a non-technological consumer good, what problem are you solving, why should people care, and why do you exist? Successful brands like Under Armour solve problems. The founder solved his problem of needing a shirt that would stay dry during practice and created the international behemoth that Under Armour is today.
For Plain Jane, we were filling in a gap at the time for lower-cost hemp options. Your “why” matters way more than your logo or your slogan.
2. What makes you different? If you are in an industry with many competitors, what will make someone choose you over your competitor? Find every single competitor that exists. Study their branding, their pricing and their products.
You need to figure out how you will differentiate yourself from your competition, whether in the look of your product or just pricing. Many clothing companies, such as Shein, are highly successful simply because they are one of the lowest-priced clothing options for a certain style.
To differentiate ourselves from the thousands of other brands at the time, we started with the flower — a more niche product — at a lower cost to add a second dimension of differentiation.
I talked about the advantage ecommerce has over brick and mortar because you need less capital upfront and can run a much leaner operation. However, the disadvantage of this low barrier to entry is that more brands can enter the space, increasing competition.
SEO is the best investment you will make
Cheap clothing isn’t the only reason fashion brand Shein was so successful. It was founded in China in 2008 by SEO marketing specialist Chris Xu. His understanding of search optimization undoubtedly contributed to the online brand’s visibility and success. Google processes nearly 9 billion searches per day.
Having good SEO is like placing your product right at the checkout register. If someone searches “hemp CBD flower” or some variation of those terms, our website will populate one of the first three pages on google. The first ten search results receive more than 70% of all clicks. If you’re not first, you’re last.
Content creation is a solid investment
Save the money on consultants that will help build your brand “customer personalities” and catchy slogans. Instead, spend it on photography, content creators and social media influencers. The majority of consumers spend less than 10 seconds deciding whether they are going to purchase your product.
Most of those decisions are made subconsciously, so your packaging and photos play a significant role in creating an excellent first impression of your product. A listing with good images will capture attention and have a much higher conversion rate than one without.
SEO, content creation, and pricing strategy can get you the first sale, but without solid execution, it may be your one and only. According to Yotpo’s annual report on brand loyalty, it’s no longer enough to win on pricing and quality alone. Consumers no longer feel connected to a brand after one or two purchases; it can now take more than 5+ purchases to consider themselves loyal.
Consumers care about trust, a good shopping experience and customer service in their decision-making. That’s why these seemingly tedious things like having a system to respond to reviews, staying on top of shipping speed and having responsive, caring customer service are so important. If you spend money acquiring each customer, you want to ensure you’re getting the highest lifetime value, and execution makes this possible.