How to make money with online retail

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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 personal and business values 
A founder’s core values are integral to the success of a business. Small 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%. I’m passionate about helping small creative businesses succeed.

“I’m passionate about helping small creative businesses succeed.”

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.

Focus on mobile in 2017
Over Christmas, we saw a 60% YOY increase in mobile visits to the site, and an 80% YOY increase in mobile revenue. These are not numbers we can ignore. Mobile UX is high on the agenda for us in 2017.

“We don’t have face-to-face contact with customers so we go above and beyond to ensure our customer service is exemplary.”

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.

Growth hack
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/subscribers and many of their 1,000 sellers and 25,000 products. The deal has further strengthened our position.

“Retailers who focus on optimising their online presence will continue to thrive alongside Amazon.”

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.

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Erica Stewart
Erica Stewart is the Founder and CEO of Hardtofind - Australia’s leading, award-winning curated marketplace, celebrating innovative design from the best small creative businesses in Australia.

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