Every business wants growth and growing sales is a hard problem that is critical for social startups to crack if they wish to succeed in their social mission. Scaling social impact requires scaling sales as Saba Gul, Founder of Popinjay realized after 2 years of hard work running her commerce powered nonprofit.
This article is intended to help social ventures, old and new to succeed on the web – on presentation, acquiring customers and increasing sales.
On the web a book is judged by its cover first, your look and feel, is very important. People are moved by beautiful websites and pictures. If you do a poor job of presenting your store/product on the web, people won’t stay on you site for long or extend that negative impression to your products. On the other hand if you have a beautifully designed website with compelling pictures of your products and provide a nice, engaging experience people will want to hangout on your site longer and would often come back and maybe even tell their friends about you. Just like in a physical store shoppers are drawn to great colors, textures, window displays, on the web your site is your window display.
Make sure your website loads fast and is designed for both the desktop and mobile devices. People don’t have the patience for slow loading sites, this is one thing that really frustrates them. Making your site mobile friendly will increase the number of people surfing while commuting or make it easier for them to access your site when say they click an emailed link on their iPhone. Here is a great infographic that gives you some numbers on how much a slow site will cost you in terms of sales lost. According to a study by Amazon.com you will loose 1% of sales for every 100ms delay in your site load time.
Your text content is the next most important thing. On the web people can’t physically touch and feel the product, they base their decision to buy on things like how the product looks i.e the image and on how you describe it. A good example of selling powered with top notch design and text is the web commerce site One Kings Lane.
If you don’t want to go through the tedious process of building your own website and are looking for a quick way to get started then I would recommend sites like Shopify that let you instantly create an online store. Shopify is a powerful ecommerce solution that includes everything you need to create an online store. It lets you organize your products, customize your storefront, accept credit card payments, track and respond to orders. If you don’t have a programmer or designer to help you set-up, you could use from Shopify’s collection of pre‐designed templates.
There are number of social startups like No Nasties, Project Repat, More Than Me that are using Shopify. Project Repat in an interview with Dutiee noted,
With Shopify we are able to provide a shopping experience as good as any billion dollar e-commerce site, Founder Project Repat
Moving onto acquiring new customers, here are a few things you could do
Based on who your target population is you could look into advertising on various social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or use Google Ads. A few things to keep in mind with online advertising are, keep track of your expense, be smart with how you target your ads, have a great add with a solid call to action and keep track of how your ads are performing.
Flash Sales Sites
Flash Sale Sites are a great way to get the word out about your product to thousands of people and to get new customers. Flash sales offer deep discounts for a limited time to shoppers. The limited time offer and big discounts greatly helps in closing a high volume of sales. These sites have been a huge hit with consumers, people are eager to sign-up and open the deal emails everyday to look for stuff to buy. Some of the popular flash sale sites are Gilt, Rue La La, One Kings Lane, Groupon, Huckberry (for men products). I’ve seen number of social ventures use these sites, TEGU being one who has used both Gilt and One Kings Lane to get their products out.
In addition to having your own web store you could also look into having a presence on various other online marketplaces that attract a large number of shoppers. Some are generic ones like Amazon, Flipkart (in India) and other more specialized ones like Abe’s Market for eco products, Roozt for socially conscious brands, Outgrow.me, for crowdfunded products, Etsy for handmade and vintage goods.
Monthly or Quarterly subscription of carefully curated boxes of food, clothing, beauty and other products is the newest trend amongst shoppers. There are number of companies focused on different verticals that are really doing well in this space, as consumers are looking to try out new products and are happy to receive a box of different goods every month based on the service they subscribed to. For social ventures, subscription commerce offers a great way to acquire new customers. Based on what you are selling, you need to find the right subscription company to get your product into their boxes. There is a wide range, from Bluum box for moms and baby, Blissmobox for eco and organic goods, Umba box for handmade goods. To get a good handle on how subscription commerce works and the various players in this space, refer to this post.
Besides gaining distribution through all or some of the channels above, you should also make use of curation platforms like Ethfolk, Pinterest, Svpply, Fancy. These are places where people spend a lot of time browsing and discovering new products.