When ENNI opened its doors the Internet didn’t exist. It was the 1970s and the only women’s Fashion retailer in the eastern Melbourne suburb of Ivanhoe. Three generations later the Store is run by the same family and has expanded to another three fashion boutiques in the area. Current owner Daylan James decided to take the plunge into e-commerce in 2011, opening www.enni.net.au and launching a mobile site in 2014.
In it’s first year the website cost $16,000 to build and brought in $3,000 in gross revenue. In 2012 this grew to $196,000 and it currently brings in more than $300,000 in gross revenue for the business.
Daylan James shares his top tips below for retailers looking to go into e-commerce.
- Shop around for your Shopping Cart
When I first started getting quotes for shopping cart platforms I was quoted from $2,000-$30,000+. I eventually chose Powerfront which specialises in retail fashion and work with with clients like Witchery and Sportsgirl because they could do everything I needed. They charged $16,000 for the website in 2011 and $7,000 for the mobile site in 2014, we got our first sale within 10 minutes of launching both.
We pay $170 per hour for upgrades, $200 per month for support, and $99 per month for hosting.
Before going with Powerfront I obtained three references, two were good but one reference told me to stay away, but I felt this was due to a personality clash between them and Powerfront, not a problem with the service. Sometimes if a company has a bad review it’s good to dig a bit deeper to see where the real conflict is, if it’s with the company itself or a relationship gone sour.
- Don’t underestimate photography costs
In e-commerce you will want quality, professional photos of your products. Being a fashion retailer professional photography was our top priority, but it was also our biggest mistake in the beginning when we found out that very few suppliers could provide us with suitable images.
We hired a photographer and the first shoot cost us $5,200 using two models to shoot 160 garments over two days, this completely wiped out the profit margin we made when selling the clothes.
Now our process is a lot more streamlined, we manage to shoot 220 garments in six hours reducing the cost to $600 per day. To achieve this we only use one model at the photo shoots, so there is less chitchat. We also pre-group our clothes by style – so tops, dresses, pants etc. and skirts by length so our photographer doesn’t need to readjust the set-up between clothes. We also include a pre-typed running list of garments with SEO-Friendly terms that lets the photographer name his image files as they’re shot.
- Build Relationships with your Customers
Just because your store functions online, you still need to treat people who purchase from your site as real people and build relationships with them. In fact I would say in the online world this is even more important. It’s important to be transparent and be easily accessible by email or phone, people like to know they can get in touch with a real person if anything goes wrong.
I’ve given customers their purchases for free when items have gone missing or been delayed, while this is expensive when you do it in the right way the customer is going to be hugely appreciative and will likely purchase from you again. I’m in this business for the long term, currently 60% of my customers are purchasing from us three or more times a year and I want to keep it that way.
- Invest in the right marketing
If people can’t find your website, what’s the point of having an e-commerce store? Most people will find you through Google so you want to be ranking highly for certain key words/phrases. We invest in SEO (search engine optimisation) and work with a Melbourne-based company Optimising, we spend $700 a month and are happy with the results and their transparency. We were with a different SEO company before then who built a lot of dodgy backlinks, while we weren’t penalised by Google it was a wakeup call. When looking at SEO make sure the team you work with are very transparent about how they are going to get your website to rank, and question if anything appears dodgy.
We also run regular competitions with websites and blogs that suit our target audience, in batches of $100 vouchers. Since we have an online store and ship free across Australia we’re not limited to publications that are only based in Melbourne or Victoria. We’ve had some great success doing this with one website leading to 800 referrals to our website after running a competition to win three $100 voucher.
Give your customers flexibility
We offer free shipping Australia wide and a variety of payment options accepting Visa, MasterCard, Amex and Diners Club as we do in our physical stores. PayPal is more expensive in terms of its merchant fees but it’s a must-have since customers feel safer when it’s available. When we introduced PayPal in 2013 we saw a significant sales increase.
By Daylan James
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