Now is a great time for Utah businesses to strengthen e-commerce
With the pandemic response continuing – and soon to hit the year-long mark – finding ways to optimize your online sales is becoming a critical-mass situation for some businesses. Even before there were concerns about the coronavirus, companies saw that brick-and-mortar sales were flattening while online sales were on the rise. That is, if the company had a system for online sales at all.
Recently, Utah Business hosted a livestream that involved Utah business people who are at the forefront of e-commerce, in an effort to share their successes and advice on how a business can start transitioning to online sales – or even make the virtual portion of their business a higher priority than the physical one.
Prioritizing education or capital funding efforts is also top-of-mind for many business owners, especially as Goldman Sachs has started its own effort, supported by First Utah Bank, to help those who can drive the economy to a stronger place.
A study in contrasts
The three business leaders who took part in the e-commerce live stream are Joe Megibow, CEO of the bedding company, Purple; Dan Jiminez, president and CEO of the photo book publishing company, Chatbooks; and Taleeb Noormohamed, CEO of women’s clothing company, Jane. They each shared insider details on how virtual sales have transformed their business.
Megibow noted that Purple had a third of its business driven by wholesale before COVID-19. That vanished literally overnight. “What was more interesting was how quickly all of that demand, all of that addressable market, pivoted online,” he said. “And in a category like ours to see that kind of demand and to be able to move online, and do so rather quickly was just a fascinating change, and one that fortunately was very lucrative for us as we were able to lean into that.”
Chatbooks is a business that already had pivoted to all-online before the pandemic, but that event still changed things for Jiminez. “What drives our product are the photos from travel or family events. And so, we saw up the funnel from the photo book creation step but rather the photo taking, that was actually changing year over and year, and through the Summer, we saw less photo activity on Instagram and fewer photos being put onto people’s camera rolls.”
Working with customers in changing times
One element that was touched upon during the livestream was customer service and how that changes when you don’t see them in a face-to-face way. Noormohamed said that it’s important to make sure customers know you are there for them even in a virtual world.
“By large, I think our customers have been pretty happy with what they’ve got,” Noormohamed said. “So, return rates are quite low but make no mistake, you have to factor it into your numbers, you have to factor it in into making sure your customer service team is able to handle those requests. And at our side, making sure that our individual sellers are aware of their obligations and responsibilities as they’re pushing product. As a marketplace, we have to make sure that we’re doing our part to support sellers.”
As for the future of e-commerce, Noormohamed believes it will all pivot to omni-channel as opposed to just online or offline. “You cannot replace the human element of being able to pick something up, feel it, look at it, and then, make a decision. But you also can’t replace the efficiency and the scalability of online.
“So, I think that the future of e-commerce is actually not just a shift in how online platforms think about things but also how retail operations think about e-commerce. And so, a store becomes a place where you go and look at stuff, and try stuff but it’s not necessarily where you get that item right away.”
Megibow pointed out that with customers in both worlds, and shopping in both ways, e-commerce’s future is still going to be tied to a physical store – to a point. “When we’re in our brick and mortar stores, we’re on our devices either with those brands, or with those retailers, and when we’re at home, we’re often planning visits to go check out a product whether it’s for showrooming, or for education,” Megibow said.
“So, it all intersects. The winners are going to be the ones who figure out how to use that for good. I think the broader question is really, where do we see retail going? And not so much where do we see e-commerce going.”
New national campaign helps Utah small businesses thrive
Making the necessary pivots to increase the viability of your business has become the “new normal.” And yet, there is also something to be said for thinking in terms of the long game, especially when it comes to getting capital support or more education to help your business along.
As your community bank, First Utah Bank also realizes these steps are important building blocks for progress, so we are helping get the word out about an effort from Goldman Sachs called 10,000 Small Businesses.
This campaign provides better access to business, capital and education support for entrepreneurs who are seeking to create jobs and a stronger economic opportunity for their communities. So far, 9,700 business owners have taken part in the 10,000 Small Businesses Effort.
There are two programs to apply for if you do work in the Beehive State: one for business education at Salt Lake City Community College and another for capital funding for any Utah small business. You can apply by Jan. 7, 2021, at this site. To learn more about what First Utah Bank can offer your business to keep its progress going, go to our website.