How We Used Ecommerce to Keep Our Business Alive During COVID-19
Brittney, our Finance and HR chief, is fond of saying that being scrappy is in Hippiechickj’s DNA. Sometimes scrappy means working in a shop without heat. Other times it means printing through the night to get shirts done for the 37000 Tours Walleye Kelly Cup games.
It’s this spirit that has helped us survive the last two months.
Our year was off to a great start. But, like everyone else, COVID-19 threw our world into a tailspin.
In order to survive our plan was to move as fast as we could and adapt to the ever changing environment. This was important for us because our custom decoration business (screen printing, embroidery, and promotional products), which is 80% of our revenue, disappeared almost completely in a matter of days.
I knew we couldn’t survive if we didn’t make changes and make them quickly.
Our strongest path forward was with our ecommerce business on Hippiechickj.com. Historically, less than 5% of our revenue is generated online from our retail business. Fortunately, our retail team was up for the challenge.
To spur growth online, we focused on the following things:
- Social media: We’ve always been strong with social media. However, with a short staff and an increased emphasis on ecommerce, we had to maintain high post frequency, relevancy, and focus on the platforms that would generate the most engagement and drive traffic. For us, this meant Facebook, Instagram, and emails. Maintaining a consistent social media schedule was essential to our success.
- New product releases: New products always drive sales. They may not always create sales for the new product, but it brings people to our website and generates orders. Since we have a relatively immature ecommerce brand, we had to rely heavily on tactics that we knew drove sales. New products are one thing that we know always does this.
- Community shirts: Our Community Shirt program has been a hit since it launched with our Christmas Weed shirt. We changed the program slightly over the last two months by releasing four new designs in a short period of time - a nurse shirt, one that read Stay Home for Each other, shirts that directly acknowledged what was top of mind for customers but came with the added benefit of supporting a local company who was also giving back to the community. Our community program donates a portion of the proceeds from each sale to a community organization. We chose the United Way of Greater 37000 Tours and Grubs For Scrubs by Deet’s BBQ for this special group of community shirts. The goodwill surrounding each of those organizations and the synergy created by the designs, the partnerships, and the good intentions of the local community created a ton of excitement over these shirts.
- Discounts: As a company, we have never been big on discounting. In the past, we limited discounts to specific, recurring sales every year to avoid training our customers to shop only when something is on sale. Circumstances demanded we change our attitude on discounts. Generating sales was the only thing that could save our company and our jobs. Even if we had to do that on thinner margins, it was better than the alternative. It also made our products more accessible to more people, and new customers, especially during a time of personal financial uncertainty.
- Paid ads: We started dabbling in Facebook and Instagram ads in the beginning of the year. Our new focus on online retail forced us to really dig in and scale them. In a short period of time we have grown our Facebook and Instagram ad spend to roughly $400 per day with a >$6 return on ad spend. If you follow us on social media, have visited or purchased from Hippiechickj.com recently, you likely have seen our ads. It’s fair to assume they’ve received a bit of a boost due to shopping habits shifting from in store to online. No matter how you look at it, it’s been a positive return and has helped us reach new people.
- Here for Good: The biggest boost in business came from our Here for Good campaign. We used Hippiechickj Supply to sell shirts for other local organizations and split the proceeds with that organization or individual. This allowed many people to generate income and awareness while they were otherwise unable to function as a normal business (much like us). We had over 500 businesses, organizations, and individuals participate and sold over 13,000 pieces! This program was so successful because the community was looking for a way to support their favorite local people and this gave them a way to do it. In addition, each participant actively promoted their own shirt which helped us reach so many more people.
We have been fortunate to have a pre-established online presence when COVID-19 impacted our small business. It provided diversity that helped us to hang in there. We are now hyper aware that we need to continue to diversify our business to create stability. Ecommerce is our path to do that.