eCommerce companies have been among the most successful enterprises to grow in difficult economic times. Founded in 2009 Fizzy Flower serves as a fantastic example of how eCommerce has allowed for individuals with great ideas to bring their products and services to market in an effective, lucrative manner. Fizzy Flower is an online retailer of boutique jewellery from a range of designers.
The most obvious step in starting up any eCommerce business is, of course, the website. The website for an eCommerce business must fulfil all the requirements of a shop on the high street, and more besides. As well as the obvious elements of showcasing your products/services, your eCommerce website displays your branding, it tells your story, it is your customers’ overarching experience of your brand. As well as this, it houses all the information about your clients, it processes orders and payments, provides company information such as location, contact details and answers to frequent questions. Essentially an eCommerce website must fulfil the requirements of a physical shop, and its employees!
For Claire Wenban, Fizzy Flower’s founder and owner, one of the most important aspects was the appearance of her website. Given the nature of her products, she wanted to have a sleek, contemporary design that, while highly functional, was uncluttered and highlighted the products effectively. She drew inspiration from various sources, and paid particular attention to the product photography.
Functionality and security are key for any eCommerce startup website and the best shopping sites provide customers with a fluid, easy to follow shopping experience. Fizzy Flower offers customers the chance to store address details for easy repeat purchases and, recognising that the biggest concern for online consumers is always security. Fizzy Flower uses Cardsave, a member of the Worldpay Group, the UK’s largest card processor to process credit and debit card payments. Both this organisation and Fizzy Flower, are PCI compliant, which means that they meet a set of requirements designed to ensure that companies who process, store or transmit credit card information maintain a secure environment. Once the website is conceptualised, designed and constructed, the real battle of growing your consumer base can begin. It is in this area that eCommerce begins to cross over with conventional high street retailers as many of the growth channels and principles converge. However, with eCommerce there is arguably far greater potential for rapid uptake and swift growth through easier access to digital channels. “Real Time Marketing” plays a strong role as your potential customer base has immediate access to your service any time, anywhere. They are not restricted by geographical restraints or opening hours and can go from unaware to converted extremely quickly. eCommerce allows a retailer to capitalise on the reactive responses of consumers, rather than a delayed response to marketing messages such as faced by physical stores. A consumer can see an offer in their email inbox, for example, and take advantage of it right there and then.
A particular challenge for online retailers is creating a positive shopping experience. As most of us will have some experience of shopping online, we can all relate to receiving a nondescript, brown parcel, containing nothing but the item, an invoice, and an alarming about of bubble wrap. This is perhaps where high street retail has an advantage over eCommerce. When making a purchase from a high street store the presentation of the item is immediately visible. High street shopping can feel like a more engaging, active process in which you as a consumer feel part of the brand. Conversely when receiving a parcel from an online retailer it is more passive, in fact you might not even be present when it arrives! To combat this, and help make her consumers feel more engaged with the process, Claire ensures that each item is in branded packaging, and that it is presented in an aesthetically pleasing way. She aims to ensure that each time a customer receives their order they feel part of the Fizzy Flower brand, and actively engaged with it.
While there are many positive aspects to running your business online, there are, of course, challenges that must be overcome in order to succeed. For Claire, one of the greatest challenges she has had to face in growing a successful eCommerce business is dealing with lack of face-to-face contact with consumers. She found that it made it harder to learn her market, and understand their needs as consumers. By having a website in between you and your customers it is far harder to build a relationship, and establish any kind of rapport with your consumers. As a result of this lack of interaction, as a business owner, you can feel distanced from your market and less integrated with their worlds. It is perhaps harder to get feedback, and therefore improve your business based on your consumers’ needs; and perhaps harder to react when things go wrong. As consumers, on average, we will tell eleven people about a negative experience of a brand, while we will tell only three about a positive one. When you then factor in the “ease of complaining” online, and how when we are not face-to-face with the object of our displeasure, we tend to be far more scathing, this can certainly be a challenge for eCommerce companies.
Fortunately for Claire, Fizzy Flower successfully leverages social media in order to nurture positive relationships with their consumers. For example, they have an active Facebook page where they regularly engage and interact with customers. This tactic helps humanise the brand, and provides consumers with a medium to express positive experiences of Fizzy Flower. This highlights the symbiotic nature of eCommerce and Social Media as a necessity for growing an online business, especially in the B2C arena.
Claire has also managed to turn this challenge into a positive element for her business. She has found that this constant challenge of increased distance between her brand and her consumers forces her and her business to be more active in fulfilling their needs. It has, in essence, reduced complacency and keeps the business on its metaphorical toes.
There are also many positive aspects to running an eCommerce business, and for Claire once of the main “pros” is her business’ ability to reach customers wherever they are. This ease of reach has benefits on both sides; for Fizzy Flower and its clients. For Fizzy Flower is deepens the pool of possible customers , widening their market and increasing potential growth; and for the consumers it facilitates an ease of shopping, they can react to an impulse immediately and complete a transaction in moments regardless of the time of day, or their location. This easy access shopping is perhaps the predominant reason that eCommerce has grown so rapidly in recent years, coupled with the increased reach of mobile Internet and smartphones.