Dear Finnish business council members,
I'm very much honored to be asked by the FBCB board to write this month's newsletter to share our experience. We may not be the expert in online business. But we are certainly among the ones who survived the Coronavirus because of it.
From the end of January until April, our offline shops hardly had any business through May. Only in June Marja Kurki offline shops are back to normal. In the meantime, our online business increased by 25% by the end of May this year. China's virtual market has been a very important one, well before COVID-19. It becomes even more important after it.
Going online became inevitable
Since its establishment in 1994, Marja Kurki China had been growing steadily before internet shopping hit China market. We have encountered competition from online shopping as early as 2013. From 2014 onwards, we staggered alone the road from offline shops to the online journey from scratch. At that time our employees didn't believe we could ever make it as the online market price was so low for the same kind of products.
Having made all kinds of possible mistakes, we built the online team and engage the existing team to work together as one
In early days, we entrusted an agent to open a MARJA KURKI shop on tmall.com. The cooperation went alright until one day we found out they had been selling copied MARJA KURKI scarfs to our surprise. We realized we could trust nobody but ourselves.
We once tried to use our existing employees to learn to run online stores. Soon we learned that the learning curve is too steep to command all skills and tricks in a short period. Although not easy, we did find very good people who are also interested to learn about Finnish designs and scarves.
Make products more suitable for online
Some material that needs to be felt or touched, such as cashmere, we don't sell that much online. Instead offline shop assistants very much like to sell cashmere as customers love to feel the material. Online shoppers are younger. They like to have more fashionable designs. They are more price-sensitive than offline shoppers. Each season we make a special online collection for our online shops. These products are selling like hotcakes.
e-commerce is all about the shopping experience
The essence of e-commerce is no different than regular business. The only difference is online shoppers buy from the product page instead of the shop shelf. Since online shoppers can't feel the products, we should let them "see" and “feel” by showing pictures with all angles they need to see. It took us years to tell which photos sell which don’t. In other words, what e-commerce is all about photos. It is about customers “see” your products through them.
Another key difference in the behavior of the shoppers is that online shoppers search to look for what they need. And in the real world, shoppers shop with their eyes and tend to impulse shopping. For our kind of business,” scarves” are too broad to be searched. Small-sized silk scarves or long silk scarves are more accurate and easier to be searched. The language of the virtual shop echoes the need of the consumers. The analytic data is nearly the bible for e-commerce.
The product page should include all the information our shop assistants tell the customers in a real shop: the product material, size, price, and the current promotion, etc.
Free and fast shipping is part of good shopping experience.
The better shopping experience customers have a higher sales conversion rate. (conversion rate= buying customers /visitors)
Set Goals and KPIs
For an online business, it is important to use the analytics and set the right KPIs to align with the business goals. The most important KPI is of course the sales. But that’s not the only one. We have to know the right ratio for advertising on the platform to get traffic and the right conversion rate to get the sales. The price reduction limit should also be set as a boundary for both the online team and the offline team so that there will be no internal competition. The accounting team should be able to provide the net income statistics after necessary expenses such as advertising and promotion (coupons and reduction), shipping, etc. to avoid an inflated revenue. We also watch the merchandise return rate so that we know the product performance and adjust quickly and accordingly.
We have changed the procedure of the warehouse team so that speed and accuracy are the key KPI’s to maintain customers’ good shopping experience.
For buying office, they must keep a certain speed to refill the stock after goods being sold out.
To conclude what we share here, first, improve the online shopping experience for online shoppers including free and fast shipping. Secondarily, make products more suitable for the digital world. Last but not the least, make clear goals for the team.
I wish everyone stays well and safe. See you soon in real world!
Kurki Fashion Beijing Limited