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E-commerce more than a pandemic fad for small businesses

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By Published On: October 19, 20220 Comments

As most would be aware, the onset of the pandemic saw a sudden and considerable increase to the growth of e-commerce worldwide, with Australia no exception. While the pandemic saw more consumers driven to shop online, it also saw more retailers adopting the strategy out of necessity, with some discovering newfound business potential in the world of e-commerce.

In Australia, e-commerce saw a growth rate as high as 15 percent in 2021 alone, as prolonged lockdowns and other pandemic restrictions forced consumers to adopt online shopping habits at a faster rate than they otherwise might have. For some retailers, the same limitations meant considering having a business presence online for the very first time.

“Before the pandemic, I hadn’t thought about opening an online store,” says Kim Evans, Founder of Melbourne beauty business Lux Brows & Lashes, “To be honest, it had never really entered my mind.”

Evans, like many other small businesses, had never envisioned herself having enough to offer potential customers with a presence online. Having built a community around her brick and mortar services, Evans struggled to recognise the potential to expand that community through an e-commerce presence, or the value of the products and services she could offer to this community.

“The way I saw my business before the pandemic was purely studio-based, everything I did was about my in-person customer experience and unbeknownst to me at the time, I think that had narrowed my thinking because reaching a national audience was never on my radar,” Evans tells Power Retail, “I had created a brow powder that I sold and used in the studio and I was wanting to one day expand on this to create my own quality line of brow and lash makeup products, but I had never envisioned that I would sell these products outside of my clients and my studio.”

The onset of the pandemic and resulting lockdowns, however, saw Evans forced to shut the doors of her business. Like many small businesses around this same time, Evans was staring down the potential of going months without a business income.

“Developing an online store was born out of survival,” Evans explains, “A necessity to diversify our service-based business to e-commerce during the pandemic which saw our doors closed and our income stop.”

But, of course, managing to succeed in an e-commerce space brand new to her business required some creative thinking from Evans. Likewise, understanding that success would not be immediate was an important step for Evans to take, much as for any small business owner making the same transition.

“Before we even opened the online store, I needed to first create the product range. This meant sourcing and managing everything virtually. Sourcing a supplier of quality products, developing the product, organising product packaging, printing etc. was a massive challenge,” Evans says, “Australia’s postal service was completely back-logged which meant everything being sent took ten times longer.”

“Patience was my biggest challenge!”

The process wasn’t an easy one, but was nonetheless one Evans expresses gratitude for her having embraced in the challenging circumstances.

“It was a lot of work under a high pressure situation,” she explains, “But I’m so glad I took the leap of faith because it was a true lifesaver for my business.”

Transitioning her product offerings to the world of e-commerce, talents that had previously been a ‘best kept secret’ of loyal customers to her studio, also required patience born from the lack of resources available to Evans amidst Melbourne’s prolonged pandemic lockdowns. This same lack of resources did little to discourage online consumers from quickly embracing what she had to offer.

“The online business, which is our newly developed line of brow and lash products, was so incredibly labor intensive. When we started I think we did everything wrong, it all began on my dining room table and it grew a lot quicker than I expected,” Evans says, “Every day I would check the computer for online orders and my poor unsuspecting son and I would lay everything out on the dining table, write up post bags, pack and wrap orders.”

“Since returning to the studio I have outsourced the online store distribution.”

The lessons Evans has been able to learn since launching her business into the e-commerce stratosphere are lessons she believes other small business owners could learn from, as well as something to which she attributes the survival of her own business through the challenges of the pandemic.

“The online store has been the absolute reason for the survival of my business during and following the lockdowns of the pandemic,” she offers, “What I’ve learnt most through this experience is that e-commerce can take a local business and turn it national, or even international, with the click of a button. The online store has added significant value to my business and, to survive in retail, you have to have an online presence.”

Now, with the seeming end of pandemic lockdowns and the retail industry’s emergence from the restrictions, Evans is being faced with new challenges – including tempering her own excitement at how her business might continue to grow in the months and years ahead.

“In general, my aim is to develop the brand even further and continue to service our incredible clients in the studio. The challenge now is being back in the studio, working with clients, managing everything studio-based while also innovating and creating new products to broaden and grow the Lux by Kim Evans product range. It’s all a balancing act,” Evans says, “The online component has given me a whole new direction I can take the business in and it feels like there’s no limit to how much we can grow and do. It’s a really exciting time.”

“At the moment we’re looking to continue to drive sales and get our range in the hands of more consumers so they can have the Lux Brows & Lashes experience in their own home. We’re in chats with some larger retailers both e-commerce and brick & mortar about potentially becoming stockists of the range which would be truly incredible. Stay tuned!”

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