I project managed the development and launch of a new ecommerce website for Hairhouse Warehouse. I continued to run the daily operations of their online store for the first 4 years from startup.
This was an exciting and challenging opportunity, running a large online store, and here are some of the things I learned from this experience.
Sell Products People Want
Obvious, but harder to do than you may think.
Before price and customer service are even considered, you need an appealing product and a market to sell it to. It is worth researching your target market before considering building your online shopping business. Expect some products to surprise you and others to bomb.
In the case of Hairhouse Warehouse, their product range was already well established in the market place. Hairhouse Warehouse have 145 retail stores and a turnover in excess of $200 million, but how would their online store fit in with the brick and mortar model? What would be required for the online store to be as successful as a Chadstone or a Knox store? How will the franchisees react to an online store and how can they benefit from it?
Some products are better suited for selling in-store only.
The challenges at the coal-face of Hairhouse Warehouse online retail became clear, very quickly.
Product placement and category selection needed to mirror that of each retail store and pricing was required to match in-store. Some in-demand products (or exclusive deals) were offered in-store only. To combat this, we developed a click and collect service for online customers to purchase online and then pick up at their store of choice. Franchisees needed protection from the behemoth that is “online” and rogue online competitors needed to be monitored and thwarted of opportunity.
It was interesting to discover which products were best left for in-store purchase only. Items such as hair extensions and professional hair colour, for example, were often sought in-store because there is a greater need for one-to-one advice from a salon expert. Wet lines such as shampoo and conditioner, or electrical items such as hair straighteners required less in-store advice. We found some types of products sold without much fuss, whereas others required education and informative customer service that only a personable experience could cater for.
Use Professional Product Photos
Online shopping websites require very good photos.
Without great photos to help point out the finer details and features of your products, you may find your sales are slow, your bounce rate is high and the time a customer spends on your website is less than desired. Very good photos can provide at the very least, a higher focus rate which leads to more time spent looking at your products. Handbags, for example, can be shot front on, side on, from inside, from above or over the shoulder of a model. Similarly, if you’re looking to buy a car on the internet, it is not uncommon to see 10 or more photos. Treat this philosophy as a proven non-negotiable with your products.
In the case of Hairhouse Warehouse, the number of photos for each product category differed but the quality was always high. Often a single photo of a global brand of shampoo or conditioner (e.g. L’Oreal) was enough to see the product sell regularly. However, a package deal, such as a GHD hair straightener special which included a few add-on items often required up to 5 photos to accurately depict the ingredients and quantify the price and quality.
These photos were often taken by a professional or at the very least, provided by the supplier who had already taken the professional photography route.
Write Great Content
All websites need well written content.
Accompanying your “very good” photos should be “well written” product copy. A handbag, for example, should include the dimensions and fabric of the bag. Additionally, a description of the product, the price, the delivery details and any specific features of the bag should be clear, informative and accurate.
Google wants your content to shine.
Content is king. Great content puts you in a position of relevance. Google is searching for the most relevant content in your industry and it wants to make you King. It’s up to us as website owners to write about our industry the way we know it. We are the experts and Google is waiting to hear from us.
Become an Educator
You are not just an online seller, you are an online educator too.
Written educational material became an important component of Hairhouse Warehouse’s product descriptions. We often benefited by having a visual demonstration of a product on YouTube or Vimeo. Customers held this product information in high regard. How-to videos were created in abundance and we were a go-to destination for salon education. Education translates to credibility which then translates to sales. Great photos, accurate, relevant content and an accompanying video was ultimately the formula to convert browsing traffic to repeat buying customers.
Research Delivery and Packaging Options
Is your parcel dangerous to send?
In the case of Hairhouse Warehouse, it was pertinent to provide certain advice about a product and in many cases, specific delivery instructions were required as the product was labelled as dangerous. For example, nail polish and permanent hair colour may be labelled as dangerous goods by Australia Post.
Dangerous goods such as nail polish, fragrances and permanent hair colour need to be packed and labelled in a very specific way.
Avoid delivery problems and potential fines by ensuring you follow the proper Australia Post packing procedure.
Coming Up Next
In the following articles I will outline how we approached these other important areas of running an online store.
- Google Analytics
- In-house Graphic Designers
- Daily Operations
- B2B and B2C
- Materials and Presentation
- Third Party Logistics (3PL)