May 11, 2020


The marketing sector experienced a massive shift in 2020. World events forced it into a change and since then, it has been adapting and evolving on a daily basis.

To discuss these changes and how you can adapt your business around them, I sat down with Jason Beauregard for the first episode of his new podcast.

In this guide, I want to go over some of the things that we discussed, highlighting the points that I made, and going into more depth on the most critical issues.

If you’re only just getting started with e-commerce, looking to move your business online, or need to make a change because of COVID-19, take a look at these tips.

1. Wait And Prepare

Some businesses have flourished during COVID-19, others are struggling.

I’ve spoken with business owners who operate food and beverage companies and have seen a massive increase in sales.

Consumers are worried about depleted shelves and are desperately stockpiling essential items.

I also know of health food companies that have seen a sharp rise in sales, partly because some people are using this time to get fit and healthy, but also because they believe certain foods and drinks can fight Coronavirus.

The biggest issue for these businesses is managing resources. There may be supply chain issues or staff may be working from home. In such cases, it can be difficult to meet the demand, but at least the demand is there.

Having a lot of customers can be a problem, but it’s a good problem.

On the flip side, there are companies that are reliant on face-to-face interactions and purchases.

In Jason’s podcast, I used hair saloons as an example. Many of these locations have closed, while others have been forced to make costly changes, such as reducing operating hours, installing screens, and buying protective equipment.

In either case, it’s important to keep the business alive as this is one of the industries that will flourish when the lockdown ends. In fact, we’re already seeing the beginning of that.

There will be more customers and a greater need for services, and this will continue for the foreseeable future.

People will leave their self-imposed lockdowns at different times, and then you have to consider that sporadic lockdowns could be a fact of life well into 2021.

One of the ways that hairdressers and other service providers can prepare is by offering gift cards at reduced prices.

Your customers are desperate to tidy their hair and will be searching for tutorials, tips, and solutions. Targeting them through Google and Facebook will be very cheap, and because they are so desperate, they’ll buy.

Offer them a $50 gift card that gives them $55 worth of services and or products. It will help to keep your business alive during these difficult times. It may feel like you’re throwing money away, but as many as 6% of gift cards are never used.

They are forgotten about, lost, or just no longer viable. People buy impulsively and then change their minds. You might lose $5 per redemption, but all the customers who don’t redeem will offset most of those costs.

Upselling is also important. Sticking with the hairdressing theme, you can sell products that the customers use at home. If you already have them on your shelves and in your stockroom, put them in your virtual store.

Hair saloons are just one example, but it’s an example that proves that any business can be taken online.

2. Be The Expert They Need

If someone needs a new computer and is quite knowledgeable on the subject, they will research which one to buy, run some comparisons, find the cheapest store, and complete their purchase.

It may take hours; it may take days. I know someone who ponders for weeks every time they buy a new phone or laptop.

But they are the exception. The majority of consumers are not that clued-up about every product that they buy, nor do they have time to commit to hours of research.

As a retailer, your job is to provide them with all the information they need in a succinct and easily digestible format.

E-commerce can feel like a cold and emotionless environment as there is no face-to-face interaction, but it doesn’t need to be that way.

Provide advice and recommendations; give them the information they need to make the right purchase.

What is this product, why is it better than the other one, what are its benefits, is it right for them?

All of this advice should be available in your online store, and this is true even if you’re selling a relatively well-known product. Don’t assume your customers will know what they are buying or that they’ll do their research elsewhere.

Give them everything they need on the product page so that when their questions have been answered, they can commit to a purchase.

If we compare e-commerce to the traditional retail environment, you’re essentially trying to mimic the friendly neighborhood store, as opposed to the cold, clinical, and emotionless megastore.

And don’t assume that your product is unique and can’t be accurately described. Consumers always have questions and there’s always something you can say.

In my discussion with Jason, I used wine as an example. I related a story of Gary Vaynerchuk, who began his career discussing wine, and telling customers how unique the flavors were and what the wine could be paired with.

He wasn’t simply throwing names, vineyards, and prices at them and hoping they would buy, he was giving them detailed information to remove uncertainty and tempt them into a purchase.

3. Create Selling Videos; Not Branded Videos

How many times have you watched a TV commercial, been enthralled by the images on the screen, and then asked yourself, “What was all that about?” when it finishes?

The video might look cool and it certainly serves a purpose, but when you’re highlighting a product and its features, it won’t suffice.

Product videos can expand on the content idea outlined above, showing your customers what the product does and how it can be used. However, you need to focus on substance and not style; practically and not aesthetics.

To return to the hair saloon example, you might be tempted to copy one of the big shampoo commercials, showing a beautiful model with long and flowing hair. Play some sensual music over the top, throw a fan in there, add some bright sunlight and a big smiling face, and you have the stereotypical shampoo commercial.

But how is that going to help your customer?

Instead, show the product being used, highlight its ingredients and its benefits, and show a before and after to emphasize its effects.

4. Don’t Fear The Unknown

I have helped many companies to transition into the e-commerce space. It seems crazy to suggest that an established offline brand could have avoided e-commerce for so long, but it’s true, and there are millions of companies in this position.

More often than not, they’ve delayed the inevitable because a friend (or a friend of a friend) told them about a bad experience and scared them away.

“I know a guy who moved his business online and then lost everything overnight. Spent a fortune, blew it all. Now he lives in his truck.”

Perhaps that’s an extreme example, but it’s usually how these stories go.

Firstly, most of these stories are exaggerated and for the ones that are true, you don’t know the real story. Maybe that company moved online because it couldn’t sell offline, in which case failure was inevitable. Maybe it invested in a bad PR company, made silly mistakes, or expected the impossible.

I know of older business owners who moved online, did nothing to promote themselves, and then complained when things didn’t work out.

The truth is, moving into the e-commerce space is cheap, quick, and easy. It doesn’t cost you anything to sign up for Facebook and Instagram. Spotify is available for less than $30 a month and WooCommerce is free.

You might need writers and developers, but if you have a small business, you can do most of the work yourself.

Get a Shopify account, watch a few online tutorials to learn the basics, pay a writer and/or designer to create some basic content, and go live.

You can promote your business to family, friends, and existing customers for free, and when you feel like you’re ready, you can move onto Google Ads and Facebook Ads, keeping a tight rein on your budget so you don’t spend more than you can afford.

Quite frankly, if your “friend” did all of that and still managed to lose everything, maybe the internet is not the problem.

5. Don’t Blindly Follow Advice

YouTube videos are a great source of information when you’re just getting started.

As noted above, you can find extensive tutorials on setting up a Shopify account that will guide you through every step of the process, covering even the most basic and seemingly insignificant things.

You can also learn from business and e-commerce veterans like myself, Neil Patel, and Brittany Krystle.

However, it can be a bit of a minefield, and if you blindly follow advice, you could be left with empty pockets and a failing business.

For example, many entrepreneurs have made a killing using Facebook and Instagram Ads and are quick to recommend that others invest in these platforms.

But just because it works for them, doesn’t mean it will work for you.

It all depends on your industry, product, and platform know-how. If none of those things work for you, Facebook Advertising can be a money pit.

I personally know of entrepreneurs who have achieved a massive ROI using Facebook Ads and have spoken with many people who built their business on the back of Instagram Ads.

At the same time, however, I can think of at least two relatively experienced entrepreneurs who spent thousands of dollars on these platforms and received only triple-digit income in return.

As tempting as their screenshots look, you don’t have the context. You don’t know what they did. You also have no way of knowing if what they are saying is actually true, and not simply a trick using Photoshop or Inspect Element.

In the video, I used the comparison of someone who has just bought a Fitbit and is transitioning from a couch potato lifestyle. They might have the same goals as a super-fit marathon running. They also have two legs, two arms, and a pair of lungs. But that doesn’t mean they can start running marathons and competing at the highest level.

Walk before you run; ease yourself into it.

6. Monitor And Track Everything

One of the first things you should do when launching your e-commerce site is install analytics, including Google Analytics and Facebook Pixel. Both are free of charge and allow you to track consumers when they enter your virtual store.

You can see which pages they visit, how long they spend on your site, and how they get there.

This data is useful in several ways.

Firstly, you can think of it as your virtual CCTV network. It tracks people when they enter your store, follows them to the point of purchase, and then watches as they leave, showing you in which direction they are headed.

Secondly, it boosts your point-of-sale data, giving you essential information about the purchase and ROI. For instance, did that customer enter your site through a paid advert and, if so, was the price of their purchase enough to cover the cost of the advert?

Finally, this information can tell you how prospective customers are responding to your marketing.

One of the biggest challenges that business owners facing is putting data before ego. They create slick videos that they pour their creativity into, and they become so invested that they refuse to accept the truth when those videos fail.

Data doesn’t lie. It doesn’t matter what you think about the video and whether it’s your best work. It definitely doesn’t matter if it should work and no one cares if it’s not fair that it doesn’t.

What matters is whether or not it actually works. If not, you need to stop throwing money at it and pivot your marketing strategy.

7. Owning The Consumer Relationship

Although it feels like e-commerce creates a disconnect between your company and your customers, it actually strengthens this connection.

Old-school e-commerce critics like to argue that there’s no personality online, there’s no way of understanding the customer and their needs. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

You have as much of a connection as the local Mom & Pop store owner who knows all of their customers by name and understands what they buy and when they buy it.

By using the analytical tools outlined above, and combining them with data from your storefront and email marketing campaigns, you can paint a complete picture of every customer, including:

  • Name and location
  • Contact details
  • Buying habits and subscriptions
  • Browsing habits
  • Favorite device and/or platform
  • Preferred shopping times and days
  • Likelihood of opening emails
  • Willingness to use coupons and promo codes

Of course, all of this only relates to your site, but you can benefit from the knowledge obtained from other sites.

When you use Google Ads, you’re benefiting from the extensive knowledge base that Google has on all of its users and can even sync your analytics with your ads to bring these together. With Facebook, you’re tapping into the years of user-data that this social network has accumulated.

Using your customer data, you can understand exactly what your ideal demographic is.

Where do they live; how old are they; are they male, female, young, old? With this data, you can target specific groups of people on Facebook or focus on certain keywords and demographics on Google.

Of course, you don’t get to greet all of your customers with a smile and a friendly nod. You don’t get to ask about their spouse/children/pets and chat about the weather. But you’re here to make money, not friends, and when it comes to owning the consumer relationship, e-commerce is king.

Conclusion: Live With Beau.Regard

I was honored to be asked onto Jason’s show. He is someone I respect greatly and someone I am happy to call a friend. Over the years, I have featured on several other podcasts like this and, as regular viewers and readers will know, I also have my own This Week with Sabir podcast.

For more information on the essentials of e-commerce, take a look at my Manifestor Mindset interview with former Shark Tank investor Matt Higgins. You may also benefit from watching my interview with Paul Butler, the co-author of Think to Win, and one of the world’s most foremost experts on strategic thinking.

A couple of months after this podcast was filmed, I invited Jason onto my own show, which you can see here: Creatives to Boost ROI and Brand Recognition.

About Jason Beauregard

LIVE with BEAU.REGARD premiered on May 11, 2020, and I was the first guest on @Jason Beauregard‘s Live Stream. The episode titled EVERYTHING E-COMM. We covered all topics on how small businesses not only survive but THRIVE through eCommerce in the COVID-19 (coronavirus) era. Give it a listen and share with all the small business owners you know in your life. Lots of great strategies shared in this 60-minute live show.

Versatile and exceptionally dedicated, Jason offers skills in brand messaging, video production, and strategic planning. Over the course of 12 years, Jason’s teams have delivered innovative branded content and programming for high-profile companies and channels.  Colleagues know me as a personable and engaging leader, one who builds consensus on critical initiatives.

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