What’s Harder: Climbing Everest or Selling Online?

Tema Takes LiveOUtThere advice

OK, so it’s not Mt. Everest! But I was still “Live Out There”!

Jamie Clarke, co-founder of Calgary-based LiveOutThere.com, is an optimist. Only an optimist would create a career of being a “Professional Adventurer”, and, some would argue, only optimists throw themselves head first into selling online in Canada.

Canada: A Land of eCommerce Opportunity

Fortunately, Canada is a land of optimists! And Canada is a land of e-commerce opportunities! Jamie noted in today’s podcast interview that 70% of Canadians want to buy online but only 17% of Canadian companies offer a viable e-commerce option.

I recently interviewed Jamie and his VP of Marketing, Dave Nagy, about how they expanded from one successful store to a booming e-commerce operation, instead of opening more store branches.

If you’ve been thinking of selling online in Canada, get going now!

  • The market is still so under-developed that you’ll have very few competitors.
  • You’ll have time to make some mistakes and learn from them before your competitors.
  • You can establish a dominant position in the marketplace and sell to an audience that is hungry to buy products online.

What Holds You Back?

Dave Nagy & Jamie Clark, of LiveOutThere.com - Selling Online to Canadians

Dave Nagy & Jamie Clark, of LiveOutThere.com

Why aren’t more companies selling online to Canadians? Here are some of the reasons I’ve heard from you, and how LiveOutThere.com has handled them.

Not sure how to start

If you’ve already got a store, try what they did: put the products you’ve got in the store on the site.

With software like Shopify it’s easy to get started. (Check out my interview with Shopify co-founder, Harley Finkelstein, and for an example of a company using it well, listen to this interview with Canadian Icons founder, Aron Slipacoff).

It may not be an ideal way to get started, but it works OK at the beginning, and costs you little to start learning what online customers want.

Next, they got data feeds from suppliers, which let them show much more product on the website than they actually had in stock. Again, it’s not ideal, because sometimes the supplier’s feeds were wrong (i.e. a product ordered might be out of stock) and it would take a bit longer to get the shipment to the customer. But again, Canadians are so under-served that we’ll put up with a lot, especially from a new online store.

What if it Just Cannibalizes Business From Our Stores?

It won’t. If anything, it is likely to grow your in-store traffic. LiveOutThere found that having an online presence made more Calgarians aware of the store, so it brought in new foot traffic as well as adding online sales.

And, as Canadian Pet Connection discovered, people who were store customers but have moved away can still buy from you if you sell online.

How Can We Hire People Who Know About eCommerce?

Most important, as with a bricks & mortar operation, hire people whose values and vision align with yours. You’ll be able to attract great people if you have a strong vision that they can relate to. At LiveOutThere, it is very clear:

“We have a mission to inspire Canadians to go and play in this great playground that we call Canada”

That vision (and, I suspect, Jamie’s charm) was enough to convince Dave Nagy to work for months with no pay, even though he had plenty of well-paid job options available to him.

How Do We Avoid Customer Service Problems?

One of my first bosses told me “about 2% of the people will find away around your rules, no matter how careful you are, so design for the other 98%“. (Some day, remind me to tell you my Zoo Crew campaign story on that topic!)

Jamie and Dave have a similar view. “We make rules in our company for the customers; not for the people who break rules.”

Get Selling Online Now!

What would make it easier for you to sell online? What are the biggest hurdles you face? Please comment below (or send me an email  (tema(at)frankonlinemarketing.com) if you are too shy to comment publicly!)

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