From Bricks ‘n Mortar to Online Store Success (& More From Dx3 2014)

Ben Burmaster & crew

Ben Burmaster & crew

Today we’ve got two interviews about new online store happenings, from the recent Dx3 conference in Toronto. The first is with Ben Burmaster, who has grown SnuggleBugz from a bricks and mortar retail store to one of Canada’s top online retail successes. The second is with Doug Stephens, aka the Retail Prophet.

How Snuggle Bugz Became “Canada’s Baby Store”

Like many small retailers, when baby store Snuggle Bugz first dipped its toe into the online world, it was too tentative to have much success. It wasn’t until Ben Burmaster sold another of his businesses and had some time to spare that he decided to really devote himself to building a serious online store presence for the company.

Key Online Success Factors

1. Dedicate Serious Resources

Sure it’s possible to start an online shop these days with almost no money, but it is hard to become really successful that way. You can’t just treat the web store as though it were another sales clerk; it is more like a whole new store.

2. Build A Community

Right from the start of their online venture they realized that building on the strong community of moms was going to be key. Facebook has been especially successful for Snuggle Bugz. They have nearly 30,000 Likes, and active community engagement.

3. Offer Free Shipping

Yes, it hurts your bottom line on the first order, but Ben feels it is worth it if you consider the lifetime value of a customer. Their online store has a minimum order size of $40 for free shipping, and they have now grown their online sales to the point where they can justify building a western Canadian distribution centre to lower shipping costs and speed up deliveries.

What’s Changed in Retail This Past Year?

Real-world and online store guru, Doug Stephens, Retail Prophet

Doug Stephens, Retail Prophet

I love talking with Retail Prophet, Doug Stephens. (If you missed my last interview with Doug, check it out here.) He’s gently but steadily pushing retail executives into the modern era.

There’s a common refrain these past few years: bricks and mortar store sales are flat but online store sales are increasing 12 – 15% a year. As he said, “it’s becoming clear to everyone that if you don’t figure out this multi-channel thing, you’re toast.”  

The digital world is changing retail stores offline too. There are a growing number of tools that are making it possible for physical stores to analyze and tweak the effectiveness of in-store promotions almost in real time, instead of waiting for month-end reports.

The hardest part, for many retailers, is just coping with the huge number of technologies and options coming on stream: they can be paralyzed by indecision. Ultimately, when evaluating technology options, you really have to think through how they will help you deliver on your brand promise. It’s not about what you sell, it’s about how you sell it. So “the answer to the question, what is the right technology is not a technology question, it’s a branding question,” says Doug.

My favourite quote of the interview: Too many retail executives “still think that stores are just big repositories for products … Like a catalogue without the nice photography.”

What’s your business struggling with?

If you are like a lot of companies, you may still be struggling with just the idea of starting an online store! If that’s you, check out the other episodes and resources on this website. And let me know what you want to learn more about so I can cover it in upcoming episodes.

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