The strategies business owners rely on to grow and refine their in-person businesses like casual conversations with shoppers about what they like and dislike and directly observing the products they pick up or pass by have to be approached differently for an online storefront.
The good news is you can still do these tasks if you have the right strategies and tools in place. In this post, Lucky Orange customer Anthony Rosemond shares his advice for how he and his wife successfully made the jump from taking their in-person french pastry business online.
Thanks, Anthony for sharing your words of wisdom.
Moving from brick-and-mortar
I get so many good questions about how we transitioned Pastreez from only in-person sales to building a strong online presence. Sharing these tips here with Lucky Orange is a wonderful opportunity, as it’s a tool that will help you in so many ways.
Find your minimum viable product
Our objective with Pastreez was to answer questions like: “Where to find macarons near me”, or “where do I find crêpes near me?” We wanted to create authentic French pastries that ship fresh to your door, wherever you are in the country.
When my wife and I left everything in France to build Pastreez in the United States, we started to look for opportunities to showcase our products and get feedback. We had no clue what this market would look like for French pastries. So we started a few meetups where we would display and gift free macarons, crêpes, tarts and all kinds of wonderful pastries.
We needed to know what they liked and why. We first noticed some people were interested in gluten-free products (macarons are naturally gluten-free). That was new to us as in France, nobody knows about gluten. Then, we saw that the best-selling pastry would always be macarons, with its image of luxury, unique taste and scarcity.
After working through this amazing customer research, we were only going to focus on macarons at first. This is what leads to my first tip: Don’t try to do everything for everyone. Find a niche market first. If you do it well, you’ll be recognized for this product. It’ll be your ramp to launch more products once you’re settled.
Once you have your MVP, be the best at it. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be different. In our case at Pastreez, we noticed there were no authentic French macarons online. All our competitors were doing an “American twist” to French macarons, so we knew we needed to lean into the French side of things
Since we’re French chefs from Le Cordon Bleu Paris (learn more about us here), we focused on authentic French macarons. It was different and genuine so customers could relate to our vision, especially lovers of France and Paris.
Refine your audience, product and distribution platform
Ok, so you now have your MVP. How do you present your product to the world? Before going online, I always like to advise you to meet your customers physically if possible.
It can be anywhere—pop-up stores, exhibitions, etc. For us, it was farmers' markets. Based in Southern California, we attended Malibu, Newport Beach and Costa Mesa farmers markets for over a year to get in front of the people in our target audience
Our objective was to meet with customers in person, take feedback that we could use online, and hone in on things like which flavors would work best. This way we were able to understand how much they knew about our products and what they look for when buying something like this.
A big win for Pastreez was the feedback we got from a customer in the Costa Mesa farmers market.
He wanted only a specific macaron flavor. While most bakeries online were offering basic variety sets, we developed a custom “Build your own” macarons set, where you can pick your favorite macarons flavors from the menu. We were the first to do so online and it’s performed very well for us.
Choose a robust e-commerce platform
Once you get all that feedback, it’s time to go online. I really advise you to go with Shopify. I know there are a bunch of e-commerce platforms out there. And we tried a few before switching over to Shopify. Here’s why we ultimately went with Shopify.
First of all, Shopify has a great developer community. That means you’ll easily find skilled developers on specialized platforms such as StoreTasker.com, Upwork.com or Freelancer.com.
We also really enjoy the solid app marketplace available through Shopify Take Lucky Orange for example. It allows you to see heatmaps and interact in real-time with customers. This was a key to Pastreez's success. More on that later.
Scaling organically helps you grow and prepare for the long-term
Now that you have an online store, you need to improve your online presence. Getting the word out is the key. If you had pop-up stores or farmers' markets like we did, it’s nice to keep a period where you have both sales channels –online and in-person – because each will nourish the other.
Do so until you don’t really have the time to do both. At this point, it’s up to you. At Pastreez we decided to switch 100% online for a few years, and now we have a brick & mortar store as well in Phelan, California open for pick-ups.
To grow organically online, focus on your niche. Search Engine Optimization is one key, but not the only one. Staying close to your customers and constantly asking for feedback will get you to a product you are proud of.
Once you reach that stage, your product itself will greatly help you scale through word-of-mouth marketing.
Too many times I see online entrepreneurs spending so much energy on paid ads. Facebook ads, Google ads, Instagram you name it. Nothing wrong with paid advertising itself, but it has to be a small percentage of your sales at least to start. Consider a target of 20% of your online sales relying on paid traffic sources.
Instead of trying to get quantity, get quality first. A great starting point is using paid ads to retarget visitors. This means only visitors who came to your site first and left without purchasing will get a reminder through their socials. It’s really powerful and has a lower cost per purchase.
Have the endurance to optimize your online presence continuously
Once your online storefront is running and successfully generating sales, your work still isn’t done. You should constantly look for opportunities to optimize your site so you can continue growing your sales.
This is where Lucky Orange came in for us. The features we use the most are Session Recordings and Dynamic Heatmaps. These help us better understand which features on our website drive the most engagement and which might need some work. Trust me – you would be surprised where people click.
The Session Recordings table allows us to check which pages were visited before purchase. Also, we can see where and when visitors leave the website. This is gold. When you know where your customer leaves or stops scrolling, you can intervene to improve the conversion funnel.
Lucky Orange’s heatmaps were also a great help.
For example, we noticed on our front page at Pastreez.com, that people were constantly clicking on a specific icon. The thing is, that icon wasn’t clickable which leads to a lot of frustration for our visitors, and negatively impacts their journey. So we added a link behind that icon to smooth the customer’s journey.
Also, the heatmap is great to test buttons or features on the product page. When you have an “add to cart” button next to a “buy now” button, there is no way to predict which would win unless you have the heatmap feature.