In Finland, as many as 93% of enterprises are small, i.e. enterprises with fewer than 10 employees. As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve lost more of these companies than patients. The pandemic is not over yet and bankruptcy still threatens many companies. If it’s not altogether too late, an international online store may help. Those who have survived the pandemic the best have been those small businesses that already have a well-functioning online store with appropriate marketing channels.
Few small businesses had much need for an online store before the coronavirus pandemic. One of these was jewellery designer Carina Blomqvist, who decided to renew her website and set up a new online store in autumn 2020. Blomqvist received the Goldsmith of the Year award in 2012 and her elaborate jewellery is sold in several jewellery stores. She also designs jewellery for others. The jewellery brand bearing her name needed a new online store that would serve international customers, too.
Planning an online store
Setting up an online store is technically easy but success requires work. The work becomes much easier when the fundamentals, such as the selection of the platform, multilingualism features, logistics and customer acquisition, i.e. marketing, are well planned.
As her skills lie in more creative directions, Carina Blomqvist left the technical matters to a digital agency. The new WordPress website was implemented with e-commerce features – in practice, this meant choosing WooCommerce, the world’s most popular e-commerce platform. A factor speaking in favour of WordPress was the fact that it is easy to add different plugins and more demanding solutions to the popular platform at a later stage as well as to find professional support. Carina purchased the website on a turnkey basis and participated in the development mainly by describing to the developer what she needs. Translations were added to the website through the integration between the WPML plugin and Delingua’s translation system.
Out into the world – but where exactly?
At the planning stage, you should pinpoint the areas where there is the greatest demand for your products. Instead of doing this on the basis of gut feelings and guesswork, you can, for instance, find out what products people searched for in each market, what keywords are used and what is the competition. Decide the languages to be chosen for the online store only after you know the target market. Language really makes a difference in some parts of the world.
Carina Blomqvist had no particular market in mind. Therefore, the website and the online store were translated only into English, which is, after all, the most widely used language on the Internet. “Using English makes it possible for speakers of foreign languages that visit the website to access the information about my jewellery and me as a designer. Shopping on a website only available in Finnish could also be difficult,” Carina Blomqvist says.
Significance of your story and sustainability
In the context of e-commerce, the significance of content and the power of storytelling must not under any circumstances be underestimated. It is a fact that people don’t buy products but the stories behind them. If anyone has great stories to tell, it’s small entrepreneurs. Highlight your own story and brand boldly in your online store.
Finnishness is often associated with high quality, sustainability and closeness to nature, which are part of the story. These features should be highlighted in a variety of ways. On Carina Blomqvist’s website, the designer’s introduction, the portfolio of her best-known jewellery, ambience videos (with English subtitles) and Instagram pictures from the world of the jewellery play a more important role than individual product details.
How can customers find your online store?
The same truth applies to both international and domestic e-commerce: You can’t do business if people can’t find your online store. For customer acquisition, you have to know what and to whom to sell so that you can choose the correct marketing channels.
In addition to being professionally localised in the right language, the website must be marketed. Unfortunately, search engine optimisation alone is not enough as competition is very fierce, especially in English. This makes it even more important to create an appealing brand image and target marketing to the right target group.
Like many other designers, Carina Blomqvist’s main marketing channel is Instagram. With appropriate, localised hashtags, potential foreign customers will also find Carina’s jewellery on Instagram. However, Carina admits that the online store should be marketed even more. “That’s an area where I still have a lot to learn.”