StoreFour: Continuous Enhancement


Launching an online store requires a great deal of planning and attention to detail. From selecting the theme, to designing the logo. What will be the static content? How about navigation, payment processing, shipping rules, taxes, and a lot more.

Then once that’s been taken care of, comes one of the most important decisions to make at this point of store building: What exactly are we selling here? Is this going to be a general merchandise or a niche-oriented online experience? Who are the customers, and why would they buy from us?

Down the line from that is product strategy: What products should this store showcase and for how much?

As you move from one stage to the next you realize new understandings and, of course, learn new things.

The final ‘product’ just before the launch will never be perfect, and you know it. But does that mean you keep improving while delaying the launch? No! Continuous enhancement must hold a permanent place-holder on your project plan, just as sales and marketing. Failing to do so means choosing to fail in this fiercely competitive landscape.

Since the launch back in May, StoreFour has gone through several reviews, the last being just very recently. The depth and breadth of each review vary, but they all keep asking some essential questions:

  • In exchange for revenue, what value does this store offer?
  • Do current products serve that value?
  • Is there a clear line of sight between the products and the vision/mission of the business?
  • Are customers satisfied? How can we measure that, then improve it?
  • What products to keep, modify and/or delete?
  • What products to add?
  • Are marketing and sales efforts fruitful so far, and if not, why? How can they be enhanced?
  • What are the short and long-term objectives of this store?
  • Are the store’s design, look and feel expressive of its message and brand?
  • Is it easy to navigate and find information?

As you you can see, the questions do not follow a specific order. In these reviews, you capture questions as they arise, randomly. I like to use a large poster and a bunch of colored markers to write down whatever comes to mind. Then gradually move to a mind-map, before finally creating an action plan on a digital tool.

Casually writing down thoughts, questions and ideas allows something interesting to emerge: Clarity!

While just before you’d started your mind was processing everything simultaneously, and rapidly, now it can observe patterns and priorities, reasons and results. It’s much easier now to find answers and chart a new course, or adjust an existing one.

During the last review, which concluded around mid October, I realized that we need to have more focus on our brand, which means redefining or resharpening the concept behind that brand.

While the message has been to ‘Be, Love, Create and Live’, the products didn’t clearly trace back to it. The four dimensions sit on the titles of four product collections. However, when reviewing individual products, it wasn’t very obvious how each one would serve that message.

We finally came to an interesting conclusion: Let’s not try to find ‘Love’, or ‘Create’ products per say, but rather look a bit deeper and ask: Can a ring, for example, help the customer promote love in her or his life? How about a wallet or a bag? does any have a link to ‘Live’ or ‘Create’? And isn’t ‘Be’ a common thread underlying all others?

Of course, another concern is: What is the market pulse for any product we offer? On the one hand, we definitely want to provide true, authentic value. Yet on the other, the business must meet its financial objectives in order to continue serving that value and progressing to even higher levels of success.

From that understanding, and to bring more focus to the product offering, we decided to keep the main theme, but rename the collections: Rings, Bags, Wallets and Digital.

With few specs about what products to choose for every collection, including high-quality, trendiness, and usefulness, we did an extensive research and decided to have only nine products under each collection. This is a major shift from 30 or so products, some didn’t clearly reflect the theme. Now when a customer clicks ‘Rings’, she or he will only see rings under that collection. The same applies to Wallets, Bags, and Digital.

It’s logical and natural after feeling that comfortable with the content of your store to turn to marketing with a renewed will and a fresh determination.

On that, StoreFour now has its Twitter and Pinterest storefronts up and running, with new content and interaction on a daily basis. Facebook already showcases StoreFour, and all are ready from another round of ad campaigns.

We are very pleased to share these exciting developments with our readers, and as always, happy to hear your questions and comments.

Till the next post, be open to new, enriching ideas!

The Wealth Maker

© Image Credit: StoreFour, https://storefour.ca All Rights Reserved

The Wealth Algorithm (8) – Funding


 

We covered step one of your tasks in the previous article, which was creating a business plan. The post didn’t write the plan for you. It rather gave you the fundamental building blocks of that activity. The rest is yours to do, following those guidelines. If there was interest to give a full example of a business plan, I’d do that, but I’d need to receive such quires from the readers. You could easily post a comment under any article of this series.

Today I’ll continue to step two: Finding your business partner.

Few articles ago, we excluded friends and family, for obvious reasons, as well as banks. So what’s left? Had this question been raised thirty or more years ago, the answer would have been: None!

However, nowadays, investors and entrepreneurs have almost untapped sources of online funding. With the proliferation of social networking, an era of business financing has been emerging.

Your first stop would be your social networks: Facebook, Twitter or Linked-In. The last is more professional-oriented. If you happened to be a member of Linked-In and have good and trusted connections, you might want to start there. Look for someone with a background in business management, investing, financing, etc. On the other hand, this person is honest and trustworthy. How would you know that? The simplest way would be to visit their profile and see what kind of connections they have. You could do more research and “investigation” till you feel satisfied.

The next stop would be to explore the following new resources of online funding. I’m presenting the three most popular here, but you could find more.

One example is referred to as “Crowd-Funding (CF)”.  Another is “Internet-Assisted angel investing (IAAI). A third is “Accelerator Programs (AP)”

Those are online resources, originally inspired (and to some extent created) by social networking. They are interested in funding new, and potentially profitable, ventures, against some guarantees from the investor.

Below are the definitions of the first two, as given by Wikipedia.org:

(1) “Crowd funding or crowdfunding (alternately crowd financingequity crowdfundingsocial funding or hyper funding) describes the collective effort of individuals who network and pool their resources, usually via the Internet, to support efforts initiated by other people or organizations.[1] Crowd funding is used in support of a wide variety of activities, including disaster reliefcitizen journalism, support of artists by fans, political campaigns, startup companyfunding,[2] movie[3] or free software development, and scientific research.[4]

Crowd funding can also refer to the funding of a company by selling small amounts of equity to many investors. This form of crowd funding has recently received attention from policymakers in the United States with direct mention in theJOBS Act; legislation that allows for a wider pool of small investors with fewer restrictions. The Act was signed into law by President Obama on April 5, 2012. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has been given approximately 270 days to set forth specific rules and guidelines that enact this legislation, while also ensuring the protection of investors.[5]

(2) “An angel investor or angel (also known as a business angel or informal investor) is an affluent individual who provides capital for a business start-up, usually in exchange for convertible debt or ownership equity. A small but increasing number of angel investors organize themselves into angel groups or angel networks to share research and pool their investment capital.”

The following website is one of the pioneers in the area of AP: http://globalacceleratornetwork.com. Click on ” about” to get the following definition:

[Note: The definition below is the property of  http://globalacceleratornetwork.com. The author is not promoting or supporting any part of the definition. It’s given here as an example of this kind of online funding. There are other potential options that are worth looking at during your research].

(3) “The Global Accelerator Network consists of independently owned and operated organizations that utilize a mentorship-based startup accelerator model. It provides networking opportunities, training, special perks, and ongoing support for members of the network.

Championed by TechStars, the Global Accelerator Network was created in 2010 under the management of top accelerator programs and alongside the White House’s Startup America Initiative. In the spirit of supporting more entrepreneurs around the world, the Network’s mission is to ensure that 5,000 successful and experienced entrepreneurs and investors will mentor and support 6,000 promising young entrepreneurs. The goal is to increase their success rate tenfold and create 25,000 new jobs by 2015 as well as a sustained engine for growing these figures over time.

Our vision for the Global Accelerator Network is to empower entrepreneurs and accelerators, resulting in an increase in the pace of innovation and the ability for more communities to cultivate entrepreneurial success. We believe the proliferation of this model is very positive for entrepreneurs, investors, and start-up ecosystems. By bringing programs together to create and share best practices, resources and knowledge, we can increase the success of member programs and improve entrepreneurial ecosystems across the globe.

The Global Accelerator Network is a proud supporter and partner of The Startup America Initiative, the White House’s program to celebrate, inspire, and accelerate high-growth entrepreneurship.”

–End of definitions—

The above are only definitions, although they offer a good amount of details to start from. You need to research each one enough to see the full picture, then decide on the one that’s best for you and your selected venture.

Please post your questions and comments below.

All the best,

The Wealth Maker