Betting big on e-commerce: This young entrepreneur is seeing rapid growth
Before the health crisis that hit the country in March, less than a third of Be-U Cosmétiques’ sales were online. But founder and CEO Savannah Tardif was already planning on changing things.
Her young company founded in 2018, in Montreal, manufactures and sells skin care products. With a strategy based on a personalized offer, she launched her second website in summer 2019. While the first site only sold the company’s body products, the new website allowed her to offer a broader range of products, notably adding facial care products.
“When the pandemic hit, it helped that we already had an online presence,” Tardif says. “We didn’t need to rush to set up a website. We already had a strategy.”
This investment has proven very profitable for Ms. Tardif. Online sales increased her turnover tenfold in the months following the beginning of the pandemic and show no signs of slowing down.
Increasing sales tenfold using the Web
Customers who visit the new Be-U Cosmétiques site are invited to answer questions about their skin. Is it dry? Sensitive? Radiant? Are the pores enlarged? The idea, explains Tardif, is to recommend the right product and the right care routine to the right person. “We see ourselves as an online cosmetician,” she says. “We want to offer advice online that customers would receive in-store.”
This strategy already made sense before the pandemic, when online sales seemed to be the way of the future, but in the face of the crisis, it has proven crucial. “At one point, our in store sales dropped to almost zero,” explains Tardif.
Online sales have helped the company gain momentum despite this slowdown in in-store sales. At the beginning of fall, after lockdown had been in place for several months, Be-U Cosmétiques’ online sales represented 80% of the company’s turnover. The company was also planning to use e-commerce to increase its sales elsewhere in the country.
This is representative of how e-commerce was a driver of growth for many Canadian entrepreneurs during the coronavirus pandemic. SMEs that earned at least half of their revenues from online sales before the pandemic were almost twice as likely to see their sales increase during the crisis, according to a BDC study published in 2020.
Growing so quickly brings its own challenges. How did Be-U Cosmétiques and its founder do so well?
For one thing, Tardif decided to double-down on digital marketing.
She has taken a three-pronged approach. The first component? Advertising campaigns on Facebook. She analyzes statistics for each campaign, such as cost per purchase, to determine which approach is most cost-effective.
“We do a lot of tests,” says Tardif. “This is what generates a large part of our sales. During the pandemic, we increased our spending as we saw our sales increase, which then increased our sales even more. It was truly a virtuous cycle.”
The second component is collaborating with influencers. In July, for example, Be-U Cosmétiques worked with an influencer who talked about their products for six weeks.
The third component is email marketing. “Once a month, we send out a discount coupon,” says Tardif. “It allows us to generate a lot of sales, and that’s the best return on investment because the email platform costs almost nothing to manage.”
To ensure growth, the company also had to find new suppliers, since its inventory was insufficient to meet demand. This was doubly challenging because delivery times were three to four times longer than usual.
“People wanted to order online, so we were transparent and made it clear from the start that our turnaround times would be longer,” says Tardif. In response to long wait times, the company would sometimes give buyers free products to protect the customer relationship and ensure that they would buy again.
A bright future thanks to the Web
There could be a second wave of the pandemic. But Be-U Cosmétiques remains ready to serve its market. Building on its success, the company is now aiming to launch another marketing campaign in the fall with four or five influencers. Part of a loan the company obtained from BDC will be used for this purpose. The remainder will be used to stockpile for a second wave and to prepare for a third website redesign.
“Online sales are the future,” according to Tardif. “So, we will continue to invest in them.”