The ‘number one thing’ side hustlers and new businesses must ‘really think about’

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During an exclusive interview with, she said the digital world has given entrepreneurs, independent brands and smaller retailers an upper-hand on larger companies if they know how to utilise it. “COVID-19 saw 150 million people try online shopping for the first time so habits are changing but it also helped to grow social platforms and make the world smaller,” Ms Mehta said. “The ability for consumers to discover brands in all parts of the world is becoming easier.”

“Consumers today, when they’re going online to discover brands, whether it’s social platforms or somewhere else, they’re looking to connect.

“The number one thing that new merchants and direct to consumer brands need to really think about, and this is the superpower they have over larger retailers, is their story,” Ms Mehta said.

“Authentically tell your story as a brand, the founder’s story, what values do you hold? Talk about and educate on your product. Your storefront is the heart of your business, that’s where you own the narrative and where you can tell your story.

“That is what humans look for, we connect to stories and we connect to brands.

“The founders may not want to share their specific name or their story, but what are they about, what is the brand about? If it’s sustainability tell the story of your product, where you source them from, the farm where the cotton is grown that’s used in your T-shirts,” she commented.

“In 2020 sales grew 27 percent over four trillion around the world shopping online. At Shopify merchants generated $20billion in sales internationally. In the UK over a third of web traffic to British Shopify merchants came from overseas.

“Selling internationally is a huge opportunity for UK merchants but there is a lot of complexity and a lot of intimidation when it comes to selling internationally. Thinking about things like, ‘How do I localise my store in local languages’ ‘How do I localise my store in local currencies’ ‘Who’s the consumer I should be going after’ ‘What’s going to resonate in other countries?'”

Sustainability has seen a sharp increase in popularity during the pandemic, and Ms Mehta put this down to consumers’ free time during lockdown:

“Access to information about products and brands has become easier because the world has become smaller, so consumers demand more of the brands that they support and they expect more transparency. Don’t use things like sustainability as a buzzword unless it’s authenticate to your brand.

“We’ve all been sitting at home for a year and a half, we’ve had the opportunity to be online and educate ourselves on brands and really reflect on the world and that’s just going to continue.”

Alongside this is the growing trend of entrepreneurship, and the rise of these one-man-armies could be spelling trouble for larger retailers.

As Ms Mehta explained, larger companies have a lot of bureaucracy in their decision-making process that smaller businesses can avoid entirely.

“A platform like TikTok, it didn’t even exist like six years ago and now it’s become one of the most important places for commerce to happen and so small businesses and independent retailers can take a hold of these trends. They’ll be able to jump on top of it and understand how it can work for them so much faster than a large retailer or global brand.

“If we take a look at really established brands, they have an opportunity to succeed but they need to ensure that they’re pivoting into this new digital world,” she added, however, this is if they know how to utilise it.

Ms Mehta continued: “I look at it as two categories: resilient retailers, which are the ones that are understanding how the world looks today and are pivoting to create a cultural and digital transformation internally. They’re really thinking about how to integrate their data and build a true omnichannel experience to better understand their customers.

“Then there’s the resistant retailers, they may not be the ones that survive.”

With so much competition over the consumer market, brands have to ensure they are doing all the can to keep ‘on topic’ and up to date with the latest trends, something that the next generation of entrepreneur can do very easily.

“There’s also the digital native brands, the ones that started online by younger people. They can pivot and learn fast, that’s their superpower. They’re small teams but they have agility and speed.

“Up until 12 years ago, the power of brand was in the hands of retailers because you had to go to them to find out about their products and make purchasing decisions. Once (phones) came in our hands, the power shifted to us the consumer. So it’s about always remembering that the consumer is in control and where they are going to be is where we have to meet them.”

This technological uprising comes in favour of younger entrepreneurs who have taken to the digital world very easily and in return the technology has provided them what they need to start a business at a younger age than ever before.

“As we see with Shopify, removing those barriers to being able to start and build and grow a business, we’re seeing younger and younger businesses becoming successful.

“They may not have the business training, or expertise but they’ve got the technology and everything else can learned along the way which is really great.”

Ms Mehta also added some vital advice for new entrepreneurs and business owners: “A couple of other areas I think would be important to focus on is to ensure we’re meeting consumers where they’re at. What I mean by that is ensuring that we’ve provided people with how they want to pay, providing them the convenience that they want. Buying online and picking up curb side or buying in-store and having it shipped home.

“Another thing is to make sure that you’re really consistent with your story and your data and understanding your customer’s journey with you across all of your channels.

“Are they going to Instagram to enjoy the rich, beautiful content you’re putting out there? Are they going to Facebook to find deals and shop? Are they going to your storefront to educate themselves on the complexities of your product?”

New merchants also have a tendency to have a ‘do it all yourself’ mentality, and Ms Mehta explained that this doesn’t have to be the case.

“One of the things I talk to a lot of merchants about is; be great at what you’re good at and then get help for the things that you’re not.

“If you’re intimidated by or don’t understand what it means to operate digitally, there are agencies and partners to support merchants in all the areas they haven’t figured out.

“You can find Shopify experts in the hundreds of thousands that build on top of Shopify who can help with things like SEO and SEM, figuring out your social media strategy. The most important thing to remember is that you don’t need to know it all and you can outsource.”

She said Shopify’s newest development, Shopify Markets, is aimed at entrepreneurs looking to go international without any of the hassle. “Through Shopify Markets we want to take away as much complexity as possible so they can focus on other parts of their business. We’re going to be surfacing actionable insights right in the admin to our merchants about how to make these decisions. We’re going to help them to seamlessly create the international shopfronts and automatically calculate those duties and import fees.

“We’ve removed the friction from all aspects of the business, from building the storefront to shipping. Right within the app the merchants can manage their shipping which then of course allows for easy integration with tracking so customers can get notified when their package is being shipped,” she concluded.

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