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Online Trading | They took their first steps during the crisis

Businesses from all walks of life reflect on their first e-commerce experience

Posted October 12, 2020 at 7:00 am

Isabelle Dubé
La Presse

The owner of Cousin-Cousine, in Saint-Hyacinthe, did not want to invest a large sum in a website, let alone a transaction site. When the time came for lockdown and the ax fell, she turned to Facebook.

"I had already created a Facebook page, even though I didn't see its use," admits Stéphanie Blanchette. Her children's clothing store has been in existence for 50 years and "in Saint-Hyacinthe it is an institution."

Initially the page served as a showcase for the various collections and the owner answered only a few messages a day. Once the store closed, customers rushed to the social network. The young owner then turned into a virtual salesperson during the day and a home delivery person at night.

"I spoke to about 50 customers a day," she says. I advised them on sizes, models, some asked me for example, show me what you have as pants in size 8 and I sent pictures. "

PHOTO MARCO CAMPANOZZI, LA PRESSE

Stéphanie Blanchette (right)

This is personal service. We don't click, I buy this, it's over, we pack and ship it. By direct with To communicate with the customer, by asking questions, we ensure that no goods are returned.

Stéphanie Blanchette, owner of Cousin-Cousine

Because for an independent store, the returns are expensive, the entrepreneur explains. cites as an example a sweater that sold for $ 40 and on which she made a profit of $ 20. If it subtracts the shipping costs, the return costs, the labor time to sell it, package it and ship it, there is nothing left to pay for the rent.

A transactional website would require hiring a full-time employee to photograph the clothing and update store inventory in real time based on in-store sales, owner says.

PHOTO MARCO CAM PANOZZI, LA PRESSE

Stéphanie Blanchette has no plans to have a transaction site anytime soon and prefers to interact with customers.

"I have many brands, but only one per size from 0 months to 16 years old. I can receive over 20,000 different songs in a season. Imagine the task," she says.

Stéphanie Blanchette has no plans to have a transaction site anytime soon, especially as she worked alone 12 hours a day during incarceration and saw her sales keep up.

"What I like about my job is interacting with customers. I believe there is still room for small shops with personal service, ”she concludes.

Test and determination

PHOTO EDOUARD PLANTE-FRÉCHETTE, LA PRESSE

Émilie Prud’Hon, Executive Director of Collection-Souvenir

Collection-Souvenir sells products intended to commemorate the life of the deceased to funeral directors. The Quebec-based company, which made a name for itself with funeral bookmarks, used its website as a showcase and catalog. “We sell directly to companies and we still receive faxes,” explains Émilie Prud’Hon, General Manager. During the first incarceration, which banned funeral ceremonies, sales of its products fell 50% in April and 70% in May. Afraid of losing her corporate customers by selling her current products online, she reinvented herself with a new funeral accessories site for animals: empreinte-souvenir.com. "We wanted to test, it didn't get off the ground, we had zero transactions. However, there is no withdrawal. An employee is following a one-year training course specializing in social media." We know it will work & # 39; she said. We just need to find a way to promote our site and the major products that will reach people. "

Long hours

PHOTO HUGO-SÉBASTIEN AUBERT, LA PRESSE

Akovi Gunn, owner of Couleur d & # 39; Afrique

Couleur d & # 39; Afrique, distributor of natural cosmetics and superfoods at TAU ​​and Avril, benefited from the pandemic to create a transactional website: akovigunn.com. All imported products are now available online. “I took a free course offered by the City of Montreal,” says owner Akovi Gunn. It took a long time to take pictures of each product and recreate them if they weren't perfect. I often worked 12 hours a day. Currently, Mr Gunn, who operated the Couleur d & # 39; Afrique store on Mont-Royal Avenue from 2005 to 2012 before becoming a distributor, cannot estimate the profitability of the adventure. “That's a plus for now, as in-store sales (TAU and April) have declined and I can reach customers as far as the United States. I know you have to bet on the site, but I only have 24 hours a day ”, he concludes with humor.

"We have to adapt, we have no choice"

PHOTO ALAIN ROBERGE, LA PRESSE

Karine Paiement, Nutritionist and Co-founder of Endorphine Sports Nutrition

Prior to March, the Endorphine Sports Nutrition website was primarily used to promote the company's services and to share recipes and articles. During the lockdown, nutritionists decided to create an eight-week online course "Plant Food for Athletes", which was very successful. The virtual consultation service, which attracted little interest, has literally exploded. Clients now come from all regions and no longer require evening appointments. "Because there are fewer fixed costs associated with the consultation rooms, it is more profitable for the company," notes nutritionist and co-founder Karine Paiement. In terms of online training, with all the time invested in mastering technology, it is not profitable. But we have to see it in the medium and long term, she continues. The awareness of the training courses brings clients for private consultation. I think it is my business [aider]. Either way, you have to adapt, you have no choice. "

Written by Rahis

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