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There is no doubt that capital is queen and is number one on the list of what women need to support their businesses. But with investment in women-led businesses declining, it’s more important than ever to look beyond capital and address other needs.
We are all well aware that there has been a surge in online shopping, which has been accelerated by the pandemic. The world has learned to be very comfortable buying everything from household items to fashion from various online stores. On the other hand, companies of all sizes have been forced to set up their own online store to reach their customers. Added to this is the fact that many women have been leaving the traditional workforce in the last two years and starting their own businesses with a digital footprint.
Considering this environment and my mission to support women entrepreneurs, I wanted to understand what women-led companies need besides capital. So I asked over 6,500 businesses two questions: what impact does online sales have on their revenues, and what do they need most to be successful? Here’s what they told me:
- Within the next 12-24 months 60% of their sales will be conducted online. This is not surprising, because the pandemic has shown us all how to master the art of shopping online. But they also learned that not all shopping sites are created equal. Building a trusted online brand takes time and money. The experience of setting up your own website and seeing sales immediately is the exception, not the rule. And joining one of the major online retail channels is costly and time consuming. A comprehensive plan with a budget and resources dedicated to online sales or e-commerce is critical to building an online business.
- 86% of respondents said they prefer live instructor-led sessions over the thousands of hours of instructional videos available online. These business leaders want to ask questions. They want real-time answers that apply to their specific businesses and that they can act on immediately, not generalities that might be helpful if the terms were exactly right. A lot of basic online selling information is available for free – some of it is very good. However, the information it finds may or may not be case-specific, and finding relevant, detailed information will likely take hours of searching and watching videos. The expert’s asking specific questions and getting immediate answers streamlines this process and enables her to develop her online sales faster and more effectively.
- 80% are interested in joining a cohort of female business owners to learn. There is strength in numbers. The women enjoy and learn from each other. Our research shows that they prefer to learn with a community of women who have similar experiences.
- 78% of these women are business owners they research digital marketing information and identify the best online sales channels. We heard the news that online marketing, cutting through the hype and understanding where and how to promote your brand and find your target customers is of the utmost importance. The social media advertising landscape is changing rapidly and there are so many places to spend your precious marketing money. They need a way to create a plan that will get results.
- 85% of surveyed women reported not using strategic tools to support their business. Think about CRM (Hubspot, Monday Sales, Pipedrive), accounting (Quickbooks, Freshbooks, Oracle NetSuite) and marketing (Hootsuite, Planoly, Klaviyo). There are free or low-cost versions of these products available, but these business leaders have little or no time to research them and determine which is right for them. Having the resources and community of other female business owners in a similar situation to share their experiences and provide feedback would enable these business owners to shorten their decision making process and move forward with the right tools to help them grow.
An equal number of female business owners told us they needed insight and information on choosing the right online sales channel. Above 90% of respondents declared that they had their own website. Many launched a standalone online store, believing that a subscription to web services for just $20 a month would enable a hassle-free and fast stream of revenue. Or that joining one of the big online channels (e.g. Amazon, Etsy, Poshmark) with millions of customers and a recognizable brand would lead to immediate branch reach and immediate sales.
As a female business owner, all of this resonates with me. I am also hungry for capital to run my business. But like the women who answered my survey, the resources I need to grow go beyond money. As we change and scale our business to meet customer demands in a complex, online, direct-to-consumer business environment, we too are looking for a community, practical advice on channel marketing and sales, and a seasoned expert to ask those specific questions about our particular business. We were lucky to find them.