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There is no question that capital is queen, and it is number one on the list of what women need to support their businesses. But with investment in women-owned businesses declining, it is more important than ever to look beyond the capital and dive into other needs.
We are all very aware that there has been explosive growth in online shopping that was accelerated by the pandemic. The world has learned to be very comfortable purchasing everything from household goods to high fashion from various online stores. The flip side is that businesses of all sizes have been driven to set up their own online shop to reach their customers. This is coupled with many women leaving the traditional workforce during the last two years and having started their own businesses with a digital footprint.
Given this environment and my mission to support women entrepreneurs, I wanted to understand what women-owned businesses needed beyond capital. So, I asked over 6500 of these businesses two questions: what impact does selling online have on their revenue, and what did they need most to succeed? This is what they told me:
- Within the next 12-24 months, 60% of their sales will be through online channels. This is not surprising, as the pandemic showed us all how to perfect the art of online shopping. But they also have learned that all shopping sites are not created equally. Creating a trusted online brand takes time and money. The experience of starting your own website and immediately seeing sales 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 ecommerce is critical to building an online business.
- 86% of respondents said they would prefer live, instructor-led sessions over the thousands of hours of “how to” videos available on the web. These business leaders want to ask questions. They want real-time answers that address their specific businesses and that they can act on immediately, rather than generalities that could be helpful if the conditions were exactly right. Plenty of basic information about online selling is available for free — some of it is very good. But the information she finds may or may not be relevant to a specific instance, and it likely will take hours of searching and watching videos to find applicable, detailed information. Having an expert ask specific questions and get immediate answers streamlines the process and enables her to more quickly and efficiently grow her online sales.
- 80% are interested in joining a cohort of women business owners to learn. There is strength in numbers. Women enjoy and learn from one another. And our research shows that they prefer to learn with a community of women who are having a similar experience.
- 78% of these women business owners are looking for information on digital marketing and determining the best online sales channel(s). We heard the message that online marketing, cutting through the noise and understanding where and how to promote your brand and find your target customers are of utmost concern. The landscape of advertising on social media is changing quickly, and there are so many places to spend precious marketing dollars. They need a way to create a plan that will deliver results.
- 85% of women surveyed reported not leveraging strategic tools to support their business. Think 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 search them out and determine which is right for them. Having a resource and a community of other women business owners in a similar situation who could share their experiences and provide feedback would enable these business owners to short-cut the decision-making process and move forward with the right tools to help them grow.
An equal number of women business owners told us they needed insight and information on selecting the right online sales channel. Over 90% surveyed reported that they have their own website. Many have launched their standalone online store, believing subscribing to website services for just $20 per month would enable a seamless and quick revenue stream. Or that joining one of the large online channels (think Amazon, Etsy, Poshmark) with millions of customers and brand recognition would lead to instant branch reach and immediate sales.
As a female business owner, all of this resonates with me. I, too, am hungry for capital to run my business. But like the women who answered my survey, the resources I need to grow to go beyond money. As we are pivoting and scaling our business to meet customer demands in the complex, online, direct-to-consumer business environment, we too are looking for community, practical advice on marketing and channel sales and an experienced expert to ask those specific questions about our particular business. We have been fortunate enough to find them.