We are so excited to share that we have been selected to move onto stage 2 of the Canada Post E-Commerce Innovation Awards for Best Online Startup. If we are lucky enough to advance as a finalist we will be notified in early August, fingers crossed!
Here is our complete submission for stage 2 of the application process.
What was your business strategy and value proposition when you first opened for business? How has it evolved over time?
When we first started putting the pieces together that would assemble what is now Artemex we knew the key to our success was being able to source our products directly from the makers. As a small start up business in a global marketplace it was crucial that we were able to connect with talented artisans who could produce quality items and pay them a direct but fair price. We knew that these relationships would allow us to offer beautiful products at competitive prices to our end customers. We also focussed on presenting our company and product lines in an open and honest manner. We wanted our customers to know where each piece came from and who’s hands made it. What we didn’t anticipate was the profoundly deep connection this concept made with our customers. We learned that our followers were more inclined to make a purchase and truly feel satisfied with their items the more they knew about the history, production methods and artists. Perhaps the most important result of this is that we started growing a faithful community of regular customers who began sharing the word about our company and our business really started to grow. This has motivated us to put an even larger emphasis on the story behind our collections. Over the course of the last year we started taking live video footage and photos when we were sourcing inventory in Mexico. Our customers were essentially joining us on our shopping trips and we saw that they absolutely loved it. They started requesting certain items and we started listening. This knowledge was invaluable to us as it provided us direct customer feedback. We now take custom order requests, gather opinions through social media and have a much more open mind as to what items to stock next.
As an online-only or multi-channel business, what challenges did your business face?
Since the beginning and still to this day we are faced with the challenge of managing a large volume of inventory of entirely handcrafted products. No two items we offer are ever the same and putting a system in place that could account for each individual product and keep us organized at the same time was easier said than done. Over the course of the last year we have built an efficient inventory management system. During its development we had to keep in mind that our products would constantly change, and our system needed to be designed to evolve right alongside our inventory. Today with multiple sales channels in operation this system is more important than ever as it assists us in promoting, pricing and presenting products in different manners for each distinct channel.
Another challenge we have faced is learning how to effectively and accurately present our products to our digital customers. Since all our pieces are handmade there are natural inconsistencies and imperfections that occur. We now know how crucial it is to educate our customers as to what exactly they are purchasing. Like any business customer service is a huge priority for us and we strive to have every transaction end in complete satisfaction. It quickly became clear that utter transparency in regards to photos and written descriptions was a must. We invested in professional photography equipment and with no previous experience we educated ourselves as to how to use it to showcase each piece better online. We are proud of the advances we have made with our product presentation and our sales growth since these changes were implemented have validated its importance and motivated us to continue to improve.
As you gained momentum in an unchartered market, how were you able to generate revenue, establish a customer base, and implement an operational process specific to your market, product or service?
Once we put our products out there into the digital marketplace and started to receive positive feedback as well as higher validation in the form of sales, we realized we had to continually adapt our offerings to the everchanging online market. Online sales is a never-ending dance, one whose steps and rhythms change on a daily basis. We had to learn how to operate in these different marketplaces and do so quickly if we wanted to achieve any type of success. We extensively studied each digital platform that we joined and quickly learnt from our struggles and triumphs. We analyzed each transaction, each lost sale, each customer review and looked for ways we could improve. If we didn’t know the answer, we found it and rapidly implemented changes. Prices needed to be adjusted, different currencies explored, demographic data collected, marketing campaigns created and we did it. This information is our most prized company asset, without it we would never have been able to gain momentum is what was at the time an unchartered market for us.
The increase in sales naturally grew our customer base but we wanted more than that, we wanted to create a community of followers who were genuinely interested in our company, our story and products. We shared our journey as to how Artemex came to be and we continue to present ourselves in a humble and personal way. People really connect to this, they feel like they know us and this creates a better relationship between us and our customers. We have many people who follow us, they have never made a purchase but they are interested in us. They will likely tell a friend or family member about us at some point and that will come back full circle to us in the end.
Describe how you defined your brand and generated product awareness in order to stand out from other new market entrants?
We knew we were going to be offering hundreds of different products on a revolving basis so we wanted to create a brand that was consistent across all our collections. We highlighted the fact that all our offerings are ethically sourced, directly from our partner artisans and entirely handcrafted. This helped us gain loyalty and respect from our customer base and assured them that regardless of which items they purchased they could feel good about it from a sustainable and ethical perspective.
In order to generate product awareness we explored a variety of marketing strategies both in the form of print media and digital campaigns. We presented our products in a creative and modern manner with visually appealing photos and catchy copy. Once we had the customer’s attention we redirected them to our website, social media accounts and retail storefront where they could really conceptualize what our company was all about. We were then able to share more detailed information about the makers behind our products, our relationships with them and the creation process. This continues to resonate with people today and is a huge contributing factor to our success over the last year. There are other competing businesses out there offering similar products to us but we feel we have gone above and beyond to come out on top. We have a sound SEO strategy, super competitive prices, direct relationships and we are attacking all digital marketplaces without hesitation. We may not be #1 in each sales platform right now but we are actively participating in a multitude of them and are determined to be the top performer in each with time.