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There is no doubt that capital is queen and number one on the list of what women need to support their businesses. But with investments in women-owned businesses in decline, it is more important than ever to look beyond the capital and delve into other needs.
We are all very aware that there has been explosive growth in online shopping which has been accelerated by the pandemic. The world has grown to be very comfortable shopping for everything from homewares to high fashion at various online stores. The flip side is that businesses of all sizes have been driven to create their own online store to reach their customers. This is in addition to the fact that many women have left the traditional workforce in the past couple of years and 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 two questions of over 6,500 of these businesses: what impact is selling online having on their revenue, and what do they need most to succeed? Here is what they told me:
- In the next 12 to 24 months, 60% of their sales will be through online channels. It’s no surprise, because the pandemic has shown us all how to perfect the art of shopping online. But they also learned that not all merchant sites are created equal. Building a trusted online brand takes time and money. Experience start your own website and seeing sales immediately is the exception, not the rule. And joining one of the major online retail channels is expensive and time-consuming. A comprehensive plan with a dedicated budget and resources for online sales or e-commerce is essential to building an online business.
- 86% of respondents said they would prefer live, instructor-led sessions to 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 business and can act on it immediately, rather than generalities that might be useful if the conditions were right. A lot of basic information about selling online is available for free – some of it is very good. But the information it finds may or may not be relevant to a specific case, and it will likely 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 allows them to grow their online sales faster and more efficiently.
- 80% are interested to join a cohort of female business owners to learn. There is strength in numbers. Women have fun and learn from each other. And our research shows that they prefer to learn with a community of women who are going through a similar experience.
Related: Women’s voices improve business
- 78% of these female entrepreneurs are looking for information about digital marketing and determine the best online sales channel(s). We’ve 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 importance. The social media advertising landscape is changing rapidly, and there are plenty of places to spend valuable marketing dollars. They need a way to create a plan that will produce results.
- 85% of women surveyed said they don’t leverage 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, but these business owners have little to no time to research them and figure out what’s 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 allow these business owners to shorten the 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 knowledge and information to choose the right online sales channel. On 90% of respondents said they have their own website. Many launched their standalone online store, thinking that subscribing to website services for just $20 a month would provide a seamless and quick revenue stream. Or that joining one of the big 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 entrepreneur, all of this resonates with me. I too am hungry for capital to run my business. But like the women who responded to my survey, the resources I need to grow go beyond money. As we shape and grow our business to meet customer demands in the complex, online, direct-to-consumer business environment, we are also looking for a community, hands-on guidance on channel marketing and sales, and an experienced expert to ask these specific questions about our particular business. We were lucky to find them.