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Investing in Product Innovation Online
When Organic Island were beginning to launch their innovative, export focused product in 2007, they focused on two exclusive areas. Three years later, Organic Island now exports to over twelve countries.
Three years later, Organic Island now exports to over twelve countries, with its biggest markets being in the Netherlands, Canada, Korea and Fiji, has been featured in dozens of International media publications, blogs and online beauty forums – all via its online strategy and website. Organic Island have achieved this with an international marketing budget of roughly $30,000 in three years. It's a neat, clean, simple and organic way for many Australian small businesses to enter foreign markets using the great local services and commercial advantages we enjoy here, enabling us to compete with far more entrenched competitors with higher budgets.
What was Organic Island’s format and what was the journey to achieve a well-regarded level of e-commerce success and brand recognition with a low cost model and managing risk? Here's what Organic Island did.
The two Directors spent a year developing a product which offered product exclusivity and strong export appeal with a direct investment in packaging innovation. This represented the most efficient way to access International retail “shelf space” without the very deep pockets required for marketing endorsements or huge spend in SEO like the majors.
Our focus was on attracting well regarded and credible bloggers in their target countries by sending carefully prepared sample packs - the result was an instant credible reference and back-link to our e-commerce site which we had set up with a mixture of Brisbane based IT companies and individuals specialising in SEO & online retailing. The combination of a very unique, Australian marketed, and Organic product (representing a 25% industry growth at the time) was a hit.
“What we did notice is that the momentum snowballed from there, we had bloggers, beauty writers and cosmetic/fashion reviewers contacting us for information – which just further lead to more interest, and further retailers/customers Internationally”
The recent focus on Australian consumers seeking product purchases offshore leveraging on the higher Australian dollar has been interesting, because we see this as a pure form of great competition and the consumer getting better choice – both in price and offering.
Those businesses that have invested in excellent service systems, online customer support, innovation or what is now a key aspect – "Free Shipping" are now reaping the rewards! Those who have neglected to bring the real staff to customer experience to their online offering would be finding it difficult because then you're just competing on price. And, we are all seeing what impact that is having on SME business in Australia.
The recent attention on Australian consumers looking offshore for retail bargains has been highlighted by the Major Retailers inferring to an import tax, or further duties on personal items, however, we just see this as straight out protectionism. This is pure market based economics, Australian small to medium business need further encouragement to invest in offering, service and doing things like 'language translation', multiple currency conversion, and have Australian banks realise this is a crucial aspect in developing their customer’s needs . Right now they are catching up in terms of servicing North American and European businesses in seamless transactions and customer credit card security. For these reasons we have partnered strongly with Paypal as it gives a great deal of confidence. Additionally, we see our strategy as one where we see an open market place on a global level. Our site has a very complex "back-end" working to our benefit in every region worldwide. This "back-end" displays region specific targeted key messages, currencies and rates to optimise a region's purchasing preference (for example the Euro currency) and specific shipping rates depending on region of purchase.
"Currently, Its about realising our currency presents some challenges, but rapidly addressing them and sacrificing some margin to ensure sales continue in that region prior to launching our new product range in 2012 is paramount", says Mark Power, Director of Organic Island. To suggest duties on Australian customers is just 'giving up' in our opinion. Right now there is only one constant in e-commerce - and that is rapid change, both with the technology on offer and the market with such large dips in consumer confidence and spending. "Consistency and differentiation online is a rapid way for online retailing success on the web" said Jillian Moore, Organic Island BDM. We are confident our model and investment in exciting products, clever SEO referencing via product packaging and outstanding service reduces our risk and gives us achievable long term targets, which in our case, are ambitious in a very competitive space. So far - it's worked well.