A smart way to downturn-proof your company is by launching an omnichannel business strategy, which means running an e-commerce store and a brick-and-mortar shop.
In this episode of the E-commerce Revolution Podcast, husband and wife Ramin Ramhormozi and Jenny Romeyn (owner of the upscale children's boutique Cupcake Couture, Inc.) discuss how her online store helped her brand weather recent economic downturns and what kind of marketing techniques she uses to promote her e-commerce store.
For 17 years, Jenny has owned two brick-and-mortar locations in California and an online store. Cupcake Couture, Inc. has been named the best children's clothing store and best baby gift store year after year for Santa Rosa and, most recently, for the location in Napa.
- Omnichannel Business Tips from a Mom Entrepreneur
- The Best Shopify App for E-commerce Inventory
- Completing Payroll & HR as an E-commerce Business Owner
- SMS Marketing & Email Marketing Strategies that Work
- Managing Social Selling in an E-commerce Business
- Social Selling as Part of a Digital Marketing Strategy
- A Seamless Omnichannel Customer Experience with Shopify POS
- The Best Tech to Run an Omnichannel Business Remotely
- Juggling Omnichannel Retail as a Mom Entrepreneur
You can watch the full podcast on our YouTube channel, listen in on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Audible, Amazon Music, iHeartRadio (or wherever else you listen to your favorite podcasts), or jump into the heart of the e-commerce discussion below.
Juggling Omnichannel Retail as a Mom Entrepreneur
Ramin: So tell me about this balancing act. You're a mom of three kids, two of which are twins. What does your day look like?
Jenny: So, we wake up in the morning. My son has still not risen most mornings. I get the kids ready, get them off to school, and then quickly jump into the day. Usually, we're sitting across from each other at the kitchen table with our coffee and our laptops. I go through, check emails and figure out what's on the agenda for the day. Check the schedules.
I try to block off days for the stores versus other days or specific times for personal stuff, making phone calls about bills, or answering personal emails. And then I try to block off other times for sort of the real estate. So for me, rather than jumping back and forth all day long, it's easier for me to keep myself a little more organized if I focus on one track at a time. So, that happens until school picks up, I get the kids, and then, you know, usually post three o'clock, it's a lot of running around sports, dance, soccer, all of that. Not myself. Of course. I'm not dancing.
I feel like technology is amazing in that it allows us to work from anywhere, but it's a little bit of a curse because it allows us to work from anywhere. So, the kids will sometimes say, you know, oh, mom. You're always on your phone. And I try to only allow myself to be on the phone doing work stuff during general working hours, but that doesn't always happen. It spills over. They see me always on the phone, but I say, if I weren't here on the phone with you, I would be away at an office, or away at the stores, or wherever that may be.
I think it's great because it allows me to be here and be with them physically. But I think that we're not always as present as they would probably choose for us to be. And so that, for me, I think is probably the hardest balance.
Ramin: They probably think you're playing video games all the time.
Jenny: They wish that I was playing video games all the time because I would be way cooler in their eyes.
The Best Tech to Run an Omnichannel Business Remotely
Ramin: You're here in Austin, Texas, and your businesses are in Northern California. How does that work?
Jenny: Well, it looks much different from when we lived in California. So, you know, when we first decided to try out Austin, that was a big component: whether or not the business could be run from afar.
One of the interesting things that happened during COVID was that it forced us to figure out how to do things remotely. So things were put in place in my business that wasn't necessarily in place before we were suddenly offering virtual shopping. And I was trying to do Facebook lives and do various things that wouldn't cause me to have to be physically at the stores because we were in California.
We were shut down for two and a half months. It felt like forever. It could have been two years that we were shut down because that's what it felt like. So it didn't seem like it would necessarily be that much of a stretch to try to do it from Austin instead of doing it from home in Sonoma County. I think, for the most part, it's going fairly well. Again, thank goodness for technology.
Ramin: Well, speaking of technology, what do you use?
Jenny: So every Monday morning, I have a meeting with my managers via Zoom or FaceTime, and they're able to take me all around the store so I can see the stores and see what needs to be remerchandised, see what needs to be moved around. If they have questions about anything, coming from an interior design background, merchandising is one of my biggest passions.
Not being there hands-on, able to touch and feel and move displays around has been challenging on a personal passion level. I need them to be like my arms. Like I have to be able to say, I can reach through and move stuff. So I have to say, move the pink dress, and then they grab the wrong one, and I'm like, no, no, no, not that pink dress.
It takes a little bit of that, but for the most part, they get what I'm looking for. I would say that the video conferencing aspect would be the thing that has saved me the most from being able to physically see my stores. I think it would be really difficult.
A Seamless Omnichannel Customer Experience with Shopify POS
Ramin: What about the online store? When did you launch that, and what platform do you operate that on?
Jenny: So it has been operated on a few different platforms, but currently, we are on Shopify.
Ramin: And the physical stores run on Shopify, too, right? They utilize Shopify POS, correct?
Jenny: Correct. We are now on Shopify. We were with QuickBooks point of sale for years and years and years, and it was such a great point of sale that I was hesitant to move away from it. But I needed something for online. So I had various online stores. We tried various platforms, but the sync was never quite there.
We would try to upload and download every night to sync up inventory. But if something sold right now and walked out the door, and then an hour from now, an order came in for that same product. It hadn't been updated because it wasn't updated until after closing. So it was never ideal.
So moving to one platform and one system has alleviated 1,001 headaches. The inventory is saved from the retail store to the online and between the two retail stores. So you can make a purchase in one store, you can return to the other store, and you can make a purchase online.
You can go in and return physically in either store. And the amazing thing about Shopify is that they have a bazillion apps that you can plugin. There was a period of time towards the end of lockdown when we were allowed to open back up, but we couldn't let customers into the store.
So we were able to continue to sell online, and then customers were able to choose curbside pickup. I did not have that before, but I was able to, I was able to add that.
You're my private e-commerce consultant, so every time we come to you and say, hey, I'd like to add this functionality or, hey, we're having this challenge, you always say there's an app for that. And if there's not, let me know, and I'll build it.
Social Selling as Part of a Digital Marketing Strategy
Ramin: Tell me about social. How do you leverage social media from a sales channel perspective?
Jenny: Well, we're on Instagram, we're on Facebook, and then most recently Tik Tok. Social's great because it allows us to easily reach out to all of our followers.
We can make a quick video panning new arrivals, and then within minutes, we have customers asking us what size you have that in. Can you hold that in a certain size for me? What other colors do you have, and how much is it? So social is great. Some days I would call it a necessary evil because it's a lot. It's a lot to keep up with, but it is a quick, effective, low-cost way to stay in touch with our best customers.
Ramin: Looking at the omnichannel experience, do you offer the same products? Do you sell everything through social media?
Jenny: We do not have 100% of our products online, and sometimes that's a conscientious decision, but often it is not. I would specifically choose not to put something online if I know that it's going to sell out so quickly that we can't reorder it.
So if it's going to sell out quickly, I don't bother putting it online. Also, photography takes a lot of time. So probably 75% of our vendors offer product photos, and we are quicker to put those things online first because we have the photography available to us. If we do not have photography available, we do have a mini set-up at our stores to take pictures and get them up, but it is very time-consuming. So often, it'll just sell out before we even get to that.
Ramin: Wow. Yeah, that's a; I mean, that's a huge effort, right? To get photography and great that some of your vendors, you know, supply that to you. But you know, somebody asked me the other day, they were getting into the process of launching a store, and they said, how, what is what part of this process is going to take me the longest?
And I said, the products, you know, getting the products up in there, and then it's going to be an ongoing thing. So you have to be ready to manage that process, create a system, right? Create a, you know, whatever that is, reaching out to your vendors and always making sure you get good photography or photographing yourself.
Our products are seasonal, so they're limited. If we had a toy store with 50 skews and we carried the same 50 things that we could just constantly reorder and constantly fill, it would be one worth it to spend time getting those 50 items online because they would have a much longer online shelf life.
But a lot of our items are seasonal. So we get in a size run of a dress for spring, but once we sell through all those sizes, that's it.
That dress is gone, and it's never coming back. So, you know, you have to sort of weigh the time and effort. Where's the ROI there? Do you want to spend the time getting it up? If you know, it's just going to sell out quickly.
Managing Social Selling in an E-commerce Business
Ramin: Do you have somebody in one of the stores dedicated to working on those channels?
Jenny: I do some of it. I have a virtual assistant who helps create all the products and then get a lot of products online. She's actually in South Africa, and I use her through Upwork.
That's one of the other services I use a lot that I think is very helpful.
My staff rotates. There's some turnover in staff. And so I generally ask the girls, who is active on Tik TOK and loves it and enjoys it? I like them to enjoy their job. So whoever expresses an interest and a passion for it, that's generally who I let work on that particular area.
Ramin: What do you use for social management? Do you use a third-party tool, or do you and your team log into the different social channels to work on things?
Jenny: So we use the app Later. I like Later because it enables me to schedule as much as I want. I usually try to sit down towards the beginning of the month, plan out the month, and get enough photos and captions and whatnot on there for posts and stories. We do stories sporadically and spontaneously whenever a new product comes in.
We're coming up on Easter now, so I've been posting some stories like Easter basket items and suggestions for Easter baskets, and we're highlighting all of our Easter outfits right now.
And so some of that can be pre-planned at the beginning of the month, but then a lot of the rest of it is filled in spontaneously.
SMS Marketing & Email Marketing Strategies that Work
Ramin: What about email and SMS? Do you utilize those within the business, and how have they worked for you?
Jenny: We just moved to Klayvio, and we have SKU Agency taking care of our Klaviyo email marketing, and it's been great. We have flows set up. For those who don't know what flows are, it's a series of emails that, once this happens, then this next thing happens.
For instance, we have a welcome series. If you sign up for our newsletter for the first time, whether that be in-store at checkout or on our website, you get that first welcome email. And then a couple of days later, you'll get another, the second email in the flow, which will be introducing the store, introducing our brands, and a little about us as a company. Then the third email talks about me a little bit.
And within that, we also then do campaigns for specific events. Whether we're having a sale or we want to highlight new arrivals or other events that we're having at the store. We'll say we have a silhouette artist at the store cutting hand silhouettes today and tomorrow. So we send out campaigns for that.
We just tried SMS for the first time, and I think it went pretty well. We had quite a good-sized list to use, but it hasn't been used in a while because these customers had all opted in with their phone numbers as part of an old rewards program that we used to have that was driven by phone number.
We have since switched to a new rewards program; we use Smile, an app that can be found in the Shopify store; therefore, it's plugged into everything. So we sent a campaign out to that group of people, giving them the option to stay within that SMS list or opt out, and I think we have like three opt-outs. It was pretty good. So we haven't explored that too much beyond that warm list, but I'm excited to send out campaign information going forward.
Completing Payroll & HR as an E-commerce Business Owner
Ramin: What do you use for payroll and HR-related matters?
Jenny: We use Deputy for the staff time clocks. They're able to walk into the store and clock in on their phones. They can clock in on our iPads at the front counter when they take their breaks. They clock out for the break and check back in for the breaks.
They can send vacation requests, and then all of those timesheets get approved and paid on payroll day and transferred to Gusto, who we use as our payroll company. And with just a couple of clicks of the button, I can process payroll, and it's all directly deposited into their accounts.
So that's great because, you know, back in the day, I was doing physical paychecks, which would have been very complicated to do remotely. So that's been great and another easy remote task to take.
The other interesting aspect of not being there physically is going to market. I go to market in LA and do a show in San Francisco, and that was easy because I just hopped in the car. I usually stayed one night in a hotel, but I hopped in the car, and it was close and easy.
But even flying from San Francisco to LA can be a pretty quick trip. Somehow it feels like more effort to hop on the plane from Austin. I think I've gone once since we moved here. Market just came and went, and I did not go in person.
This is the first time in 18 years, aside from COVID, that I did not go in person. But again, with Zoom, I was able to do all the buying via Zoom. And at this point, I think that I know my lines well enough - I know the fabrics, I know the construction, I know the design - that if I'm not touching it and seeing it in person, it's okay.
But I do miss going to market and physically touching it as well. And I like to hang it up exactly how I want it merchandised in the store.
So I make sure that all of the outfits coordinate, and I take a picture that gets uploaded to Dropbox. And as the shipments come in, my staff can pull up the pictures and Dropbox and see exactly how I want that particular collection merchandised and displayed.
Another thing is the color items were supposed to come in. Sometimes I have a blue dress in the picture, and the girls are sitting there holding a green dress, and they're like, Hmm, what happened here? So then they can call the vendor or the rep and say, Hey, I'm pretty sure we ordered a blue dress.
But this market, since it was via Zoom and I didn't have the robotic arm to reach through the camera, I had to have my reps move everything around for me. And you know, they're fine. I mean, I've known them for so long. I love my reps. I've worked with them forever.
So they're sitting there doing it all for me. The girls are going to merchandise it exactly how it is here. So, you know, it's important.
The Best Shopify App for E-commerce Inventory
Ramin: How do you manage inventory? What tools do you use? Is it all done within Shopify? Do you use any external tools?
Jenny: Shopify has an app called Stocky. So now it is all within Shopify. We can create all of our purchase orders through Stocky. We can do our inventory counts through Stocky. We can receive our purchase orders. We do all of our transfers because we do sometimes transfer products.
If you walk into our Santa Rosa store and you want something in a size that we don't have, the first thing my staff does is check to see if the Napa store has it. And if they do, then they'll stick it on a transfer. So that the next week when transfers are done, it will come to the store.
And then sometimes, it's the craziest thing, but the same exact product will be sitting in Santa Rosa. Nobody's buying it. And for whatever reason, it is flown out the door in Napa, and they're completely sold out. So, we look at a lot of sales reports to compare if something's doing well in one store and not in the other. We'll, stick that on a transfer as well and get it over to the other store so that we can turn it over more quickly and more efficiently.
One Final Omnichannel Business Tip from a Mom Entrepreneur
Ramin: So you've been running the business for a long time, and you've shared a lot of phenomenal pieces of information on how you run it. If you were standing in front of an entrepreneurial class, what one tip would you give them that would help them kick their business into high gear?
Jenny: If I had to choose just one, I would say: don't put too much pressure on yourself to reinvent the wheel. So many people have done whatever it is you're trying to do. Whatever challenge you're having, whatever processes you're trying to come up with and put in place, whatever you're trying to get started, somebody else, multiple somebody else's, has already done it.
So I would say, find those resources and reach out to those people. There are retailer Facebook groups. There are generally local retail groups. You can go to meetups. You can ask maybe one of your retailer neighbors.
Maybe the shop next door has been owned by somebody running it for 17 years who might have some advice. I still Google stuff all the time. There's still stuff I'm trying to figure out. There are podcasts to watch. There are blogs to read.
I mean, there are just so much, you know, and I've had over the years, I've had. I've had a couple of different people reach out to me who were specifically opening children's retail stores that, you know, they very, you know, very sweetly said, you know, Hey, I know you've been doing this for a long time. I'm just getting started.
A lot of times, we get nervous about asking others for help because we're afraid that they're either going to say no or that they're going to think we're bothering them, or they're going to somehow view us as competition.
Generally speaking, people are happy to help, maybe even eager to help. I know that you and I both have a mentor spirit, and we enjoy mentoring others and helping others.
Reach out, introduce yourself, and ask if they have a few minutes, so you're not intruding on their time. And, if given
permission, ask whatever it is you need to ask because it can be hard starting your own business, and it can be lonely if you're not doing it with a partner.
It can be kind of isolating and lonely. I would say, don't try to do it all yourself.
In conclusion, Shopify Omnichannel Commerce, when harnessed effectively, can be a game-changer for retailers looking to stay ahead of the competition. By dividing your retail presence between e-commerce and physical stores, you unlock opportunities to engage customers and drive sales.
Throughout this blog, we have learned from the expertise of Jenny Romeyn, a leading authority in the field. We have explored the seamless integration across multiple sales channels that Shopify offers, empowering businesses to streamline operations and maximize customer satisfaction.
Jenny has provided invaluable insights into the future of retail, emphasizing the importance of embracing an omnichannel approach. By leveraging the power of Shopify Omnichannel Commerce, businesses can elevate their brand, increase sales, and create a truly immersive customer experience.
Talk to the E-Commerce Experts
If you enjoyed this blog, check out the full episode or watch interviews with more e-commerce entrepreneurs on our YouTube channel. You can also listen to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Audible, Amazon Music, iHeartRadio (or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts).
You can follow Jenny and Cupcake Couture on Instagram at @Shop_Cucake and @JennyRomeyn, or email Jenny at email@example.com.
And if you're ready to see how your e-commerce revenue can soar with targeted email and SMS marketing, get in touch with us at SKU Agency. Because running a successful e-commerce business is a tough gig, and you don't have to go.