Monthly Archives: September 2016

Ocean Bloom Story That You Need to Know

 

By chance, she got chatting to an elderly lady in the community, who mentioned in her day they would take the children down to the sea and bathe them. This was just the spark of inspiration that Cheryl needed. “I started thinking about it and I collected some seaweed and made a baby seaweed bath for him and his skin started healing,” she says.

She began experimenting by blending the seaweed with oils and created products for family and friends. They were a hit, and someone suggested she should make a business from it.  She subsequently enrolled in a business course with her Local Enterprise Office and began an in-depth study into growing seaweed and its health-giving properties.  It’s been a whirlwind adventure ever since.

 

Launching the Business

Cheryl confides that getting the business up off the ground was one of the bravest things she’s ever done.  She’s bootstrapped it from the beginning, handling everything from product development to filling the containers.  She notes: “To start a business, usually people save up or they have all these processes in place, I didn’t have anything in place. I would lie in bed and feel a bit panicky and think, ‘I’m too old for this’.”  But hearing how her products work made it incredibly rewarding. “I think people coming up to me and telling me that the products have made a difference to their skin is the biggest highlight,” she says. “If I can carry on making a difference to even a few people, that’s the best reward.”

 

The Importance of Good Advice

For anyone interested in starting their own business, Cheryl offers the following advice: “I think it’s important to have a bank who knows you and has a good insight into your business.  You can have a magnificent business plan but if you haven’t got a bank who believes in it, then it won’t work.  I believe going to your local branch, to people who know you, is so important.”

It was the staff at her local branch who first told Cheryl about MyBusinessToolkit, a package offering access to a suite of five leading business tools, from Sage Accounting and Payroll to the bOnline website builder. MyBusinessToolkit is free for 3 months when you open a Start-up Business Current Account before the 31st of Dec 2016.

Having access to MyBusinessToolkit through AIB and in particular Sage has helped Cheryl to keep everything organised. She explains, “Since using Sage in MyBusinessToolkit, I can actually see how much I have in my account and how much I’ve spent on products and that gives me an idea of where my account is at.” The software is also a huge timesaver. “At the moment my time is so taken up with the business and Sage just frees me up.” Knowing that she won’t have to move to new software when the business grows is also a huge plus. “I know that Sage will grow with my business,” she says.  “Some of the other packages can only cope with a small amount of money going through it, but with Sage there’s no limit so I can just carry it with me as I grow.” Being able to pick up the phone and speak to a dedicated customer support person from BCSG is also a huge plus.

 

Skincare for Everyone

Since launching in March 2015, the brand has gone from strength to strength. Within a year, Ocean Bloom was an award winning skincare brand, with their Seaweed Serum Pouches being shortlisted for Natural Beauty Skincare Product of the Year 2015.  Cheryl’s products have since earned a cult following in the beauty industry, with famous names like Triona McCarthy and Rosanna Davidson counting themselves as fans.

Sourcing the very best of everything is important to Cheryl.  As it turns out, her hometown of Castletownbere on the Beara peninsula has some seriously superior seaweed. “We have some of the cleanest waters in the world,” she explains. “They’re classed as Grade A waters, which means they’re crystal clear and there’s no pollution.”

 

Looking to the Future

As for the future, there’s no sign of Ocean Bloom slowing down. Cheryl already has plans for expansion into the UK and European market: “At the end of next year, I want to be in the UK. In five years – Europe. Then world domination!”

Need help getting your business off the ground?

Call into your local branch and find out more about how MyBusinessToolkit can help your business.

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Advantage of ecommerce market

The European B2C eCommerce market will break the €500 billion barrier in turnover this year. While growth is slowing down in major markets such as the UK, Germany and France, there is rapid growth in other countries such as Southern and Eastern Europe. The UK market has a turnover of €157 billion and is ranked number one in Europe, while Ireland is ranked 17th, but experiencing double digit growth.

 

Ireland vs UK eCommerce Landscape

The UK eCommerce market has more than doubled in the last five years, yet only 9.5% of retail goods are purchased online – over 90% are purchased on the high street. Despite this, the eCommerce market is growing fast, as more Europeans are shopping online, and on a more regular basis. The population aged 15+ in the UK is 53.6M and in Ireland it’s 3.6M. Despite this staggering gap the % gap is not as large when looking at our internet users (93% for UK and 82% for Ireland). However when we drill down to those of us who shop online the percentage gap widens again (81% of internet users in the UK shop online and in Ireland it’s 52%).

 

Free shipping is one of the key drivers to encourage consumers to shop online more often. However, many online retailers are still not offering this service. This is especially a challenge for smaller businesses where there are tight margins and the average selling price can be small. It makes it harder for them to absorb the costs. We analysed over 180k online retailers and took a deeper look at the shipping market; from those who offer free shipping, to those who declare international shipping upfront and who is ranking tops in the ecommerce shipping market.

You can read the full report here. Of the online retailers analysed 36% of Irish online retailers’ offer free shipping with the UK coming in at 34%. Only 20% of Irish and 22% of UK online retailers state availability of international shipping upfront. And here’s who ranks for the biggest market share  – An Post (31%), Fastway (12%) and DPD (10%) in Ireland and Royal Mail (45%), Parcelforce (8%), DHL (6%) in the UK  – see the top ten ranking in the report here.

There is no loyalty among online retailers with regard to who they ship with so it’s interesting how the market share changes when analysing the top Irish websites that are doing over $1 million in online volume – AnPost continues to hold top position. However, Fastway drops down to 5th position and UPS jumps up to second. Similarly in the UK Royal Mail continues to hold top position. And, Parcelforce slips down the table to fifth position and DPD jumps up to second.

 

The table below gives you a quick glance at the top 10 in Ireland.  It is based on the number of websites using specific shipping company services:

 

Conclusion

With the eCommerce market growing at a phenomenal rate, the opportunities for shipping and delivery companies are greater than ever before despite the highly competitive market. If free shipping is one of the main drivers to encourage more shoppers to spend online then ecommerce merchants must offer free shipping as a given to be able to compete in this space. This in turn will help drive the figure of 9.5% (of retail goods purchased online today) up much more in a market that has more than doubled in the last 5 years. International shipping connects businesses with the $1.9 trillion dollar market of ecommerce and with only 22% of UK and 20% of Irish merchants in this space it is an area that needs to be addressed for market growth. For businesses looking to scale those making strategic decisions around who they target and where they ship can make key differences in their market positioning and, ultimately, their bottom line. And for shipping companies, it’s clear that there are no loyalties among online retailers. But in this growth phase there may be an opportunity to try a number of different growth strategies until you get the right one that will bring you to No 1 in your preferred rankings. The rapid rate of change leads to exciting times ahead.

How to Improve Your Customer Support

Customer support or service interactions have the potential for a wide variety of outcomes – both good and bad. Customers contact your support team when they have an issue. Understanding this and making the interaction as efficient and effective as possible should be your goal. If you deal with the issue well you’ll have a happy customer, and potentially positive recommendations. Worst case scenario, you could be losing business.

How you use your phone system can be a key determinant of how your customers perceive your support service and their experience with your organisation. The option for the customer to speak to someone in the business over the phone is a communication method commonly offered in customer service. However if your employees are picking up the phone to someone who has already been transferred two or three times, you’ve already given your customer a bad experience.

Identifying ways to improve the experience your customers have with your support function, or company as a whole, can be tricky. One place to start at is when your customer makes the call. Here are four ways which your phone system can improve your customer support experience, before and during each call:

 

1. Use interactive voice response with time of day settings

Interactive voice response (IVR), otherwise known as virtual receptionists are used to direct those calling your business to the appropriate person by providing a menu of options which the customer can select. The longer your customer spends on hold or being transferred from department to department the more you are failing in providing them with an efficient and effective interaction.

Everyone has had poor experiences being left on hold waiting to be transferred. Use an IVR and avoid subjecting your customers to this. When constructing your menu, ideally have an option for each of your main customer facing departments. You should also finish with something similar to ‘for all other queries press 0’. This means even if your customers are unsure, they still have an option to press.

Time of day settings allow you to provide different instructions or menus depending on when a customer calls. For example, if a customer calls outside of office hours you can play a message which tells them your office is closed, what time it will be open at and provide an alternative contact method such as your customer service email address or a specific out of hours number. Accurately setting the expectations of your customer in terms of response or resolution time is critical for good customer service experience.

 

2. Use ring groups

A ring group is a feature which allows a number of phones to ring when one number is dialled. For example, when a customer selects the menu option for support on your IVR, it is possible to have every team member’s phone ring. If each team member’s phone is calling the chances of the call will only be missed or not answerable immediately if the whole team is already busy.

Using a cloud phone system it is also possible to add extra steps if the ring group goes unanswered by the whole team. After a certain amount of time, you could redirect the call to the department manager before eventually to a voicemail box. A common mistake that businesses make is not having a voicemail box as the end point for every possible path a call can take. After waiting on hold to speak to someone and being transferred around the sound of a disconnected line is disheartening to say the least.

Adding a voicemail box will allow you to set a voicemail greeting which can explain that all employees are busy for the moment and once again offer an alternative means of contact.

 

3. Everyone in your organisation needs an internal transfer number accessible via a centralised document

From time to time a customer with an issue is going to call the number for a different department or pick the wrong menu item. In this case, the first step is to get them talking to someone who can help with their problem. This means call transfer.

With a cloud phone system, setting up internal transfer numbers such as 102 or 2007 for each employee can be accomplished with ease. Make sure that each member of your organisation, with a priority on those which are customer facing, have an internal transfer number set up.

An updated and detailed list should be kept centrally via a resource such as Google Drive or Office 365 with each person’s transfer number. Using this, whoever takes a call should be able to easily transfer the customer to the right place. It certainly beats asking your customer to call the organisation’s main number again and dial 3 for support.