From offline to online overnight: 7 lessons from a high-end design studio.

Oct 21 2020 | Lauren Villa

With her design studio suddenly closed, Jenne Wicht, CEO at Jak W, wondered how she and her team of eight would remain afloat and keep their doors open and jobs intact. After all, her business was reliant on in-person interactions to engage customers and close deals.
But like many business owners, Wicht knew that there was not much room to brood in the face of a sudden pandemic and she took swift action. Below, she shares her strategies for shifting her offline business online, practically overnight.

1. Pivot your resources.

Shifting her highly personalized service from in-person to an online store meant Wicht had to get creative with her team's resources. "I put everybody towards building out a website and strengthening our social media platform and really figuring out how we could connect with people on a personal level." Wicht asked her team to start writing blogs and contributing to social media, an area of the business she was used to steering singled-handedly.

2. Build a website the easy and budget-friendly way.

If you're in a small business transitioning your products online, Wicht recommends migrating to a website that doesn't require a lot of maintenance and high-tech support. Coding and design don't fit into most small business owners' budgets, so using a plug-and-play website like Shopify, Godaddy, or Ecwid is an incredible tool.

After evaluating her options, Wicht chose Shopify because it was intuitive and offered great customer support, as well as pre-made websites. She purchased a website theme called Vantage for $160 from We Are Underground, a company that builds and sells Shopify themes. This allowed Wicht to easily manipulate and customize the template with her brand's fonts, images, and add apps (provided by Shopify) for extra functions like a Wishlist or a Chat feature.

"You can do a lot with branding and make it feel very personal without having to go deep into programming – which, as a small business, is like a whole second job and very likely an expensive complicated one at that."
Jak W website

3. Reflect customer values on your homepage.

Wicht and her team are discovering a fascinating shift in customers' priorities as more people stay inside and work from home. For example, people care more about supporting ethically made and traded items than ever before.

"If people didn't care about the planet before, all of a sudden they care about what items are in their home. Caring about their home environment and their health – those two things go hand-in-hand." So with more people interested in what materials are in their rug or couch, Jak W is making sure to emphasize those shared values on their website, especially in prominent places like their homepage.
Jak W Sustainable Design Website Banner

4. Use powerful images.

As retail stores like hers digitize their product catalogs, Wicht suggests hiring a professional to photograph your products. If a photographer isn't within your budget, you can:
1.    Ask the artist for photos. Most artists and artisans have their own photography you can make adjustments to and crop so that certain items stand out.

Purchase Adobe StockFor $29.99/month you have access to high-quality photos and the ability to search for different subjects. You can use these photos to tell stories on social media and your website.

5. Text flyers to loyal clients.

Sometimes going back to basics pays off. After their showroom closed, the Jak W team set up a creative email campaign in Mailchimp to let customers know they could schedule private, socially distanced showings. Wicht texted a flyer to loyal customers –and got a 100% response and booking rate. "It was a fun, old-school approach and people loved the gesture," she says. "They were ecstatic to come into the space and connect."

Wicht's team personalized each showing, allowing each customer to invite up to five friends from their circle. They even gave everyone long, beautiful straws they could slide underneath their masks to sip on complimentary sparkling wine. "I intentionally reached out to clients who had supported us when times were great as a way to thank them without any sort of expectation. It was all about relationship building."
Jak W Personalized Text Flyer

6. Personalize your (digital) receipt.
Since all of Jak W's relationship building happens entirely online now – without the added value of a handshake and a smile – the team is building trust in other ways. One tool Wicht uses is Venmo to "craft meaningful messages whenever [a customer] purchases through the app."
Jak W Personalized Venmo Receipts

7. Aim to inspire on social media.

In addition to Venmo, Wicht's team is using this moment to share images and stories that sprinkle a bit of happiness. She admits Jak W's social media presence before COVID-19 wasn't super successful and she handled all of the marketing and social media efforts. Now, the job is split between the whole team. "What we found is that people really wanted to be inspired," she says. Instead of tagging each post with products, the Jak W team is using Instagram, Pinterest, and the blog to share stories – and the results have been wildly successful.

8. Invest in social.

"We began investing in our Pinterest strategy about a month ago and we've seen a 10,000%+ increase in followers and engagements." To a team of eight strong, determined, and incredibly talented designers, these COVID numbers are almost unbelievable. Their impressions are up +529%, their audience saw a lift of +499% and engagements are up a whopping +787%.
Jak W Pinterest Results

9. Stay optimistic.
As we all collectively navigate uncertain times, Wicht advises other business owners to take care of themselves and ride the waves of uncertainty. "I have two toddlers and a team of women who all have families that they're supporting and that weight is heavy to bear," she says. "But if I let that be my reality, then the business will go down. I do a lot of meditation and positive thinking and affirmations to remind myself that life is a journey. We don't know what's in front of us, if the doors will remain closed or if we'll be able to open. Realizing that I have very little control over these things has given me the freedom to just be super creative."

The content of this article is provided for informational purposes only. You should always obtain independent business, tax, financial, and legal advice before making any business decision.

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