If you’re like me, you find business case studies inspiring. You love learning everything you can about a successful business, and case studies are a great way to do that.
However, case studies are also intimidating. The problem is that most of them start at the end, when the business is already earning tens, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars every month.
Articles about businesses in the early stages—for example, just after launch—are rare. But if you’re just getting started with your own business venture, that is the information you can learn the most from.
V Word Market is a perfect example of early-stage success. Although the company just launched this year, they’ve come out with a bang and there are some key lessons that any ecommerce business can learn from their results so far.
About V Word Market’s Launch
V Word Market is an online vegan grocery store powered by Shopify. They offer nationwide shipping in Canada, and same-day delivery in Toronto where their warehouse is located.
They also sold out much of their initial inventory within hours of their launch. One key to this success was a brilliant marketing strategy.
Many entrepreneurs think that marketing their ecommerce store starts after they launch. There are so many things to do before going live:
- find and validate a product
- evaluate demand
- find a dropshipper or stock inventory
- design and build your store
...to name just a few!
The V Word Market founders, MeShell and Jordan, did exactly this. As soon as they knew they were going to start a business, they began networking with other businesses and individuals who were interested in their concept.
“We started collecting email addresses at events, making connections with businesses and other people at trade shows, and adding them to our database to announce and update potential customers and other interested parties as we went along. We started plotting out our launch strategy and how we were going to make our initial big splash day one.”
Months before opening their digital doors, they created a landing page to collect email addresses from people who wanted to be kept in the loop. They also created social media profiles and began building a community online.
“We did a countdown on social media to get people who had already connected with us excited for our launch, and we’ve also done a few contests to encourage engagement. Before we really got started, we also did a bit of a ‘tease’ - putting up images that just said ‘Hello’ with little insight into what we were doing or who we were.”
Even though they didn’t have a single product for sale yet, there were people who were already interested and anxious to know when products would be available.
Four Keys to V Word Market’s Success
A successful launch is about more than just collecting email addresses before you go live. There are many other strategic decisions that can greatly improve your chances. Let’s dive deeper and see how V Word Market did it.
A good product is the single most important part of marketing. Not only do you need to provide something that people want, but you need to do in a unique way. V Word Market nailed this.
We've spent the day filling up & Delivering V Word Market bags and packing up boxes. Thanks for the support everyone - we are blown away by your enthusiasm. We've got lots of great stuff for you, and we're hoping you'll find something you really like! #vwordmarket #VWord #smallbusiness #torontovegan #vegan #supportyourlocalvegangrocery
How you differentiate yourself from the competition is the most important decision you’ll make. Although V Word Market curates products rather than creating them, they have made strategic choices that clearly differentiate themselves from the vast selection of online grocery retailers.
How? By solving three big problems for their customers.
1. Many popular plant-based products are not available in Canada. You don’t have to poke around vegan communities for long to discover what a pain point this is for many consumers. V Word Market is importing these products into Canada for the first time.
“We are one of only a few totally vegan grocery stores in Canada, so that’s already helpful in terms of differentiation.”
2. When specialty foods are available in Canada, they’re often difficult to find. Many products can only be found in certain stores—and they can’t all be found in any one store. Specialty food stores tend to have limited hours, so getting your hands on all the products you want—like dairy-free ice cream—can be a real challenge. V Word Market solves this problem by offering everything in one convenient place.
“We focus on finding new and interesting items and also regular grocery items people need or want delivered and deliver it directly to their home.”
3. Although they offer nationwide shipping, V Word Market is based in Toronto and they’re focusing on their local market first. Not only do they eliminate the need to visit multiple retailers, they offer same-day local delivery. Customers can login at work, place their order and have it delivered before they even get home. Nobody else is doing this.
Lesson: Understand who your ideal customer is and narrow your focus to match their needs.
Community is also a very large part of V Word Market’s success. V Word Market built up an audience on social media, particularly on Facebook and Instagram. They used these platforms to keep their community up-to-date on their impending launch, and to build excitement by sharing product teasers as their inventory started to arrive.
Building a community is a not as simple as wishing it were so. Jordan and MeShell smartly used their personal networks to seed their growth. Sharing their progress and updates with friends, family, and colleagues got them their initial fans and followers. From there, it continued (and continues) to grow as excited foodies share the company’s updates.
“Initially we leveraged our existing social channels first, we have a reasonable personal Instagram presence which helped a lot with advertising and reaching out to potential customers and first sales were mostly people we were familiar with or people that had connected to us on the newsletter.”
The things I do for fun. Got milk? #Repost @vwordmarket ・・・ Tired of waking up early to milk the almonds, flaxseeds, soy, hazelnuts, coconuts, rice, or hemp? Let us help. We've got more #vegan milks than your average shop, because sometimes you just want to try something new or find a new favourite. There are lots to choose from. This isn't even all of them. It's amazing. #dairyfree #vword #vwordmarket #veganfoodshare #vegansofcanada #milkthealmonds #vegTO #veganmilk #plantbased #nondairy
Since launch, this growing community has continued to promote the company by sharing their discovery with their own friends and family who may be interested, posting about it in related Facebook groups and other communities online, and of course, sharing photos of their purchases!
“Our primary source of sales initially has been word of mouth - we have a strong local community support which has made a huge difference in terms of increasing sales. Customers posting about us on Facebook or Instagram typically helped us gain more followers/likes/wherever and often those new connections made at least one purchase just to test us out.”
Lesson: Tap into your personal network first and use it to seed your initial growth online.
The founders of V Word Market knew that repeat business would be an important part of their growth strategy. Since they’re selling consumables, customers will keep coming back to make make new purchases—as long as they’re happy. They smartly put a lot of effort into making sure their existing customers want to keep doing business with them.
“One thing that has worked really well for us to build repeat business has been using Receiptful’s free feedback receipt. It not only provides a really nice order summary, and lets customers give us quick feedback, but also gives us a 2 week bounce back coupon that helps keep customers coming back at a regular schedule.”
Offering a bounce back coupon that gives customers a time-sensitive discount, incentives them to place their next order quickly. More importantly, even if they don’t end up using the coupon, it ensures they feel appreciated.
Prioritizing requests is another way that V Word Market makes sure their customers feel appreciated. Even better, by stocking requests, they can prevent their customers from needing to shop somewhere else.
Lesson: Focus on building repeat business by delighting your existing customers.
Finally, V Word Market has had great, consistent branding from the beginning. Their website and social profiles all feature the same simple logo. Their website design is easy to use on desktop and mobile, and it lets the products shine.
The term “V Word” references the word “vegan”. The apple and the word “market” indicate that this is a food business. Right away, ideal customers can recognize the business as one that matches their values.
“It’s a bit of a nod and a bit of a joke, about how sometimes companies don’t want to use the "V-Word" in this case, v word = vegan and don’t want to be known as “that vegan place,” but that’s exactly what we want to be known for. “
The logo is also featured prominently on the reusable grocery bag that products are hand-delivered in. These branded bags often make cameo appearances in Instagram photos posted by delighted customers. There’s a good chance these bags will also get used in regular grocery stores, spreading awareness offline.
I am beyond ecstatic that we now have a vegan company close to home that has all the hard to get goodies! Definitely will be ordering from them all the time! We got our order right away! They are an evironmentally conscious vegan company who will use public transit/bicycles if you live in the Toronto area to get your order to you while using minimal packaging. @vwordmarket #vegan #vegansofig #torontovegan #whatveganseat #vwordmarket #vegangoodies #govegan #vegantreats #veganfood #veganfoodshare
Lesson: A clear, consistent brand is the best way to help new customers identify and recognize your business.
V Word Market is already doing very well. Their first week was packed full of local deliveries, with many products selling out quickly and continuing to do so even after the initial rush of orders. Since then, the business has kept on growing.
The V Word Market is now officially live! I am so excited to have an online vegan food store where I can order and don't...
Although much of V Word Market’s success was closely linked to thoughtful preparation, they caution new business owners from getting stuck in the planning stage.
“Sometimes you just have to launch - there was a long time we were ready to go, but there was always just one more thing we wanted to fix or change or tweak. There came a point where it’s time to shut up and ship it. The nice thing about Shopify is that you can just flip the switch. Once you do, there is never really a way to go back, but that’s ultimately for the best - use that to fuel your fire.”
Eventually you just have to go for it!
V Word Market is a great example of a business that hit the ground running. They accomplished this with some simple planning that anyone can execute.
Don’t wait until you have already launched to begin marketing your store. Start building your community, along with a solid product and consistent brand, before your go live. You just might sell out on your first day!
About The Author
Casandra Campbell is an entrepreneur, craft beer nerd, and content creator at Shopify.