How do you see the wood for the trees?

Building a business is not easy. That’s easy to say but the truth is that no one person can be an expert in everything. With technology playing the vital role it does in retail today, one of the hardest things is working out what approach to take, what technology works best for the current stage of your business, and how do you develop a framework for growth?

My name is Charlotte Zimbehl and I run the eponymous London-based womenswear fashion label, specialising in outerwear fusing intelligent design with modern, chic and feminine lines. I set up the label in summer 2014 having worked in the fashion and lifestyle industry for over 8 years, and my expertise lies in design and product development, not in technology.

Of course I knew from the beginning that a having a good website would be key, a business card to the world. When I started to look into building a website though, I didn’t really know where to start. Lots of people told me it’s very expensive and advised me to start working with a template and doing it myself. Without much of a budget for the work, with funds tied up in building collections, that’s what I did. I am not a tech person and have never seen the back end of a website hence this was all new to me and rather overwhelming. That meant that I found it tricky and time consuming and, most importantly, I wasn’t happy with the result at all.

Even though I didn’t really have budget for a website, I decided I needed to hire an expert, an agency to help me develop a ‘basic’ but appealing website and shop. I chose a smaller agency as I was hoping to get a bit more input, advice and help from their end, which simply didn’t happen. I suppose it’s understandable but they just executed what I asked them to and didn’t really show me what is possible. Most importantly, I didn’t get any advice on what’s needed to build a successful online business (that including SEO, something that was also new to me).

The difficulties continued, and I’ve been through two further web developers. This is obviously not ideal, as there was little consistency, everyone works and codes differently and its meant enormous stress, time and money spent that could have been avoided if I’d been able to get the right advice from the start.

The decision to do the ‘Anything is Possible’ case study with the Ecommerce Club has already made a huge difference to me. I’ve been introduced to Lightspeed and working with them has come at the perfect time. It’s not only enabling me to develop an amazing ecommerce site / experience but also gives me the platform and tools to operate retail / pop-up stores.

The backend offers so much more then what I had originally hoped for, from margin and profit calculations to pulling sales reports, collecting customer data and more. All things that will make my life easier going forward, and support my business strategy development, communications with buyers, suppliers and investors. My on-boarding sessions have been great, I received as much help and support as I needed, got to train and practice in between sessions and got to go back to the Lightspeed team with any issues and questions.

I also recently launched my first Pop-Up shop with the help of Lightspeed Retail, where I was able to take payments via their app and a card payment provider, all from an Ipad. It also allowed me to collect customer details for future promotions.

Overall super easy to use which is the most important thing to me, given I am not much of a tech person. The Pop-Up was a huge success and I will be doing many more going forward, supported by the Lightspeed software. What this means is that I’m now present both online and offline, and have taken that first big step towards building my brand.