For smaller businesses around the world, scaling up their business is not an easy, straight-forward path. There are many different roadblocks that could be stopping a business from achieving their sales goals, or they might not be investing in the right areas that could lead to growth.
Small business owners can also feel stuck when they aren’t using all the available marketing channels that their competitors are using. Taking cues from customers and using those to dictate how you run your business and where you should focus your efforts is a great way to start gaining more market share.
A successful business is run by people willing to take risks and invest in things that they know are better in the long run, even if taking the risk is scary.
One such small business is Coco Moon Hawaii.
Coco Moon Hawaii is a baby essentials and baby clothing store, owned by Amber Thibaut, with designs inspired by Amber’s childhood growing up in Hawaii.
As a small business owner and founder of Coco Moon, Amber was feeling frustrated about being in a cycle where her average sales were stuck around $20,000 to $25,000 per month. No matter what she did, she couldn’t scale her business.
Fast forward to 2021, Coco Moon is generating over 6-figures in revenue each month and skyrocketed to over 7-figures revenue in just 9 short months; beating the 12-month target by 3 whole months! Amber has also been named Entrepreneur of the Year by the Hawaii Venture Capital Association in the CPG market, so this mompreneur knows a thing or two about building a wildly successful eCommerce business in a relatively short time frame.
There are so many ways that small business owners can increase their sales and grow their businesses. For unique businesses, there may be unique solutions, but a few basic tips that work for one may also help others as well. In this case study, we’ll see how Amber went through the journey of growing her business and what she thinks other small business owners need to do to have the same growth that Coco Moon Hawaii has experienced in less than a year.
It’s a great honor to have this insight and I hope it helps other small business owners and eCommerce brands that are feeling stuck.
One of the biggest challenges that small business owners face is being stuck. They could be experiencing the same sales cycles and lack of revenue growth, they may be unable to get new customers, or they may not be implementing the most advanced marketing strategies because they don’t have the skill set, resources, or time to change what they are currently doing.
Launching in 2015, Coco Moon Hawaii negotiated contracts with wholesale channels, with wholesale becoming the main driver of sales. Many boutiques and stores purchased inventory in bulk at a discounted price.
Unfortunately, when COVID-19 hit, like many other brands, Coco Moon Hawaii lost most of its wholesale contracts as retail stores around the world had to shut their doors as the world came to a screeching halt.
COVID-19 Forces a Pivot to eCommerce
With wholesalers canceling contracts due to COVID-19, Amber decided to pivot and focus fully on the online sales of Coco Moon Hawaii via their Shopify website. Amber knew she had to take a few calculated risks that could increase her customer base and sales to compensate for the lost revenue she was making from wholesale contracts. Amber knew she had to step into fear and take a risk by investing more than she ever had on growing the digital presence of her brand.
Many smaller businesses focus on the channels that are already working for them and neglect all the others, which is a huge mistake. Having a digital presence and pursuing it through marketing, whether inbound or outbound, is something every small and big business needs. Nowadays, when you want people to go to your website and buy your products, you need to be able to show them the value they will get.Establishing a digital presence can show exactly that to your customers and help you gain a lot more market share.
It’s also important to be open to taking risks and having faith in the brand that you are building and the experts you are investing in. Stepping out of your comfort zone can sometimes make the difference in building a 6-figure or 7-figure business. Before working with our team at Karizma Marketing, Amber’s previous ad agency couldn’t scale her past that $25K a month mark. But because Amber stepped into fear and made a decision to invest in herself and her business, she has grown her business by over 400% in a very short period.
The Bigger The Risk, The Bigger The Reward
One of the first steps is to understand that you need to be taking risks, to experience a reward. The bigger the risk, the bigger the reward. Some risks, however, are bigger than others, and sometimes those big risks become the defining moment of your success.
Amber mentions that the biggest risk was making the decision to commit to a full-service marketing agency.
She was working with another ad agency up until that point that she had not had much success with, so switching over to a different agency that was charging (in all honesty) a lot more than her previous agency was a calculated risk that she knew she needed to take in order to grow her business.
Some of the newer campaigns, promotions, and strategies also felt risky to Amber, but she learned taking risks could heavily pay off in the end.
Coco Moon’s marketing strategy was flipped and the focus was fully on the digital channels as well as making sure that her warm audiences (social followers, website visitors, email list, and previous purchasers) were also being catered to. Amber liked the trial and error of trying out different things and enjoyed the engagement strategy that would target both old and new customers.
Understanding the kind of risks that you are taking and making sure they are calculated risks is something that can help small business owners a lot. In Amber’s case, she decided to get help from a full-service ad agency which meant she had to invest a lot more and take a leap of faith in trying some new strategies that she had never tried before, but it turned out to be a risk that paid off.
Risks are different for everybody that has a small business. Knowing that your risk might pay off is good enough in most cases. If it doesn’t work out the way you planned, you always come away with valuable lessons. The lessons she learned while taking big risks is something that Amber says helped her in the long run.
Marketing Strategy + E-commerce = $1m in Revenue
When you’ve been working so hard for so long toward a goal, your thoughts are all geared toward the things you need to do to achieve that goal. It can be a lot of hard work before you start to see the fruits of your labor.
For Amber, the sales for Coco Moon Hawaii started increasing within the first month of partnering with Karizma Marketing.
By November 2020, just 9 months later, the sales were projected to cross $1 Million. This was a goal both Amber and Karizma Marketing’s CEO, Toccara Karizma, had set to hit by the end of February 2021, but she was on track to hit that revenue goal much faster.
Once the email confirming these statistics was sent to everyone on the team, Amber was overjoyed and relished the moment. This was something that she had wanted ever since she started focusing on her online sales and now with some risks here and there, and as a result of all her hard work building a solid brand and following, it was finally becoming a reality. The ad and email campaigns had great engagement and customers were responding better than anticipated.
Amber enjoyed the surreal feeling of success but then moved on to looking at what needed to be done next and how she could keep the success going. This is a great way of thinking since it allows you to relish the success of your campaigns, risks, and changes, but also puts you on track as to what you should be doing in the future to continue the positive momentum.
The campaigns that were run for Coco Moon Hawaii and Amber were pretty risky and things didn’t always go according to plan, but working around obstacles is very important when you’re trying to increase revenue for your business. It takes a lot of grit, passion, and perseverance when it comes to scaling your brand up and gaining more market share.
Difference between 5-figures per month and 6-figures per month
There is a big difference between small businesses that have sales under $10k per month and those that have $100k per month.
Many things change when your brand grows, and these changes need to be tackled head-on. You can’t expect everything to stay the same, and Amber now knows the changes that happen when you go from 5-figures in sales per month to 6-figures in sales per month.
One of the biggest differences Amber saw was that the nature of the issues to arise changed. With smaller sales figures, she knew how to fix the issues that came up. The solutions were clear steps she knew how to take to bring the business back on track.
With brand growth, Amber faces issues that are bigger-picture problems. All the issues are interrelated and when one thing is not working properly, a whole system of processes may be affected. With problems that affect more than one element of the business, looking at the bigger picture and figuring out how to best fix all the interlaced issues is the key strategy that works.
Another thing that a lot of small business owners see when their business grows is the need for a team. Amber is actively growing her team and looking for people who will fit with the mission and values of Coco Moon Hawaii. Once you transition out of wearing all the hats in your business, you need to be able to find the right type of people who will help you in moving your brand forward. It might be a learning curve, but learning how to be an impactful leader is an important skill set when your business starts growing.
As with everything in the world, when your business grows, you will have to make a few changes and expand a few things to better accommodate the growing business. Amber calls these ‘growing pains’ and just as her brand went through them, yours will too when it starts growing. For Amber, these were expanding storage and figuring out more shipping carriers, but for other small businesses, these could be very different.
Decisions that Contributed to Revenue the Most
During the course of running a business, sometimes owners make decisions that contribute to their growing revenue massively. These decisions could be signing off on certain promotions, lead generation strategies, or just focusing on different marketing channels.
For Amber, one of the biggest contributors to her increasing revenue was figuring out the product mix. She focused on what her existing product mix was and how she could tweak it to cater to the growing demands of her old and new customers. For Coco Moon Hawaii, their newborn swaddles were the best sellers for years, but in the past year, Coco Moon baby and toddler clothing overtook the sales of the swaddles.
These statistics are important when you’re trying to grow your business. You need to focus on the momentum and gain as much growth as you can. Amber says the awareness of her product mix and capitalizing on the success contributed to her revenue massively as the customers were getting what they wanted the most.
Another big factor for the revenue of Coco Moon Hawaii was their “Free Gift with Purchase” offer. The website offers free shipping on orders above $75. To get customers to qualify for more and go up in their spending, they offered free gifts with purchase, along with a free shipping incentive. This helped Coco Moon Hawaii add more value for their customers while also increasing revenue and average order value.
Surprise mystery offers also added to the revenue as they added a touch of fun to the purchasing process for customers. Surprise offers can help increase the traffic on your website, increase click-through-rates on your emails and ads, help convert first-time purchasers, and also increase the quantity of sales you have per day. Amber says that these offers not only helped the brand grow, but also made it much more convenient for the visitors to shop on the website.
Adding more value for your customers and getting them to engage with your brand are two great ways to grow your business. Not only do they add growth but also contribute heavily to your revenue. One way Coco Moon Hawaii did this was to focus on growing their email list and increasing the email flows and campaigns. Emailing is free and one of the best ways to engage with your customers as a brand and drive profitable revenue. Our email CRM of choice for eCommerce brands is Klaviyo. You can get started for free for up to 200 emails, which is a great way to test it out and see if it is a good choice for your eCommerce brand.
Having an omni-channel presence is also very important. Look at what suits your brand and where your ideal customers are, then focus on expanding your presence on those channels. Website conversion is also a very important aspect for successful e-commerce brand growth and Coco Moon Hawaii’s website converts very well by using many of the strategies listed above, which helped the brand increase revenue without having to spend a significant amount on paid ads.
Biggest Mistake in Hindsight
Sometimes when you’re running a small business, you may make mistakes that in hindsight stand out to you. As your brand grows, you tend to start understanding what you were doing wrong and how you could have made certain decisions differently.
Amber says her biggest mistake was rushing into things and not thinking her decisions through. The biggest thing she now understands is that rushed decision-making always led to end results that may hurt the business more than help it. An example that she gave of this was when she wanted to launch teddy bears for Coco Moon. The brand sent out emails and asked existing customers what they were looking for in teddy bears. They had a lot of engagement in their market research process and knew exactly what their customers wanted.
The only hurdle was that Amber wanted to release them before Christmas and with manufacturing times, in hindsight, that was not the best idea. She went through the different samples and overlooked a lot of tiny issues. When the final batch came in, there were too many quality issues that she could not get past and one of the biggest issues out of all of them was that the teddy bears were not machine washable.
Amber did not want to compromise on the quality of her brand and hence had to take a loss for the teddy bears. Making decisions and understanding their repercussions is something that all small business owners need to understand. Rushing decisions or products can lead to either your brand equity taking a hit or you suffering financial losses.
Another thing that Amber thinks was a big mistake was placing too much emphasis on other people’s opinions. The key thing here is to learn how to filter the good from the bad and understand who is giving you constructive criticism and who is just plain criticizing. Taking criticism personally is not a good idea either. It’s best to be open to criticism so you can continue to improve your brand, but also separate it from who you are as a human being. Take comfort in knowing that every brand will experience negative reviews and feedback at one point or another, no matter how amazing the brand is.
Most of the time small business owners listen to people who don’t necessarily add value to their brand. One of the best kinds of people to listen to are the ones that don’t know anything about your brand or business. They should be your ideal customers but ideally should not have actively engaged with your business. It will help you understand how to tap into new markets and how a new customer perceives your brand. Your VIP and warm audiences are also great customer segments to ask for feedback as they are loyal to you and your brand. Finally, trust in the experts you surround yourselves with, such as your business coach and marketing team.
Advice for Small E-Commerce Business Owners
Learning from small businesses that have managed to grow and scale their brands is something every small business owner can do easily. There are a lot of decisions and changes that many owners wish they’d made earlier that may have changed the course of their business and the engagement they have with their customers.
Amber’s advice for new up-and-coming e-commerce businesses is to invest in digital ads in the early years. Coco Moon Hawaii had a lot of exposure through their wholesale channel and most of the visitors on their websites were customers that were repeating a purchase they had made in one of their retail partner stores. There was not a lot of incoming traffic from their existing digital marketing channels. Investing in building email lists, Search Engine Optimization, Social Media Marketing, Email Marketing, and Website Conversion Rate Optimization has helped Coco Moon Hawaii grow revenue quickly and efficiently.
Another thing that is very important in building a brand presence for smaller businesses is to build a personal brand. You can share value with your customers by showing behind-the-scenes of your brand and the stories that stand behind your brand. This makes customers feel more connected to your business and it will help you gain more customers through the values and the mission of your brand.
Putting a face to the brand will also help you generate more loyalty for your business. If you’re not comfortable being the face of your brand, get someone else who embodies the values of your brand, or get your customers to tell their stories through UGC (User Generated Content). You can also use different characters such as the Gecko for Geico.
Giving Back to the Community
As a small business, how you connect to your customers and how you make them feel about spending their money matters a lot. Giving back to local communities can help you bring your values to life and show your customers that when they spend their money with you, they are doing well for the local communities as well.
Amber grew up in Hawaii and worked with local charities and nonprofits all her life. That is why when she started Coco Moon Hawaii, she started the 1% for Hawaii give back program. Every month the brand would single out a charity or organization that was helping the community and donate 1% of sales for that month to them.
Over time, Coco Moon Hawaii started to focus on one organization or charity.
Currently, Coco Moon donates 1% of its sales to Kapiolani Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. They do this because it is the only full-service women’s and children’s hospital for a long distance and caters to a lot of cases every year. It fits with the core values and mission of Coco Moon Hawaii and is something that Amber is very passionate about.
Finding institutions or organizations that your small business can donate to needs to come from your company’s core values and ideally what your customers are interacting with within the community. It needs to mix together your core values and mission as a brand with what resonates with the community. The integrity of your brand also shows through these donations and binds you better with your local community.
The modality of the purchase is something that differs everywhere. Customers may be looking to buy things for a lot of different reasons, but when they see that their purchases will benefit someone in need, it usually works out for the best. Customers like to align their money with causes they support and Coco Moon Hawaii is doing just that for theirs.
Using Analytics to Increase Average Order Value
As a small business owner, you will need to go through a lot of data and analytics to fully understand what works for your brand and what does not. The metrics that matter are different for each business, and they pretty much dictate how you want your business to grow and what decisions you should be taking.
For Coco Moon, Amber wanted to focus on increasing the Average Order Value on her website, and that is what she based most of her decisions on.
While trying to increase her Average Order Value, Amber focused on what kind of product mix will work and what kind of bundling offers they can offer to the customers.
Coco Moon Hawaii looked at increasing the number of gift sets they had and what discounts they could offer on different product mixes to increase value for their customers and in turn increase the Average Order Value for the brand. Bibs were something that Coco Moon Hawaii usually gave out as free gifts and as more and more customers started asking for them to be available on the website, Coco Moon Hawaii started to figure out how to bundle them together and ensure their AOV goes up as well.
Focusing on creating value for your customers in the experience they have on your website is great for increasing the average value of your orders. Once you start focusing on creating value for your customers, you will be well on your way to increasing the value of your orders.
Amber also looks at Shopify statistics to learn how her customers go through the order process. This has helped her in seeing what sales mix works the best and how she can bundle her products further when they are on offer or having sales. It also helps Amber see how her collection can be more cohesive and make sense of the user behavior for the average customer.
Email marketing is another great way to increase your Customer Lifetime Value through automated flows that up-sell, down-sell, and cross-sell your products to different segments of your customers. You can look at your sales data and from there make a decision on what the most appropriate offers would be in the customer journey.
Resources for Small Business Owners
Whether you are struggling as a small business owner or not, there are so many resources that can help you. It could come from people around you or other business owners, or it can come from different books and podcasts that you can listen to for inspiration and motivation.
Apart from podcasts, Amber’s favorite author is Jim Collins and she loves reading his books. Her favorite one has been ‘Good to Great’ as it helped her understand the difference between a good business and a great business. The goals and vision needed to grow your business and how to implement them have helped Amber in her journey of growing Coco Moon Hawaii. Another one from Jim Collins that she loves is the book ‘Beyond Entrepreneurship’.
Through different resources, small business owners can find different people and organizations that have the same vision and goals as them. This can help them learn how to strategize and build networking relationships as well. It can just be nice to feel validated as well through these resources.
Coco Moon Goals for 2021
Everyone in the business world, whether you own a small business or a large scale company, needs to have a long-term plan. When you set your goals, you can then work on the mindset that you will need and make decisions that help you get to the goals you set.
Amber is working towards doubling her sales from last year and focusing on the new challenges that a 7-figure business brings. She is excited to be aiming high with her goals and is not letting her anxieties get in the way of achieving them. She also is looking to bring Coco Moon Hawaii back to its roots and see what product and sales mixes they can do.
Failure is a concern that many small business owners have, and it is completely natural. Failure, however, shouldn’t stop you from trying to reach your goals, as each time you fail, you learn a lesson that helps you do better next time. An open mindset is the most important thing that small business owners can have and Amber agrees that this is the biggest roadblock she faced.
The journey that Amber and Coco Moon Hawaii went on when trying to gain more market share and revenue was risky and took a lot of strength in making risky decisions. From making only $25,000 per month in early 2020, the brand has expanded its annual sales revenue to multi-millions in 2021. The focus of this entire process was always to stay true to the core values and mission that Coco Moon Hawaii has and the connection that customers feel with it.
Coco Moon Hawaii is on its way to becoming one of the best baby clothing brands in the US and only a few changes here and there, along with guidance from an expert marketing team, were needed to take it from a 6-figure business to a 7-figure business. Small business owners all over the world can take a lot away from Amber and her experience of growth and use it to expand their brand as well.
It was a great pleasure to interview Amber and get her take on what it was like to expand her business through successful digital marketing strategies. These are valuable insights into how a small business can grow and what the decision-making process looks like. I hope this helps you in getting unstuck and takes you on the same journey to success with your small business as Amber and Coco Moon Hawaii.
Coco Moon Hawaii products can be found at cocomoonhawaii.com.
Follow Amber on Instagram where she interacts with her ‘Cocommunity’ at @coco_moon_hawaii
You can also email Amber anytime to ask for tips or her products at email@example.com