Discover how Peta Shulman grew her online shop 500% during COVID
And take advantage of the hot tips she’s willing to share
As Australia and the world adapts to the ‘new normal’ with the opening of our borders, the full impact of COVID-19 is much clearer.
If you had to put it into one sentence, you might say it wasn’t as bad as we all thought. Yes, many businesses have closed their doors for good – but research has shown that most of those were on rocky financial ground to start with.
The flip side of the coin is that many businesses have thrived because of COVID – something Business Australia predicted early in the piece.
ONLINE FOOD DELIVERY
One area we know has grown at a rapid rate is online food delivery.
Coast to Coast Australia spoke to GoodnessMe Founder, Peta Shulman about her company, COVID, and how to run a successful business.
“COVID has certainly fasttracked online grocery shopping and we are lucky enough to be a beneficiary with the launch of the GoodnessMe Shop online earlier this year,” Peta said.
“GoodnessMe had an established and trusted brand in the health space as the largest health food sampling subscription box service in Australia for the last seven years. We surprise and delight our customers with up to 10 health foods to try at their doorstep each and every month.
“With that expertise and brand, coupled with an acceleration in online penetration, it was an opportune time to launch an online shop so that our customers could buy all the health products they were discovering – plus an additional 3000 better-for-you products curated by our team of Nutritionists.
“We’ve always known from our curated subscription box service that customers value us as a product ranging authority, the reassurance that our Nutritionists review and approve every product (we have strict standards!) and the ease of the products being delivered to their doorstep to discover,” she said.
“With COVID, we were able to expand that experience to their entire pantry and kitchen, which saw the online shop grow 500% in a matter of months, giving us the confidence to keep expanding the offering and fulfilment capacity.”
Today GoodnessMe stocks everything from healthy snacks and pantry staples to chocolate, beverages, cooking, baking, readymade meals, breakfast, superfoods – and has even expanded into natural beauty, supplements, and sustainable lifestyle products.
With the borders opening and greater freedom available, does Peta think the trend will continue?
“Absolutely the trend will continue. COVID has brought online shopping in Australia forward by five years and consumers have become more accustomed to shopping for their groceries through this channel,” she said.
20% online penetration by 2025.
“Similar markets offshore have much higher rates of online penetration, which is expected to reach 20% in Australia by 2025. Online shopping is all about convenience and efficiency. As long as we continue to make it easier for the customer to shop with us, we will see growth.”
Whilst business is booming for Peta now, life wasn’t always as good. In fact, it was her own personal struggle that prompted Peta to launch the business in the first place.
COVID has brought online shopping in Australia forward by five years
“Nine years ago, I found myself bedridden for three months with barely enough energy to walk to the kitchen. After seeing a fair few doctors, I was no closer to the cause of my problem, and no closer to the solution.
“I was tired all the time, and suffered from a constant headache, heavy limbs, and aching muscles. I
had no idea what was happening, but I soldiered on. I eventually got well enough to start a new job in
PR, specialising in the health and wellness industry.
“The world of health and wellness opened up to me. I spoke to hundreds of health practitioners, attended conferences, learned about the latest health foods, supplements, and got schooled up on prevention. It became crystal clear that what we put into our bodies, how active we are, and how we manage our stress plays a CRUCIAL role in how we feel and our long-term health.
“Though I was immersing myself in health, my body was still breaking down. I was finally diagnosed with an autoimmune condition and told I would need antibody protein transfusions once a month for the rest of my life to keep my energy levels up. I was devastated and quite frankly, sick of being the patient. I wanted to get back into the driver’s seat of my own life!
“I then sought advice from an integrative doctor, and that’s when my life changed.”
These days, Peta’s energy is sky-high! And that’s how she wants others to feel.
“I created GoodnessMe because natural, wholesome foods helped me take control of my health, and I want to spread this message to as many people as I possibly can,” Peta said.
TIPS FOR SUCCESS
So, based on her own experience, what advice would she give to someone buying or starting a business?
“Given I started GoodnessMe from scratch with $20,000 in my pocket, if I were to do it all again and buy a business with a steady foundation, I would be looking for the following:
• Is there an engaged and loyal community? Your business exists because of your customers. Our GoodnessMe community so passionately believes in what we stand for – Eat real food, feel good – that they continue to shop with us again and again.
• Is the brand remarkable? Is the product or service that good, or has a key point of difference, that your customer literally remarks about the brand to others. We experience this with GoodnessMe, and the natural marketing effect has kept our acquisition cost low and why the business has survived and thrived over seven years.
• Do you have a team of experts? A business is only as strong as the team, and you want the best in their field driving the business. Over the years I’ve noticed that the better the team, the more value we’ve been able to give our customer.
• What is the business model and the unit economics? Positive cash flow is essential to stay alive. There also needs to be a path to profitability. At some stage, the business needs to make a profit.
• Is the market growing? For the business to scale, you need to ensure that the market is heading in an upward trajectory. As the health food industry has exploded in popularity over the years, so too have we seen the growth of not only consumer demand, but our partners and suppliers grow which is a win-win for all.
One thing is clear: to run a successful home delivery business – or indeed, any successful online business – it all comes down to customer experience, from beginning to end.
‘A business is only as strong as the team, and you want the best in their field driving the business’
GETTING IT RIGHT
“When it comes to the customer journey, I believe there are five key steps to get right and I’ll share the two most important to us: The products our customer receives – and how we fix any problems,” Peta said.
“If the delivery isn’t as expected – are the goods high quality, in the best condition possible, did they receive the items they bought in the right quantities, was an acceptable substitute product provided – the customer is not
only not coming back, but that’s how they’ll remember and talk about your brand. What’s next most important is HOW we fix a problem.
“You need to be quick to resolve any issues and handle enquiries promptly. Make it easy to get help when needed during the shop and always act on customer requests.
“If we can reduce the time spent with customer service fixing a problem and reduce the number of problems or mistakes, we can take focus away from overall ‘cost’ for the customer and into areas where we surprise and delight!
IMPORTANCE OF BRAND
“Surprise and delight have always been central to our brand with the GoodnessMe Box subscription, and this is something we’ve channelled into our online shopping experience as well. You’ll always find a tasty free gift to enjoy in your GoodnessMe Shop,” said Peta.
“It’s also critical for online success to not forget about Brand. This is a key driver of online store choice and why we get such positive feedback for GoodnessMe. Our range and curation are impeccable, all reviewed and approved by our team of nutritionists and our community of Nutritionists whose product reviews you can read when you shop.”
Peta believes that one of the difficulties with customer service online is that it can feel less
personal compared to bricks-and-mortar.
“We try to combat this by not making it a ‘faceless’ experience and having someone that truly understands the customer issues and has empathy,” she said.
“In addition to this basic foundation, it is critical that our customer service has accurate information all the time to give to the customer. They need to respond promptly to the customer to resolve the problem quickly. Lastly, we don’t wait to deliver ‘bad news’. The sooner the customer is kept in the loop the better and the more appreciative they are.
SHIFT IN THE MARKET
“Our great customer service is a large reason why we have our 35,000 customer reviews on our website!”
With multiple lockdowns – and people spending more time at home, there has been discussion about our eating habits improving. But Peta believes this was happening regardless.
“Regardless of lockdown, there is a general shift to eating healthy food – the packaged health food industry is a $17 billion industry in Australia. But [there is] a growing frustration with big brands, where consumers feel they make nutritional labelling deliberately complex and confusing in order to ‘disguise’ certain ingredients. In fact, the FMCG Gurus Top Ten Trends for 2021 Report found that two-thirds of global consumers believe that brands try to disguise ingredients with nutritional labelling; and one-third of global consumers don’t trust claims made by food brands.”
A downside of the ‘lockdown – working from home’ culture is keeping employees motivated and positive. How does Peta manage this issue – and what makes a great team?
CREATING A COLLABORATIVE WORK ENVIRONMENT
“Our team is highly aligned with our why and our vision to help you make better food choices. When each team member understands the overarching goal and vision, this is when you get a great team who work together and aren’t hyper-focused on ‘staying in their lane’. I find this creates incredible self-made motivation and a collaborative work environment,” she said.
At the end of the day, I want each team member to recognise what they’re capable of and reach their potential, that’s when you see the magic. I try to empower each team member by giving them ownership over their role. Progress and a challenge are critical to keeping team members engaged.”
So, what will the future hold for Peta and GoodnessMe?
“GoodnessMe is perfectly positioned to become the largest online health food retailer in the country. We continue to scale the GoodnessMe Box which is a fantastic feeder to discover better-for-you products.
“The long-game is to help our community make better-for-you choices for life by continuing to expand the GoodnessMe Shop in both product range and experience. On the flip side, we are passionate about providing health brands with a platform for success and will continue to expand our marketing engine for these companies,” she concluded.