eCommerce has not been exempt from the effects of COVID-19. While some large companies (*cough* Amazon) have realized billions in profits, other smaller companies have been hit just as hard as their brick and mortar equivalents. Many online retailers like our client MadMask have pivoted to manufacture face masks, PPE or other goods that have a newfound demand.
MyZone CEO Mike Schwarz and Allen Trottier, VP of MyZone Printing sit down (virtually) to chat about MyZone Printing, trends in the eCommerce space, and new opportunities the time of coronavirus presents.
The following conversation has been lightly edited for clarity.
Mike Schwarz: Hello, everybody. How are you doing today? I’m here with longtime MyZoner, our Allen Trottier. We started working together, I think it was, what, 20 years ago?
Allen Trottier: It was 2003, the first time.
Mike Schwarz: Alright. We’re here to talk today about how you’re doing there over at MyZone Printing. For those of you who don’t know Alan Trottier, he’s the CEO of MyZone Printing. Apparently, it’s been 17 years since we started working together, and I’m doing a little check-in. So, Allen, when COVID-19 first hit, what was it like for your business?
Allen Trottier: It was on two different sides. One, it was a complete shock, as it was for many people. We didn’t see the trends coming and we didn’t really know what was going to happen. It was so abrupt—Everything was going full speed. And then we basically dropped ninety nine point nine percent in the first couple months. We had maybe one or two orders here and there from some virtual events or people that wanted to have some sort of merchandise or something branded that they wanted to send to their customers. If they were doing a virtual thing, they could still ship out things. It was all of a sudden and it was pretty harsh.
Mike Schwarz: Yeah I saw in your financials—you were crushing it for a while. You were up from last year and all of sudden it was, what, about three months of pretty much zero. Few hundred bucks here and there.
Allen Trottier: Basically, yeah.
Mike Schwarz: What sort of measures were you, as a business owner, able to take to reduce your cost structure and stay alive through that period?
Allen Trottier: Well, we sort of had to go through the financials line by line just to figure out. It was actually a really good start—you know, sweep through all the different apps and tools and subscriptions that we have, some of which we didn’t realize we were still paying for. We had to go through one by one and calculate and see what things we really needed. We were still hoping that things were gonna come back. It was sort of a balancing act there.
Mike Schwarz: Got it. It looks like you started to reopen. I can see your numbers: you’re back about 30% of your peak last year. And you were trending ahead 20 points before all this hit. It’s still a long way to go, but are you starting to see any trends within the industry or people starting to buy or events starting to take place? What are you seeing on your end?
Allen Trottier: Yeah, it still depends on the location a lot. Some places things are still fairly shut down, so there’s still just the virtual events. But there are events that have opened. Those are the places that you are seeing some events. None of the festivals or conferences or anything like that, but a lot of fundraisers and small events where people can get together have opened. So we’re still seeing a lot of tickets, wrist bands, and now branded facemasks. Even posters—you know, people wanting to put up signage to let people know what the rules are or how to keep each other safe.
Mike Schwarz: Got it. Tell me a little bit more about the branded face masks. That’s probably a new product that you’ve added, and it seems like it’s the number one selling product right now. How does that one work?
Allen Trottier: Yes. There’s a few different types of masks and things that we’ve added to the website. We worked with different manufacturers and a lot of them were in the same position as us. So they were scrambling to try to find different products and see what people were needing. The face mask seemed to be a really good sort of way to brand, to not only your customers, but it also is great for the employees as it shows professionalism, right?
Mike Schwarz: Yeah. I also know that you feel there’s a bit of an environmental or sustainability element there with some of these masks.
Allen Trottier: Absolutely. With a lot of the disposable masks, you tend to see them on the ground. I’ve also seen on social media that they’re showing up in the oceans now. But the fabric mask thing, things that are branded? Those are things that people can reuse. They wash it and it’s got your logo.
Mike Schwarz: And for those of you who don’t know Allen, he was born and raised in Vancouver. But he’s moved out to the Philippines so that he can be diving and snorkeling all the time. While you’re out there checking out the turtles in the Philippines, have you run into any facemasks in the water yet, Allen?
Allen Trottier: At least one. I have seen pictures because we try to do beach cleanups, socially distanced at the moment. We are seeing different things popping up onto the beaches than we used to.
Mike Schwarz: Right. On the marketing side, we have a client of ours, Scott Emsley in Vancouver, running MadMask, who is pioneering branded face masks for companies and businesses. So here’s a bit what Scott has to say about the brand of face masks.
Scott Emsley: Hello, I’m Scoot Emsley with Mad Mask. Over the past month we’ve seen a pretty major shift away from disposable maths and plain cloth masks towards branded cloth masks. A lot of business owners have realized the mask is a key part of their staff’s uniform and so they’re looking to integrate their brand into that piece.
Mike Schwarz: That is awesome. Thank you, Scott. Alan, do you have any advice for those that are new to the e-commerce space that are trying to manage their business through a pandemic?
Allen Trottier: Yeah. There’s so many more people adding or joining the e-commerce online revolution. Like, the pandemic really sort of stepped things up. One of the big things I would say is don’t forget your customers. There’s a lot of really fancy tools and really cool options. All that sort of stuff is aimed at automating things. You want to make sure that your customers are happy. They might need to get a hold of you before or after you’ve made the sale, just so they feel like they’re being supported. A happy customer is a return customer. So, it’ll just keep helping you grow that base.
Mike Schwarz: Yeah, that makes sense. You know, get back to the basics. One of the four pillars of product differentiation is customer support. A lot of people get so far ahead with those fancy tools. They forget about some of those basics. We’ve got so many different tools that we use, like Sumo for retention and all those different Shopify and Google ads. That creates some digital separation from customers. That human connection is more important than ever. Some of those little things that maybe it took for granted in the past are even more important today.
Allen Trottier: And sometimes, a customer has one simple question. They just want to confirm one thing before they buy and if they can’t get a hold of you, they’re probably going to go somewhere else.
Mike Schwarz: So live chat on all your checkout pages. I think that’s one of your implied recommendations there?
Allen Trottier: Absolutely.
Mike Schwarz: Customer support, if you can afford it. Well, great to connect with you, buddy. Have fun in the Philippines. I hope you don’t see too many face masks in the ocean there. Get your fully branded, customizable, environmentally friendly, reusable face masks from Alan at myzone.com/printing. Stay safe, everyone. Good talking to you, Alan. And we’ll talk soon.
Allen Trottier: Thanks, Bye.
Keeping ourselves, our employees and our customers safe is more important than ever. MyZone Printing’s custom face masks are an easy way to outfit those around you with comfortable, branded PPE. For more information, contact one of our printing experts today!