How to buy fair trade Christmas presents

I’m certainty no expert at gift shopping…in fact…my mum used to exchange all the Christmas presents that I gave her…but…since I started Oz Fair Trade (formerly known as Global Handmade), I have improved my gift purchase skills a lot…at least that’s what I believe 🙂

Now I want to share with you some tips about buying fair trade Christmas presents. Why fair trade presents? Because by buying fair trade presents, you are not only showing your love towards someone you care, but also you are also showing that person that you care for a better world and people who you have never met but who desperately needed your help.

By buying fair trade presents, you are giving twice.

There are some misconception that fair trade means higher prices. This is totally untrue. Most products sourced conventionally go through a number of middlemen, and the end price is often similar or even higher than fair trade products. The way fair trade market works is that the retailer deals directly with the artisans and/or the representatives of the artisan groups. This means that we as retailers are helping to cut down the middlemen cost and that we have better control over the quality of the products and the fair work practices of the artisan groups that we work with.

The end result is a fair price for the producers and a competitive price for the consumers. 

So…this Christmas, will you buying fair trade?

How to buy for mothers and grandmothers?

If you have a mother like mine…good luck…just kidding 😛

I have found that hand made cushions and table runners seem to be popular with middle age female customers. They appreciate the details, the traditional methods and the uniqueness of each product. We have a few such beautiful cushions. All cushions come with Innergreen inserts which are made in Australia from recycled plastic water bottles. Now that’s eco-friendly all the way!

Our mothers and grandmothers will also appreciate Christmas tree decorations. We have very cute handmade angle and animal decorations.

How to buy for fathers and grandfathers?

I share your pain…it can be very difficult…but not this year! How about a recycled bombshell bottle opener? The coolest bottle opener ever! Check out other items in Gifts For Him.

How to buy for husband?

We offer you something more budget friendly and long lasting than PS4, latest phone etc. How about a bomb necklace for a cool gen or a beautiful travel photography calendar that supports over 40 Australian not-for-profits? Check out other items in Gifts For Him.

How to buy for wife? 

Again, we offer you more budget friendly options that make equally wonderful presents. How about a hand woven luxury silk scarf? I have created a category Gifts For Her to make your shopping easier. Personally I think a woman will always want more jewellery…you can easily find something cute, beautiful or outstanding to suit your wife’s style. Even if fashion jewellery is not her thing, I’m sure she’ll be intrigued by our special recycled bombshell jewellery range.

How to buy for siblings / friends / colleagues?

My tip is buy what interests them. We have categories for special interests such as vegan, eco-friendly, hand weaving, natural dye, embroidery and knitting. At each category level you can also shop by price. We hope to make your shopping experience as easy and enjoyable as possible!

How to buy for children?

It’s so hard to buy for little ones…their interests are constantly changing…

Our most popular children’s products are finger puppets hand knitted by Bolivian women. An eco-cushion is also a great choice to decorate a kid’s room.

How to buy for someone who has everything?

…try our Most Unique category. Good luck!

Greeting Cards

This Christmas, why not send a unique handmade greeting card along with your presents? We have greeting cards made with printed silk and jute paper. Check them out!

All purchases can be upgraded for individual gift wrapping for just $1 extra. This option can be added in the shopping cart. I will be personally doing all the wrapping, and I’m not kidding when I say I take gift wrapping seriously! 🙂

Why not check out Oz Fair Trade’s full range of beautiful fair trade products online? I have sorted presents by recipients and interests so hopefully your Christmas shopping this year will be super easy! You can also find Oz Fair Trade products in some retail stores

p.s. we have just applied to the Fair Trader of Australia for their endorsement so please stay tuned. 🙂

How to rebrand an e-commerce store (Part V)

People matter

No matter how the technology changes or where the business operates, online or offline, the ultimate relationship between a seller and a buyer has not changed. The most important thing to be mindful of during a rebranding campaign, in my opinion, is to keep customers happy.

At Oz Fair Trade, one of things that set us apart from our competitors is our full commitment to providing the best customer services. We are passionate about fair trade, and we know that ultimately it is the consumers who have the power to push forward fair trade practices. For this reason, we want our customers to have the best shopping experience so that they will continue to support fair trade. We not only offer free express shipping on orders above $50, which is one of the most generous in the market, but also offer 365 day free return and exchange. This is unmatched by any other fair trade businesses in Australia. As a result, we have many happy customers, and any customer who has an issue will see it resolved quickly, because he/she only needs to deal with one person who really cares instead of some random employee who doesn’t care. All these earned us WOMO’s 2013 Service Award, which is shared only by the top 5% of the businesses listed on WOMO.

We were very mindful of customers’ reactions and needs when we decided to rebrand from ‘Global Handmade’ to ‘Oz Fair Trade’. One of the first things we did was posting on all social media platforms about the upcoming changes. Immediately after the new website was up and running, we emailed all our past customers about the change and the new features of the website, and invited them to visit the new site and give us feedback. We also offered them a permanent 10% discount on all future orders for supporting Global Handmade, a start-up fair trade not-for-profit. Some customers immediately responded and we were very happy about the positive responses that we received.

Through the process, we learned that people is the most crucial part of rebranding. All these website changes, social media update etc. all serve a single purpose: keep past customers happy and attract new customers. It is easy to forget the role of people when running an e-commerce from a home office, when the person responsible is faced with an endless to-do list covering web building, graphic design, photography, accounting, stock purchasing, stock labelling etc. But losing that focus would be a fatal mistake.

This is the last post of ‘How to rebrand an e-commerce store’ series. We’d love to hear your thoughts/experiences!

How to rebrand an e-commerce store (Part IV)

How much does social media matter?

It is now unthinkable to run a business especially an e-commerce business without a social media presence. What happens when a business changes its name? This was an essential part of my research before I made the decision to change the business name from ‘Global Handmade’ to ‘Oz Fair Trade’. Here’s what I found:

  • Facebook: easy to change url (self-service) but hard to change page name (need to submit a request, and keep trying if the initial request was rejected)
  • Twitter: easy to change username and url is automatically updated
  • Pinterest: easy to change username and url is automatically updated
  • Instagram: easy to change username and url is automatically updated
  • LinkedIn: easy to change business name and url is automatically updated
  • Google Plus: it was easier to create a new page in my situation

I also needed to update the information on third party review websites like True Local and Word Of Mouth Online. I found both fairly easy to do.

There might be other website/apps that you use for business. For example, I was using Survey Monkey and Mail Chimp. In the case of Survey Monkey, I simply created a new account, and it was fairly straight forward. In the case of Mail Chimp, I decided to update my information in the old account. It became messy. Mail Chimp extracts certain information from the account to be used in email footers (e.g. reply email, business name etc.), and it was not apparent in some cases why the old information still kept appearing even though I thought I had updated all information in my settings. I think I have solved the issues now, but I’m still not 100% certain. In hindsight, I should have simply created a new account.

The other thing left to update was my WordPress powered blog. I found that it was easy to change username etc. but it’s also a good idea to create a new (free) blog with the old name and inform people about the change (http://globalhandmade.wordpress.com/). It’s similar to the reason why I have kept the old www.globalhandmade.com.au website. It is always important to do everything possible to reduce confusion during a re-branding exercise.

Coming soon: How to rebrand an e-commerce store (Part V) – people matter

How to rebrand an e-commerce store (Part III)

How much does your website matter?

I heard once that it is normal to be ashamed of the first version of a website. I still remember our first version. It was definitely bad… By the time I decided to rebrand, the website was already at its fifth version, but it still lacked many key features that I desired for the level of customer service that I wanted to provide.

At the time, the website was built using a web building service provider called Moonfruit. It was once a big player in the industry, but now it’s struggling to compete with new players in terms of features and design. I remember deciding to build a website with no web building experience or any knowledge of e-commerce. So when I discovered Moonfruit, I was very excited and immediately jumped on it. Its drag and drop features allowed any web dummy to build a website. That’s its strength. However, I quickly grew out of it and the limitation of Moonfruit, especially around shopping cart, became apparent to me. In time, I discovered Ecwid, an e-commerce plugin that would work with any website. It felt perfect at the time, because I wasn’t going to dump all the hard work that I had put into building the Moonfruit site. I spent a week building my Ecwid shopping cart from scratch, and then installed it into my Moonfruit site. Soon I discovered that Moonfruit was limiting the features that Ecwid offered. It was a dead end. I made to make a hard decision. Time for some research.

This time, I really did my research, instead of jumping at the first thing I discovered. I read many articles comparing major e-commerce platform providers, and weighed them against one another in terms of the features that I needed and the prices. After some research, I decided to give Bigcommerce a trial run. You might ask why I never considered engaging a website builder. The simple reason is that I couldn’t afford to. After 10 months of a steep learning curve, I was also in a position that I understood what I wanted and a rough idea of how to get stuff I wanted.

As it turned out, Bigcommerce was perfect for my situation. It offered many features that I desired, like a wish list, mobile optimisation, gift coupons, customer rewards program and a Facebook shop. The price structure was also suitable, with no transaction fees and a competitive monthly charge. It also offered access to all backend html and css codes so potentially I could fully customise the store. However, I think I would have struggled with Bigcommerce when I first started about 10 months ago without any web building experience, because it is harder than ‘drag and drop’. But at this point in time, it was perfect for me.

One good thing about Ecwid was that I could export my products to a csv file and then import it to Bigcommerce. Although not all information was automatically transferred this way, it did save me considerable time and effort. I was again on a steep learning curve because I had no idea about CSS or HTML. Luckily though, I’m a quick learner and I really enjoy learning. Google became my best friend, and I quickly got a website up and running. So far the feedback has been great. I’d love to hear your feedback! Please visit www.ozfairtrade.org and let me know your thoughts!

Coming soon: How to rebrand an e-commerce store (Part IV) – How much does social media matter?

How to rebrand an e-commerce store (Part II)

How much does your name matter?

One of the very first steps once we decided to rebrand was to evaluate whether we needed a new brand name. A new brand name is not a necessary element of a re-branding exercise, and it’s certainly not suitable in some situations. We needed a cost benefit analysis. This was where my actuarial analytical mind came to be handy.

Generally speaking, a new brand name can cause confusion to existing customers and undo past marketing efforts. However, the younger the brand is, the less it has to lose. In our situation, Global Handmade was only 10 month old, so it was definitely a young business. On the other hand, we were certainly aware of the implications of a name change, and the amount of work that this would create.  So it all came down to this: could we come up with a brand name that’s significantly better than Global Handmade?

Looking back, I think “Global Handmade” failed at least one crucial test. It didn’t imply what the organisation stood for. When I attended networking events, people often looked at my name card and asked what ‘Global Handmade’ was. Their first guess would be some crafty business. They were certainly right because most of our products were hand crafted; however, the name said nothing about what we stood for or that the products were fairly traded. When I first chose the business name, I picked something that described what the products were. But after 10 months of business experience, I came to the realisation that what we stood for was far more important than what we were selling. People bought from us not because the products were hand crafted, but because they supported our values and they supported fair trade. In other words, a lot more people were interested in fair trade practices and ethical products than the method of production. I realised that the brand name had to be changed.

The length of time that it took me to decide on a new name was about 10 hours. By now, you might have realised that I’m the sort of person who jumps on things. In less than 24 hours, I had registered a new business name, bought four new domains, set up two new email accounts, and set up a new private company.

Why did I choose ‘Oz Fair Trade’? Because it was available, it implied exactly what we stood for, and it implied that we were a locally owned business. It was also very important to check the availability of domains. I wanted to get four domains i.e. ozfairtrade.org, ozfairtrade.org.au, ozfairtrade.com and ozfairtrade.com.au. There were some other names that could have worked, but at least one domain was not available. Once the decision was made, I quickly registered all four domains. The default domain at the moment is www.ozfairtrade.org.

A new brand name also meant new business cards, new promotional materials and a new logo. Have I mentioned that I’ve learned so much about Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator in the past 10 months? It took me a few late nights to finish the design of all new marketing materials, and then they were off to the printer. Could I take a rest now? No…the fun has just begun…

Coming soon: How to rebrand an e-commerce store (Part III) – How much does your website matter?