How I grew a business opportunity through a pandemic

Like any other Australian, this time last year I wouldn’t have believed what 2020 would bring.

I started The Salt Box in 2011 and it has always been online-led. Towards the end of 2019, I was confident we had the world of e-commerce well understood. I was working with a digital agency to manage my online marketing and we were seeing a steady stream of customers purchase through our website. We had also recently signed up as a seller on Amazon Australia, and by the end of 2019, we were enjoying the volume of orders brought to us by a major marketplace.

I can’t imagine that many businesses in Australia weren’t impacted by the unprecedented bushfire crisis. We were certainly one of the lucky ones, with the bushfires very close to where our products are packaged in Nowra, we were thankfully not physically impacted. However, The Salt Box faced major challenges when courier companies across Australia were brought to their knees by the bushfires. This impact was felt directly by our customers, with many parcels missing or late. Though unavoidable it was tricky to navigate as a small business, both from a cost and customer service perspective.

Thankfully, as the fires were put out, we started to see a return to business as usual. Though this was short-lived, with the coronavirus which had begun causing serious problems overseas, now impacting every person and business within Australia.

We all knew what came next, but the direct impact of COVID-19 on The Salt Box, came as a surprise. With lockdown orders imposed and Aussies, including myself, suddenly finding themselves spending more time at home – our sales spiked. Australian’s have, and continue to feel stressed and those important “little luxuries” became so much more valuable. We saw a huge leap in demand for our wellness products, including our bath salts, and it was clear that Aussies were taking this time to care for themselves.

Lockdown for me was first spent glued to my computer, making sure we could keep up with all our new orders. We were well-stocked, we had everything in place, but this felt like an opportunity that I needed to grasp. It wasn’t just me trying to run an e-commerce business. I know I needed to up my game to make sure I remained competitive.

If I could describe lockdown in one word, for me it would be learning. With this extra time at home, I decided it was time to part ways with my digital agency and become much closer to this essential side of my business. Not only would this save a cost but being right up close to my marketing data and strategy, would be a great opportunity to further grow The Salt Box.

The last couple of months have been a blur of webinars, YouTube tutorials and consultations. I’ve also dedicated time into really cracking my other sales channels like Amazon Australia, trying to master algorithms and participating in their Amazon’s Mid-Year Sale event.

The learning isn’t over, but the benefits are starting to shine through. I saw a 65 per cent jump in sales across core products during the Amazon Australia Mid-Year Sale in June, and being closer to my marketing data means I’ve been able to line up some great new products that I know customers have been searching for.

2020 has been hard on small businesses, and I’ve certainly been one of the lucky ones, but my advice to any other small-business owner is to spend this time learning and really getting under the bonnet of your business. Once under there, the opportunities you unlock are endless.

Rowena Frith, Founder and Managing Director, The Salt Box