This is a follow up story for All Things Commerce Helsinki Ltd.. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published almost 4 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
My name is Jonas Forth and together with my team, we run the global e-commerce stores moomin.com and skandibrand.com. We sell branded products featuring among other things the worldwide brand Moomin, with the Moomin mugs being one of our most popular products. We’ve built a worldwide network of online Moomin retailers in Europe and Asia and we now have our eyes set on the US. Since we have a steady grip on the online development of Moomin, we’re looking at bringing on other brands.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
Moomin.com grew approximately 15% in 2019 compared to the previous year but the brand itself grew 25%, as did its profits. We quite often say that we’re conversion neutral, and believe that the transaction can occur anywhere and virtually all of the brand’s turnover comes from licensing but we want to own the conversation with the fans and consumers and the development of the perception of the brand online.
Ask for help. I believe that the current quarantine has shown the resourcefulness of people faced with challenges larger than themselves.
At the end of last year, we started to expand our product inventory and it has by now doubled to about 1000 articles. We also updated our shipping options to allow for free deliveries and started exploring automated customer prospecting on Facebook and Instagram using data from various pixel sources. These actions combined have contributed to a growth of more than 30% in 2020 so far, close to 80% in April alone compared to the same period last year.
We are still a small knit team of four but one of our colleagues recently returned from maternity leave and she will take on a new brand to build their online presence in the same way we have with the Moomins. One thing we launched late last year is skandibrand.com, which features many other brands, and we intend to ramp it up this year.
We are still focused on organic traffic and email marketing, but I can mention a service that has worked well for us. Subscribers.com is a browser messaging tool where people can opt in to receive timed messages from us. We make sure to only use it once a week max, but the results are great - the subscribers are growing 15% month on month, and the click rate is over 10%.
One other small idea is this: we did a Typeform survey earlier this year and asked our customers about their online shop experience. We got an average of 4.6 out of 5 but also a lot of really useful feedback on what to work on next. We added a discount code in the end that you could only get if you answered all the questions. One in five people who went through the survey purchased something, although the code gave you a normal discount. It probably has to do with people feeling that they put in the effort and should make use of the situation.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
Last year we started exploring Amazon, and we registered the Moomin trademark on all their platforms around the world. Amazon is quite the beast though and it took us more than six months to just be accepted as a merchant on amazon.de. We ran into trouble connecting the platform to our fulfillment system and the project is currently on hold. We will, however, build Amazon brand stores and collect all existing licensed Moomin products to one place.
The Covid-19 situation hasn’t impacted us that much but we try to help our licensees and customers navigate through this difficult situation. From a sales perspective, we should probably have thought about what kind of products people would be interested in when sitting indoors for long periods of time. For example, we missed purchasing puzzles and there are now none to be had.
In general, it’s seldom you’re presented with opportunities to immediately act upon and I believe that the best way to move forward is to work consistently and always focus on providing value to the customer.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
This year we will expand our online presence in the UK by opening up moomin.co.uk and a wholesale operation to support it. We will update the look and feel of shop.moomin.com and roll out the same theme on our other Shopify Plus stores around the world. After the UK launch, we will start working on ways of entering the US market.
In August we will start merging our online and offline stores to create a better more cohesive omnichannel experience for our customers. This will start in Finland and the UK and once we have the infrastructure and technical support locked down, we will open additional brick and mortar stores in the Nordic countries.
We will also take on other new brands such as Mauri Kunnas, Lassemaja and Ilon Wikland, whom we represent through our rights agency R&B Licensing. Using the existing systems we built for Moomin, I believe that we can lift other brands much quicker than it took to build out the Moomin brand. Moomin will reach retail sales of over 1 billion dollars in two years' time and double it within five years. In order to do that, we need to lock down the online sales strategy and streamline the process from start to finish. And we’d like to have fun on that journey.
I want to mention our campaign this year, oursea.fi, where we’re raising one million to clean up the Baltic Sea, one of the most polluted seas in the world. We’re well on our way but any help is appreciated as the results from the project can be applied to other seas suffering from overnutrification.
Have you read any good books in the last year?
I recently started reading a book by Mika Aaltonen on artificial intelligence (in Finnish), as I believe that AI will define much of our lives in the coming decades.
I really enjoy leanluxe.com’s and 2pml.com’s newsletters and I regularly share their insights within the company. Neilpatel.com always has great SEO tips. Podcasts I recommend are WeCrashed about the WeWork debacle and mimmitsijoittaa.fi (in Finnish) who is helping educate young women on personal finance?
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
Ask for help. I believe that the current quarantine has shown the resourcefulness of people faced with challenges larger than themselves. We have spoken with numerous companies over the past month, both to give help to others but also to order consulting from companies that reached out to us. You grow both in business and personally by helping others, especially in times of crisis.
What I see people sometimes do is that they focus on trying to eliminate copy the competition instead of aiming at improving their own business. Anyone who has built a business knows that’s a surefire way of failing in the long run.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Our team is small and nimble and currently, we’re not looking to hire. Instead, we believe in using the infrastructure and technology we built in the past years to be able to expand our operations, using the team we have.
However, if there’s someone who is interested in setting up Moomin online operations in some part of the world, for example, the US, we are interested in hearing from you. Just shoot me an email at [email protected] and we’ll talk.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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