In this age of expanding e-commerce, how ready and how relevant is your business to enter this arena?
Engineer-turned-entrepreneur Ben Pearson knows that every business eventually will be selling online. The founder of ENALAS — which stands for Everyone Needs a Little Assistance Sometimes — helps brands develop market strategies for this inevitability by using data and analystics to drive business decisions.
His desire to assist others through innovation and science started at an early age. His sister has a disability, and he worked with his father to design and develop tools — using an engineer’s mindset— that would help her live a better life.
Today, Pearson works with brands to assess products people need or want, produce them, then develop channels for marketing and distributing them. E-commerce plays a big role in the latter.
He shares five tips for businesses — particularly manufacturers — to overcome challenges and embrace the realities of selling in an e-commerce-dominated world:
1. If you can’t measure, don’t do it.
Historically, and even still today, companies use focus groups and product managers to find out what consumers want. At ENALAS, Pearson uses data to rapidly prototype products and short runs as the go-to market strategy.
“We can collect quantitative data to tell us what to build and how to sell it. Companies don’t need to place bets anymore. Analytically driven product development is the best way to go to market,” says Pearson. “And soon it will be the only way to go to market online.”
2. Figure out ways to be better at something early on.
As the standard distribution model for brands is being transformed into an online, consumer-focused marketplace, “a company’s ability to stay nimble and technologically advanced will be a key differentiator,” Pearson says.
Business can embrace this challenge by actively engaging in all forms of input: pilot programs, beta testings and demonstrations of new partner tools. When external tools will not suffice, develop internal tools.
He recommends having a marketing team read blogs, general and industry news, and private seller networks on a daily basis to make sure they stay ahead of everyone. And tech employees should have access to the best and latest hardware and tech stack available.
3. Learn at least one thing from each failure.
Pearson shares one example of failure that taught him a valuable lesson. He developed a product early in his career and began selling it online before inventory was developed. This led to the realization that supply chain matters just as much as marketing. Amazon, he says, is successful because they figured this out at the start.
Failure taught Pearson a lesson rooted in analysis; supply chain analysis will raise or lower search engine optimization in multi-seller platforms.
“I am OK with mistakes as long as you learn and grow from them and don’t repeat,” Pearson says. “Taking risks with data is how we remain relevant. We are all human and part of being human is imperfection. It’s what you do with your situation that makes us imperfectly perfect.”
4. All companies have e-commerce market potential.
Ten years ago, no one could envision the volume of products being purchased online today. With the rise of cloud services and low-cost technologies, all that has changed.
Software issues will overcome hardware issues, Pearson says. Business leaders who think there is a barrier to e-commerce should keep this in mind.
In countries where the majority of the population does not have credit cards, e-commerce is growing because software innovation is coming up with new ways for people to buy and sell. Therefore, no matter where you are in the world, e-commerce will be a major channel for how you sell.
5. Build for people not for profit alone.
Pearson’s path to entrepreneurship came when he realized he cared more about people than profits, and wanted to find a way to succeed at both. At ENALAS, about half of Pearson’s staff are family members, but he cares for everyone like family, he says.
Today, all ENALAS employees have access to the best-available health care benefits and technology tools to do their jobs. They enjoy a positive workplace culture built on the idea that, “we are all in this together,” he says.
On the profit side, Pearson says tries to pick the right brands to work with at ENALAS. “The perfect partnership is a manufacturer who makes really cool stuff people like that doesn’t have a set e-commerce strategy for now or years to come,” he continues. “We don’t do anything unless we own equity, so that when we go to market it’s a long-term strategy.”
For Pearson, ENALAS marries his dual ambitions of people and profits. “When employees feel good, they become vested in a business, and great ideas and innovated thinking come together — and so can profits,” he says.
Pearson has clearly empowered his people to lean into the future of selling to drive impact. And there’s no doubt that he has high hopes for even the simplest maker of widgets looking to sell online.
For businesses not sure where to start, heed Pearson’s mantra: Protoype fast, brand brilliantly and embrace the era of e-commerce.
Stephanie Marchioni is the YPO Champion Development Business Partner. Before joining YPO in 2016, Marchioni had a 16-year career in Human Resources across multiple industries and functional areas. Her career passions have been employee engagement and talent development. Marchioni also has experience supporting mergers and talent acquisitions.