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03-Feb-2015

Navigating the world of e-commerce

After nearly seven years of business on the bricks in downtown Kearney, I joked with customers, as well as other business colleagues, that Look What’s Cookin’ had become quite successful—in spite of some of our efforts. What that means is, since when we opened in December of 2007, we had more than doubled our annual gross sales and we had done so with virtually no social media presence or internet sales.  


Up to this point, staying current meant going to a trade show every year and sharing ideas with other companies that belong to the buying group of close to 300 stores nationally. I also got new ideas from trade magazines. But we had to find a way to get some products out the back door as our business growth slowed.  


Over the years we have sent products to 10 to 15 different states for customers who had visited our store in person.  It was common for them to ask if we were online.


One particular day, I had a customer who lived several hours away call and order approximately $250 in merchandise to be shipped to them. Upon doing the math, I realized if I could do one sale like that each day, I could increase my annual sales by nearly $100,000!

So, the search to “get online” began in late 2012. First, I did some research online and asked others what they had done. The options were staggering, not very user-friendly, and caused sticker shock for this single brick and mortar location.


We concluded that if we were going to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a system, we had to find one that could be customized to our needs. One of the biggest obstacles was having an e-commerce platform with the ability for gift registry to help our bridal registry reach a younger demographic.


In late 2013 we installed new point-of-sale hardware and software to accommodate our goal of selling our 6,000+ items online.


In November 2014, just over one calendar year, hundreds of employee hours, and many setbacks we were able to launch lookwhatscookin.com. It hasn’t been easy or cheap, but doing things the right way is rarely easy.

I would be remiss to not thank all who helped get our store up to date. I couldn’t have even thought about it without my employees, who have done all of the data entry and troubleshooting. Personally, I have done neither!  


When the website launched, my initial thought was that the hard work was done. It is not. I have customers who think once you’re online, you’ll automatically make it big. That’s not true. The advantage we have is seven years in business, good customers and successful sales; but there’s no guarantee as to what will work. Now we have to find ways to get both new and established customers to shop our site via social media, advertising or putting a flyer in each customer’s bag announcing our “new store!”


That’s where social media comes in. We started doing more with Facebook recently by sharing recipes, giveaways and events, but we’re still learning a lot. I’ve talked with other store owners in downtown Kearney to see how they utilize social media and to find out what other kind of successes are happening with Facebook. We share ideas on how to prompt people to like us, to share our page, and to drive traffic to our websites.


I have joked that at 29-years-old, “I thought I knew it all” and at 49-years-old (when I opened our store), “I didn’t know very much!”

At certain points in our careers or businesses, we need to turn some of what we don't know over to someone who does know in order to stay current or grow the business.


About the Author

Mike Suchan
Owner, Look What's Cookin'
Mike opened Look What's Cookin' in Kearney in 2007. He graduated from Kearney State College in 1982 with a BS in Biology. After college, Mike worked at several large companies before opening his own.

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