How to expand a retail business into online markets

: January 7, 2021

We recently held the second Small Business School Challenge, featuring teams from some of the top MBA programs in the United States (NYU, Duke, Yale, and more) to answer this question.

The retail businesses who participated came to the table with the challenges they’re facing, especially during the economic difficulties caused by COVID-19. They were paired up with an MBA team to brainstorm solutions and come up with a plan to alleviate their biggest pain point.

Over 48 hours, the small businesses and MBA candidates worked side by side… virtually, of course.

The teams collaborated via video to find clarity and create a path to greater sustainability and success. Thanks to the studies of the MBA students, small business owners received cutting-edge, data-driven insights to help them make decisions going forward.

1 key suggestion from the MBA teams: strategically expanding an existing retail business into the online market, leveraging coupons and referral codes to encourage growth.

How to grow an existing retail business online

The retail business case study

Fusion Dolls, a company dedicated to providing children with a more racially diverse array of dolls to choose from, has done most of its business face-to-face. They now want to transition into the digital space, both because of COVID-19 and to expand their market.

The solution

Fusion Dolls worked with MBA students from the Yale School of Management, who advised the following:

Our proposal is to develop 2 different digital products:

  • Create a digital referral coupon
  • Offer digital gift codes

Many of Fusion Doll’s sales were from word-of-mouth in a face-to-face setting, which we plan to incentivize customers through the coupon code. This will help spread the brand’s awareness outside of the local area where Fusion Dolls is working now.

Digital gift codes offer new purchasers to buy a doll for a friend/loved one and letting them choose the product. In addition to allowing customer flexibility, it gives Fusion Dolls cash to use in the immediate period.

The MBA takeaways for your business

Don’t be afraid to incentivize customers as you transition into a new market.

It’s all about building up a new base, and customer loyalty and sweetening the pot with discounts and referral codes can help.

MBA advice for your retail business

The Small Business School Challenge brought together great minds from both worlds, both business owners and future entrepreneurs. Their combined knowledge and experiences produced a wealth of advice for any small business. 

If you’re interested in this meeting of the minds, add your contact details on our ‘I’m Interested’ form to recieve the announcement of the next challenge.

Until then, stay tuned for more takeaways and tips in this series from our MBA teams that can help your small business, and check out the hundreds of case studies published on our site.