March 2020 was a strange time for the equestrian world. Many of us were just planning our spring and summer schedules and looking forward to a busy year at shows and events. Covid-19 sent us scattering in different directions or just plain wondering what to do next.
Susan Benson has spent the last 30 years helping businesses build their brands in the horse world and much of her focus is a “boots on the ground” approach incorporating event sponsorship and social media to create awareness and excitement about the brands. She had just completed a successful trunk show for a new brand launch at HITS Ocala and was attending a Horse Trials nearby when word of the “shut down” occurred.
The next week, Susan sprang into action and created a new Shopify website for Somerset Equestrian Trading and her client’s brands. She knew she needed a stronger presence online and a way for customers to experience the brands virtually. Next she worked with one of her horse show clients to create a “virtual” horse show complete with prizes and sponsors. “We were surprised at the success,” Nona Garson stated. “People just wanted a way to participate. It was great fun and gave the sponsors a way to showcase their products.”
By April, Susan realized the 2020 season was going to mostly be put on hold and she started looking for ways to help others affected financially by the pandemic. She reached out on social media though trade groups to let brick and mortar and mobile retailers know that she could help get their businesses online. Shopify proved to be a great solution for several retailers who now needed a way to sell their products while stores were closed and shows were put on hold.
For several business owners, including Susan herself, the ability to change their business model and adapt was key to getting through 2020. She has built several websites for a variety of businesses and finds it a great way to help equestrian and equine related brands grow even in tough times. “My own buying habits have changed, I buy a lot more items online or shop online for curbside pick up,” Susan mused. “I never did this before but the convenience is so great that I probably will continue even when things become normal again.”
Sunspree Mobile Tack was thrilled to have Susan’s help building their new e-commerce site and felt it helped having someone who understood the product and the customer. They were able to get their entire inventory online in just a couple of weeks with this program. Sunspree also loves how easy the site is to update and coordinate with their social media. Of course, they can always call on Susan to help as she provides ongoing support as part of her customer service.
L and D Trailers also have found their new website invaluable for getting new customers and their sales are equal to last year when they spent much time on the road at shows exhibiting their Equi-Trek trailers and horse boxes. “It’s a different model,” stated Lynn Roberge regarding utilizing the website and social media more extensively, “But it seems to be working very well.”
Currently Susan is working on a website for a trainer and coach in New Mexico and a tack store in Ohio. As we start the holiday buying season, it’s still not too late to convert an older website, or create a new one to sell product online and/or drive business to stores. Susan tells her clients that a new Shopify website becomes an extension of their business and creates an integral approach to marketing their brand. It’s still just a piece of the puzzle, but an important one going forward.
Contact: Susan Benson
Somerset Equestrian Trading