Emily Shirley, GM at Vistaprint UK and Ireland, talks about how Vistaprint was able to get a brand new masks offering online in just two weeks, and what the company learned from moving fast and breaking its internal 'rules'.

As the coronavirus pandemic took hold across the world, it quickly became apparent that there was one item everyone would need that few people already owned: a mask.

According to Google Trends data, worldwide searches for “mask” climbed sharply upwards in mid-to-late February 2020, before beginning a much more dramatic climb in mid-March 2020, reaching their highest peak in mid-April. Another, slightly smaller peak took place between mid-June and late July, and although demand has lowered since, at its lowest level search volume is still double what it was at the beginning of January 2020. Google searches for “face mask” display the same trends with lower volume.

Many businesses have pivoted or reinvented their offerings in different ways during Covid-19, either due to necessity or in order to better serve their customer base. Vistaprint, the online small business marketing and graphic design services company best known for its business cards, is no exception. In the early stages of the pandemic, Vistaprint made the decision to start selling masks, a product that it had never sold before – and not just any masks, but fully customisable, high-quality masks that people would want to wear.

I spoke to Emily Shirley, General Manager at Vistaprint UK and Ireland, about why Vistaprint decided to branch into selling masks, how the company pivoted to design a new ecommerce experience in just two weeks, what the team has learned from the venture and about the importance of being agile, and what lies in store for the future.

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