How to brand and market your own online boutique

Most people who open an online shop don’t realise the amount of work, skill and strategy that’s needed to create a beautiful boutique and keep it running and it’s not down to ignorance, just a lack of experience. Most e-commerce software vendors make out that opening an online shop is really easy.  The truth is that it can be, but running the shop, marketing it and making sales is hard unless you have the knowledge and the investment to put into it.

If you’re starting your own online retail business then check out our article How to create your first online shop, but if you want to know how to brand and market your online shop and how to keep it going for the long run then read on to get some great tips on setting up your own online boutique.

The following will help you avoid pitfalls that I’ve seen many people do.  They tend to skip over all of the below when opening their online boutique and usually the shop will close within a year. Make sure you don’t do the same thing…

1. Branding Your Boutique

Branding will play a big role in promoting your online boutique and will work in several ways.  It will:

  • Build Credibility for your shop
  • Create individuality
  • Make it look professional
  • Give your shop a sense of purpose
  • Target your specific audience
  • Create relationships with your customers
  • Position you in the marketplace

For the branding of your boutique to be successful you need to sit down, get a pen and paper and narrow down on your business idea to formulate brand strategy:

  • What are your Brand’s Values?
    It’s character & actions to any given situation
  • Brand Positioning
    How will your brand differentiate in the market place?
  • What does your brand promise?
    Can you deliver on the promise?
  • Who are your Brand Audience?
    What demographics and geographics make up your customers
  • Who are your Brand Users?
    What problems can you commonly solve for your customers?
  • What is your Brand Language?
    How will you communicate verbally?
  • What is your Brand Name?

The answers to the questions above will form a brand strategy to:

  • Position your boutique uniquely in the marketplace.
  • Identify who you will be marketing to and how
  • Reveal why customers should be interested in your boutique
  • Identify your boutique with physcial and mental attributes

When answering the above questions, it’s not enough to give one worded answers. We want to go into detail to create a better brand. For example, when we ask Who are you targeting specifically?  Don’t give a one-word answer like “Women”. 

Dig deep into demographics to find the perfect customer.

Women who are:

  • Aged 24-40
  • Work as Professionals in London
  • Have an income of over £50,000 per year
  • Are interested in Fashion
  • Are interested in Luxury
  • Are interested in high price items
  • Are also interested in Crafts & Art
  • Are interested in Travel

The key here is to narrow down on all answers so you can build a brand based on evidence and data as opposed to your own gut instinct.

Why build a brand?

Everyone wants to buy into a brand or some idea of quality, value and authenticity regardless of what’s being sold and at what price.

For example, you have Primark selling clothes for £2.00 and Versace selling clothes for £200. Any given person may buy clothes from both outlets but expect something very different from each brand when they do so.

People go to places like Primark expecting to pay a low price for value clothing. They go to Versace to buy exclusive and luxury high fashion items.

They both sell fashion but it’s the brand that separates the two entities, giving them a unique stance in the marketplace and communicating a personal ideal about the pricing, value and quality of its brand to audiences.

To compete you need to do the same by developing a brand and communicating with a brand identity to target your audience specifically.

A lot of people just open an online shop and give no thought to the branding.  They usually suffer when it comes to promoting their shop because they don’t know who they should be targeting, and the audience doesn’t understand what the shop and its products really stand for.  To avoid confusion put some thought into creating your unique brand.   Download our brand design brief to help you get started or utilise our brand discovery services.

2. Developing a Brand Identity for your boutique

A Brand Identity is a way of visually communicating your brand to your customers throughout your boutique.  The goal is to:

  • Set a theme that you can use to design the appearance of your online shop
  • Use the theme to tie all of your products and pages together within your shop
  • Use the theme to market your boutique with, online and off.
  • Create a professional image as an online retailer
  • Relate to your customers
  • Create a coherent and unique experience as a boutique

The keywords in the last bullet point are “Coherent” and “Experience”.

The reason for creating a brand theme is so that your logo, web design, products, marketing and any visuals, all look consistent and professional, creating a coherent visual identity for the boutique.  Once a coherent identity has been created for your online shop, it means that the shop can be identified, recognised and remembered.   Once that happens, it means that you’ve automatically started to create a relationship with the customer through design communication.

Creating a coherent identity also makes the customer feel like they are having an experience with your brand, rather than just a snatch and grab online shopping trip.  Everything they are about to see, browse and buy in your boutique ties into one holistic feeling that’s associated with your boutique only.  To help build this idea, look at the products you sell as they’ll reflect what experience you’re delivering to the customer.

Look at your products characteristically.  Do they look like:

  • Cheap Products
  • Expensive Products
  • Old Products
  • Modern Products
  • Foreign Products

These visual cues will give you an idea of who will buy your products and what it is that they want out of a product, boutique and brand.

To create a coherent identity and brand experience for your online boutique, you just have to create a good, strong and consistent brand theme that reflects your brand and products, and use it throughout the shop from your homepage banners to your product photos and product descriptions.

The benefits are that your shop will look like a specialist boutique, something niche and like something that’s worth buying into.  Without a brand identity design, you’ll find that your shop just looks like a bad and untrustworthy bric-a-brac shop.

Avoid missing sales with your online boutique by using a brand identity design.

3. Maintaining your boutique shopfront

A lot of new online shop owners will have their online store designed and built and then they’ll leave it alone completely.  They won’t make any changes to the homepage or any other pages, and in doing so, the design becomes stale very quickly.   For an online store, it’s imperative that you change your storefront graphics and offers seasonally, if not monthly or weekly and to do this you’re going to need help from a web designer, graphic designer or digital designer.

To avoid closing down your online boutique, make sure that you get creative and technical support to keep the shop running and promoted, and make sure you have a budget to do so. 

4. Product Photos for your online boutique

Photos tie in with the branding for your online boutique and play a huge part in making your boutique look like a trustworthy site.  I could go so far and say that product and marketing photos could make or break your online store in terms of sales.

With that in mind its worth hiring a good photographer to produce your product shots and some additional concept photos to be used for marketing projects.  Don’t skimp on product photography as that’s what will ultimately make your products desirable.

5. The Competition for your online boutique

When opening a small online boutique, it’s very important to look at your real competition so you know exactly what the marketplace is like.  If you are new to e-commerce then you may think that your competition is the already existing, big name brand that sells similar products but the truth is that your competition actually spreads far, wide and in all sizes.

Your competitors will be:

  • The big-name brands
    Unless you have millions in the marketing budget then you can’t compete with big name brands because they dominate search engine results for generic keyword searches
  • The smaller name brands
    Smaller name brands are also very big and have an established presence online so competing with them will also be hard as they are much older and bigger then you.
  • Other boutiques
    Your main competitors will be other boutiques, especially ones who have built a name for themselves
  • New and small shops just like yours
    You may not be the only one creating a boutique, there are hundreds if not thousands that already exist or are starting up just like you

The reason for looking at the competition is to figure out how you can compete as a business in the market place, mainly by differentiation.  You will need to do SEO (mentioned further) and all sorts of different marketing but by differentiating yourself as a brand, it means that you’re not necessarily competing with other boutiques or brands but you’re creating your own space in the market.

If you don’t create your own space, then what you’ll find is that your marketing budget will sky rocket and you’ll get no sales in return.  Essentially, you’ll be doing little sales or no sales and be out of business pretty soon.

Differentiation will link heavily to your products and branding so it’s another good reason to invest in branding when opening a boutique.

6. SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) for your online boutique

If you want to find or buy anything online then it’s likely that you’ll use a search engine to find it, but to climb the ranks of a search engine as an online shop needs some technical skill and a cash or time investment.  How you tackle the likes of search engines will be down to how much you know about SEO or how much you can afford to pay someone else to do it for you.

As a smaller start up boutique you may want to try the likes of AdWords instead.  AdWords is a method where you set the budget, create your own campaign and pay search engines to place you at the top of their search engine results.  It may sound easy but it’s still tricky stuff, albeit a quicker method of getting people to your online shop then organic SEO.

None the less, organic SEO should also be done alongside it if you want sales in the long run.  Once you get into SEO you’ll realise why determining your competition comes in handy as you’ll see that the big brand names dominate generic keywords however small boutiques find success with SEO by focusing on niche keywords or products.

Niche keywords are specific keywords that people may use to search for a specific niche item.  As a boutique it’s likely that what you’re selling is not too common or its different in some way to what big name brands sell.  That “difference” is what will help you get found online because you’re capitalising on having what the customer specifically wants.

Using niche keywords is an ideal SEO strategy for online boutiques.

7. Social Media for your boutique

If you’re not social media savvy then you’ll have to get savvy to promote your online boutique.  Whereas SEO is quite technical and a bit of a bulldog industry, social media allows anyone to easily promote anything.  To promote your boutique, you’ll need to

  • Create good content to share
  • Learn about keywords, hashtags and back links
  • Creating a list of followers

You may be good at social media as a consumer or socialite, sharing your personal details and lifestyle but how are you with it as an online boutique?  To be honest it’s quite the same except you want every post to get a reaction such as click through or a sale. To get a reaction you need to create good content to share.  Good content could involve anything such as adverts, blog posts, reviews, social events or even a joke.  The point is that you’re focusing the content around your target audience.  It should be something that they want to engage in.

The second point is to use keywords, hashtags and back links.  A keyword is a word that a customer may use to find what your selling e.g. If you sell shoes, then a potential customer may search for

  • Shoes
  • Shoe sale
  • Red shoes
  • Size seven shoes
  • Cheap shoes
  • High heeled shoes

If you create a post about something your boutique sells, then put in the keywords that are relevant to your product and prefix these keywords with hashtags to make the posts searchable.

e.g. #RedShoes

Hashtags make you searchable on social media but to get them on site you need to create back-links to your website product pages.

Many shop owners make the mistake of creating generic social media adverts and linking back to the homepage of the boutique.  This is not a bad thing to do but to make sales, you want to create specific social media adverts for your products and link them back to the actual product pages.

Successful social media marketing follows the same premise as branding and SEO for your shop.  The more specific you can be with your content, the better chance there is of attracting the right audience and making a sale.

Creating great content that’s entertaining, informative and optimised, will help you build followers.  The only other thing that helps to build followers is to make use of whatever connections you already have, start following other people in your industry (other boutiques) and to just start following other people in general.

8. Blogging about your online boutique

If you don’t know what blogging is, then you can find out here: What is a blog, how to create one and why?

Blogging can become your online boutiques own personal PR hub, allowing you to review, promote and talk about your business or industry in general.  Simultaneously, it will help you position better in search engines and give you content to share on social media networks.

A blog could be the very lifeline for the marketing of your boutique and the best thing about it, is that you can do it yourself.

If you want more info on blogging then take part in our free online course here: “How to attract clients online”

9. Go offline

It’s really hard to make sales with an online boutique so a great way to find customers is to go offline and start promoting your shop and products locally.  Do it via flyers, events, vendors and parties to help get your name out there.  It will help build your SEO and social media for your boutique as well. To get the most out of flyering, read How to create a surefire flyering campaign

Conclusion:

Many will read my advice and take none and it’s very likely that their boutique will make minimal sales or close down quickly but if you take on board the advice I‘ve given, you’ll find that you’ll not only have a beautiful online boutique shop but an online business that lasts.

If you need help with your online boutique then get in touch at www.conceptstore.co.uk



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