How Indies Can Take On-line To The Subsequent Degree

The United Kingdom recorded the highest number of online store openings ever between February 2 and June 20, 2020. Growth Intelligence, which uses artificial intelligence to help companies maximize marketing, analyzed the websites of small businesses in the UK and found 85,000 ecommerce sites launched to keep closed businesses afloat when the country fell into lockdown .

More than 10% of these new businesses were selling fashion and apparel – the largest category – and many were independent companies with established brick and mortar stores using e-commerce for the first time.

Even before the pandemic, Louise Cleverly-Lace, director of Vanilla Norwich, which opened on the outskirts in 1998, had spent a decade convincing womenswear store owners to turn to e-commerce.

People want to shop locally because this is an opportunity to support their local economy and they want to be more sustainable

Shimona Mehta, Managing Director EMEA at the e-commerce software company Shopify

“It just seemed overwhelming to her,” she tells Drapers. But when “non-essential” retail had to close on March 23, 2020, the topic became urgent and Cleverly-Lace finally got the green light. The boutique’s website launched in April 2020.

Cleverly-Lace bought Vanilla Norwich in August 2020 when previous owners Anita and Abhi Vadir retired. She decided to only run the store online.

“I saw [reopening the physical boutique] was an incredibly difficult thing to do, even though it was very well established, “she explains.” Going online was a really positive step for us. “She restarted the website in September 2020 to reflect her vision and had within three Days 100 orders.

Show yourself from your best side on social networks

Emphasizing local connections on Facebook and Instagram is an important way to stand out online. Around 60% of Vanilla’s customers are from Norfolk and Suffolk.

“North Norfolk has become a very popular place to stay,” says Cleverly-Lace. “So, as an added bonus, I use the fact that the brand is from Norwich. It’s really important to show on my social media what a beautiful, wonderful city it is. “

Shimona Mehta, Managing Director EMEA at e-commerce software company Shopify, agrees that this is a good strategy for independents: “People want to shop locally because it’s an opportunity to support their local economy, and they want to be more sustainable . “

Many people will googling you to see if you have any recommendations or reviews before shopping

Ruby Lee, Creative Director at Studio 77

Social media also allows independent retailers to emphasize the personal touch.

Cleverly-Lace uses Instagram to present new products and give styling tips: “People buy me and my personality. I think as a one man band on the internet you have to share in a real way. ”She also believes that wearing the products gives a realistic idea of ​​the fit, which has helped bring their return rate down to 14%.

Mehta suggests that a local focus can flow into an omnichannel approach that seamlessly combines the online and offline customer experience with one brand: “People are looking for more” [Covid] Safety in shopping, so things like online buying and roadside pickup are popular.

“People are also willing to pay more for same day delivery. If you shop locally, what a great service you can offer.”

Expand digital activities

Independent boutiques that already had transaction websites also invested more heavily in them during the Covid crisis – and cashed in. Online sales, based on total UK retail sales, rose from 20.2% in January 2020 to 36.3% in January 2021, according to data from the Office of National Statistics. While online sales fell slightly after retail reopened in April 2021, at 27.3% in May 2021, they remained well above the pre-pandemic level.

Bod & Ted, a womenswear boutique in Tunbridge Wells, has had a transactional website for 10 years, but sales increased 50% between 2019-2020 and the same amount again in 2021. They now make up 30% of the total volume. It expanded its online offering and its digital activities in order to boost sales.

Top Tips for Improving Ecommerce Websites

Shimona mehta

Shimona Mehta, Managing Director EMEA at Shopify, says:

  • Make it easier to search for products with clear categories on the home page and a good search function.
  • Create a seamless omnichannel experience. Offer click-and-collect and in-store returns for online purchases.
  • Include any information a customer wants about products so customers don’t have to provide Google details. Reviews, frequently asked questions, and good product pictures go a long way.

Ruby Lee

Ruby Lee

Ruby Lee, Creative Director at Studio 77, says:

  • Don’t be afraid of having too many “add to cart” or other call-to-action buttons. People are on your website to shop. It is your job as the ecommerce executive to lead them clearly and directly.
  • Include a wide variety of people on your website. Models of different ages, sizes and races are non-negotiable these days.
  • Publish customer reviews to build trust.

Bod & Ted Owner and Principal Buyer Sophie Brown says, “We did more pay-per-click marketing [with Google Ads], and we’ve added more brands. We started sending out some daily newsletters instead of weekly. We did weekly Instagram lives, which also became very popular. “

Instagram is the biggest revenue driver for Vanilla and Bod & Ted. Verified brands can tag products in pictures to send users straight to their website to buy with no fees, while some small sellers arrange sales with customers through direct messages.

Websites are still important

Even so, a good transactional website is still essential.

Mehta explains, “The website is the only point where you fully own the narrative. Your website is where you have full discoverability [by search engines] and a full dealer journey so that the website continues to be the center of your branding. “

Ruby Lee, creative director of website design and branding company Studio 77 agrees, “As social media rose, so did social media’s decline in relation to person deletion [their feeds] and opt for a digital detox. So if you don’t have a website, you are missing out on a large part of the people you might be targeting. “

Don’t buy anything black. I can’t sell anything black online

Louise Cleverly-Lace, Director of Vanilla Norwich

Web sites are an important way for businesses to build customer trust. Bod & Ted publishes positive customer reviews on their Instagram feed and website and would also like to incorporate product reviews on the website.

Lee says this is a feature that is often missed on malls’ business websites: “A lot of people, before shopping, google it to see if you have any recommendations or reviews. Getting reviews is really important because when your business is good, your customers are your best marketing asset. “

Seagreen, a premium women’s retailer with two boutiques near Dublin, has had a website since 2012. The business upgraded its brochure-style website to a transactional page in 2018. Before the pandemic, online accounted for 10-15% of all sales. That’s 30% now.

Seagreens manager Siobhan Mason says it stands out online for the same reasons as its physical boutique customer service: “When we have a new shipment and find it is sold out online or in store, I can be quick to reorder it . And when customers ask in-store or send us a message on social media, we can assure them it will be back. If something is delayed, we can pick up the phone immediately. “

And websites have to be easy to navigate.

“Last year 150 million people tried online shopping for the first time [citing the Emarketer Global Ecommerce 2020 report]“Says Mehta. “And these people are still learning. [Retailers] need to focus on simplicity and searching their sites. ”She adds that clear navigation, such as well-defined categories in the top bar, is an area that can be improved to see immediate impact.

Bod & Ted has added new features to its website, such as: B. Easier returns and size charts to improve conversion rates

Seagreen’s Mason says one pitfall for independent retailers is developing websites too quickly: “A lot of small businesses have had to build one through Covid. If you do this quickly, you will be spending a lot more money on it because you will have to switch back and forth between your designer and developer to request changes with fast turnaround times. “

There may also be pressure on new e-commerce companies to offer the same services as established players. Vanilla Norwich has stopped orders from outside the European Union for the time being until Cleverly-Lace is certain that these customers will not be affected by delays.

“I compared myself to others and thought, ‘I should do this or I should do this,” she says. “When these thoughts come to me, I take a step back and re-examine my core values. It will be something that business grows into. “

In progress

Selling online is a constant learning curve, as Cleverly-Lace found: “Don’t buy anything black. I can’t sell anything black online.

“Or jeans – I learned very quickly, women like to try them on and you have to feel them.”

Websites also need to be constantly developed. Brown says the development of new features has increased Bod & Ted’s conversion rate: “Easier returns and helpful size charts have made it more attractive and easier for our customers to shop online.”

Your website doesn’t always have to be perfect

Louise Cleverly-Lace, Director of Vanilla Norwich

Cleverly-Lace found trying to create the perfect website intimidating at first. “The most important things I’ve learned from the internet are: Don’t be too strict with yourself,” she says. “Your website doesn’t always have to be perfect. We spoke to someone at Shopify and they just said, ‘You know your website will never be finished.’ “

The trend towards both online and local shopping means that the time has never been better for independents to invest in e-commerce. Competition may be fierce, but what sets them apart on the high street – originality and exceptional customer service – is exactly what makes them shine online.

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