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katherinegrace katherinegrace is offline
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Join Date: Oct 2009
Posts: 6
Help, please

I desperately need help with my business we have a small boutique for women & sadly due to the recession it is starting to lose money. We have a website & we would like to make this work for us as we are seriously considering closing the shop altogether. Customers can purchase clothes through the website but we have never had anyone use it for this purpose. How can I change my business & make it it more mail order friendly?
All thoughts & tips greatly appreciated. As I would like to be able to sleep soundly at night once again.
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deejaybet deejaybet is offline
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Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 70
a link to your site would be helpful.. oh and hows your advertising budget going?
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Kandiman Kandiman is offline
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Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Oxford
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Quote:
Originally Posted by deejaybet View Post
a link to your site would be helpful.. oh and hows your advertising budget going?
Glad I wasn't the first to think that. I'd have started by putting a link to your site in your signature, since not only will it provide free advertising, it'll drive up your SEO and allow people form here to see your site and maybe assess what you need to do.

This site has the benefit of a large number of people with A LOT of marketing experience and skills, myself included. But we need information to be able help
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VLAHAKISA VLAHAKISA is offline
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Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Birmingham, UK
Posts: 1,494
I've noted that those that struggle in the recession and those that don't is mainly down to whether you partake in active marketing or not. In tough times, one needs to be more proactive.

What sort of marketing or advertising do you carry you out? All businesses need to attract customers, but to do that you need to find ways of giving your business lots and lots of exposure.

For instance to get traffic to your website so that you can make more sales (in retail, a portion of it is a numbers game; ie the higher the traffic, the more sales you make) you could be working on the search engine optimisation to increase traffic from the search engines. Are you doing this?

Even if you swap to mail order, it's going to be the same case - you will still need to do lots of marketing to ensure that your catalogue ends up in enough hands to ensure higher sale volumes.

Same as for a physical shop - aside from your placement (which effects footfall), what are you doing that encourages more footfall? Examples of getting higher footfall into your shop could be;

- Local newspaper advertising.
- Swapping flyers with non-competing yet complimentary shops.
- Special open days/events.


Amanda
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Jarvooo's Avatar Jarvooo Jarvooo is offline
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Join Date: Feb 2009
Location: Manchester
Posts: 547
I would suggest working more on that website of yours, e-marketing and sales driven from the web can be more rewarding than mail order or even a physical presence of a shop, you can work your website that it reaches millions of people across the world. For example, if ebay was just a store, only people relevant to that area would know about it, websites are definately useful but you need to be using them right.

If you want, drop the link so i can take a look or drop me an email to colin@jarviswebandgraphicsolutions.co.uk and we can have a look for you (at no cost) to see if theres anywhere you can improve etc.

Best of luck !!
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bryanfuller bryanfuller is offline
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Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 39
to bring traffic on site is not that easy, u need to follow certain steps do onpage and offpage optimization of your site after that u will start feeling the difference............!
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katherinegrace katherinegrace is offline
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Join Date: Oct 2009
Posts: 6
This is our website www.reach-for-the-skies.co.uk However I do not feel it is as focused on fashion retail as it could be. I would appreciate any comments &/or advice.

Our marketing and advertising has so far consisted of a local leaflet drop, adverts in the local paper, adverts in local magazines, adverts on local radio & advertising through facebook. We have virtually nothing left in our budget.
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aa412's Avatar aa412 aa412 is offline
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Join Date: Sep 2009
Posts: 133
Hi there. You say you are a small boutique for women, do you sell clothes only in your physical shop? Or do you sell all the things you sell online too?
1) Your website needs a major overhaul. It looks very amateurish and is very confusing. I would go for a very simple classy design. I see the picture of the actual shop and it looks beautiful! You could use the wallpaper design as background for the site and keep everything clean and sleek in black and white. Please,please, please hire someone to do it for you.
2) I would make clothes the main focus of the site, with books etc secondary.
3) You need to invest in getting good photos done for the site. Have someone actually wearing the clothes, even a video clip showing the way it moves. I'm sure there are people on this site that can help with that. Or you can find a photography student and get friends to help you model.
4) Once all this is done, have a relaunch. Invite press. I know a lot about how to get free publicity. I'm going to inbox you my details so you can contact me.

All this is stuff you can implement yourself. For the majority of these things there is no need for you to pay someone (publicity for example). Dont panic and try and throw money at the problem. Its time for clear strategies and steps. Best of luck!
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VLAHAKISA VLAHAKISA is offline
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Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Birmingham, UK
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I think you need to divert your focus away from 'advertising' and more towards marketing and attracting customers, especially as the advertising has been proven as ineffective, so no point doing more of the same thing that doesn't work.

Direct advertising doesn't work very well for many businesses actually, myself included. It's always fallen flat whenever I've tried any.

For the website, there is little point focusing on changing what it looks like because you've said you are out of cash so all suggestions need to be based around free marketing ideas.

As far as the website is concerned, even if you build traffic to it, I can't see it converting customers anyway so I'd forget about flogging that dead horse until you have a budget to improve it's appearance and function sufficient to compete with other online shops. Basically there's so much wrong with it I don't even know where to start, you'll really struggle to fashion from it as it is currently.

Ok, so you need marketing ideas that are only going to take up your time rather than money, but firstly we need to establish what you are offering and who your customers are.

So you are offering fashion for ladies as your core offering? You want to appear to be a fashion boutique in style?

First of all you need to have something for customers to remember you by - yes you need a logo, and although you can't afford one I will create a simple one for you (for free, because you seem to really need help), please let me know if the shop is called Reach For The Skies or not.

You really can't expect customers to remember your name only, people remember imagery associated with a name much easier. Regardless of what anyone says, marketing is much much easier and more 'effective' when you have some semblance of a brand image to be remembered by.

When marketing, you need to stamp your brand image (once I create it for you) every where, literally everywhere.

Facebook; This is a good place to work with, but what have you done on there? Have you started a group that people can be fans of? Do you have a link to that to show us? I couldn't find it on a Facebook search.

Have a good look at my clients Facebook group and her massive fanbase (http://www.facebook.com/#/katydidcollection?ref=ss) and you can see what sort of things she does on Facebook - she's a master of marketing, you can learn a lot from her group there.

You need fans from your local area because there's no point directing people to the website, I think it literally will work against you to make sales - you need to start befriending people in the area of the shop, and then inviting them to be a fan. Make sure the group 'looks good' first before you start that.

You also need to start Twittering and spending lots of time on forums like this with your Facebook and twitter links in your signature. I will create a Twitter icon for you from your logo also.

Photos - the photos aren't clear enough or professional enough, I think you've taken them yourself and obviously there is no budget for a photographer, but can you take them again in brighter lighting and against a white matte background to improve the appearance of the products? You are making some beautiful items look really naff, when in fact much of it is really trendy stuff!

Why not even do something creative like take them out into nature and photograph them there, or grab people in the street who look cool and trendy and ask them if they can quickly model a handbag for you in return for a 10% in store discount (so you get a model and you also get to promote the store, it's a win win).

You need to be funky, cool, and creative with your photos (and indeed marketing) if you don't have a photographer on tap right now.

Target market - the type of people who would buy your items are trendy, so you need to present a trendy and hip image to them if you want that sort of customer in the door, otherwise they won't want to buy from you. What can you do to the interior and exterior of your shop to make it more hip and trendy on a budget?

I would buy things from your shop because a lot of it is trendy, but if I'm walking past a shop and I see uglyness in terms of the way it's presented, I'm going to feel really put off going inside and I'm going to very much presume it doesn't stock anything like these items.

Even when I first hit your website I sort of presumed the stock was a load of old granny horrible stock, it was only when I clicked on the thumbnails to check I found that actually these are modern fashions. So a lot of the issue I feel is the way you are presenting yourself to your target market.

If your bricks and mortar shop presents itself like your website, it's no wonder you are struggling to make sales - the feel you are giving off does not represent your product range well.

Even if you just need to give it a lick of paint and that's all you can afford, do it. Paint three walls white, and one wall a bright funky colour (or wallpaper). This is a quick easy way to make the shop interior look more modern if it doesn't already.

I can give you more marketing ideas if you really want to run with all this and get some sales going.

Like I said, I'm experienced in designing for women targeted businesses, if you confirm your shop name I'll come up with a simple yet stylish logo, for free, that you can then use in your up and coming marketing.

You can turn your business around, but you need to think more like the big brands and pay attention to what really attracts customers and how to get attention on your business.


Amanda
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aa412's Avatar aa412 aa412 is offline
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Join Date: Sep 2009
Posts: 133
I agree with a lot of what you said - but she hasn't actually said that she has no money left. She has to get a new website done. In this day and age when even high street shops are struggling she needs to sell online. Thats the only way she's going to make any serious money.
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VLAHAKISA VLAHAKISA is offline
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I don't think she has time or money for that personally. To get a decent e-commerce website (ie one that will give her all the tools required to make good sales from it) you need to spend quite a bit, she said she's run out of money and is making a loss.

I wouldn't recommend throwing money at e-commerce when you are making a loss. In addition it will take time to re-design the site, then time to build traffic to it before sales start coming in, and by the time all that is done she will have already folded.

Now is not the time to spend time and more money when there are plenty of ways you can drive sales for free.

Once business picks up and is in profit again, then she should look at the website ... it needs a complete re-design and rebuild by professionals and she should look at spending at least £2k on that in total if she wants it to become a profit maker.

Spending any less will just result in a shoddy website that is still difficult to make sales from - she shouldn't be spending £2k right now whilst in loss and I hope no one here tries to convince her she can get a cheap e-commerce website that is good enough to turn her business around, because it's simply not true. High quality, high performing e-commerce websites don't come cheap.

She needs sales right now in my opinion, without spending any money she doesn't have and I think you can do still do that with a high street shop if you work your butt of and do the right things.

Amanda
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aa412's Avatar aa412 aa412 is offline
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I'm sorry but you can get a good web designer for around £1000 for a complete ecommerce site. (I have one who is doing a fantastic job and is very design led having designed logos and graphics for major companies which I think is what you need I can pass on details if you wish). It isn't throwing money at it, it is realising that in this day and age most retailers have to go online. The fact is she can get more exposure online than she can in just a shop. I like a lot of the stuff on there and I would buy it but i don't live anywhere near sussex. It can all be done in around 4 weeks. (there are even people on this site who have said they can do it in less than a week).
Unless mary portas goes into her shop and turns it round (and by the way the pictures of the shop look good), its going to be extremely tough.

The fact is, people are spending less and those that are spending either spend online or have adjusted their taste downmarket. It would be suicide not to go online.
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carolinem's Avatar carolinem carolinem is offline
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Posts: 307
I'm glad you mentioned Mary Portas - I love her!

Honestly online retail is a whole new ball game... And it's even more difficult to really connect with your customer because they are remote. However, I think there is a safe and effective middle ground - email marketing.

Print out a sign up sheet to your email newsletter for special events, exclusive previews and pre-sales. Cost: a few pence.

Then use the list with something like Aweber/Constant Contact to drive foot traffic into your shop. Cost: £20/month approx.

PS> This assumes that your customers are fairly comfortable with email?
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pcbranding's Avatar pcbranding pcbranding is offline
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Dear Katherine/Grace(!)
Your website feels very handmade and not particularly exciting (I'm a graphic designer, not a web designer!) It needs to be up there with the high street retailers in terms of style and you need to really push your product through photography and be more visual. This doesn't mean expensive photoshoots, products can be laid out flat on glass, grass, timber backgrounds or folded up and shot on tops of brick walls, pinned to walls...there are all kinds of cheap ways of offering something that says 'style' and design-awareness, that can be achieved with a digital camera.
My background is in high street retail brands and one of my smaller clients is a womens online fashion retailer www.flaiver.com.
This was a simple job in terms of identity, but the site and it's offer has it's own look and feel which is perfect for the target audience and the product it offers.
Marketing-wise, being visible on relevent business/networking/fashion forums will help raise your profile. Have you contacted your local papers for editorial reporting on your offer? Do you have a local fashion college you can link with your company? What makes your clothes better than other peoples? Who designs them? Better value? Better cut for people of a certain age?

Should I stop?
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VLAHAKISA VLAHAKISA is offline
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Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Birmingham, UK
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Flaiver ... lovely website and really nice products at great prices, I've bookmarked it for shopping! lol

Oh yes, lots of the images aren't loading for me, you might want to sort that out for the client or speak to them about it. I'm on the trousers page and loads aren't loading. I'm using Firefox if that helps.


Amanda
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