Most businesses have come to realise that if you’re not effectively communicating your brand online, you risk losing trade or restricting your brand’s growth.
However, one Brisbane entrepreneur launched her business with this trend in mind early and has leveraged the online shopping community with the power of e-commerce and digital sophistication ever since. We're talking about fellow Brisbane-ite and fashion maven Sarah Timmerman. She is now the successful owner of online fashion retailer, Beginning Boutique, which stocks a mix of fashion, accessories, homewares and gifts for a target audience of young women aged between 18 to 24. Sarah was one of the early adapters of the business Facebook page revolution almost seven years ago, using it as a cost effective online growth opportunity and promotional goldmine.
She was certainly on to a winner! Beginning Boutique was recently voted #1 Social Media Brand in Australia on Australians e-Value listings and has a cult-like following of more than half a million Facebook fans worldwide. But it wasn’t all ‘likes’ and ‘followers’ from the get go, as Sarah explains.
“People did not want to sell me their ranges. I struggled to get designers on board, I had so many funny looks when I said we were only online and so much distaste towards BB. People made comments like, “oh like an eBay store? Not like a real store?” It was a tough gig to start up!”
Seven years on and with a successful online retail venture behind her, Sarah explains that the biggest challenge for new retailers is to find your initial audience, but the continual struggle is keeping them.
“Competition is fierce online and I want to put BB in the best position I can with every marketing decision and branding move we make.
“Retail online is an exploration into the imagination of a customer. It allows us to tell a story with clothing to inspire and delight our gorgeous ladies. Our role at BB with digital retail is to exceed our customer’s expectations by having the most beautiful packaging, the sweetest hand written notes, and the best quality garments,” she says.
Sarah says it’s vital to monitor and improve the way you interact with your brand’s digital community, by looking at how people respond to what you put out and find ways to involve your customers more in the experience and happenings of the brand itself.
Here are a few further questions we managed to squeeze into our chat with Sarah ahead of her guest speaker appearance at the Online Retailer and Conference Expo in July:
What are three key bits of advice you think businesses must be following online to ensure they stay on top in the already competitive e-market?
1) Our customer is our best friend – and she should be yours too.
2) Post regularly and invest your time and energy into creating a killer brand
3) Remember that cash flow is going to be negative – how are you going to deal with this?
How often do you re-evaluate your social media tactics and is it a constant battle to stay up-to-date with social channels constantly changing?
We are always reviewing this – almost daily but definitely weekly. We review all our output into these and test it hard. It’s all about finding your perfect ROI on social media.
Who are some other creatives/retailers that you feel are doing it right?
BlackMilk Clothing and Molten Store - both Brissy based.
Sarah will host a workshop on ‘Becoming the #1 Australian Social Media Brand” on July 23, as part of the annual Online Retailer Conference and e-Commerce Expo and she says it’s a great way for anyone to increase their knowledge on e-com, whether you’re after basic or full on sessions.
The Online Retailer Conference and e-Commerce Expo will be held in Sydney’s Royal Hall Of Industries and The Hordern Pavilion between July 22 and 23, 2015. Entry to the expo is free, with keynote passes starting from $109pp.