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Making the Leap from Brick and Mortar to E‑Commerce with UOI Boutique

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The term "millennial" tends to divide members of the generation it’s been ascribed to: Some accept the label, others reject it. Kaitlyn Blum not only wears the label proudly, but she also cites it as one of the main reasons she was able to easily translate her brick-and-mortar clothing boutique to an online store.

“As a millennial, I live on the internet,” she says. “I’m also my target audience, which makes my job a million times easier.”

Kaitlyn was hired as an eBay photographer in 2013 for Urban Outlet Incorporated, a company that had been selling urban menswear for 13 years in the small town of Sterling, Illinois. When she joined the team, they were looking to create an online store but didn’t know how to get started, so she volunteered to tackle the project.

Since urban menswear was on its way out and the demand for women’s clothing was on the rise, they decided to shift their focus to 20-something women. Within a week, Kaitlyn had designed a Shopify store, signed up for Mailchimp, started taking photos of her friends wearing the clothes, and rebranded the company as UOI Boutique.

Here’s what Kaitlyn learned when she rebranded her clothing boutique for the internet.

Focus on your product photography

As an avid Pinterest user, Kaitlyn knew she could use the platform to drive more traffic to her online store, so all her photos have to be “Pinterest-worthy.” She crops her images to focus on specific items she’s advertising and keeps the backgrounds simple. She also makes inspiration boards, like #OOTD (outfit of the day), to help her followers put together an outfit for any occasion.

“Photography has been our number one focus since we started the store because we rely on social media so heavily,” she says. “I have 4-hour photography sessions about 3 or 4 times a week to keep all our marketing channels updated.”

Along with Pinterest, she uses Facebook and Instagram to promote new products and sales, and her daily email campaigns also showcase her product photography.

Find ways to add a personal touch

When Kaitlyn was launching the e-commerce store, she was initially skeptical about how effective email marketing could be. “I was like, ‘Who looks at email? I don’t look at email.’ So I was really surprised to see the ROI my first campaigns generated.”

Sending daily emails about the latest products has become a standard practice, but she also has a weekly and monthly option for customers to select.

“I post about 6 to 10 new products every day in order to keep people coming back to the website, but I know I personally wouldn’t want to get an email every day,” she says.

Kaitlyn’s customers like exclusivity, so she often runs promotions that are just for her email subscribers and has a birthday automation set up to surprise customers with a $10-off promo code on their birthday. “The automation gives me a chance to be really personal with my customers without taking up a lot of my time.”

She tries to make the store feel exclusive by limiting the number of items she restocks. “Products usually stay on our site from 2 weeks to a month before they sell out,” Kaitlyn says. “It’s very first come, first served, so they feel they have to buy something they want right away.”

Let your brick-and-mortar and e-commerce stores work together

For Kaitlyn, it’s important that the boutique has an active role in her town’s business community, which is mostly made up of small, independent stores. She works with other local businesses to host in-store events that draw people to their downtown area, like a seasonal ladies’ night.

But Kaitlyn’s advertising strategies for the brick-and-mortar and e-commerce stores aren’t that different. “I’ll use location targeting for my Facebook ads to promote local events, but other than that, everyone’s on the internet, so I feel that’s all I need for marketing.”

UOI Boutique has found success combining the strengths of their boutique and e-commerce. In fact, the profits they’ve made through their online store have enabled them to move to a larger space and focus solely on selling women’s and children’s apparel and home decor. And by selling the same products online and offline, Kaitlyn can easily fulfill orders and make shopping a little more convenient for her local customers.

“People who live in Sterling will look online to see what’s new, and then they’ll come into the store so we can pull an item from the warehouse for them,” she says. “But I’ve also made some local shipments to people who can’t get out to the store for whatever reason, so the website is a big help to our customers.”

Next time, we’ll talk about some ways you can translate your e-commerce business into a brick-and-mortar shop.

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