Once upon a time I ran a small online vintage boutique: Shop Lioness. When I first opened up it was just a fun way to combine my hobbies and make a little bit of cash. I had no direction and had no idea that I was branding myself along the way. When I did catch on, about a year into it, I kicked it into high gear and it paid off, BUT I made a huge mistake. I lost sight of what I was really selling (it wasn’t clothing) and I didn’t have the time, or heart, to fix my mistake…but now I can stop others from making it!
So *drum roll please*, here’s what you’re really selling when you sell online….
Do you know how many boutiques are out there? Yeah, a ton. Starting a business online is now easier than it’s ever been, and new boutiques pop up every day with a good number of them selling the same pieces. So, what makes yours special?
Every shop should tell a story (aka have a personality or promote a certain lifestyle) that’s intentional, well portrayed in all their images and communication, and is easy to identify. My story was accidental. It was the fact that I modeled everything. I’m a normal happy looking girl, not a sleek pouty lipped model. Even when I did have others model, they were normal happy looking girls as well. People could see themselves in the clothing I wore, which was always bright, fun, and bubbly. Plus, they knew they were communicating directly with the person they saw in the photos:
I looked like a friend, treated customers like friends (because they were) and communicated over social media in a friendly way. I was selling myself. The minute I replaced myself with actual tall, gorgeous models, interest was lost. My mistake was too quickly removing what people were used to…seeing just me- a normal, bubbly, friendly girl. I had completely changed my shop’s story. Don’t make this mistake!
Instead, choose a story that is coveted and/or relatable and stick to it. Want some examples? You know I’ve got you covered! Here are three small businesses that I’m in love with, who have great brand “stories”. (Disclaimer: This is what I personally feel these brands portray):
Images via Floss Gloss and A Vibrant Day
Sells: Nail Polish
Brand Story: A west coast club kid who loves Lil’ Kim, lives for the late 90s/early 2000s, and rocks bamboo earrings and faux fur jackets on the daily. She can’t go anywhere if her nails aren’t done, and they’re always done.
Commentary: Long lasting nail polish is everywhere. Cruelty free nail polish is everywhere. Fast drying nail polish is everywhere. What really makes Floss Gloss unique is their fun styling (and packaging) and their bold business personality. With product names like Gangsta Boo and Mrs. Tony Montana, you can’t help but feel cool with each stroke of their pretty polish.
Images via JCLU Forever
Brand Story: A modern, trendy, fashionable girl who is totally in love with Jesus! She also lives on social media and enjoys sharing online with her friends.
Commentary: As a Christian I adore JCLU Forever apparel. With shirts that read “Bae aint bae if bae don’t pray” and “deny your #selfie”, JCLU seamlessly and uniquely mixes current internet culture and trendy styling with the Word!
images via The Wrap Life
Sells: Head-wraps and Bohemian Jewelry
Brand Story: Natural haired queen, lover of life, in tune with the universe. She speaks softly yet wisely, allowing bold prints and loud colors to amplify her personality.
Commentary: The Wrap Life takes head wraps and breaths new life into them with fun handmade African prints and beautiful images of stunning natural haired women. And with product names like Oshun, Strange Fruit, and Tigress, wearing one of their wraps makes you feel chic while also more in touch with your roots. Even their packaging screams handmade, creative, and authentic.
Now that you know about brand “stories”, take a look at your shop and your online presence. What story are you telling? If you have to stretch…pinpoint the kind of message you want to get across and start making the necessary changes to set yourself apart!
Running out of marketing ideas for your online shop? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered! You can get ’63 Ways to Market Your Online Shop’ delivered right to your inbox. Check it out!