Before Rebel Muse was born, I would talk about how I planned to open a boutique, a beautiful store with the best customer service and all my favourite Australian designers. When I’d tell people this they would say “Why don’t you just open an online store?” I found this almost offensive and I would reply back, “well how can I have the most beautiful store, with the best customer service that makes shoppers feel like they’re the most important person in the world, where our clients become our friends and we all just have a gay old time sipping champagne, if it’s just online!?” That’s not my vision, not my dream! I would say “you know if everyone just keeps shopping online, one day there won’t be any bricks and mortar boutiques left!” You won’t have anywhere to go to try things on, to touch and feel the quality of the clothes, to have human interaction and to receive personalised service and made to feel special. Soon there won’t be any shops left and everyone will just be locked up inside, shopping from the artificial light of their bedside lamps”.
As Rebel Muse was coming into fruition, I had decided that we would have an online presence, but it wasn’t our main priority. It would come later, months after we opened. It will be there so customer’s have the option to shop with us online if they please, but it definitely wasn’t a priority to me or of great importance within the strategy.
Fast Forward a couple of years as we head into Rebel Muses 3rd year operating and I will tell you that online IS LIFE!! And so so essential to a successful and profitable business. The reality is, sustaining cashflow in a business is fucking hard! At times the expenses can drain out quicker than the sales come in. You know all those cashflow projections and budgets and spreadsheets and business plans you wrote out? Well they’re wrong. Ok, well maybe wrong isn’t the right word, let’s just say, prepare for them to be a little bit off. The reality is you probably won’t consistently hit the sales budgets you assumed you would. The market is fickle and presents no clear pattern or cycle, its competitive and consumers are inundated with options. Location, macro and micro economic factors, consumer lifestyle trends, fashion trends and even personal proficiency are all unprecedented variables that can change at any given moment.
Combine the fickle nature of life with the fact that in this day and age, shoppers are inundated with options (and NOISE). Options of not only products, brands, style and price, but also of how, where and when they choose to shop. Options that are continually expanding and evolving to meet the lifestyle wants and needs of the consumer and if you don’t keep up with the evolution, you’ll get left behind.
So lets break it down- how does an online store benefit your business;
- Infinite customer potential; From your shopfront the amount of consumers you can reach has limitations. With Rebel Muse for example, in Canberra we have a population of around 400,000, let’s break that down further to our target consumer who is female, between the ages of 20-50 with medium to high income and most probably lives or works in the inner north or city. Then they need to want to spend their money on what we are currently presenting in store at that time over everything else they have seen in every other retail outlet…. Hmm see what I’m saying?
- Maximising revenue; With the potential to reach infinite customers, think of all the extra (infinite) revenue you could make. Or if your in store sales aren’t going as well as you hoped, your expenses are higher than expected and the fickle market is playing its fickledeedum tricks on you, those extra sales you are pulling from online can make all the difference to help keep your business strong
- Ability for consumers to shop from wherever they want when they want; Our lifestyles are getting busier and busier! Jobs are becoming more demanding, it’s not uncommon anymore for people to be spending their weekends still working. On top of that there are family and social commitments etc. For a lot of people, 11pm on a Wednesday night is probably the only time they have to shop. If they don’t have the option of shopping with you at 11pm on a Wednesday night, well they’ll just shop somewhere else. Simples.
- Competitive pricing & price comparisons; Generally when people are shopping, they want to shop around for the best value for money. Again taking Rebel Muse as an example, the brands we sell all work to a pretty strict recommended retail price. Its not often you will find the same product in a different shop undercutting the retail price. The only time there is a price difference is usually when it comes to sales, promotions and special offers. It also gives your customer a chance to shop around without really leaving your “shop”. If a customer leaves your physical store saying “I really like it, but just want to see what else is around” once they walk out you’ve most likely lost the sale. The chances of them driving all around town and coming back are slim. As opposed to if they are shopping over 100 browser tabs, it’s a little easier to get back to your brand
- Payment options; Credit Card, PayPal, Afterpay, ZipPay. There seem to be more payment options available online these days than in store. Options like PayPal Express checkout lets customers check out more quickly and efficiently than ever. While the new ‘buy now pay later’ options like Afterpay and ZipPay are real game changers! You the merchant get your payment instantly, the buyer gets their product straight away and the payment company take all the risk of ensuring payment is recovered. ZipPay has helped us immensely with sale conversions.
- Give your customers a sneak peek; How often do you pop online to check out the menu and pictures of a new restaurant before you even go there? Same goes with shopping. As we discussed earlier, people are time poor. Gone are the days of spending a day mooching about shops, taking their time to explore until they find what they are after. Before a customer commits to making the trip to your store, they most likely want to pop on your website first and see what stock you have in store to solidify that it will be worth the visit.
So now at Rebel Muse we give our online store and online customers as much attention, drive, and investment as we do in store. Because if don’t then we’re simply just selling ourselves short and not maximising our potential. Online is evolving fast and we continue to work hard in providing a meaningful digital experience.
Images and words: Alicia Xyraxis; originally published on The Women's Collective.