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Retail 101

10 Things Shop Owners Wish They Knew Before Opening A Boutique

Thinking about opening a boutique or online shop? We asked our community of retailers what they wished they knew before opening a boutique and the answers may surprise you! Timestamps below 👇👇👇

Find THE BEST #wholesale merchandise for your boutique on Abound: 🛒 https://helloabound.shop/Homepage

0:36 Conversion Rates

2:00 Outsourcing

3:39 Shipping Costs

4:48 Product Pricing

5:52 Social Media Engagement

6:52 Negotiating

7:29 Research (Competition Research & Financial Planning)

8:55 POS Systems

9:38 Build for the Future

10:15 Pivoting

VIDEO TRANSCRIPTION:

I’m Robin with Abound, and today I’m going over 10 Things Shop Owners Wish They Knew Before Opening A Boutique. We asked our amazing community of retailers that use Abound to stock their independent boutiques, what they wish they had known before opening their shops, and they came back with some really interesting answers that I’m super excited to share with you. 

Whether you’re just starting out, or have been at the retail game for years, hit that subscribe button, ding the bell for notifications, and join our Facebook group where we give you exclusive content to help grow your store, you can find the link in the description. 

#10: Learn About Conversion Rates

Some basic knowledge around conversion rates is mandatory for any online boutique owner, and this concept can be a powerful tool when used by brick and mortar stores as well. 

Simply put, your conversion rate is the number that tells you  

So if in a given month you had 100 people click onto your website, and 25 of them bought something, your conversion rate would be 25%. 

Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to have a conversion rate of 25%, typical ecommerce conversion rates are closer to 2-4%. That means if you have 100 people click onto your website in a given month, you’d only make 2 to 4 sales. 

And since most ecommerce businesses need way more than that to be sustainable, you can start to get a sense of the scale of website traffic you’ll need to have a viable business. If your goal is 100 orders a month, that means you’ll have to have between 3 to 5 thousand visitors a month.

Although this strategy is talked about more in ecommerce settings, it can also be applied to brick and mortar stores as well. You can track how many people come inside your store vs how many become customers, and then start to make changes to increase your in person conversion rate.  

#9: Outsource Stuff that Sucks Up Time

As a boutique owner you have to wear so many different hats, and finances are so strapped that you get used to the role of learning how to do a million different jobs. Some amount of this is unavoidable, it’s your baby and no one else will ever care as much as you do, but you don’t want to fall into the trap of slowing yourself down either. 

Maybe you’re great with accounting, but horrible at social media. Maybe you have the skills to create your own flyers and logo, but spending so much time on that is stopping you from things that would grow your business faster. 

Whatever it is, know that it never hurts to at least research options. Sites like Fiverr, Etsy, or even business themed Facebook groups can be great resources to find experts that can quickly help you. And as we all know from personal experience, sometimes throwing money at the problem can be an actual solution. 

Another to remember is that the bill may be a lot lower than you’re thinking, because experts can get jobs done SO much faster than you can yourself. Often times what was going to take you 20 or 30 hours will take an expert only 2 or 3 because they’re able to get right in there, they don’t have to learn anything, and they already know what works. 

But learning things isn’t always bad, and if you want to learn more business tips about how to run a boutique, consider subscribing to this channel! It’s literally my job to think of the best possible way to bring you guys useful information for your business, and hopefully we’ll be able to create some good content for you. And if you like this video, it’d just be so great if you give it a thumbs up. We’re just starting out on YouTube and it would help us a lot. Ok, now on to…

#8: Shipping Costs

Shipping costs are frustrating, complex, and often stress inducing to boutique owners. And even once you’ve learned the ins and outs of the costs, deciding whether or not to offer free shipping or to charge customers is another huge headache that boutique owners have to deal with. 

The fact is that it’s just costly to ship things, and as a result, shipping costs have to be estimated and worked into your pricing if you want to offer free shipping, or you have to accept that some customers are going to be turned off from your business because of shipping costs. 

While you may be thinking ‘I have to offer free shipping to be competitive,’ that’s not necessarily the case. Many small businesses have found that even with some drop off, it’s more financially viable for them to not offer free shipping. In a survey of 150 Abound users, we found that only 15% of our retailer community always offered free shipping, 29% never offered free shipping, and 56% only offered free shipping for orders over a certain minimum. What matters is that you understand how the policies you decide affect your ability to be profitable. 

Which brings us to…

#7: The Complexity of Product Pricing

Pricing products is an art, math, science, and a headache. There is way too much detail for me to get into it right now, but pricing your products is almost the central hub of your entire business. 

Ultimately, people have to go to your shop, look at your products and their prices, and decide whether or not to buy. And on the other side of that, you have to be sure that if they do decide to buy, that you’re getting enough of a margin to make a profit and keep your business viable. 

Say you buy candles for $10, and sell them for $20. It seems like simple math, that’s $10 in your pocket right there. But once you factor in labor, overhead expenses, cashflow, and of course shipping, you might find out that just to exist it costs you an additional $8 a candle, which moves your $10 profit to a $2 one. [no graphic for this last part] Add in marketing costs and you actually might be taking a loss. 

That’s why it’s so important to dig into the math on this one, and make sure you know what ALL of your costs are BEFORE you decide on any prices. 

#6: How hard it is to get people engaged on social media

We all know that social media is mandatory for any business, but we often underestimate the amount of time, work, and dedication it takes to grow your social media accounts. 

Most business owners start off thinking they can start by sharing to their friends and family, and that customers will find them organically and things will start to snowball as long as they’re posting a few times a week. 

Unfortunately, social media is completely oversaturated, and with algorithms changing constantly, which techniques and post types work change right along with them. 

No matter what, you should be proud of the social media posts that you are publishing, it’s a ton of work to keep an account active and if you’re doing that you’re already succeeding. But if you’re looking to get new customers through those platforms, or have a post become super successful, you’ll have to either hire out the job or dedicate time to become an expert yourself. It probably won’t happen if you only have an hour or two a week to dedicate to it. 

#5: Negotiate Everything

As a consumer, we’re used to prices being pretty set, and negotiations barely ever being a part of our purchasing process. However, as a business owner, you’re going to have way more personal experiences which can lead to wiggle room on pricing. 

Pricing in the B2B realm is rarely fixed. Software costs, Shipping costs, It’s all negotiable. It’s way more possible for you to get on a first name basis, or to become a valued customer with your business suppliers than it is as a consumer. You just have to have the courage to initiate haggling, and to stick with it until you get a discount. 

#4: Do More Research

Before you open your boutique, you should do a lot of research. Short of getting bogged down to the point where you don’t open the business, no amount of research is going to be too much. 

Even business owners who did a ton of research reported back that they wished they had done more, and I want to highlight two of the most important types: competition research and financial planning. 

People typically do less competition research than they should because it can feel weird to dig into people who had the same idea as you. It can feel like spying, or it can make you less into your idea because you see someone already succeeding in the same area, and it can make you feel like you didn’t get to the idea fast enough. 

These emotions are totally valid, but remember, you’re about to be in business, and you’re going to have to get used to looking at your business objectively, and harshly when necessary. Make sure you extensively research what other options your customers will have, because whether or not you do, they will. 

Financial planning is also key, and it’s so complex I can’t cover all the details here, but you need to. Do not let yourself enter magical thinking hope land where in your first month you get hundreds of new customers and everything works out great. Plan for things to be really hard for a long time, so that if they are, you won’t run of cash.  

#3: How Technology and POS Systems Work 

Inventory is like trying to solve a 2,000 piece jigsaw puzzle with no picture on the front of the box. Add in profit margin, restocking times, and seasonality, and you end up with an extremely technical, mathematical part of your business that you absolutely have to understand. 

That’s why mathy, technical people have developed easy-ish to use POS, or Point of Sale systems, to help you figure out how to use all the data you’re going to be collecting from customers to increase your store’s profitability. 

Boutique owners said they wished they knew how POS systems worked before they made a decision on which one to purchase, and before their stores were open. 

#2: Build for the future

When you open a boutique, there’s a certain amount of scrambling (a lot, it’s a lot of scrambling) that has to be done no matter how well you’re prepared. But if you’re really in this business for the long haul, there are certain systems that you should do now, not later. 

Things like buying a custom domain instead of using one you can get for free, and making sure you start off with the right shipping software that will be able to support you when you’re getting hundreds or thousands of orders a month are worth doing right from the beginning.  

aaaaaaand, the number one thing boutique owners wish they knew before opening a boutique is

#1 Your original vision will have to shift – and that’s ok

We heard from tons of business owners that no matter what their original vision of the company was, that they ended up making some huge pivots they never could have seen coming. 

Even with as much planning and preparation as they recommended doing before you ever open your doors, they also stressed flexibility, and the concept that plans B, C, and D, are JUST as capable of succeeding, if not MORE SO, than Plan A.

Finances, legal stuff, inventory control and competition research should be these solid pillars that allow you the ability to sway and maneuver your business until you find the exact niche within your idea, or the idea right next to your original idea that’s actually going to sell more. 

Bottom line, the real feedback you’re going to get is going to be from the pocketbooks of your customers. No amount of brainstorming or pitching your idea to friends and family is going to be as useful as looking at the numbers, going back, and then testing out different ideas to see what sells. 

Let us know your thoughts!

So, those are the 10 things shop owners wish they knew before opening a boutique, I’m curious, which one was most surprising to you? What points do you think we missed?

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