Boutique agony aunt: your business problems solved

Sarah Connelly, lingerie stylist and former owner of Odyssey boutique, answers your retail dilemmas

Q: I don’t sell online but I have a non-transactional website and database with my customers’ contact details. How can I still make the most of digital marketing opportunities when my shop is closed?

A: Many retailers operating without multi-channel offerings before the lockdown have been trying to figure out ways to get fully transactional, fast. But before throwing money away and panic building an e-commerce site, consider what resources you do have and how you can optimise them first.

If you’ve been busy building a database of customer contact details in the past, this data is your business. These customers trust and value your service enough to give you their contact information. And by doing so, they have invited you to stay in touch.

Email marketing is proven to be more successful than any other method. But before you send anything, think about what value you can bring to your customers’ life. You can then use this to tailor your service, or acknowledge our ‘new normal’. People don’t buy products, they buy solutions. So consider how you might re-package what you have in-stock right now to make it more relevant for today’s customers.

A small business specialising in custom headbands thought women wouldn’t want to spend at such an uncertain time. However, showing how the bands can be styled to cover up colour re-growth until the hairdresser re-opens saw an up-turn in sales.

Elsewhere, a hotelier had a stock of local produce, picture postcards and hand-made blankets. It packaged these up as a picnic hamper and posted them with a voucher for an extra night’s stay, enticing those who may have cancelled their trip to reschedule for later in the year. And who could say no to that, especially once they’d tasted the local tipple?

Both of these business owners optimised the resources they already had – product and existing customers. By pivoting their message and creating a relevant offer, they solved their customers’ problems and secured some income. They also now have some truly beautiful testimonial content to share on social media and in future emails to engage more customers.

Digital marketing needn’t be complicated and you don’t need an overly fancy website to do it successfully.

So, start with a problem that you can solve. Set out your offer in a simple email, text or WhatsApp – and then hit send!

If you have a question or need help navigating a new challenge in your small business, send your questions to E: