By: Kate Chesters, a Liverpool-based online boutique owner and Amazon Handmade Seller
Over the last few years, the digital world has become an indispensable part of our lives. With the recent pandemic, more so than ever, people are turning to online shopping for convenience and perhaps even emotional comfort. For me, the online world provided me with a platform to turn my passion into a successful livelihood!
Having pursued an education in art, I was not prepared with how difficult it was to make a career for myself despite graduating with a Master’s degree back in 2014. I wanted to work at an art gallery but found myself working at a car dealership instead. Completely unsatisfied and not wanting to give up on my passion, I saw eCommerce as an opportunity to get my art out there and make some money. So I resigned in 2017 and set out to create art that combines the beauty I saw in nature with practical applications around the house. Now I am running a successful online boutique store selling a range of hand-crafted resin art products.
The world of eCommerce can be daunting and for those taking the plunge, I would like to share a few tips that I have learned along my journey.
Find the right platform for your products
Leveraging the right platform to sell has been crucial to the success of my business. I saw an opportunity to open an Amazon Handmade storefront in 2019 and it helped my business go global. Exposure from the biggest online sales market allowed me to expand to new regions that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to so soon. I now deliver products to 21 countries globally and 39 US states. Amazon Handmade offers a lot of support for individual sellers and you can leverage the platform to boost your exposure, a welcomed relief for small independent boutique owners like myself with limited resources to spend on marketing.
Know your niche and deliver on quality!
It’s important to know what your product is promising and to consistently deliver on it. My customers expect my products to be one-of-a-kind, beautiful, and environmentally friendly. I make sure to only use natural, responsibly sourced materials such as olive wood from Tunisia, where the olive trees are protected by government regulations. My customers want handmade products so, despite the growing demands, I handmake every product myself so that each piece unique. The care and attention to detail have been integral to my success and customer relationships – my reviews are consistently great, and my return rate is pretty much non-existent!
Do your products justice
Another thing that I cannot stress enough is to make sure the product images you have on your online boutique are as high quality as your actual products! As an online boutique, you need to catch the fleeting attention span of the average online shopper so make sure you present your best foot forward. Nothing turns a customer away quicker than unclear, low-resolution product photos that don’t inspire the desire to purchase. The same goes for any imagery on your online shopfront – consistent and high-quality visuals establish a strong, trustworthy brand and will help your customers remember to come back to you. There are lots of guidance available on the Internet for you to take your own photos but it is worth hiring a professional to do the job if you’re not up for it.
Keep yourself inspired and keep on learning
I had no business training or mentors when I first started and have been learning everything on the job. It’s important to look for inspiration in the world around you. From the artist’s perspective, I find my inspiration from my observations of the world, beautiful feeds on Instagram, and other artists’ works. From a business owner’s perspective, I engage with the online communities of other Amazon sellers to learn from each other’s experiences.
Look for opportunities to collaborate
Extending from the previous point, it is important to develop professional relationships with other like-minded people and look for synergies. You should always be on the hunt for new ways to get your products more exposure. I’ve been lucky to win the Theo Paphitis’ Small Business Sunday (SBS) initiative and my prize was a sponsored stand at the Autumn Fair in 2019, which was worth several thousands of pounds and gave a huge boost to the business. I have also worked on a collaborative collection with British designer Olivia Rubin to produce a coaster collection for Etsy.
At the end of the day, if you’re looking to kickstart your own online business, be ballsy with your business approach, be confident in the quality of your product and back yourself to succeed. Make sure you’re ready to make mistakes and learn!