How to prepare your online boutique store for the mall-world

online boutique storeonline boutique store
online boutique storeonline boutique store


How to prepare your online boutique store for the mall-world

Having a boutique online store is easy enough to start and run on the World Wide Web. Yes, there are many challenges and problems along the way, but technology and the internet are efficient problem-solvers in that regard.

Simple online stores can do extremely well because they are online. And with the success of an online store, comes the ambition to open an offline or physical store. And that’s quite a change to make and get right in order to remain successful on both platforms. So, here’s how you can prepare your online boutique store for the mall-world.


Think about your target market for store location

The most important aspect of going offline is location. While there are many malls located around South Africa, there may only be a handful that are relevant to your current target market. You need to consider your product and the demographics of the majority of your online buyers. They are the people who will know to come to your store and they are the type of customers your store will attract. You need to make sure the mall you choose is popular amongst those consumers.

The next step, after you’ve chosen a mall, will be to look for shops to let in shopping centres. Otherwise, there’s no point in taking your store offline at this moment. If there aren’t any available, you either have to wait or consider setting up shop at a different mall and risking less business. If there are shops to let but they’re significantly larger than your online store products are able to cover, again, you’ll need to reconsider.

Take your time when choosing a mall retail space for lease for your online store. Think about your customers and think about your product, and be realistic about the setup you’ll be able to create.


Materialise your online presence

An important part of bringing your online business out of the clouds and into the shopping mall is to materialise your online presence. You need to take the reputation, brand logo and brand essence and translate it into a recognisable store. Your loyal customers should walk past and immediately recognise the colours, font, name, and logo. You want them to get excited about the fact that you’re now in-store too.

Think of it as franchising – all stores should look the same. There are certain elements that can be easily taken from the online site to the four walls of the offline store. More so, you should use your physical store to boost online traffic to your website and your website to boost traffic through your store’s doors.


Find staff who understand your brand

A big difference between a boutique online store moving into a physical store will be the number of hands on deck. Many people can run their small online stores alone or with one or two extra hands. When you move into the mall-world, you’ll need to bring more people in to handle the size of the store, as well as the average number of customers that flow through in a day.

You’ll need to make sure, however, that the people you hire understand, love and care for your brand as much as you do. It may be hard to trust strangers with your brand, but you won’t be able to successfully run the online store and manage the physical one as well. Make sure you find the right people and rather start out in a small store with limited product ranges to test the waters of whether that store has the potential to be successful or not.


Stay true to the convenience of online shopping through service  

Now, the reason people shop online is that it’s quick and easy. Bringing your store into the physical world is already an added convenience if customers have the option of walking in whilst they’re in their local mall.

But once they’re in your shop, you need to carry as many conveniences from the online store as you can. This means providing excellent customer service, a variety of products in a variety of sizes and colours, in-store promotions and the convenience of different payment options, for example. This offline store will have the advantage of immediate feedback and face-to-face interaction your online store lacks. Make a point of having friendly and attentive staff.  


Think about the offline customer experience

When you consider your brand as a whole, you need to ask yourself, “what is the customer experience like?” Online, it’s all about the convenience of shopping from home or your desk at work. Whenever, from wherever, with next-to-no hassles. In the offline world, there are more influential factors that affect the customer experience.

It includes the service your staff offers, the layout of your store, the music you play, the presentation of your products, the ease of returning or exchanging, the benefits of coming in-store as opposed to online and every interaction a customer has with your brand. You want them to recommend your store and “come again”.

An offline store will definitely be a lot more effort than an online one, but it is possible to make it work and satisfy your customer’s shopping needs.

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