Online shopping is incredibly convenient, and with more and more people starting to work remotely, the practice has risen to new heights of popularity. This also spurred small businesses to take their stores online, resulting in a rather overcrowded digital marketplace. However, are online boutiques an oversaturated business?
Online boutiques are an oversaturated business. Every day, newcomers enter the marketplace to sell their fashionable merchandise online and compete for the attention of online shoppers.
Even though the online boutique industry is saturated, there are ways to compete and achieve success as an independent business owner.
Why the Online Boutique Business Is Oversaturated
When online shopping first appeared, there was a distinct divide between online businesses and brick-and-mortar stores. Each company targeted different customers, but that divide quickly closed when almost all stores, big and small, went online so that customers could shop their ranges conveniently.
This means that small, online boutiques have to compete with mass retailers.
Another reason the market is saturated is that it has become very easy and cost-effective to set up an online store. There are free website builders that require little skill to build a website and because of the low start-up costs, launching an online business is accessible to almost everyone.
In the past, if someone wanted to open a boutique store, the overhead costs alone would require a large amount of capital, so fewer people pursued their entrepreneurial dreams.
Lastly, the concept of dropshipping made it even easier to launch an online boutique. With drop shipping, you don’t need to hold stock or design and make clothes. To launch a dropshipping business, you must find a supplier you like, advertise their merchandise on your site, and then fulfill the orders you receive.
Many small business owners marketed fashion items on their online stores as unique and exclusive so they could fetch high prices even though these items were likely mass-produced.
How To Compete in an Oversaturated Online Market
Unlike a shopfront, where your biggest competitor is the boutique down the street, online boutiques have to compete with tons of other online retailers in various parts of the world. Now more than ever, shoppers have a seemingly endless range of products literally at their fingertips and can compare prices, ranges and brands easily.
This may seem daunting to online boutique owners, but there are a few things you can do to remain competitive in a saturated online market. Consider the following:
With many options available online, one way to stand out is to pay attention to your branding and brand story. If your branding is on point, you will likely sell fairly ordinary products at reasonable prices.
Good branding is especially important for online boutiques since shopping online doesn’t allow for human interaction and emotion. Your brand should be able to connect with your customers on an emotional level as this inspires them to purchase from you. Today, people want to shop and support brands whose values they can relate to.
Shoppers want to do business with people, not corporations. A clear brand story brings life and a human element to your brand rather than a cold online store interface.
Personalization and Small Details
Unlike large retailers with online stores, smaller boutiques can pay attention to small details and offer personalization. This is an excellent way for an online boutique to set itself apart from other competitors.
Small details can include unique packaging and handwritten thank you cards that mass retailers aren’t able to do.
When your packaging is unique and personalized, customers enjoy the experience of opening the package and look forward to it rather than just the product. This is a fantastic marketing tool as customers will likely make unboxing videos, take pictures of what they bought, and post these on social media for their followers to see.
Often, if your packaging is cute, their followers will become interested in your business and go to your social media page or website to find out more about it.
Differentiate Your Business
Many online boutiques may sell similar clothes and accessories, but you can still find ways to set your online boutique apart from the competition. Think about what adds value to your customers and their shopping experience. Perhaps you can offer free shipping or fast delivery. Maybe you can streamline the returns process so that it is easier for customers to return items that they don’t want.
Be Aware of Your Competitors
You may think it is impossible to keep an eye on all your competitors, which may be true. Still, it is a good idea to perform a competitor analysis every so often so that you know what other players in your industry are doing. The best way to do this is to search online for boutiques selling similar items to yours and compare their range, prices, and quality. This will help you identify gaps in the market and potential barriers.
You must also keep your target audience in mind when searching for competitors and consider where they shop. Depending on your audience, your competition may be from global retailers overseas rather than just local retailers and small local businesses.
Customers are becoming more price sensitive, especially as the cost of living increases and budgets become tight. It may be challenging for small online boutiques to compete with large retailers who benefit from mass production and economies of scale, but try to price your products, so they are competitive compared to other small boutiques.
Another way to get around higher prices compared to mass online retailers is to add value. This can be in the form of discount vouchers for the customer’s next purchase, discounts when introducing a friend to your business, personalized services, or small free gifts.
Make the Most of Social Media
Social media is a marvelous tool for building relationships and engaging with customers. Before your target audience even purchases from your boutique, you can use social media to let them know about your business and brand.
Given the impersonal nature of online shopping, having a solid social media presence allows shoppers to learn more about your business and what your brand stands for.
The key to being successful on social media is consistently posting and ensuring that your content is interesting and relevant. Ideally, you must have a strong, well-thought-out social media strategy; every post must align with your brand message.
With social media comes influencer marketing that can help to let more people know about your brand. Shoppers can be skeptical of new, unknown brands and are more comfortable shopping from more prominent brands that are well known. When an influencer promotes your boutique, it gives customers a sense of trust as influencers are seen as known personalities.
Many small online boutiques shy away from this option as macro-influencers can be expensive. However, studies have shown that micro-influencers with a smaller following can be just as successful at promoting a brand and sometimes even more so than macro influencers, as they are seen as more authentic.
Provide a Pleasant Customer Experience
You might think this is a no-brainer, but many online stores are not user-friendly. While it may be easy to create an online store, many small online boutique owners aren’t skilled at building websites and so unintentionally develop websites that are not the easiest to navigate.
Pay attention to your banners and wording, ensure the colors and fonts you use are easy on the eye, and make it as easy as possible for shoppers to purchase from your site. Since customers need to enter their banking or credit card details on your website, you must ensure that it is secure and add security measures so that customers have peace of mind that shopping on your website is safe.
Additionally, remember that many customers shop using mobile devices like phones and pads, so ensure your website is incompatible with these devices.
While the online boutique industry is oversaturated, there are always ways to compete and stay in business. You can differentiate your product, offer good value and pricing, have a strong brand message, and ensure your website is user-friendly.
- Entrepreneur: How to Remain Competitive in a Saturated Online Retail Market
- BigCommerce: The Truth About Dropshipping: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
- American Express: How to Succeed in an Oversaturated Market
- Flashy: 7 Ways to Stay Ahead of You E-Commerce Competition
- Forbes: How to Stand Out in a Saturated Market
- Taylor and Francis Online: David and Goliath: When and Why Micro-Influencers Are More Persuasive Than Mega-Influencers