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Social media drives Amberley business

Two Amberley business partners regularly model new designs to a far-flung audience that they may never meet thanks to the power of social media.

Photographer Hannah Thomson and former art teacher Julia Teutenberg, who started Bax and Berg Clothing Boutique in 2016, model the clothes in front of a camera, discussing the fit, the feel and pairings as they go.

The success of what started out as a simple idea has amazed the pair.

“It’s incredible. We often do a video of us trying things on, live, and we’ll often have 50 or more watchers,” Hannah says.

“People can see how things look and fit, and it turns into instant sales. It’s like people feel as though they are there, it’s personal, they’re part of our community.”

Their community is far reaching. From their Amberley store, Hannah and Julia market sell women’s fashion from New Zealand, Australian and European brands to customers in North Canterbury and all over the country.

Before committing to a business model, the pair carried out months of research to analyse competitors. They also set up a website marketplace and promoted Bax and Berg on social media prior to opening their store.

That early work paid off with many of their sales now made to people living in rural Southland and the North Island.

Bax and Berg’s Facebook page has over 4500 followers - more than twice the population of Amberley.

From inception, Hannah and Julia focused on developing the website as much as the shop. They were encouraged to do so by an Auckland-based business mentor whom they met with regularly via Skype.

“This is our dream and it was obvious that the real growth would come if we had a market outside of our region, too,” Hannah says.

“Sales have exceeded our expectations and when people come to the store, they already feel like they know a lot about us. Focusing on online sales has really helped us grow our business.

“We see ourselves as an upmarket boutique backed by digital connectivity.”

The boutique’s product orders are made online with inventory management done via the cloud. Sales drop from the inventory in real time, with staff receiving instant notification when an online sale is completed and needs to be readied for shipping.

Hannah and Julia stay connected even when they are away from the shop because almost every element of their business is managed with web-ready tools. They monitor what’s selling via their mobile phones or tablets, and answer customer inquiries via the website or social media.

“We make every spare moment count because being connected means we can check in and do something for the business whenever we have a few minutes.”

Their financials are managed using a cloud-based accounting tool which frees up more time to find new ways to add value to their business.

Trend and industry research is conducted online by visiting other retailers’ social media sites, along with scouring Instagram and Pinterest for label and display ideas.

Julia and Hannah also use their marketplace and social media tools to learn about customer profiles. They analyse location, how customers respond and what they want to buy.

“Being connected means we can be responsive, and that we have the tools that help us spend more time doing what we love; more time being creative.

“To anyone who’s not sure how important it is to be connected, I’d say you have to think outside the box - there’s no limit to your ideas when you’re online.”

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