By Chelsie Calliham
When walking through a mall, storefront windows with cute outfits or flashy displays can catch customers eyes and draw them in. But what about expanding? Local customers are the best, but reaching a large demographic, outside of your brick-and-mortar location, can boom your business. This is where social media and e-commerce come into play.
At first taking on social media and an e-commerce website for your business can seem overwhelming- maybe even a little scary. According to Sammy Grollmes, Director of Operations for Bling Boutique, you just have to jump right in and figure out what works best for your personal business. Sammy has been with Bling since 2013 and started out as a store manager at their Hays, Kansas location, moved to district manager, and now is in her current position.
Bling has a whopping total of 19 social media accounts between Instagram and Facebook and started an e-commerce site. Recently, I had the chance to chat with Sammy about Bling’s success with social media and the transition to e-commerce.
CC: When did your business start using social media?
SG: Bling started as a company in 2008 in Nicole’s, the owner of Bling, basement at the Scott City, Kansas location, which I think is so crazy since we have expanded to 8 different locations since then.
When I started in 2013, each store had its own Facebook page. I don’t know the exact time it was but when Instagram and Twitter were starting to take off and I was seeing other retailers starting to use it, I asked Nicole what she thought and if I could try it out in the Hays store which I was managing at the time. She thought it was a great idea and we decided to try it out and post them simultaneously. We found with being a fashion-based retailer, customers were more interested in our pictures, so we learned Twitter wasn’t the best platform for us, but Instagram really took off! We just weren’t seeing the same return of comments or interactions that we did from other platforms and decided to just stick with what was working best for us. We feel like not having Twitter hasn’t affected our social media presence since we are focused mostly on visuals.
CC: How many social media accounts do you run?
SG: That makes for a total of nine Instagram accounts, one for all but one location and @blinghq, the company’s account, and ten Facebook pages, one for each store and a company page. Our first store, Scott City, only has Facebook. Since it is where our company began, we use texting and invitations into the store more than social media because we have several local, repeat customers.
CC: Do you post different content depending on what platform you are using?
SG: We do pretty much the same type of posts on both platforms. I think what varies the most is how the merchandise is presented from store-to-store. For example, all of the stores might receive the same top, but that doesn’t mean they will each post the same picture. Each store styles the top depending on what their demographic likes. At every location, the store manager runs the Instagram and Facebook pages and they really tailor their post to their community and what events are going on.
CC: How do you manage so many accounts?
SG: Store managers keep track of their store’s account. We found this to be so much easier. If we have a customer that comments wanting a certain piece held back for them or asks about a certain size, whoever working in that specific store is the best person to answer that question and in the most time efficient manner.
CC: Do you pre-schedule your posts?
SG: Yes, we sometimes do and specifically when we know we are going to be busier or if we know the person who normally posts is going to be gone. But I do think we are a little bit more of “in the moment” posting than scheduled. As we get freight in or if we have extra time, we like to show off our merchandise and try to get people in the store especially if traffic has slowed down at a random time.
CC: What steps do you take to balance each account?
SG: That’s something we go through during training and set-up our guidelines of what we like posts to look like, how many people a day are supposed to post, and various social media responsibilities. It has taken us years to figure out what works well for us and what doesn’t, so we like to add social media to our employee guidelines.
CC: What are some new social media trends your business has been experimenting with?
SG: I think playing around with some different hashtags has been really fun and something we’ve been integrating recently. It hasn’t been long enough to compare the impact on business yet though.
Another very recent trend we have been enjoying is using Instagram’s stories. It really creates a connection with the customer because it is a little less formal and makes the experience more personal. We have a really good routine for regular posts on Instagram and when we want to send them on to Facebook, but I think what has been really fun about using the Instagram stories is we can show each employee’s personalities and create engagement with the customer.
Another benefit to the Instagram stories is being able to see how many people have looked at it throughout the day and that has really surprised me. We have really been working on becoming consistent with using stories and integrating them with everything that has worked in the past.
CC: What do you feel like is the biggest benefit of using social media for your business?
SG: I think the biggest benefit is the community outreach and creating relationships with customers outside of the four walls of your physical business. This is so huge because our stores ship products and we have customers from California to Pennsylvania all because of social media. There are so many different people we’ve been able to reach and form relationships with because they see us on social media. These are people who more than likely will never set foot in our physical locations but because of the power of social media, they have become a frequent shopper with us.
CC: Any advice for small business owners wanting to start using social media?
SG: Just do it! If you go for it and stay true to what your business’s core values are, what you want to showcase and keep it consistent and relevant to your business, you will see results. Just get started and go for it. You’re not going to see huge results within in a week and you’re lucky if you do within a month. Social media is something you have to keep chipping away at and see what is working for your customers. If you keep playing around with it, you’ll find your niche.
CC: What is a lesson you learned along the way of growing your social media accounts that could help others?
SG: Some of the best things that have worked for us with social media are when we went into uncharted territory. Watch other leaders in your industry and what kind of things you see them generating results from. I also like to look for what kind of things are catching my eye when I’m scrolling through my own social media and then asking myself if that is relevant to my business. If so, try to implement that.
CC: When did you start using e-commerce?
SG: We launched our website this year, but two years prior we actually had an online store previously to the site we have now. In our Scott City warehouse, we had a fire and the website had started right before that happened. The online store, warehouse, and physical Scott City store were destroyed in that fire. At the time, what made sense was to keep pushing forward and put e-commerce on hold.
But this January, we had a big planning meeting. During holiday time, we noticed a lot of our customers asking on social media if we had an online store. We took that feedback and realized it was really time to go for e-commerce.
Since launching the website, it has really been a learning experience. We keep going by using trial and error, but I’m really excited to see that area of our business grow.
CC: Who manages your e-commerce site?
SG: One of our store managers runs her store and oversees the website, so basically that is the store that warehouses the product and monitors the website. We also have interns at that location which they have been extremely helpful with the photos and graphics you see on the website.
But when it comes to buying and inventory flow, that is something that Nicole and I keep our eyes on.
CC: What steps did you take to smoothly transition to using e-commerce?
SG: I think we just went for it. We had a little experience in the past of building the website and creating images we initially had before losing it in the fire. We used what we knew and what works for our business, but now the challenge is figuring out the logistics side of things and making the website user-friendly.
CC: When did you know you were ready to dive into e-commerce?
SG: Before starting anything, we get a good, solid plan in place of how we are going to tackle our new task and do it. As challenges and obstacles arise, we are flexible and redirect as we need to and go from there.
We made sure we had the right people and a plan in place to achieve our goal. It sounds crazy but within about a week and a half we had a website up and ready to go. It’s still a work in progress but we take it step by step. We leap with a plan and go for it!
After talking to Sammy, I realized Bling’s success came from plenty of attempts and finding out what works best for your own business, and not necessarily someone else’s. Sure, examples are great to start with but really let your brand shine through and stick to your values. But most importantly, go for it!
Check out Bling’s website at https://www.blingglamour.com for inspiration!
Want to try your hand at Instagram stories, Sammy’s personal favorite new trend? Make sure to be checking back in on our Facebook page/ blog for future posts on Instagram stories.