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Elly’s Couture catches customers on Web

Elly’s Couture catches customers on Web

Three weeks ago, Elly’s Couture went international.
The boutique clothing store on Broadway had already shipped designer clothes and jewelry as far away as California, but the sale to a buyer in Canada drove home the changing nature of retail and marketing: You don’t have to buy radio time in Montreal to sell clothes there.
The far-flung sales at Elly’s have begun picking up since the store’s owners, Elly and Clay Bethune, launched a new website in November ( Customers can sort through the shop’s inventory by price, popularity or newness, add an item to the site’s online shopping cart and wait for it to arrive in their mailbox.
Elly's Couture
“It’s brought in new customers that we’ve never even seen before,” Elly Bethune said. “Each week we get more and more hits on the site.”
The vastness of the potential customer base online means it’s only a matter of time before Internet customers bring in more revenue than those actually shopping in the downtown store.
“We hope it will take 24 to 36 months to exceed (our in-store sales),” Clay Bethune said. “That’s our goal.”
For a locally owned retailer with only a handful of employees, word of mouth can only go so far — probably not over the Canadian border at least. So the Bethunes’ increased emphasis on online marketing goes much farther than a well-designed Web page. About six months ago, Clay Bethune began researching search engine optimization, the art of pushing up a site’s rankings in the list of results a search engine spits out.
He owns another Columbia-based business, E Net Payroll Services, and knew both businesses could benefit from a greater probability of showing up high in a Google search result.
“It’s not as complicated as everyone thinks it is once you know what’s behind the curtain,” he said.
But the task of maintaining the aspects most important to search engines — backlinks from other sites, new content, pictures and blog references — was more work than he thought.
“It’s really a bigger chore than I anticipated, so now we outsource,” Clay Bethune said.
Last week, New York-based Soft Prodigy began doing the SEO work for Elly’s Couture. The first task will be moving the store’s site higher in the search results than Elly Bethune’s blog.
Elly Bethune set up an Elly’s Couture blog in early 2009 after being turned on to the idea by one of her employees. Because she updates the blog daily with pictures and videos, it actually ranks higher than Unfortunately, you can’t buy the merchandise from the blog. Even so, it will help optimize the regular website by linking to it.
And of course, she makes regular updates to Elly’s Couture’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, all of which factor into a website’s online presence.
“Now it doesn’t feel like doing anything at all,” Elly Bethune said of the social network posts. “It takes two seconds, and it brings in so many more customers.”
To further boost the company’s search engine rankings, Soft Prodigy has plans to build about 30 complementary sister sites featuring specific products and linking back to Because of the niche products Elly’s sells, the store benefits greatly from online marketing. In many cases, those sister sites will likely have higher search rankings than the actual designer, Clay Bethune said.
“The fashion industry is really weird because these designers don’t promote their products online,” he said. “They let the boutiques do it. It’s very old school, so to speak.”
The push into the online domain hasn’t been without hang-ups. For one, it took much longer than the Bethunes expected to create their online catalog. And because the store stocks only a handful of a particular item, after the catalog was up and running, the pair had to find specialized software to take items off the website when they were sold out. There were a couple of mix-ups before they found the program they needed, they said.
“It would have been a piece of cake to just set up the site and photograph the inventory,” Clay Bethune said.
But the venture online is already pushing up sales, and the two only expect them to continue rising.
“It’s always nice to wake up in the morning and have sales receipts in your inbox,” Clay Bethune said.

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