When it comes to selling on the interwebs it seems like everyone has a site. I’ve heard all sorts of stories from online entrepreneurs with “overnight successes” to sob stories of how someone took their retirement money bought a bunch of merchandise or an expensive website and the sales just didn’t come in to justify the effort. The whole “build it and they will come” mentality doesn’t work any easier with an ecommerce store than it does with any other venture in life.
In order to be successful online it takes a certain amount of research in order to find out who your customer is and how to connect with them. But how do you know if you have a viable idea in the first place?
When it comes to online sales consumers have TONS of options. If you search for womens jeans in Google you get over 61 million results from companies selling juniors jeans, discount brand jeans, classic jeans (ex: Levis), designer jeans and everything in between. With all that noise out there, how do YOU stand out and increase your chances of success?
With SO many clothing lines available online, there are 3 things I have seen brands do in order to create a successful online shop that stands the test of time. They are either storytelling, offering a unique product, or offering a unique service with their product offerings.
This is the brand that has a unique back story to tell. There is usually some sort of social responsibility behind the brand. It could be a charity they donate to, the materials they choose to use or ethical labor choices. Whatever it is it's important to telling the story of the brand and getting the customer to understand the true perceived value of the brand. In other words, the customer isn’t just buying a bracelet or a t-shirt they are helping further a cause or changing someone’s life.
REAL LIFE EXAMPLE: Jimani Collections
Jimani Collections sells handmade jewelry and home goods items that are handmade in Kenya. This brand has all of the necessary elements of a successful brand. They have beautiful, stylish and on trend items, gorgeous product photography and lots of examples of happy women enjoying their products. However, they take this all a step further. They build a successful business that teaches women in Kenya employable skills to create a better future for themselves by making handmade quality goods. This feel good element is incorporated into the Jimani brand.
All over their website you can see examples of their behind the scenes work- workshop photos, meeting the women who make the products, how the items are made, etc. The Jimani brand allows you to follow the journey of their products so you see just how you are making a difference when you shop from their store. If you’re interested they even offer a section on how you can get involved in the process and help.
The brand story is shown in a transparent manner which helps establish trust for those who are looking for quality items with a feel good purchase.
This brand places a HUGE focus on storytelling by sharing YouTube videos and other social media content that focuses on the behind the scenes work as much as it does the stylish ways to wear their products.
The storytelling aspect helps develop a deeper connection with their ideal audience and helps to convert to purchase. If you are a socially conscious brand I recommend the following:
Offer a great product. Even if you have a great story the customer won’t buy if you don’t have a great product. If you notice the jewelry and home goods from Jimani are stylish, on trend, well made and don’t look like they were handmade by a Holly Hobby in her basement. They are really well made, beautiful products made by professional artisans.
- Establish customer trust. Ask yourself in what ways you can help establish customer trust in your company. Can you have them follow your product journey? Can you offer interviews with some of the people involved or affected by your good works? Can you share the amount of hours or money that has been donated to this cause? What ways can you help establish customer trust in your journey.
- Get the customer involved. Share pictures of your behind the scenes work. Develop ways of showing the process that makes the customer feel like they are part of the journey. Or better yet- in the case of Jimani Collections- show them how they can help and become part of that journey!
Consumers right now are looking for more functionality out of their everyday garments. They want products that are going to change their life somehow - make their life easier, make them more comfortable- relieve some sort of pain point in their life. There are new textiles coming out all the time that have unique properties to help solve a pain point for your customer. You see a lot of this in the activewear industry, but it can be applied to other categories as well- shoes, lingerie, travel/resort, outdoors- almost anywhere if you think about it. A good place to start with this is to think of some of your own frustrations as a consumer. How can you possibly solve them? Is there a new fabric or new method of construction that can help support that?
REAL LIFE EXAMPLE: Lively
Lively set out to change the lingerie market for women. They wanted to make the world’s most comfortable bra. Since then they have expanded into swim and athletic wear saying that they are inspired by “women with wild hearts and boss brains” and want to deliver high style and comfort in lingerie, swim and athletics- categories that are usually not known for comfort in womenswear.
Using already available fabrics that aren’t typically thought of as suitable for lingerie Lively created a set of soft and comfortable bras for women.
Which goes to show you that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel in order to come up with a new product to serve your customer- you just need to be driven to solve their problem.
They didn’t stop with just a great product line. The brand also offers excellent customer service, free shipping both ways and gives you the opportunity to try on their items for 30 days. If you don’t love them, send them back no questions asked. They even include a prepaid shipping label in the box so that you don’t even have to worry about contacting customer support to return your items. Talk about convenience!
Understanding how to delight their customers, Lively has pretty, branded packaging. When I ordered my items from Lively, I received a white post office box- I expected to open the box and find my order inside. Instead I found a beautiful Lively branded pink box with my items inside of it. It felt like I was receiving a gift in the mail even though I was only receiving my order!
It’s the combination of a unique item, the attention to details and the convenience factor that has brought Lively many loyal fans over the last year! It all started with a passion to solve a customer pain point.
- If you are going to create a unique product that fills a need for your ideal customer you will likely have a captive audience. If this is the route you'd like to take I would start with the following:
Do some market research. Try to do some online listening on social media sites like Twitter or Instagram- wherever your ideal customer hangs out. Take some time to listen in on their conversations and see what they are complaining about. Keep a note of these complaints in an excel spreadsheet. Once you see where there is a need, start to ask yourself how you can fill this need.
- Find your ideal customer and have them test out the product and give you feedback prior to going to market. This will allow you to fine tune your product offering and get valuable feedback before spending a lot of time, money and resources on a full production order.
- Don’t give up. I know this may seem like the long way to do things but in the end creating a product that serves a need in the marketplace is invaluable. Being the first to market with it gives you the opportunity to become the authority on the subject and gain loyal fans early on. Add in things like great customer service and other small details that will create customer delight and you will stay on top in your industry for the long haul.
UNIQUE SERVICE OFFERING- I.E. THE CONVENIENCE FACTOR
If you are going to offer something that can easily be found on other sites and you don’t have a story to tell the best way to make your brand stand out from the others is to combine your products with some sort of service offering that makes your customers life a little easier. You can offer Free Shipping both ways if your profit margin allows for it but with everyone trying to compete with Amazon that is quickly becoming a standard offering. What else can you do to make your customers’ lives easier? If you were your own customer what types of services would you like to see offered?
REAL LIFE EXAMPLE: Stitch Fix
Stitch Fix is an online fashion boutique that seeks to make busy people’s lives easier by helping them find items that they like within their price range. Perfect for busy people who do not want to spend a lot of time updating their wardrobe and don’t want to deal with annoying subscription services that make them commit to ordering every month. It combines fashion shopping with the ultimate convenience. Shop on your terms, find your style, in your budget. No need to hire an expensive personal stylist or shopper.
They take the convenience and customer service bit a step further by sending you 5 pieces they believe you will love- you keep what you want and send the rest back for a refund. Talk about Staples button easy!
For those who are a little unsure about what to wear or what is trending Style Fix has several style guides for the less than confident shopper to help them look their best.
Seriously- this company is like a ninja at serving their customer’s needs. They understand the psychographics of their customer in and out. They’ve thought of all the concerns from someone who doesn’t have a lot of time to shop and have built their business around it. Not only creating loyal fans and customers, but also creating trust.
If you are going to sell products that are easily found elsewhere- think long and hard about what is going to set you apart from existing boutiques selling the same stuff.
- Is there an opportunity for you to create a service that you can bundle with your items to set you apart from the rest?
- Go research your ideal customer. Get into their heads and understand their needs in and out. For Stitch Fix, this was creating content to help guide unsure fashion shoppers, and offering a service to make it easy for busy shoppers to update their wardrobe. They built their brand around “fixing” the problem for their customer.
Think about your customer. What dilemmas do they face? How can you help make their lives easier? Don’t get overwhelmed and think you have to tackle it all at once. None of these companies was built into the success models they are now overnight.
Instead, I challenge you to start with ONE. One product offering or one service you can create to connect with your ideal customer. Continue to listen to your customer’s needs and add more products and services to your repertoire to give your customers another reason to shop with you. Loyal customers are born out of customers who have come to like, know and trust your brand.
What’s the ONE product or service you can implement to start boosting your brand today? Let me know in the comments below, and if you’d like an accountability buddy send me a message!