How to Launch Your Fashion Brand Online
As an emerging fashion designer launching a new brand, you may find yourself abandoning the traditional brick and mortar approach and decide instead to launch digitally. While we believe in a strategy in which you do both, we also know that having a strong online presence results in cost savings (at least at first) and the ability to reach an audience beyond the local market.
The diverse team at Pivot Six has worked in-house at different fashion brands, and we’ve helped a number of emerging fashion startups and designers launch online. So in honor of the last day of New York Fashion Week, we’re sharing 5 tactics to keep in mind as you launch your fashion brand online, as well as a few successful industry examples.
Have A Plan For Your Fashion Brand
This may seem obvious but it’s important to keep the big picture in perspective. When launching online, have specific goals and targets in mind, and review them regularly in order to assess what’s working and what’s not.
Questions to consider for your online fashion launch:
Systems: What will my inventory, payment processing, and shipping systems look like? Will I use an integrated platform like Shopify, or will I set up my website on WordPress, Squarespace, or another platform?
Financing: How should I be accounting for things? How much cash do I have? What is my forecasted sales and costs over the next 12-24 months?
Marketing: Do I want to have a social media following before my launch? How far in advance should I start my marketing? What is my actual marketing plan? What does my brand voice sound like?
Sales: Is my goal to gain the attention of fashion editors and/or buyers? Or do I want to sell solely B2C? How will this modify my existing plan?
Rather than blindly spending the money to build a website and a social media presence, it is best to plan and set objectives.
Industry Example: Outdoor Voices
Born out of the idea that ‘casual activity is naturally integrated into everyday life’, Outdoor Voices’ millennial founders tapped into the natural propensity of their peers to “do things” and created activewear that mirror their active lifestyle. And they did so digitally. Well, at first. They were intentional with their plan to fully maximize their carefully-chosen social media channels, and tapped into their target market from there. Instead of investing in a brick and mortar store, they prioritized what mattered the most: Cultivating their brand’s high standards and sourcing the best materials from all over the world. Then, they partnered with influencers and trendsetters in their specific niche in order to generate some buzz. Now, just five years after it was founded, the company has seven retail stores in the U.S. and even fashion magazine Vogue agrees that they are taking over the fitness world.
Visualize Your Brand
A picture is worth a thousand words…for a reason. Having unique, high-resolution images of your product is key in the competitive online fashion world. Spend the time and resources on creating high quality visuals of your product. At Pivot Six, we work with a variety of photographers to ensure our clients have the high caliber visuals they need -- and we can attest to the fact that quality photography makes a huge difference in terms of how their brand is perceived.
In the digital space you will be competing with brands from all over the world so it’s imperative that you ensure customers, editors and buyers see your product at its very best. Humans are visual creatures and, particularly in the fashion realm, visual information is easily absorbed and easily shareable.
Industry Example: Park & Fifth
Park & Fifth, an online wedding and bridal store, understands the importance of stunning visual imagery in the digital sphere and pulls no punches when showcasing its style and products. The fashion company has worked with a professional photographer from day one and as a result, all their online imagery is consistent and echoes their brand’s concept. From the matched hues and different backgrounds (with especially breathtaking outdoor shots) to the poses of the models, Park & Fifth has clearly expressed what they are all about through their visuals. By investing in strong photography from the very beginning of their launch, they successfully sold themselves to their target market - the modern day bride and bridesmaid who would revel in their dresses and would wear them again and again on many different occasions.
Quality Over Quantity
If you’re unable to use a PR or marketing agency to create online buzz around your fashion brand, the easiest way to do this on your own is through social media channels. It’s critical to carefully select which social media networks you should be focusing on. Nowadays Instagram is probably your best bet.
Rather than signing up for every single social media network, spend the time to research which tools and techniques will actually help you reach your target audience and which ones you can feasibly allocate time to. For instance, do you really need to have a strategy for Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and YouTube? Depending on your niche and your target audience, this answer will vary. It’s better to select the networks that you can actually build an audience on, rather than spending sporadic time spread over a wide number of networks.
Industry Example: Brunette The Label
Instead of spreading itself too thin on all available social media channels, Vancouver-based brand Brunette the Label chose to focus on only one platform and harness its features to their advantage. And as a result, they have amassed a following of 47k+ on Instagram, where they post engaging images around the themes of girlfriends and female empowerment, which are consistent with their brand mantras: “We Are All Babes” and “Babes Supporting Babes”. They post and engage with their followers regularly, demonstrating that they understand the interests of their customers and communicating in a tone of voice that resonates with them. In this way, the fashion brand tapped into their target market and built a community, which in turn has helped their brand establish a strong and loyal following.
Interact With Your Audience
Once your brand is on social media, reciprocation is key. The beauty of social media is that a two-way exchange is possible between the brand and the audience. Conversations happen, outreach is possible, content is share-able and relationships are built.
Don’t miss out on this opportunity by not responding to comments. Let your followers know you acknowledge and appreciate their support through timely responsiveness. Ask questions, comment back, reply, share and treat your followers like a customer that would walk into your store – with respect.
Industry Example: Black Milk Clothing
The power -- and the beauty -- of social media is the interactivity it provides. James Lillis of Black Milk Clothing knew this and sought to build a community with his target market: “When it comes to promoting your products online, it should never be about selling.” Beyond just engaging their community, Black Milk took communication to another level and gave people an opportunity to express themselves: “We put in a genuine effort to cultivate friendship with our customers.” And like with any worthwhile relationship, the brand put effort in three critical aspects: authenticity, accessibility and storytelling. These three elements gave their audience a reason to get to know -- and continue engaging with -- the brand.
There are many challenges that come with launching a fashion brand online and overnight success is rare. Your online audience won’t be able to touch and feel the product face to face, so it will take hard work and continued effort to effectively communicate the quality and feel of your product online.
Within your strategy and marketing plan, set aside an adequate amount of time and resources to develop a strong online presence and to build rapport with your target audience and customers.
Industry Example: Aeglestore
Aeglestore is a fashion brand that goes against the grain, so to speak. It offers second-hand items and donates all its profits to charity. It doesn’t follow the usual fashion trends, but it curates preloved items and sells them online to make it easier for buyers. They launched two years ago in 2016, choosing to go beyond simply offering quality and affordable second-hand clothes. Instead, they also sold convenience and a different purchasing mindset. They influenced people to change the way they consume by offering a viable alternative option. And as there has been a rise in the popularity of “thrifting” over the past few years, this has helped shape the market’s inclinations. Going against the grain may have its unique set of challenges, but Aeglestore’s strong brand identity and patience in trend changes have all contributed to its remarkable success.
What other tips do you have on launching a brand online? Share in the comments below!
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