I’ve always enjoyed walking into a Whole Foods and being able to ask a sales associate to give me qualitative information about products. In fact their experience can largely sway an opinion. Think about ordering food at a restaurant- ever asked the waiter what’s the best on the menu and order that? What if the waiter wasn’t there and every time you ordered something you had to guess what to order? Or have you ever wanted to buy something that went with your outfit, but no one was there to give an opinion? How frustrating.
Taking away key decision making drivers in the sales process leaves a vacuum for a new types of technology to enter. One new technology would aggregate customer feedback and experiences per product and segment based on your friends and similar interest groups. Your friends become the curators. This would go beyond a Yelp or Amazon review system and be curated by similar interest groups.
Another type of technology that will gain traction will be interactive mirrors and social selling apps that allow the customer to take photographs of themselves and share with friends to get instant feedback- these already exist but have yet to take off. In essence, the role of the sales associates preference would be replaced with that of friends and social groups.
So then what does the role of the store play? I’ve written in the past that customers are looking for a more interactive in store experience (see the article on my talk at the SAP Retail Forum). They want events, curation, and customization. They crave an experience that is personal and tailored to them.
This is the age of individualization not normalization.
The question remains-will these new types of stores gain traction? If it works in tandem with technology that fulfills the social needs and information needs of a cashier or sales associated then yes. If it leaves the customer hanging, then these stores become showrooms where people will go to look and buy at home- a trend we started to see back in 2012.
As we wait to see what happens with in store trends my advice is to continue to think about your customer value proposition. What value do you offer besides selling products on a shelf? Rebecca Minkoff is first to market in her space selling products up to $1,500 in this new concept store. The novelty of it will drive in store traffic- but will it correlate to sales?
Amazon might see a correlation between in app searches and in store buying- leveraging its app as an information hub and who knows, maybe they will be integrating your in store purchase with the nutrition count and syncing it up with your health data. Scary, but totally possible! Lots of possibilities here, but at the end of the day customer purchasing power is king and will dictate if this new concept store experience will last.
Syama Meagher is the CEO of Scaling Retail, a retail strategy firm that offers insight and strategic consulting to fashion and retail brands. To get insight on sales, marketing and merchandising for your business email: email@example.com.
This post was originally written for Simply Stylist by me (Syama Meagher, CEO of Scaling Retail). Simply Stylist is an Online Platform & Conference Series for Female fashion enthusiasts. They are the bridge that connects you with other like-minded stylistas, beauty babes and tech whizzes, and allows you to tap into the minds of major style influencers.
Your blog relies on working with brands you love. Not only does working with brands you’d personally use appear more organic, but it also increases the chances of that brand wanting to work with you. However, pitching and working with brands you love requires a strategy! I will discuss the fundamentals to building relationships and positioning yourself to get the visibility and, ultimately, the income you want. I warn you — its not easy, but can be very worthwhile!
1. How to Identify the Right Brands
There are so many amazing brands out there, but who is the right fit for you? Ultimately, this depends on your brand positioning. What kind of content do you produce? Do you know your tribe? When was the last time you actually engaged with them? Truly understanding your own brand will give you a foundation to identify the right brands that you should work with.
So, how do you start to find out about your audience? Do research or ask them! People love to know that they are important. Surveys and questionnaires produce amazing results. Once you know your audience, it’s time to analyze the brands. What are the brands that your audience already engages with? What are they wearing? Where are they going? Become a detective and start to write down a list of the brands they engage with.
Tip: Don’t just write down fashion brands; write down all the brands- Airbnb, Uber, Blueprint, etc. This is your starting point.
2. Identify What You Have to Offer
What is your USP (Ultimate Selling Proposition)? This applies to your content and your audience. Do you have amazing images and high engagement? Do you have a lot of followers who click on the links in your bio? How about a small targeted audience that really listen to you?
Once you establish what you have to offer, it iss time to package it nicely. Create a PDF with your stats, a bio about yourself, images, and some information about your following. Also, identifying and including the types of brands your followers are interested in will help brands feel like you are a good fit.
Tip: I work with brands every day, established and new brands. What they are looking for is real engagement and a targeted following. Yes — they will look at your followers and analyze!
3. Know What You Want
Whether you’re a flatlay queen or can get your readers to buy anything, being knowledgeable about what you bring to the table will ensure you’re working with brands that align with your aesthetic. Know what kinds of products you want to work with and start to slim down your list to those brands within your context. Ask yourself, “If I work with this brand, would I want to work with my brand?” That is the important question.
Also, please note that if you have big brands that you really want to work with, consider featuring their products on your page prior to reaching out. Brands take note of whether or not an influencer has previously posted about them!
As your following grows, pitching should become a part of your daily routine. Pitching can include anything from emailing brands to sending DM’s (Direct Messages) on Instagram directly to a brand social media page. However, you should only pitch to brands that make sense, meaning they, too, would benefit from collaborating with you to share their product with your readers. The pitches should be personal to each brand and portray a casual confidence without overselling yourself or your brand.
- Highlight your best social media platforms first. Don’t immediately propose posting on platforms that you are not building or that have low engagement. Instead, showcase your strengths!
- Don’t limit yourself. Instead of having one set rate for all collaborations, offer tiered pricing and al la carte options to appeal to brands seeking small activations.
- You need to be willing to start small and work your way up! Small collaborations will show brands the type of work they’d expect from a partnership with you, so make them count.
5. Building Your Perceived Value
The value of your brand is based on what others perceive of you. If you decide to collaborate with other influencers, be sure you’re featuring brands that are consistent with your aesthetic — this will help you develop a strong brand. It takes time to build your portfolio of collaborations, but don’t worry! No one is going to ask you about the nature of previous collaborations. Just remember: Have discretion and be smart as to what the return on investment (ROI) is for each brand or collaboration you do.
Building your brand is a long-term decision that is essential to success. So don’t be afraid to be aggressive and diligent in ensuring you’re working with brands you love!
Facebook has launched their in mobile app marketplace and sellers are flocking. In 4 steps you can upload a photo, add a product description, choose a price and post it to the marketplace. You can even change your zip code to show up in more relevant listings and post your item for sale in groups you are a member of.
So why on earth are designers not flocking to this? They will. If you have been paying attention to my last few talks and posts I’ve been preaching the gospel of attention arbitrage – in essence be first and be where your customers are. Don’t wait until brands are getting on this platform before you jump in. Start playing now.
It has a little bit of a Poshmark feel as well; the layout, the necessity for good images, fair prices and the small amount of area to write product copy. Poshmark also allows you to re-sell goods that you buy at wholesale. The official Facebook Marketplace for Business hasn’t launched yet, but be certain that when it does it will be easier for brands who have already had experience on it to quickly jump on board. You won’t miss a beat.
This marketplace acts a little bit like Craigslist, you use your profile and are able to set up a time for the transaction to take place. If you have a studio you work out of it’s a great way to get your brand exposed to more customers. If you are doing a sample sale, boom, mark it down and let your community have first dibs. I really love what types of possibilities this will open up for businesses down the road that participate in popup shops.
Facebook is hoping to weed out fake buyers by only allowing those with a full profile and active friends to participate. They also won’t accept payment terms, for now. Imagine down the road Facebook partnering up with Visa or American Express and negotiating special rates with them on the backend if they are the preferred payment processing system. Facebook doesn’t integrate with a shipping method yet. So this means you will be deciding on if mailing or picking up works.
To make sure you close the sale follow these steps:
- Have great images- you have 4 to use.
- Make sure the lighting is good
- Use a background
- Write your product copy beforehand.
- Choose the zipcode you want to do business with.
- Pick a strong product title.
- Post your product on relevant community groups.
- Time the release of your product. Don’t just upload everything at once, your product will become more relevant in search if you stagger, like how Pinterest is.
- Use relevant words in your description. This is a primarily search based platform. Think of long tail keywords versus short ones. There will be way too many “little back dresses” to be able to find, but “knee length little black dress with sleeves” might be more relevant.
I’m super excited to see what awaits Facebook Marketplace. Brands have been waiting for when Facebook would diversify its offerings since the plugins that allow selling in your Facebook Page don’t really convert. This is mostly due to the fact that Facebook has become a pay-to-play platform for businesses. Its virtually impossible to get traction on Facebook pages without spending ad dollars. And small brands with little budget have a difficult time seeing ROI’s on their advertisements.
This could be a new channel for distribution and it’s definitely worth keeping your eye on and even testing it out. Remember when eBay first launched? There were business that grew out of eBay, hello, Sophia Amoruso’s Nasty Gal!
Luxury brands are jumping on the bandwagon of Snapchat. Burberry, Everlane and Valentino have all become active users of Snapchat in the last 2 years. Why? Because the demographics of Snapchat have changed- when launched the platform quickly became a favorite in the 18-24 year old market and now there is an increase engagement amongst users in their mid 20’s and up (38% of all users). As brands look to actively engage on many platforms to capture the attention of the consumer, being on a platform like Snapchat has become a necessity.
I first heard the term “attention arbitrage” used by Gary Vaynerchuk. Attention arbitrage is the act of trading your time for attention. Snapchat is a great example of this. Brands and people are spending lots of time creating content to capture the attention of their community. Vaynerchuk has famously, in recent keynotes, given himself lots of credit for forecasting the rise of Snapchat. But is Snapchat the right platform for the luxury space? Should this be the way to capture the audience?
The luxury market has undergone a huge shift in the last 20 years. What once used to be a closed market, reserved for the Christian Dior’s and Chanel’s is now a wide playing field with the customer determining what defines luxury. Brands like Maiyet focused on sustainability, community and style have been able to make a mark in the space because of these shifts. Consumers are making decisions on personal values, individual aesthetics and a desire to curate ones life. This has forced the luxury market to evolve. Here is where the social media platforms come in.
Early adopters in social media are also striving for a sense of individuality. They want to be the first to make a mark on new platforms and the brands that meet them there are at an advantage. The recent wave of 25+ year old adopters to Snapchat will be the bridge to a critical mass of users. So where will your brand be? The luxury brands adopting Snapchat are adding a level of transparency to their brands to create a sense of connection. As a small to medium sized brand you have the greatest gift of transparency: one that needs to be curated, but not manufactured. How does one justify spending $3,000 on handbag? They show how its made, they talk to the artisan. How does one create a sense of belonging to New York Fashion Week? They show the behind the scenes with the models. Brands are even now doing specific product launches just on Snapchat to give followers an exclusive (i.e. Glossier).
But Syama, do I have to be on another platform?
I am a huge proponent of meeting your customers where they are. If you want to get ahead of the retail masses then start a consistent Snapchat channel before everyone jumps on board. You will get the chance to be one of the business accounts that a new adopter of Snapchat would follow. Once the user base reaches its height, all the small and medium sized retailers will be on it; and you will be one in a sea of accounts trying to get followers. Sounds a little like Instagram right?
Instagram just rolled out Stories? Does this make Snapchat obsolete?
The new stories functionality is a great attempt to take over the Snapchat market, especially for the older users who don’t want to start using another platform. BUT, just like how Instagram was the newer playing field for Facebook, Snapchat is the newer playing field for Instagram. More instant, more transparent and more engaging. Instagram is becoming the new pay to play space with advertisements, just like Facebook. Snapchat is raw and not yet monetized in that way.
Re-evaluate your social media strategy. If you cannot be on all the channels then pick the ones you want to fully max out. There are also trends to watch out for; Facebook is a pay for play platform, Pinterest is leading the way on social selling, Twitter is great for peer to peer but not for sales, Instagram is rolling out new features for businesses to optimize sales and YouTube continues to be the best long form branded platform for evergreen content. The live options on Facebook, YouTube and apps like Periscope are wonderful for event based content and weekly series type content. Snapchat is leading the charge with Snapcash and might be giving users an option to the China based WeChat platform. If you haven’t heard about WeChat it is a social selling app where you can chat with friend and buy inside the app. Again, pick your platforms and max them out. In addition, stay on top of the new platforms that launch and consider which of them are going to attract the early adopters you want to engage with. Right now I’m checking out Hyper and Jelly.
For a startup brand social media can seem like a can of worms. There is no way to start, than to start. I suggest thinking about how you want people to perceive your brand, then find the platforms that allow you to do it easiest. Don’t create the same content for all channels and think about how you would want each channel to feel like they are getting something special directed to how they best engage. Example: It’s easier to take polls on Facebook than on Pinterest. If you want your audience to be actively engaged with product development or marketing ideas then build out your Facebook with active conversations.
Brands that have been around for a while need to ask themselves: Does it make sense to be on all the social media channels? Are all of them working? Are there trends that I have not been paying attention to? What are the new channels? If you have a content team that can manage all your channels, then amazing you can do it all. But, if you are a small company and the time you spend on social media is literally the time that could be spent on the phone with your manufacturer, then you need to be critical about your time and efforts. Be where your customer is, don’t waste your time being where they are not.
Syama Meagher is a retail strategist for brands and retailers. She works with growth stage businesses and helps entrepreneurs launch and grow fashion businesses through ecommerce, wholesale and brick & mortar. Syama is a former at Barneys New York, Gucci, AHAlife and Macy’s. To build your brand and create a profitable business check out www.ScalingRetail.com and email firstname.lastname@example.org
Thinking of opening your on fashion boutique, but don’t know where to start? Watch todays video going through the essential tasks you need to go through to get the ball rolling. Listen to how to nail your concept, financing your business, to where you will launch your boutique. Hope you walk away with some knowledge and motivation to launch your brand! Looking forward to your comments.
If you are ready to launch your brand then set up a consultation. Email: email@example.com. Scaling Retail is the consulting firm for retail globally. Specializing in startup and growth stage ecommerce, brick & mortar, and wholesale.
For more tips and exercises for building a fashion website check out
Creating Fashion Websites That Sell by Syama Meagher and Nicole Giordano: http://www.scalingretail.com/product/creating-fashion-website-that-sell/
Check out Scaling Retail website for more business ecommerce and retail tips, reviews and more: http://www.scalingretail.com/
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I love Hussein Chalayan. To me he is the originator of wearable technology. While his pieces are more runway and less subway, I believe that he crosses the barriers between the tech imaginary and fashion- simply amazing. The new wave of fashion tech designers are looking to go beyond the runway and start to make products that can be added to the closet and worn regularly.
Technology and fashion can mean many things, not just adding lights to a jacket. Designers these days are looking to create new materials, fibers and design products that are symbiotic with your lifestyle- aesthetics first. While designers have been playing with new wearable tech products for a few years it has yet to be taken seriously by the mass market. Maybe because wearable tech sounds funny?
Aside from renaming the industry (a personal thought), there needs to be a platform to sell these products. Do they fit in the advanced contemporary market? Is it aspirational luxury? How does one classify? Tech News reported back in April that TopShop was sponsoring a contest with Imarks to support brands in gaining visibility from buyers. TopShop was also providing free business education and mentoring. Its important to see relevant players in the retail space get behind fostering new talent especially in wearable tech since the field is very young.
Just a couple weeks ago, Mashable reported on the new press on nails by Oyster that allow you to hop on your subway ride with your nails! Talk about simplicity.
For designers who are interested in innovating into wearable tech I suggest signing up for the Third Wave Fashion blog. They are one of the first accelerator programs specifying in fashion technology. If you happen to live in Paris, I suggest checking out the accelerator program sponsored by Galeries Lafayette: Lafayette Plug & Play. It is a dual program between Paris and Silicon Valley. You will get the opportunity to be mentored by VP’s at Birchbox, Galeries Lafayette and Farfetch, and have the opportunity to work with VC’s in shaping your business. You can apply here.
As the former Director of startup, AHAlife, I know how amazing and energizing it can be to work in the tech space. It can also be demanding. There are unchartered waters you are entering and unlike traditional business models you are mastering the synergy between U/X, utility and product. There is more on the line when you work with investors, so I suggest taking your product ideas to platforms like Indiegogo (check out this cool campaign by Zenta) where you can crowdfund the resources to play with new ideas. I remember backing a project that ultimately never came to market (FIN), and I wonder how many other projects on this list will never ship (Digital Trends). But that is part of the fun of it. We are in an age of exploring. What you make today might be irrelevant next year. We all know that we need to wear pants, so I guess if we wanted to play it safe we would go into that market. But that’s just not the beauty of life. We were all meant to make something happen, and if fashion tech speaks to you “Bon Chance”.
I am a retail strategist and consultant for startup and growth stage fashion brands and retailers. Working through a business model? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Anya Hindmarch just announced her men’s collection launch with leather goods and accessories, and last month Stella McCartney announced she would be debuting a men’s collection in November. It’s no wonder that brands are moving into the men’s market; with $440B in annual sales it’s certainly a market share worth capturing. Menswear designers have been making the transition to women’s as well. Brands like Rag & Bone, Public School and designers like Hedi Slimane have only in the recent past branched out to design for women. The women’s market clocks in a hefty $670B yearly.
As a growing brand you are probably wondering how this all affects you. Should you rush to develop a collection for the opposite sex simply to make more money? How should you test the waters? Lets break it down.
First- It’s important to address that collections can be designed androgynously, but when it comes to walking down the runway or showing the pieces in a lookbook you will most likely ascribe gender. The Squad, a knitwear brand out of LA does a great job of creating for both, but you will notice that the collections do have clear cross over between genders.
Second- Aside from aesthetics, the two products are very different. Women’s sizing versus Men’s sizing and fit. If your brand is very tailored for women, you will need to bring in the tailoring for men. This might mean hiring a new product developer to help create your designs.
Third- Branding, sales and marketing. It’s not easy to just create a women’s line after having a men’s line. You will need to pitch to different stores, develop a new marketing strategy and evolve what your brand identity is. This can be especially tricky if your collection will be produced under the same name and your brand identity was very gendered to begin with. Sometimes brands will create a diffusion name to help with creating a “new” brand.
Accessories are the easiest transition to cross genders. Anya Hindmarch did this as she introduced a collection of briefcases and iPhones marketed for men. If you notice that your collection already appeals to both markets try testing out different color ways and fabrics to see how each gender reacts. What’s also interesting about Anya’s story is that she waited until enough men were purchasing her products to warrant the creation of a new line.
Clothing can be difficult for the above-mentioned reasons, but it doesn’t mean the market demand wouldn’t make it worth your while. Smaller brands like The Squad do so with a small team and a highly focused vision. My opinion is to always think big and make a timeline for your growth. If you want to expand then start thinking about it now even if it won’t be for another few years. Retail is a long tail game, so play it to last.
If you are ready to develop a launch or growth strategy for your business send an email to email@example.com
Social Commerce (S-Commerce) is the new sales channel brands are looking to exploit. S-Commerce apps blend the ease of mobile sales with the functionality of social networks. It became the new hot platform in China with the launch of Weiden in 2011, a platform that incorporates affiliate marketing with WeChat (like WhatsApp) in a mobile app shopping experience. This new “self-marketing” enables the consumer to share and sell products for a commission. This platform now boasts over 600 million users! There are also a host of shopping app’s in the US that are gaining market share: Spring, MallZee, Keep, StyleKick and LiketoKnowit are harnessing the power of social and mobile shopping. Did you know in the US mobile shopping accounts for over 21% of ecommerce sales? Yes- It’s time to jump on board this trend.
S-Commerce also refers to all the sales you make via Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and other social networks. As social networks look to help you, the brand, monetize your audiences, they are also asking you to invest money and time into social advertising. So then how do you best decide which platforms to invest in? How to determine which apps are worth your time? It’s time to evaluate your marketing and sales initiatives and determine what experiments to say yes to, and where to draw the line.
- Look to distribute on social selling platforms that have robust marketing initiatives. No point on being on a platform without any users.
- Check out the requirements to be a brand on these platforms. Spring has a simple form to sign up: https://www.shopspring.com/for-brands and integrates seamlessly with Shopify, Rakuten and Magento.
- Most mobile commerce apps will need you to have an Affiliate Marketing setup. So if you are considering signing up for an Affiliate Marketing platform like Rakuten or Commission Junction, start the process now. These big platforms require you to have a strong front and backend to be able to work within their systems: http://www.cj.com/advertiser/join
- Don’t activate the sales functionality on social networks you aren’t intentionally active on. Example: you’ve linked your Shopify account to Facebook but you don’t even have a Facebook page you are building robustly.
- Don’t pay for mobile advertising if your site is not optimized for sales. This means Instagram advertising and mobile advertising for Facebook. Your website needs to be easy to navigate on mobile and the layout has to be intuitive. I suggest checking your site on your phone every few weeks to test out different pages and make sure its shoppable.
- Companies like LikeitWantit, Like2Buy, Chirpify and Soldsie have been helping brands create conversation between Instagram and ecommerce. Nothing has risen to the top as the go-to platform, but all of them are worth checking out.
- Brands like Dylanlex are creating “Shop Instagram” pages to drive traffic to one destination on a website. http://dylanlex.com/pages/shop-the-instagram This becomes an easy way to drive social images and messaging through a landing page that speaks to the Instagram user.
- Become active on networks that are actually ROI producing. Twitter is best for peer-to-peer connections, and Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook take the stage for sales conversion. Take down the platforms you are not using.
Syama’s Crystal Ball
I believe that social commerce will continue to be optimized and therefore become a market driver in sales. Websites from 5 years ago that were not built to be mobile friendly will need to be revamped and brands who are not building their brands through social networks will and are falling behind. You simply cannot and will not be successful with out cohesive messaging on all consumer platforms.
The social selling apps and platforms that will rise to the top will create their own affiliate marketing platforms to help brands onboard. Consumers will be looking to diversify their shopping experience, and will not be satisfied with only being able to find major advertisers on the mobile platforms. It’s redundant to see the same brands everywhere – so social selling apps will need to be more curated.
Brands will continue to shift digital advertising spends from desktop to mobile advertising, and integrations with apps like SnapChat and Instagram will allow for more targeted sales and discounts. Because these brands will need to adopt more sensitive analytic systems to be able to target cohorts on social; imagine if you could target users who like or open your content more than others. The tools to market via social will be akin to the email newsletter as the analytics and tools become more sophisticated.
As a brand the decisions always remain the same. When to adopt new technology, and how much time to spend on it? I remember a time back in 2008 when I was working at Barneys New York and we would meet with big brands, not naming names here, who didn’t see the value in selling online. Now look at where we are, social commerce is here to stay. Pick your platforms, build them out, and engage. Play with the new social selling apps out there and get your business ready to sell in a new way. The new integrations will likely roll out to big businesses then trickle down to API’s for Shopify and Woocommerce users. Sales and marketing strategies will need to adapt to this- so start turning the wheels!
If you are ready to implement new sales, marketing or merchandising strategies to your business then set up a consultation. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Scaling Retail is the consulting firm for retail globally. Specializing in startup and growth stage ecommerce, brick & mortar, and wholesale.
Here are a few that I use on a regular basis:
Great for scheduling emails- stay on top of multiple time zones.
Boomerang adds scheduled sending and the easiest, most integrated email reminders to Gmail, helping you reach Inbox Zero.
A simple CRM platform and way to automate emails!
Manage customers directly inside gmail No more back and forth between your inbox and other tools
Great for iPhone! Allows me to check on emails away from my computer.
iPhone App, Great for keeping eye on Google Analytics
So I can send my signature digitally from my phone!
Turn your phone and tablet into scanner for intelligent document management. CamScanner is an intelligent document management solution.
iPhone App: To manage our corporate phone anywhere – on my laptop or on my phone
iPhone App: To stay on top of social analytics
I hope these work for you!