Are you a young designer, wondering how to launch your brand online? Neti Jolly outlines steps to cultivate your own fashion brand online.
Are you a designer who wishes to make a mark in the field of fashion but cannot afford expensive runway shows, a lot of public relations efforts, rental for a store or a booth at trade fairs? The minimum investment in launching your line of apparel or accessories can go upto a few lakhs. With the Internet connecting us to the entire world, a lady sitting in Varanasi can sell her saree collection in Los Angeles. A textile retailer can have buyers in New York. And students can start their business while in college.
Online has become the new way to reach out and expand and retain your consumer base. Exporters with large infrastructure are capitalising on the e-commerce boom and have launched their own brands via marketplaces such as Myntra, Amazon and Flipkart. Established designers such as Masaba Gupta and Anita Dongre are unveiling their runway collections live on Instagram.
For young and emerging designers, the market is dripping with opportunity. There are agencies dedicated to formatting, photographing and making Excel sheets to place products on multiple marketplaces.
Here are ten steps to launch your brand online on a shoestring budget:
1. Create your own collection or alternatively, find a vendor anywhere in the world to make your designs or select from readymade collections. Need a little inspiration? Gary Vaynerchuck is a self-made internet celebrity who took his family's wine business from $3 million to $60 million and has now become a famous internet personality, author and entrepreneur with several businesses. Gym Shark is the million dollar online company which creates workout clothes.
If you are a reseller, most vendors provide a ready photoshoot of products. Launch the collection on your brand and personal Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Pinterest accounts, or organise your own shoots and promote via social media. Alibaba and Tradeindia are some of the online portals that help you connect with fashion vendors.
2. There are WhatsApp groups, Facebook groups, resellers and other social media tools, with the help of which you can inform prospective customers about your product. The comfort of being able to speak with someone in detail about the product helps in a high rate of conversion. If you have launched a plethora of designs, you can approach an agency, such as Amazon, Myntra or Flipkart, and ask it to get you on marketplaces depending on your product. For high-end designers, there is Pernia's pop-up shop and some other highly-curated online shopping portals, such as nattydot.in and nete.in. Marketplaces sell collections of designers from different countries and products are sold internationally with great ease and simplicity.
3. From Bollywood to Hollywood, celebrities have realised the value of having a huge following online on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. From Kylie Jenner to Bipasha Basu, a host of celebrities are capitalising on their personal brands built online. There has also been an advent of online celebrities and personalities who have become brands of their own. If not launching a line, they are promoting it. They are people like Gaurav Gera, Mallika Dua and Varun Thakur, who started their careers creating videos and pushing them on social media, but turned into celebrities. They are comedians and have managed to create a huge fan following with presence on Youtube channels and as brand ambassadors for various products. To promote your brand, you can share anecdotal stories on how it all started, walk people through the entire process of curation and tell your story through pictures, videos and voice clips.
Commenting on relevant topics on social media provides opportunities for you to be perceived as an industry expert. Offer to sell your product on WhatsApp or on your Facebook page or website. The more interactive you are, higher the sale chances. Of course, it sounds a lot easier than it actually is. Interacting online changes every week as new apps are launched. A few months back the world was on Instagram and then it switched to Snapchat. Instagram started insta-stories and added live features to beat Snapchat. If you are able to capture the imagination of a select audience, keep them hooked by regular interaction, eye-catching content and it will lead to conversions. Maintain a mailing list and award your loyal followers on every purchase.
4. Online collaborations work in the favour of brands and customers. Bring a jewellery brand and clothing brand together and offer your customers a gift basket. Make them your subscribers and grow your mailing list and increase sales. There is magic in reaching out to customers of both brands and giving them more value.
5. Social media allows you to save on trade show costs. If you are a B2B organisation and trying to sell your products in bulk, no doubt a trade show can help retailers find you. But with the advent of internet, instead of spending lakhs in buying a space and carrying your stock, you can approach retailers, small boutiques or large format stores. Mailing your catalogue and writing directly to store owners or CEOs is a good way to reach out to buyers of a store.
6. An exercise in public relations can work wonders for your brand. Bloggers, vloggers, thought leaders and influencers can help you gain a huge following online. You can also establish your own following and share your expertise across social media. No time for that? No problem. The internet provides experts of all budgets from bloggers to vloggers who will help promote your product, make videos and create content. In other words get the eyeballs you need. Aashna Shroff of The Snob Journal, Sherry Shroff, Sejal Kumar and Aakriti Gill of Pretty Little Things are some of the famous ones creating fresh content and posts with thousands of followers behind them.
7. What about selling via FB groups? Facebook groups like Magicka Women, Jibber Jabber, Online Sellers of India and Women's Entrepreneurship Network are created for individuals to network, offer solutions and client leads and create communities based on common interests and activities. You can join a community of fashion designers from across the world and brainstorm, share your stories and understand how to move forward. Online networking groups provide platform for meeting people virtually, who are interested in your business, collaborations, B2B sales, bulk orders or to offer solutions. Facebook buyer and seller groups help directly sell your products to a bunch of customers.
8. Marketing and communication is all about creating that aura about your brand. You may not have the infrastructure but with the help of social media, your brand can portray itself as larger than life. You can have the aura of a big brand on social media with the right sort of storytelling via pictures and videos.
9. There is a significant cost attached to traditional routes of selling. Offline platforms can set you back by a few lakhs and crores. The cost of a retail space in a city in a mall or market with a good footfall costs at least Rs 3 lakh for a paltry 1000 sq feet a month, excluding costs related to electricity, staff, decor, and security. A stall at a tradeshow costs 12-30 lakh; add to it the cost of travel to the place of the show and manpower required for set up the stall. Selling via existing offline retailers requires an investment in inventory (creating different size sets in all sizes plus shipping) mostly on consignment with no guarantee of sales.
10. Pricing of the product needs to be factored into the cost of shipping, returns (approximately 20 per cent), packaging, marketing (if sold on one's own website) and commission to be shared with the marketplace. The commission varies from site to site. For example, Pernia's pop-up shop charges around 50 per cent, Myntra takes 42 per cent and Amazon and Flipkart take anything between 25-35 per cent depending on the product being sold. The cost of photoshoot of your products is approximately Rs 500 per product. However, this is a one-time cost and the same images can be uploaded on various marketplaces.
Also, the products can be uploaded to distribution companies, which will ensure that your goods are live on the marketplaces, with most charging close to Rs 35 per product. You can also warehouse your products and leave a distribution company in charge of making your goods go live as well as taking care of shipping, payments and returns. The distribution companies also charge a commission on sales (approximately 5 per cent) and can work on an arrangement wherein the owner gives them a transfer price and they decide on the maximum retail price.
For online business success, there is only one mantra: interact.