Sell, Sell, Sell | How to Market Your Brand

Young designers need to understand what they are and why they are starting their own businesses. If they do it, it is because they really believe that they have something to say that cannot be said in the context of Paul Smith or Oscar de la Renta or Dior.

Vanessa Friedman, Fashion Director, The New York Times.

In the How to Start a Fashion Business blog post, I mentioned a tip regarding the importance of creating your brand identity through marketing and advertising. I will include the exact extract below but click here for a link to the full blog post. 

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There is no point in having a company if no one knows about it. Right from the beginning you should establish your brand identity, by which I mean how you want the public to perceive your business. This refers to the consumers perceptions about the product, the quality and the advantages your brand has over its competitors.

A strategised marketing and communications plan are key to building your brand. Understand your market share, your target audience and how you are going to approach your customers. While social media is critically important to tapping into the current fashion audience, there is a lot more to it than setting up an Instagram page. You need to create a disciplined approach to tackling your consumers and peaking their interests in an super-saturated market.

It is also important to see PR companies and the rest of the media as powerful aides in your broader marketing plan. Hiring a PR agent or company is probably one of the best steps you will ever take in taking your business to the next level, but you should only try to bring your work to the attention of a wider audience if your business can sustain it.

For this week’s blog post, I thought it would be ideal to elaborate on the importance of marketing for the success of your fashion brand and offer a few helpful tips and tricks. Hopefully, you will learn something new or can adapt some of the techniques to suit your business. 

Starting a business, particularly in the fashion industry can feel a little overwhelming. With so many brands out there all vying for coverage, your efforts to get your brand noticed can feel a little futile, almost as if you are just one of many, spreading your message, hoping it catches someone’s attention. However, you should never let the saturation of the marketplace deter you from giving it your best effort.

Once you have a solid foundation for your business – by which I mean you have a comprehensive understanding of your brand identity, including your distinct design voice and aesthetic, values, beliefs and an understanding of your customer (click here to read last week’s blog post for some helpful tips on how to identify and target your perfect customer) – it is time to use all of this information to create a marketing plan.  

Some of the simplest tips for marketing your business are to post regularly on social media, having a blog, running competitions, joining different online or offline communities and going to events. However, sometimes you might find you have attempted all of these things and they seem to have no impact. That is hopefully where these few tips will come in and help you to market your business. 

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Tip 1: Directly Ask People to Share 

This may seem slightly intimidating, or even a little desperate, but it is probably the most effective marketing technique. If you are lucky enough to have a customer base already, contact them and ask them to share your brand with a friend, or tag it on social media. There have been numerous times where I have been scrolling through Instagram, saw an outfit I liked and tapped the picture to check the credits only to discover that the one thing I was interested in wasn’t tagged. If you don’t have customers yet, ask people in your circle or even other members of our own Galway Designers Network.  Make a list of names and send a short email telling them about your latest work or newest pieces, how much you would appreciate a little support and add the direct links to your various profiles and social media pages. It will not appear pushy so long as you phrase everything in a polite manner, and the majority of people are happy to support brands they admire, believe in and have good experiences with. 

 

Tip 2: Ensure Your Presence at All Events

…even if you are not physically there.

How can you manage this? Well there are a couple of options available. One way many of the larger designers and brands do it is through the use of ambassadors. While this can take some time, finding a customer who knows your brand as well as you do and who is happy to publicly represent you will be an invaluable resource. If you have someone you think fits the bill, organise an event that your ambassador can host to present them to the world as your new Brand Ambassador, perhaps a lifestyle event or a personal styling session. That way, you have someone who can host events for you in areas where you or your team cannot be or even have them simply attend events in your stead. 

Another option could be to try and gain sponsorship. This does not have to cost a fortune; make use of interesting events or clubs in your locality where you could offer merchandise, goodies or services, or even some financial support. By conducting some succinct research, you can gain an understand of the interests your customer base has and use this information to create an effective   sponsorship marketing plan that will not cost the world.

 

Tip 3: Share your Expertise 

We’re all experts in something. As a designer, you will  have extensive knowledge about textiles, pattern drafting, construction, sustainability practices, even topics like the tools required for starting a business, what its like to be a designer in a small town etc. Take your experiences and channel them why writing about them. Be yourself, open and honest, and share everything you can. Find the best place to share your work, either in a magazine, newspaper or on a blog. By doing so, you will broaden your audience and cast your sales net even wider, thus attracting more sales. 

 

Tip 4: Social Media Conversations

Social Media is one the most critical marketing tools for the current retail sector. As a designer, it is important to have an online presence where you can engage with customers. Make sure your have a Facebook page, Twitter account, Instagram and Snapchat and use them to interact with customers, bloggers and journalists in your area. By doing so, you will open your brand up to a world wide audience and help to strengthen it. 

  • FacebookIt is important to post regularly, with relevant updates. You can also try to engage with your customers by posting poles or doing live Facebook videos showing you at work while taking questions from your followers. Facebook is one of the best channels for audience interaction and questions, but it will inevitably be the first place they go to complain, so keep an eye on all customer interaction. 
  • Twitter: Much like Facebook, you should try to tweet regularly, ensuring your tweets are relevant and consistent with your brand. You could tweet about your latest design, a new fabric or pattern, your current line, some of the best sellers etc. Also, promote your other social media platforms as well as your sales channels. Another tip is to be seen to be tweeting with reaction to different collections during fashion week/cruise collections or other fashion business news to showcase your awareness of current developments.  Keep the tone personal, approachable and interactive – get talking to people! 
  • Instagram: Use Instagram to showcase your work by post images of each of your pieces. Show them individually and styled with different outfits to give your followers inspiration. If you see a piece from a high end designer similar to a design of yours, share that, with the relevant link to your item showing your customers how to get the look for less. Instagram is fast becoming the most relevant social media platform for fashion and offers a wonderful place to engage with other designers, customers or bloggers and journalists in your area. Instastories also offers you the chance to post daily updates and short videos of you at work as a designer or even offer sneak peeks of upcoming pieces. One of the best features of Instastories is the ability to tag where you are, adding to the Instastory of the locality, particularly helpful if you decide to upload a video of an event or showcase you are taking part it. 
  • Snapchat: Although, Instastories has somewhat over taken Snapchat in recent months, having a Snapchat account can prove to be a critical social media tool in terms of engaging with followers and potential customers. Snapchat is a quick, hassle free means of taking customer questions and interacting with your audience. It is also a great tool if you want your personality as the designer to become part of your brand identity, as many people will feel like they can get to know you through the videos or images you post. Again, much like Instastories, you can post daily updates and short videos of you at work, offer sneak peeks of upcoming pieces, or tag where you are, adding to the Snapchat story for the local area. 

By using social media, you can expand your audience and forge better relationships with the followers you have. Tools like Facebook Live/Instagram Live are great means of having long, engaging conversations with potential customers, rather than sporadic chat in a comments section.

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People love what others are passionate about, and if your fashion line is your passion, then there is someone out there just waiting to discover it. How do they do that? Through your effective and efficient marketing strategy.

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If you are a young designer looking to make your mark in the retail sector and start your own fashion business, check out the following blog post for a strategy in negotiating the various challenges of going from a hobby-designer to a successful fashion business. It might also be a good idea to read last week’s blog post about how to identify your target customer or this post about the various challenges and opportunities for designers in the modern retail environment.

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The Galway Designers Network are looking to make our own mark in the fashion retail sector. Our current project the Galway Designers Studio House has been established by Ann Petrov of Cozy Handmade Designs and Gayle Poppers of Kizmet Clothing but they need your help to make their dream a reality. Follow the Galway Designers Studio House Facebook Page  to read all about the project and how you can take part.

The Galway Designers Network are always looking for new and exciting designers or anyone who feels they would love to be involved. Get in touch by commenting below, via Facebook @galwaydesignersnetwork, via Instagram @galway_designersnetwork or email galwayfashionshowcase@gmail.com.

Target Audience | Identifying Your Customer

Who is your customer?

This is the number one question for any designer who hopes to take their work and turn it into a successful business. By understanding who your target audience is you can execute your product design and marketing messaging with precision and a definitive strategy enabling you to make strong business decisions and generate sales for growth. Essentially, the more specific you are about who your ideal customer is, the easier it will be to attract them.

Customer Profile

The key to customer acquisition is finding your niche.

In order to identify your ideal customer you need to be exactingly specific, focusing on explicit attributes and using this information to create your best client. Once you have become established, you may choose to expand your brand and attract a wider consumer base, the in the initial stages, it is critical to remain focused.

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Initially, as a designer you should identify the following factors:

Demographics: age; gender; income; profession etc.

Psychographics: values; attitudes; belief systems etc.

Lifestyle: geographic location; leisure activities; travel etc.

Buying Habits: brand loyalty; price awareness; paying attention to the other brands they buy from

However, the most critical element is to define the specific needs of your ideal customer.

Does your client want to wear a dress to a wedding that they know no one else will have? Are they a mum of three who needs comfortable, easy to wash clothing? Are they a wealthy business woman who needs office wear that she can carry through to social events in the evening time?

What do they need and why are you the best option for them?

A successful business relies on one factor – a customer base who are willing to part with they money for your product because it meets their need, it really is as simple as that. By understanding why your customer is buying from you, it will make it much easier for you to give them the clothing or accessories they want.

How to Identify Your Customer

Some designers see themselves as their ideal customer, inspired by a desire to satisfy their own needs. If this is true for your brand, it will be to identify the specifics about your customer.

However, if this is not the case for your business, you will need to carry out some customer research. It is critically important that you do not try create a customer profile based on assumptions or guesswork because you will inevitably end up wrong about some aspect, no matter how easy you think it will be to build your customer profile.

Talk to your current customers or people you would consider to be your ideal customer. Find out the information regarding the attributes listed above as well as information regarding their needs. Spend time in your competitors stores, watching how the customer shops, the other bags they carry, how much they spend etc. Approach people as they shop and explain who you are and what you are trying to do. Research brands like yourself online to get a grasp of their customer base and then use this knowledge to inform your own. Start up designers sometimes prefer to do this themselves or you have the choice of hiring a company to do the research for you, the choice is really up to you based on what your budget can allow.

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The fashion retail industry is an over saturated market place as it stands right now, with only more and more brands emerging every week. It is a highly competitive arena and without a loyal customer base, your business will flounder. An attempt to appeal to everyone will leave you constantly chasing your tail as you try to attract sales.

By defining your ideal customer, you can provide focus for your business, enabling your merchandise, branding, marketing and message to be consistent and which will target a customer who is somewhere out there, waiting and willing to hear what you have to say.

If you are a young designer looking to make your mark in the retail sector and start your own fashion business, check out the following blog post for a strategy in negotiating the various challenges of going from a hobby-designer to a successful fashion business.

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The Galway Designers Network are looking to make our own mark in the fashion retail sector. Our current project the Galway Designers Studio House has been established by Ann Petrov of Cozy Handmade Designs and Gayle Poppers of Kizmet Clothing but they need your help to make their dream a reality. Follow the Galway Designers Studio House Facebook Page  to read all about the project and how you can take part.

The Galway Designers Network are always looking for new and exciting designers or anyone who feels they would love to be involved. Get in touch by commenting below, via Facebook @galwaydesignersnetwork, via Instagram @galway_designersnetwork or email galwayfashionshowcase@gmail.com.

Challenges & Opportunities | The Future of Fashion Retail

Fashion retail is a multi billion euro industry with women’s clothing accounting for over fifty percent of total revenue. Once upon a time, fashion was strictly a seasonal business with most sales made in the run up to holidays or the start of school terms. Now the fashion retailing has become an year long booming industry with a constant and unyielding consumer turnover.

Now fashion retail is at a cross roads, facing certain challenges as well as many opportunities as it tries to negotiate the modern age. This week’s blog post will offer a brief look at some of these challenges and opportunities in the hope that we as members of the Galway Designers Network will be able adapt as we operate within the industry. 

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Challenges

1. Data Protection

The biggest challenge facing the retail sector today is protecting point of sale and customer data from security breaches. As stores interact with their customers online, data is being acquired by stores to ensure they meet their target market’s needs. This included vital personal information which must remain secure from hacking. In addition to this, retailers face the dilemma regarding the ethical consequences of selling this data to third parties for monetary gain.

2. Customer Acquisition

Retailers are struggling to continually drive traffic to their stores and keep returning customers. Now virtually all growth in consumer spending is being captured by e-commerce via online sales. Retailers need to stand out from not only their competitors but also from the online versions of their stores so as to ensure the store’s function in customer acquisition and retainment is relevant and successful.

3. Evolving Customer Profile

The contemporary consumer is highly informed, enabled by new technologies to access unprecedented amounts of information such as pricing, product reviews, newest trends etc. This means that retailers are finding it difficult to acquire loyalty or new customers altogether. Consumers expectations are higher than ever before; they want the best of everything – high quality merchandise, 100% availability, next-day delivery, free returns, excellent customer service – and they expect the best of everything.

Added to this, consumer class structure is evolving constantly as even the most affluent consumers find it strange to pay full price for most things, while lower and middle class consumers will push themselves into debt to afford faux luxury goods and services. This results in a difficult balancing act for retailers to stimulate purchases without being aggressive on price or delivering exceptional value. 

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Opportunities 

1. Omnichannel System

The omnichannel system offers several opportunities for retailers. It gives customers the chance to experience effortlessness in their shopping experience and enables them to be in constant contact with a company through multiple avenues at the same time: by visiting the brick and mortar store, going online via the website or  the app. They can research products and compare prices, which will ensure a company has to stay competitive to stay relevant. By completing purchases online and paying for in-store purchases via click-and-collect services, companies can also draw online consumers into their stores. An omnichannel system also gives retailers the flexibility to make near-real-time decisions to reroute products and streamline transportation to get the right products to the right locations at the right time, ensuring customer satisfaction.

2. Market Segmentation

Market segmentation enables retailers to identify the specific needs and wants of customer groups and using these insights to provide products and services which meet customer needs. Retailers can use market segmentation to ensure they do not find themselves facing a downturn in sales by creating and exploiting opportunities directed at the top and bottom consumer classes. The current rising income inequality gap has resulted in an ‘hourglass’ economy, which has placed a lot of pressure on the middle classes and an intriguing opportunity for retailers to attract the attention of the upper and lower income groups.  

The top strata of consumers often account for a disproportionate amount of consumer expenditure and given they have the means to spend, it has resulted in more retailers coming out with faux luxury products or experiences and aiming them at this market. e.g. the personal shopping experience with complimentary champagne. On the other end of the consumer scale are the bottom strata consumers, who are more conscious about how and when they spend.

ZARA provide a perfect example of how they use market segmentation in their company to ensure strong sales in all three consumer strata. ZARA will often have a ‘studio’ or ‘premium’ collection, with a slightly higher price point and higher quality merchandise aimed at the top consumer class. Then for the squeezed middle classes, the ‘special’ prices section offers consumers a chance to purchase merchandise at a slightly discounted price point, and the stock available changes week to week as new stock drops. Finally for the bottom consumer class, ZARA’s biannual sale will enable consumers to become a ZARA customer through the heavily discounted seasonal merchandise.

3. Optimizing The Offline Sales Process

One of the biggest opportunities for growth in the retail sector is the proficiency of the offline sales experience. More customers are choosing to shop online, and while they may be loyal and recurring customers, they may never darken the door of the store front. The retail sector has the opportunity to convert more customers and increase sales by creating an efficient and inviting experience for customers in store. This can be achieved in several ways: the use of promotional events will drive incremental visits; click-and-collect/buy online and pick-up in store services must be executed flawlessly; a proficient, engaging and friendly staff dedicated to good customer service.

4. Inventory Management Processes

The retail sector now have the opportunity for to greatly improve and shorten inventory management processes thanks to developments in technology and the changing pace of the fashion cycle. Buying and selling seasons are no longer mutually exclusive and stock outs result in a loss of sales for retailers. Retailers have the opportunity now to choose the right inventory for their store/channel at the exact time it is required, not six months prior as was the tradition. This not only ensures the most up to date trends and styles are supplied by retailers, but also that stock replenishment can be accomplished efficiently. Now retailers must focus on flexibility and speed to market rather than cost cutting measures.

The future of fashion retailers is standing at a precipice, and how an individual retailer chooses to navigate the various challenges and opportunities will dictate the success of the industry as a whole. 

If you are a young designer looking to make your mark in the retail sector and start your own fashion business, check out last week’s blog post for a strategy in negotiating the various challenges of going from a hobby-designer to a successful fashion business. 

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The Galway Designers Network are looking to make our own mark in the fashion retail sector. Our current project the Galway Designers Studio House has been established by Ann Petrov of Cozy Handmade Designs, Gayle Poppers of Kizmet Clothing and Virtue Shine of Emerald & Wax, but they need your help to make their dream a reality. Follow the link to read all about the project and how you can take part.

The Galway Designers Network are always looking for new and exciting designers or anyone who feels they would love to be involved in the Network. Get in touch by commenting below, via Facebook @galwaydesignersnetwork, via Instagram @galway_designersnetwork or email galwayfashionshowcase@gmail.com.