“I don’t know what I have more of: shoes or domain names.”
– Liza Kindred, founder of Third Wave Fashion
Liza’s hilarious quip perfectly describes why we gathered with Open Source Fashion at The Fashion Center last night: to discuss how fashion and tech have become inextricably linked and how to market to your consumer. We had the top marketing experts on hand to answer both Liza’s and the audience’s questions. Here’s who sat on our awesome panel:
Tracy Keim: VP of Integrated Marketing at Bonobos
Erica Cerulo: Co-founder of Of a Kind
Nizzi Karai Renaud: VP of Marketing and Commerce at Refinery 29
If you couldn’t make it to the meetup, here are the 13 most fascinating–and at times surprising–things we learned:
1. Bonobos cut acquisition costs in half, but managed to keep building their customer base. How did they do it, you ask? “We cut print marketing and that was massive,” Tracy said. “We also launched a referral program and cut some partners.”
2. With Erica’s editorial background, it makes sense that Of a Kind is built around the stories behind the products. “For us, it was always about creating a connection to the designers as people,” Erica said.
3. “We will never sell anything we aren’t obsessing over ourselves. R29 Shops comes from what we want to write about; it’s driven by the story.” – Nizzi on blending commerce with editorial integrity
4. The 29 in Refinery 29 is not just a random number. The founders, Justin Stefano and Philippe von Borries, originally set out to find the 29 best things to buy in each city.
5. Of a Kind develops their product selection first and then creates the editorial. “Everybody has a story to tell, they just don’t know it yet,” Erica said.
6. Of a Kind launched their site on Tumblr! They currently have about 50,000 Tumblr followers. Impressive!
7. “We’re known for our customer service, our ‘Ninjas,’” Tracy said. If you’re wondering why she’s talking about ninjas, it’s because Bonobos calls their customer service representatives “Ninjas.” How awesome is that? As a testament to her statement, within minutes of us casually referencing the Ninjas on Twitter during the event, we got the following tweet from @bonobosninjas: “Somebody say our name?” Genius. Make sure to check them out on Twitter and on their blog!
8. Everyone agreed that email marketing is a top priority. Erica from Of a Kind went so far as to say, “getting to peoples’ inboxes is the most important thing in the world.” So start working on those newsletters!
9. If you have a small startup budget, spend your money on PR. All three panelists agreed with this philosophy, especially for the fashion space.
10. Transparency in PR is a great strategy, just ask Tracy! Bonobos’ site crashed on Cyber Monday last year while offering up to 60% off discounts. Their PR strategy for dealing with this disaster was genius. They wrote a letter to customers updating them on what happened, why it happened, and what they’re doing to fix it. Their 404 error page showed their self-deprecating humor with a picture of a man’s legs with his pants around his ankles with the tagline “Rain check?” Check out BetaBeat’s write up of their PR strategy during the crash.
11. Erica and Nizzi wholeheartedly agreed that the best way to lower the barrier to entry is to invest in quality photography.
12. Each panelist described the person that represents their brand:
Refinery29: “Our customer is ambitious, fun, and stylish.”
Of a Kind: “The Of a Kind user is a friend telling you about a show at Bowery Ballroom and eating at a restaurant that’s later written up in The Times.”
Bonobos: “Bonobos is one of your friend’s best friends. You don’t know him yet, but he seems pretty cool and one day you find that he’s your friend, too.”
13. Liza had each panelist list her go-to marketing tools in order of importance to her brand, and the big reveal showed some helpful insights into each brand’s marketing strategy.
A special thanks goes out to our panelists, Open Source Fashion, The Fashion Center, and everyone who attended. We couldn’t have done it without you! Make sure to check out our meetup page for future meetups.
Third Wave Fashion has been your fashion tech think tank since 2011. We publish the first ever printed fashion tech magazine, Third Wave. Follow us on Twitter or subscribe to our newsletter to stay on top of the latest in fashion tech + wearables.
Images by TWF’s Graphic Design & Visual Media Intern Paige Hogan.