When launching any new business knowing when to start marketing the offer is key. Too early and customers might be turned off by glitches that still need to be fixed. But too late and what was once a unique proposition could be seen as dated and no longer new.
It’s a dilemma Olivia Cantillon, co-founder of editorially-led shopping platform Own The Look is all too familiar with. Having spent a number of years working as a fashion and beauty editor on women’s magazines, she spotted what she believes is a gap in the online retail market. Rather than offering individual items, Cantillon uses her styling expertise to create outfits made up of pieces from emerging designers that consumers can buy in their entirety to ‘own the look’.
The business launched in March 2017 and Cantillon and her team have spent the past year ramping up the offer, getting more than 40 exclusive brands on board helping it to take on the likes of Asos.
“We’re at a really good stage where we’ve got great brands on board and the site is in a good condition, so now we need to touch consumers and really drive traffic to the site and that is done by investing in our digital marketing strategy,” says Cantillon.
Having seen positive results from the digital marketing it has been doing over the past year, Own The Look was keen to accelerate this programme and so it has turned to crowdfunding. It is launching its first round on Crowdcube with the aim of raising up to £250,000, all of which will be invested in marketing. At the time of writing, it has already raised more than £100,000.
At this stage of the business it’s so important for me to sit there and watch as a post goes live, looking at that traffic boost to see if it’s working or not so I know what to do next time.
Olivia Cantillon, Own The Look
“It’s all well and good having a great site and great product but if no-one knows about it what’s the point? We know we need to spend money marketing the brand in order to get people onto the site,” she adds.
“From being an editor, I’ve seen the evolution from print into digital. I think print is still really important but young shoppers look for digital avenues when shopping. And if our customers are coming to us online we need to target them online.”
Customers spend an average of £102 per order, with 30% of customers returning to order again, so Cantillon is confident customers will come back if Own The Look can get them to check out the site initially.
Measuring the value of influencer marketing
While social platforms, particularly Instagram, online publications, and affiliate and rewards sites will be key to Own The Look’s marketing strategy, a significant portion of the money it raises will be used to bolster influencer marketing, something which is already starting to deliver positive results. And the company has a clear publishing schedule so it’s able to keep track of what is being posted and see what impact it has on traffic.
“At this stage of the business it’s so important for me to sit there and watch as a post goes live, looking at that traffic boost to see if it’s working or not so I know what to do next time,” she says.
“It’s not something we can change on the spot but we can adapt next time. I don’t see it as unsuccessful if the orders aren’t flowing in and the traffic is surging because we’ll have grown our social following so we’ll have got something from it. Then next time we’ll work with the influencer to adapt and get the other things right but we always look for the success in what we’ve achieved from any collaboration.”
While engagement and awareness are important, sales are nonetheless the key measure of success, which Cantillon says may sound “blunt” but “it’s as clear as day when it’s the product the influencer is wearing. If it sells out, it’s a success”.
She warns that it’s important not to “judge something in a minute” when it comes to influencer marketing, though, as it takes time to build relationships.
“How many women buy something the instant they see it? They’ll often think about that purchase, they’ll consider it. Especially with a new brand like us, it’s about building that trust. If they’ve seen the influencer posting a few times they’ll think it must be cool.”
Consistency is therefore key. “[Influencer marketing] has to be part of a wider strategy. We like to build relationships rather than doing one-off projects. I also think you see a better return if you work with influencers who organically love your brand and you work with them to understand what they love about it.
“We really trust what they say – we don’t tell them what to wear. We ask them to look at the site and tell us what they like. We then check the stock and if it’s right we go with it. It’s how they want to wear it and how they want to present it because ultimately, they know what their followers like.”
Be ready to adapt
Cantillon says it’s also important to not be too rigid. Own The Look has a 12-month strategy but as the business is constantly trying new things and learning it reviews activity on a monthly basis.
“You can’t live by a 12-month strategy. You can’t do that now because it’s so fast-paced. While we’re certainly not fast fashion, the speed at which we work is fast,” she explains.
“That’s hopefully where we’ll stand out because we’re very reactive. We don’t do something and change it next year [if it doesn’t work]; we’ll change it the following month or week. We are constantly reassessing and changing. Nothing should be in black and white. It’s about looking at what’s working and what’s not and then adapting. And doing it quickly.”
As a small business it is easier to keep track of everything, she admits, as the team is “all eyes-on”, but as the company grows it’s something that she will ensure continues. “It’s something that is really important to me,” she concludes.