In this case study, a women’s athleisure brand is looking to break out of just retail and ramp up sales. How should they do it?
Raj: Hi there! Raj Jha. I’m here with Hannah Mears. We’re going to do another business case study. So if this is the first one that you’re joining us we go through each specific business situation with some things having to do with the brand and their demand generation. I want to encourage you, even if you start out and start listening to this case study and say, “Hmm, that’s not exactly like my company.” There’s always something to learn. Today actually, I think we’ve got a really fun one. Hannah, what do we have today? Who are we giving a breakdown for and helping with their marketing ventures?
Hannah: Okay. So I can relate to this one a little bit for all my ladies out there. You can relate to this as well or listen, we can target men in this and say, “If you have a woman in your life who likes these types of products, open your ears because we’ve got a good one.” So our profile today was womens’ at leisure brand. Our signature product is a dress that’s comfortable for everyday wear but has technical features like moisture-wicking and extra support. You could even run in it. Now the situation is though most of our sales come from about 70 individual stores where we’ve met with the owner and got products placed. We’ve had online stores, but very few sales come from it. We’ve been posting product images weekly on Instagram, and have a few hundred followers, mostly from our personal friends, but we don’t see a lot of engagement. Raj, first and foremost, what are some of the general principles this leisure brand needs to be aware of?
Raj: Well, In general, this is true for most kinds of broad-based consumer products; It’s about the audience. It’s getting in front of the right audience. How do you get your product in front of them? How do you make sure that they understand what it is? And if you look at right now, where are their sales coming from right now. Their sales are coming from those stores where they’ve placed it with a manager of the store. They might be doing sell-through there. And essentially, where are they getting their audience? Well, they’re getting their audience from an audience someone else has already built up. That’s the Goodwill of the stores. It’s a very typical, more old-school channel sales kind of thing. But if you look at some of the brands that have really exploded really quickly now in the digital age they’re not going that old school way. They’re not really going just by placing it in a store of some sort. It’s not channel sales, it’s direct to consumer, so it’s brands in those cases. And we’re going to get to this, I think a little bit as we dig in today. It’s brands that really are able to connect directly with their customers online in one way or another. That’s the thing that first comes to mind for me. It’s about the audience, where is the audience? What do they have today and where do they need to go?
Hannah: So not just who is the audience, but where is this audience at? I think that is what the main thing is. We need to take away from what Raj just said there. Let’s move a little bit deeper to the question because I think where we can really start dissecting this problem is further down in the issues that they’re having. The question is; “We’re not sure how to grow from here to increase sales. As a small team, the current method of meetings with store owners to get our brand placed is very slow. We see some brands blow up online with influencers so we’re considering getting some influencers to promote our brand.” Raj, we need to help them out a little bit here. How can they begin building an audience aside from modifying the ways that they’re already doing? We see glimpses of what they said they’ve already been trying to do. But how do they start generating these new ideas?
Raj: They alluded to something that they’re doing, but I think it is actually right. And that is the choice of Instagram. I think Instagram is a wonderful way for them to get their message out because it’s highly visual. And when you’re talking about leisure, it’s a combination. It’s not just the article of clothing. It is what it represents in someone’s life. The life that they want to live. Is an active and comfortable kind of life. Instagram is a fantastic way of showing that. For instance, Google might not be the best way. LinkedIn, Hmm probably not. It’s kind of expensive. Instagram, definitely! Hmm, Maybe, YouTube. There are certain media that played that really well. I think they’ve chosen a channel, which is really good for lifestyle marketing. Then the next thing is really understanding that they need to get to using paid media and not organic media because really organic media doesn’t have the reach that it has historically.
Hannah: So what do you mean by organic and paid? Can you make that differentiation really quick for everyone?
Raj: When you would just post something on Instagram or Facebook or anything. That’s what is called an organic post. It’s just that you’re posting it and the platform is choosing how often it gets seen. The issue is that for platforms that have matured more and have a mature advertising audience, the number of times they’ll show your posts is very small. For instance, on Facebook and on Instagram, the reach is actually really small. You’ll notice that if you post something on your Instagram feed personally, or for your business, only a few people are going to see it. It’s probably only the people who have interacted with your stuff in the past. You’re not really getting that effect that you might have 5 years ago where you posted something and just everybody would see it. Why? Because you have more consumers, more eyeballs on it, then you have producers. But now you’ve got so many people producing that you’re not going to see it. What you need to do to get seen is you need to pay. And that’s what their ad platform is. They’re using their scarce inventory because you have a lot of producers. And they get moved to the front of the line and get seen. you have to use paid media. That’s what paid versus organic means.
Hannah: Yeah. There are a lot of really cool things, I think when we’re talking about Instagram, that Instagram has these really neat features where you can put your products out there and label your account as a business account. Then you can see how many people are actually looking at your media. How many people are clicking on the links, how many people are interacting with the post, I think is the most important thing. So maybe keep that in mind, as well as you’re using something like an Instagram platform. I know I do this. I want to see the insights features. I want to see what type of posts are working. If I’m using Hashtags, how many people are seeing it from hashtags? All of these little tips and tricks within the app, you’ve selected, make sure you’re taking full advantage of that. But something we see all over social media now, especially Instagram is influencers, Raj, and they said they were thinking about this influencer strategy. My biggest concern would be, “Yes, it’s paid media.” The influencers can be expensive and influencers are not shy, especially the big ones about asking where the big bucks are. What do you think they should do to get this type of reach? Explain a little bit about the influencer side, the paid media side, all of that stuff to help them.
Raj: Let me just begin with what an influencer is because it’s not always understood by businesses, especially more traditional businesses. But all of the influencers are really simple. It’s somebody who’s already gotten that audience together and they’ve aggregated an audience. If you want to use their influence to put your product in front of their audience, they get paid for it. And there are big influencers, national ones where you’d be cutting a really big 6 figure check. And then there are smaller influencers. There might be ones that are called micro-influencers. They’ve got a few thousand people, but they might be really targeted. An influencer could be a strategy sometimes expensive if you’re going for the big ones, but certainly can be a strategy for getting in front of people. I would say that compared to paid media, which we discussed a little bit before, it’s not quite as predictable. You don’t know how that audience is going to perform. You have to do it at scale and try it a bunch of times and try likely given that it’s a smaller brand with more micro-influencers to say, “Okay, does this product resonate with your fans when you’re wearing our product and you’re showing it to use?”
Hannah: Yeah. I think a really good thing to know about influencers. My generation grows up, like you said, wanting to be influencers. That’s a career aspiration now, but it’s sort of tricky sometimes because you can see someone with a huge following on Instagram, but make sure you scroll through and check out their posts. Are they getting that many likes on a post because odds are, maybe they paid for some of the following? It’s not a traditional follower. It’s not someone who’s going to be loyal to everything that they say. Be really careful and not buy into how many followers someone has. But like Raj was saying if they’re committed followers if they’re followers that are truly liking every post being really engaging with that influencer. Just a tidbit there, don’t get tricked up by an influencer or someone with a lot of followers. There is a difference. But something with paid media, we can go back to this just to really show the difference here between an influencer and paid media. With paid media in this strategy, go ahead and dive in a little bit more as to why using paid media, you can be a little more creative. It targets a direct audience. Give us a little more of what paid media can bring this company.
Raj: Well, Paid media is if you think about getting in front of a specific group of people, you can choose who you target. If you’re, for instance, running a more local business, you can choose how many miles of a radius. In this case, we want females who might have a more exporting lifestyle. You could target folks who like tennis or golf or something like that. In addition to the gender and the age and all of those things. But really what it’s about is understanding who you’re trying to target and communicating with them with a message and a lifestyle in this case that they really will resonate with them because you have to get really good at the creative aspect of it. Paid media, at least in terms of Instagram and Facebook, and platforms like that is a combination of art and science. You really have to understand the person and the lifestyle that they want and then use a little bit of science. “Okay, How do I target them?” Make sure that I’m being very disciplined about measuring things. But ultimately it’s about being relevant to them. And then putting pictures, videos, words in front of them that get them to turn into at least a follower and then someone who’s interested in consuming the content and eventually a customer.
Hannah: Before it gets to my next and final question about this paid media my biggest input on this would be when we read that profile, they said about their athletes, your brand, what they wanted people to know is that you can run with it. Well, I think something that could really help this business, in particular, is saying not maybe the term running because running can have a negative connotation in some people’s minds. They’re saying, “Oh, I don’t like to run. I wouldn’t be as comfortable as I can be running.” Maybe thinking about some of those court sports, say, this is something you can wear comfortably when you go to the club with your friends and you’re playing tennis or after tennis, do you want to get a round of golf in, it looks great on the golf course. Then you can go for lunch and it would be great while you’re sitting there and that nicer club environment as well. Really hone in on how multipurpose this outfit can be. That’s really important to women too, is how many times can I wear this in an effective manner? I think when they’re going to choose their audience, that could be a really cool way, Raj, to hone in on some of those people that find those things very important.
Raj: Right. I think that’s great feedback and ultimately it is kind of about testing. Because you don’t really know what the message is? Is it a golf audience or a tennis audience or people who do both or what is it that people are going to key off of for this? Maybe do some research and you’d go in and talk to all those store managers where you’ve already placed it. Who are the people buying this already? Because there are some clues there and what’s their demographics, why are they interested in it? Go talk to the floor sales representative because they’ll know things that you might not be hearing.
Hannah: We’ve given them a lot of insight into how they can choose their audience, different methods in which they can target their audience. But this paid media thing seems to be something that they should really be considering in your mind. I think anytime you hear the word paid media, it’s a little intimidating, to be honest, especially if you don’t have a huge team who’s professionals at this. How does paid media work? Can everyone utilize this in an easy, effective way?
Raj: I think you can. It depends on the platform, but certainly, with Instagram and Facebook, it’s relatively easy because the first part is just the creative part. It’s coming up with what the post is. Now, they’re already doing this on Instagram. They’re having to present their products in a certain way, they obviously have to ramp up the production of that and do more of it. That first part is just creative. And it’s actually a critical part of it; it is the creative. Then the second part is relatively easy with Instagram, which was a part of a Facebook ads platform to take that image, those words, those videos, and then say, show this to someone else. You can teach yourself. It doesn’t take a huge amount of time. Obviously, there are people you can hire to help you with it as well, but it’s relatively accessible.
Hannah: So let’s say that they’re thinking about the paid media, Instagram, Facebook may not be working in the way that they want to. What about other strategies? What about being a seller somewhere else? Like on Amazon, for example?
Raj: Yeah, Amazon; A lot of people and vendors have a love, hate with Amazon. I think in this particular case, I’m not sure that that’s really the best outlet for them because, on Amazon, you can’t really tell a story. You might see a picture and there’ll be a description, but is that really going to get across with this particular, the technical aspects that they’re promoting about it, that’s not gonna quite get them to where they want to be. Could you try it? Sure. You can list it there. But I don’t know that that’s necessarily the best compared to owning the customer journey and really understanding how I can reach them directly. Because even with Amazon, they’ll cap out at a certain number of searches and people coming across them. Whereas if you master paid media, the whole country is your oyster and you really can get thousands and thousands of sales that way.
Hannah: And before we sum all of this up for them, because I know Raj gives so much information that by this point, you’re probably thinking, “Well, where the heck do I even start?” What are the three main things that I can do, maybe keep this in mind as well. As a woman, when I go shopping, I turn to online shopping a lot, just because the hustle and bustle of having to go to a store get to be a lot in our daily lives. Maybe find a way to organize a feature where I can try it on that, athlete your outfit. I can see myself on a court, in it, on a golf course, maybe running. Let someone know exactly what they’re going to look like in your products and where they can wear them. And that just makes you a step up and all of your competition, because women love to love to shop. They love to try things on, and if you can do it virtually, maybe a mom with a bunch of kids who can’t make it to the store that day. That may be more attractive to her and she’ll tell her friends about you as well. So, Raj, I think they should keep this virtual reality experience in mind as well.
Raj: Exactly. Look, there’s a reason why trunk shows worked, right? There’s no reason why you can’t do it. Let them picture themselves in it. A lot of this lifestyle marketing is aspirational. Who do you want to be? And will I feel comfortable in it? What will I look like in it? So I think that’s absolutely well taken off.
Hannah: Yeah. There’s nothing worse than getting something. Then it is not at all what you’re expecting after you were so excited about it. Keep that in mind, as you move through. But Raj, you have so much information in terms of targeting customers and different types of ways to have those customers purchase your product. Give them a good starting point and summarize some of this information.
Raj: I’ll try to make it as easy as possible. So first of all, it’s just really about keeping it simple. You’ve been posting on Instagram, keep on posting on Instagram, but use the paid media feature, the paid platform to enhance those. Master that one platform. Eventually, as you get bigger, you don’t want dependence just on one platform. To begin, don’t try to do everything. Get really good at the creative elements and understanding your customer feedback on Instagram, because that is going to be just the one thing that you can master and not get too frazzled, trying too many different things. Then keep note, what does it take you to get one audience member, one person who is interacting and engaging. What does it cost you to do when you’re using the paid media platform? Does it cost you a dollar to get one person engaged?
And then how many times are they going to keep on engaging with you? What does it take to turn them into customers? It’s about repeatability and that’s what watching those numbers is about. It’s about art and science together, and that’s what makes it interesting and challenging. But if you just focus on that and say, “Okay, I’m dedicating my efforts other than the existing infrastructure in the stores and the channel sales just doing Instagram, just focus on that.” I think that’s going to be a great learning experience and a very high probability of getting to where they want to go.
Hannah: Well, Raj, I will be tuned into this at leisure brands, see where their products can go. And maybe I’ll see them popping up on my Instagram feed. Here’s currently after they listened to it. Thank you so much for tuning in with us. Again, if you have a business problem that you’re worried about in the marketing aspect of things or all across the board, Raj and I are here for you. Thanks for tuning in.