12 Merchandising Tips for Ecommerce

Merchandising Tips from Creating Fashion Websites that Sell, by Nicole Giordano and myself, Syama Meagher.

Purchase your copy here!

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Merchandising your website is important, you may not have a collection of 20 styles, but anything you can do to or­ganize your collections and make it easier for your custo­mers to find what they’re looking for, is a great thing.

1. Keep your category pages to a minimum 5 styles.

2. If you have 5 or fewer styles when launching then stick to 3 product images per row, and make them large images. This way it will extend to two rows.

3. If you have only a few styles but they come in multiple colors, show them. Customers want to see all the options they have.

4. Always think about how your customer will want to shop.

5. Create fun categories (in addition to the basic categories) like :Sweet & Simple, Comfy & Cozy, Party Time, Favorite Holiday Gifts. This is where you can push forward your points of view and curate a more editorialized space for your products.

6. Offering items within a certain price point? Gifts under $100 is always a good idea to have if it’s within your brand strategy.

7. Best Sellers. Have you sold certain products from your brand over and over again? It’s always great to showcase the products that do well.

8. Sale Section. Do you have markdowns? Products that are going to be on sale for a limited period of time? This is where you can house them. It makes more sense to keep your sale items in their own category than to merchandise them with products on the regular merchandise pages.

9. Add a prominent “view all” to each category page if you have more the 2 pages of products. There is fatigue if you have to click through more than 3 pages.

10. Categories are to be used to help customers find your products, so don’t create too many just for the sake of it.

11. Color Filter. Unless you have a wide variety of products on your site, don’t bother adding this.

12. If you prefer to sell by collection, not product category, be con­sistent and list the names of the collection on the side bar.

Download a copy of the book today for more insider tips on how to launch a website that will sell.

 

The Traditional Business Plan Is Dead: Introducing the Strategic Plan

 

A traditional business plan is a guaranteed time waster unless you are looking for busy work to keep you from actually starting your brand or you are really considering outside investment. What is the alternative? A self directed plan to actually guide you month to month and season to season. This means cutting out the fluff and focusing on the strategy and nitty gritty. If you are looking to procrastinate, then keep writing away, or if you are writing one to get outside investment then read on to find out why you potentially should not be seeking investment in your early stage startup brand.

The 7 Most Important Questions to Ask Before Launching without an Investor: 

  1. Financial Plan- Operating Costs Fixed & Variable: How much will this cost me over the next 18 months if I don’t sell anything?
  2. Production + Cost of Goods: How much will it cost for me to make and manufacture my product?
  3. Marketing Plan  + Competitive Matrix: Who is my target customer and what markets do I want to fill? How will I get the word out about my product? What brands will I compete with?
  4. Sales Plan: What distribution channel will help me generate revenue, is it ecommerce or wholesale? When can I expect to start generating a profit?
  5. Brand Identity:
  6. Merchandising: What is my assortment plan and pricing?
  7. Tie it all together: What are my 18-month Timeline and Goals?

All Excel spreadsheets you create for your company need to be dynamic. Meaning, these are not stagnant documents you are creating. You should be able to update, change, and use them on a monthly basis to compare where you are versus your plan. If you ever create something and don’t use it, it is a waste of time.

If you can go through all the aforementioned steps of flushing out your brand then you should end up with a tight game plan that allows you to execute with your eye on the prize on a monthly basis.

This step-by-step plan involves creating the foundation, building the strategy, and then executing approach. Often times entrepreneurs start executing without knowing where they’re

heading or what their core goals are. When launching a brand, it’s important to think of yourself as a primary investor. Understand your brand’s ROI before deciding to launch and spend haphazardly.

Notice we didn’t mention the common Executive Summary, Mission, Exit Strategy, Management Team, Government Approvals, Technology, Facilities, and the additional points you would find in a template business plan. The goal for this exercise is to find out If you can actually afford to bring this brand to life and fully understand what it takes,  not spend hours perfecting grammar and prose.

How to Choose the Right Investor:

If you want to raise capital, then you will need to add a few extra bells and whistles to your strategic plan. Your potential investor will want to see your management team, what your infrastructure is like and an exit strategy. No one will give money to just anyone, there needs to be proof- either in you or your team that you have what it takes to make this successful. You will want to look for patient capital, meaning an investor who does not need to see an ROI immediately as it will take any early stage brand a minimum of 18 months to see if they can make it.

I generally advise against outside investment when launching your brand. Primarily because of the potential investors who are just ‘interested’ in being in fashion and don’t understand the retail financial cycle.

Breakdown of The Retail Financial Cycle Your Potential Investor Should Understand:

Scenario: You’ve just raised $45k in funding for a small RTW line. Here’s approximately where that money will be allocated in a year:

  1. Marketing & Operational Costs: Samples, marketing, ecommerce and your first selling campaign amongst other things may average out to $12k.
  2. Production: Let’s say you’ve gotten an order from a boutique, (which is unlikely for most designers in their first season), you’ll need additional funding of $18k to go into production. P.S. Factoring (short term loans to produce are tough to get these days unless you have an order of $250k +)
  3. Order Fulfillment: Once the order is produced and delivered to the client, you have to wait for payment. Let’s say the boutique pays you 60 days after delivery because payments are slow for them. That’s $30k in sunken costs in just getting your product to the store, without any payment for 2 months.
  4. Next Season: While you’re producing for the current season, you’ll also need to allocate another $15k for next season’s sample production cost.
  5. Markdowns & Chargebacks: Most brands don’t realize that retailers build into their contracts fees if your product doesn’t sell, if you don’t ship properly and if the purchase order arrives a day or two late with p.o.’s in the wrong boxes.

 

If your investor does not understand how retail operates, you might have a very frustrated partner on your hands. I always suggest vetting potential investors thoroughly. Do they have experience or relationships in retail? Can they help you outside of just the investment? Unless you plan to work with an Angel investor who isn’t hedging on an immediate ROI, make sure you do your due diligence. Your investor should be a long-term partner willing to stick it out for 18 – 36 months at minimum.

It’s a lot of work to launch your brand and maintain it. Its emotionally tough and can be financially challenging. If you can get your head around the business part, then at least you will have a plan to guide you through the highs and lows.

Socially Shoppable Interviews Syama Meagher

Entrepreneur Spotlight: Syama Meagher

I was recently interviewed by the team at Socially Shoppable! Read their article below and click over to Socially Shoppable to see more amazing interviews:

Entrepreneur Spotlight: Syama Meagher

” Meet Syama Meagher!

CEO of Scaling Retail and Co-Author of The Fashion Designer’s Guide: Creating Fashion Websites that Sell

Syama is a woman that lives for shaping modern fashion. By supporting the sales, production, development, and marketing efforts of E-commerce, and brick-and-mortar companies, she has been able to gain firsthand knowledge of how the fashion industry is constantly evolving.

Watch the video below to learn more about this amazing woman and her professional journey.

My name is Syama Meagher and I am the founder of Scalingretail, and Co-Founder of Curist – all around fashion brand builder of brick-and-mortar an e-commerce platforms.

What got you into fashion e-commerce?

I got into fashion e-commerce back in 2007. I was really fortunate to be offered a position at Barney’s New York in their e-commerce division. Back at the time not a lot of people were venturing in that area, so I kind of consider myself very lucky.

Was it always your dream/plan to be in fashion e-commerce?

To be honest, growing up, I don’t even think I ever thought e-commerce was something I would eventually be working in. I always knew I would be on the business side of fashion and obviously brick-and-mortar was the only thing I ever really knew. As technology became more and more relevant around us, and all these new brands were starting to try e-commerce – yes, it slowly became a dream.

What does an average day look like for you?

I like to wake up about 7 o’clock in the morning. I do about 30 minutes of meditation in the morning, and then of course all of my morning rituals. By the time I get on my first work call, which is usually about 10 AM, I’ve already sat through and planned my day, done a little bit of personal reading, and I’m really focused and clearheaded. I think it’s really one of the keys to being successful.

What are your favorite pair of heels?

My favorite pair of heels are my snakeskin Guccis from 2010. They are bright gold and their caged. I had to get them resoled like three times because they are so fabulous.

What do you wear to work on a normal day?

Not unlike what you’re seeing me wear today. It usually involves some kind of loafers, black jeans and a silk button down.

What do you look for in an e-commerce platform?

There are so many things important to look at, most importantly I say it’s really important to think about what your budget is as a brand and then what your long-term goals are. My favorite things are of course how functional is the site, not only what it can be for you today, but what you need from it tomorrow. I also look to see how quickly you can actually upload and make changes to the site. And whether or not you need a coder to be holding your hand every day or every three months.

What do you believe MVP your no MVP?

If you were designing your own collection and you were on the maker side you de need definitely need to have an MVP – reason being you need to test market the product before you start to invest thousands and thousands of dollars on the maker side into samples and production and developing a collection. And furthermore, taking it to that really crucial e-commerce platform. If you were just launching a website and your sourcing other brands and you are coming from the position of a retailer you definitely don’t need an MVP. It’s all about going to big and going for it and really be first to market

In your recent General Assembly workshop you said that it’s good to look funded. What does that mean?

Well, I guess if you look at me today I look funded, but does anybody know what that really means? Essentially what that means is you look like you have it going on right now. I could be a homeless person but you have no idea because I’m polished, well put together – have the hair, the make up, and the clothes. That’s exactly what I mean for a website’s perspective. No one knows if you’re bootlegging your site. No one knows if you have nothing in the bank, if you can put it together to make a site that looks glossy and beautiful with great images – you’re going to look funded.

What are your thoughts on outsourcing?

Yikes, outsourcing that’s a sore subject not only from personal experience, but from seeing others go through really bad experiences, but also really good ones. The things that I think are most important when it comes outsourcing is to be really clear on what you want me clear on how much money you want to spend and get ready to pull your hair out a little bit at the end of the day when you’re working with someone who’s time zone is 12 hours I had of yours.
It’s really important to think about can you handle a relationship like this. Ask yourself – are you ready to micromanage this process? Do you need to be focusing on other things of your business? At the end of the day if you can’t afford to work with someone domestic to help build your site, then you have to get scrappy. So I’m a big believer in ‘you got to do what you got to do.’

What do you consider the most important sharing tool for social media strategy?

Well I’ve seen people start to use Instagram in really amazing ways. For example a lot of brands are starting to add things like shop social as a new tab on their website so people can start to see what their Instagram posts are, and furthermore, link it back to the product on their site. It’s been one of the most challenging things for brands to to really figure out how to harness the Instagram platform. Brands like liketoknowit.com just popped up to trying to harness bloggers and connecting them to products. At the end of the day you want somebody to buy. So you to build your brand and get them to shop while integrating your Instagram on your e-commerce platform, as well as feeding that online.

What’s something you know now that you wish you knew in 5 years ago?

I wish I would’ve known how to let go of things. I feel like now as I’m older the idea of mastering something and moving on and letting it go is so important. We’re always taught so early on that we need to focus and be in charge of one thing and master something really really well and that’s what we’re going to be. But that’s a lie right at this moment, we’re changing our lives. I have no idea how I’m going to be in 20 years, so the sooner I get used to that idea, the better my life and the better I was able to perform at work because my ideas were no longer static. I wasn’t just fighting for one idea or one project, but in actuality as soon as I let it go, I was able to except and get more things in my life.

What’s your number one tip, or advice for fashion e-commerce start ups?

Develop your brand first. Often times brands start up spending money on developing their site. They’re spending money on developing their product, if they’re making their own products. But they have no ideas of the brand that they want to start and have no idea what they’re legacy is going to be. So very often you’ll see people start brands and create a collection and have an idea of what they want something to look like but that is very stagnant and it’s just for the season. You cannot build a brand around one season. You cannot build around one feature or benefit. Instead you need to build your brand over a long-term vision. What it is that you actually want to create?

Where do you see yourself in 5 to 10 years?

In 5 to 10 years I hope I’m still fabulous. That I have to say is my number one goal. Eventually I would like to see myself as a crazy neighbor lady that has a fabulous clothes and walks around with a couple cats or maybe dogs (laughing). But on a more realistic sense I’d say that in the next 5 to 10 years I’ll probably still be doing variations of what I’m doing now. I’m one of those few but very lucky people that gets to go to work every day knowing that they’re giving back. Working with my clients and working on their projects and helping them succeed, and helping them see their visions coming to fruition. It is a very regenerative process so some things. You’re always growing and you are always learning. Why would you want to do anything else?

What are your favorite sites to shop and why?
I really love to shop on sites that I randomly discover through Instagram and I do so mostly because I need to know what people are doing. So I’m kind of the wrong person to be asking the question. I want to shop brands that I’ve never seen before and often times I’ll buy a product and if I love it I’ll buy more. I’m not one of those once a shopper never again. I really like to build relationships with the brands that I purchased from and the other brands that I see doing it right. So I need to do a little hashtag searches and often times people do searches on “women’s blouse” for example, or “silk chiffon”, or “blogger style.” I hate the idea of copying and pasting these links URLs from Instagram, so I’ll just take a screenshot on my phone of the different bloggers of their different websites to check out later.

What were your most recent online purchases? 

I bought an amazing yoga mat from a small company based in Southern California, la vie Boehme and they’re so beautiful. I think they cost way more than any regular yoga mat, but their designed so beautifully, and mine was like $80 and it’s so beautiful. I look good on my yoga mat so that’s an amazing purchase! The other two things that I bought online are from Etsy and sometimes I can’t find what I’m looking for on Google and when I’m doing the searches I will often times go on to Etsy to see if there someone else doing it across country.”

On Refinery 29 with Shop It To Me & Syama Meagher

I was recently interviewed by Fawnia Soo Hoo for Refinery 29 on shopping tips for consumers. See below for an excerpt and link to full article.

” Return those unwanted items.”

“First rule of thumb: “Don’t buy from a shop that you wouldn’t want store credit at,” says Syama Meagher, CEO of Scaling Retail. “Plain and simple.” But then again, we’re not always thinking clearly in the midst of an impulse buy.

Also important: If you’re not going to shell out for shipping, make sure you’re not paying a fee to return an item, either. (Some retailers, including, J.Crew and H&M, deduct a return shipping fee out of your refund.) In this situation, Woroch — who we’re guessing never pays for anything she doesn’t want to pay for — would contact customer service and ask for a complimentary return label. “Often, they can extend a one-time courtesy to you if you are really unhappy with the item’s quality or fit,” she says. “You also want to call customer service to see if they can extend a return on a final-sale item if you’re really displeased with the purchase.”

Make sure to stay on top of your return-deadline windows. Meagher uses Gmail’s Boomerang to send her a reminder email seven days after she receives her item. “I do it on the digital receipt or tracking email,” she says……Customer service can also be your best shot at redeeming a discount when you miss the expiration date. “Usually, they will honor it for customer-service integrity,” Meagher says.”

Originally posted on Refinery29.com

Tips for A Successful Trade Show Follow-Up Campaign

Originally posted on Makers Row

 

MAGIC is the world’s largest fashion marketplace, comprised of ten unique communities showcasing the latest in apparel, footwear, accessories, and manufacturing. Did you show at SOURCING, PROJECT, ENK or any others? You may have found the show to be exhausting, but your work is far from over! Whether you exhibited your brand or just walked the show, check out what your next steps should be.

The checklist for those who showed

From all the parties you attended, to the business cards you collected, and new buyer contacts you gained, it’s time to review and organize. For this exercise you will want to make 3 piles: Buyers, Community (other brands), Industry Experts.

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The Buyer List

Have buyer interest? Need to get orders in to make your production minimums?

  1. Send out a brief personalized email to all of your new buyer contacts. This is your chance to remind buyers about your brand (attach a lookbook)
  2. Add your cutoff date to make your orders and exclusive offers
  3. Don’t hear back in 2 weeks? Call.

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No buyer interest yet? If you showed at the trade shows and didn’t get promising leads, here’s what you should do next:

  1. Send out an email to the list of buyers that you announced your booth to. (In preparation for trade shows, you need to let buyers know that you’re showing–hopefully you did this already.)
  2. In the email, mention how unfortunate it was that you didn’t get a chance to connect and how you’d like to send samples of the recent collection or meet in person if you’re both in the same geographic area. Also, attach a lookbook.
  3. Exhausted that list? Its time to move to your sales strategy document and contact the potential retailers that you haven’t yet targeted. Having shown at a tradeshow is a great segue to get their attention. Include a couple images of your collection and of your booth at the show. If they attended, maybe this will jog their memory. Don’t forget to attach a lookbook.

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The Community List

Often times after the show, we get so focused on securing sales leads that we forget to follow up with the potential collaborators we met. Here’s why this group is an important resource:

  1. When you’re gearing up to do multi-brand pop-up shop, this group will be your first lead.
  2. When going into business with a store, verify their reputation by doing areference check with brands from your community who may also be selling to that particular retailer.
  3. When you are interested in exploring other manufacturers or sourcing from different outlets, your community will be there to support you.
  4. When you’re facing some challenges with retail buyers, members of your community will be able to provide insight from their own experiences.
Industry Experts

You’re probably well aware of this group. They’re are the ones who spoke on panels, surveyed the collections, questioned the designers, and stood behind the scenes assessing the market.

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Experts at MAGIC come with experience in varied fields: social media, sourcing, production, sales, marketing, branding, trend forecasting, web, and more. These are the business cards that you want to keep when ready to act upon or even share with your community. Building your Rolodex of an ad-hoc team of experts can be very useful- so file these cards away until you need them.

Share images of your booth and people engaging with your product on social media. Its a great way to build your brand and show that people are interested in what you have to offer.

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A Checklist for those who walked the shows

Perhaps you are considering showing in the future and wanted to see what it was all about. Bravo to you for taking the time to walk the floor and see what was out there.

Review Your Notes

Observing a trade show is still a hefty responsibility. Did you see what your competitors were showing? Did you make note of their assortment for the season? Write down the trends? Take time to review all of your notes.

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Review Business Cards

Hopefully you scored business cards from other brands in your potential community and made connections. Follow up and cultivate those relationships. Snagged a couple cards from buyers in the industry? Awesome. Follow up with a feedback email saying that you’d love to hear their thoughts on your collection and continue the conversation further.

Strategize

There is a lot to learn from others. Pay close attention to what you would do the same or differently when your brand shows. Spending money and time on a trade show requires evaluating what your potential ROI’s will be. Not all first time brands walk away from the show with orders. So how will you do it differently? How will you evaluate your performance? Your ROI will be a combination of connections, sales orders and brand exposure. Each as important as the next.

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If you showed or just walked the trade show, there’s a lot to take action on. Don’t waste the time, energy, and money you invested in growing your brand. Do a complete evaluation of the event: what would you have done differently? Did you actively pursue everyone you wanted? Make sure you have your own list of do’s and don’ts for next time.

 

6 Strategies to Improve Your Ecommerce Sales Today

Originally posted on Makers Row

As an emerging or independent fashion brand, it is incredibly difficult to get your fashion website noticed in the endless ocean of fellow designers. Websites are popping up a bagillion and four a day (exact figure, you guys) and if you build yours, send out some tweets, create a Facebook page, and stop there – you’re done for. Just because you have a website, doesn’t mean you’re going to make sales.

I’m going to share 6 tips on how to optimize your ecommerce site for sales. These tips are sure to get your lookers to stick around longer and convert into buyers.

1. Google Analytics

Look at your Google Analytics: Where are people falling off your website? Are they making it past your homepage? Start to do some digging and see where you need to focus your attention. Google Analytics is free and worth it. There are simple tutorials online on how to use it. You can see how people are coming to your site,evaluate your digital marketing, and test changes you make to your site.

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2. Create a Dynamic Home Page

A dynamic homepage will capture your audience, engage them and lead them to know more about your brand and products. What do I mean by dynamic? Use your hero image on the homepage to showcase recent press, social media pictures, lifestyle images, events and more. Keep the homepage fresh every month and test to see what drives further click thru’s.

3. Offer Free Shipping

You might think that offering free shipping is going to drive you out of business. Well, if you have a little wiggle room on the margin side to entice your customers with this then do it. Wouldn’t it be an amazing problem to have 1,000 orders come in and have to ship them all out? Don’t be afraid. If you aren’t turning out the sales you want, it’s time to try free shipping.

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4. Add Your Social Feed

So many brands have amazing Instagram feeds, but don’t publicize it. Add “Social” or “Shop Social” to your navigation and pull in your Instagram feed. This is a great way to get customers into your lifestyle, brand and products. It’s easier to maintain than a blog since you are already working on Instagram every day.

5. Rename Your Photos

From an SEO standpoint, renaming your photos will make your images easier to find online. Additionally, when people pin and share your image it will link back to your brand. This entails renaming your product photo’s title and alt tags from “img_2015” to something more descriptive and relevant to your product.

6. One-Step Checkout

Seems like a no brainer, but you need to include this. Sites like Shopify make this easy, but if you are using another platform, or even something custom, please make this update. Abandoned carts are a brand nightmare. Why? You know the customer likes your product because they added it to the checkout, but why didn’t they buy? Maybe it was price point or no shipping offer, but you don’t want it to be because it was too hard to pay.

Bonus tip: Add a newsletter sign up on your checkout page. Your first sign up for your email list is a golden ticket to start email marketing, so get sign ups wherever you can.

These tips are available in Syama’s new co-authored book “The Fashion Designers Guide: Creating Fashion Websites That Sell”