Most fashion designers plan the online sales of their designs in a bit of a backward manner, meaning that they never properly develop an idea of what truly separates them in the marketplace from their competitors. However, if they did, they could guarantee sales and thereby assure the success of their brand.
The way to attract online customers who want and need your designs is by clearly defining what sets you apart from the rest of the fashion industry, which in marketing is called defining the Unique Selling Proposition (USP).
In a nutshell, the USP is a quick-but-intense analysis of your competitors, your target customer, and you…and how they all interlock (or don’t). By understanding where your competition succeeds and where they fail, as well as what motivates your target customer to buy, you can become the safety net to catch everyone who your competition cannot serve. In addition, you will differentiate yourself by doing all the same basics your competition does, except one better.
Let me try to illustrate via a simplistic-but-hypothetical scenario of three hypothetical t-shirt designer/retailers. Let’s assume that you’ve already figured out what makes your target customer happy. Let’s say you figured out that your target customers are green-minded, so they want tees in organic cotton. They’re also a bit glam, so they like flashy designs. They don’t really trust ordering online because they’ve had a bad experience before, so they look for a no-hassle return policy. Finally, this target customer is looking for plus sizing.
You’ve also been the smart independent fashion designer with marketing savvy, and your competitive analysis has garnered some key information about what your competition offers as well. You have found out that you each offer tees in organic cotton, as well as metallic embellishments. But you found out that you and Store 2 are the only designers that offer plus sizing. And…eureka! Store 1 is the only one of the bunch that offers a no-hassle return policy.
So what does this analysis tell us?
You are just as strong as the majority of the field.
You offer one benefit more than one competitor.
Only one competitor offers one benefit that you don’t.
So, you go back to your marketing drawing board, and you add on the no-hassle return policy if it makes business sense to you, and you make a big marketing deal out of the plus sizing, since you’re one of the very few that offer that flexibility to your customers.
Suddenly, you’re a designer that offers flashy, attention-getting designs printed on soft, organic cotton especially for the plus-sized t-shirt connoisseur. Oh, and by the way, never be afraid to buy from your favorite retailer or online, because regardless of where you purchased our t-shirt, we’ll exchange it for something that works better for you.
Congratulations! You’ve just created your USP.
So now what? Well, very simply, this message should invade all your marketing materials…your website content, your line sheets, your banner ads, your pay-per-click ads, just to name a few. You are now offering the market something completely different, something that no one else has (of course, assuming you did your competitive research thoroughly). Why wouldn’t online-wary, plus-sized, glam-but-green folks want to buy from you?
Your research will suggest that the market is being underserved in one particular aspect upon which you can capitalize. In this very simplistic example, it was the plus-sized market. The flip side of developing your USP, however, is that it indicates to you how your business should change to be able to meet that demand. It requires some out-of-the-box thinking in choosing which segment of the market that deserves your attention. In this case, even if you, the designer, are rail thin, you’ll now be faced with a decision: to go after the low-hanging fruit in the form of the plus-sized consumer, or continuing to swim upstream and offer what everyone else does. If you choose the latter (say, because you’re not plus-sized), then the only real message you’ll be communicating to the marketplace is “I have t-shirts too!” In that scenario, you could then consider your brand officially “watered down.”
As long as you always concentrate on what your customers want, as well as what your competition is doing, you will never go wrong. You have then developed a captive audience out of a marketing niche, and they will never stop buying your next big thing.