6 Dos and Don’ts of launching a business in fashion
According to an IBM Institute for Business Value and Oxford Economics study, 90% of all startups in India fail within the first five years. Here’s what you need to know about the 10% that survive, especially in the field of fashion as that percentage is a lot smaller.
Hone In On Your Company’s Mission: There’s a reason companies like Nike have spent a lot of time and money into coming up with a coherent vision/ mission statement - something they can always go back to in order to be reminded of the bigger picture. Nike Inc.’s official mission statement is “to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.” The company believes that everybody is an athlete, Nike’s founder Bill Bowerman famously states, “If you have a body, you are an athlete.” Spend time and effort into envisioning where you see your company, not just two years from now, but 5-10 years from now and what it’s core values are. At Stage3, our mission is to democratize high fashion and make it easily accessible to Millennial India.
Don’t Only Compete On Price: We know that price is a crucial factor in the customer decision making process but not the only factor. For example, Amazon and Flipkart deliver low price to their customers but they also ensure there is enough selection in all product categories, the delivery process is faultless and returns go smoothly. Identify the factors that are crucial to your customers beyond price and make sure you make them part of your product offering.
Do Develop A Network Of Influencers In The Industry: The Indian fashion industry is a tightknit one. If you want to succeed in the business, create an ecosystem of mentors and influencers around you that will be there to help you or advice you when there are difficult decisions to be made.
Don’t Underestimate The Power Of Word Of Mouth: It is human nature to trust a recommendation from a friend over a paid message from a seller. If I am on the lookout to buy a car, if a friend tells me she owns a Toyota and it’s problem-free, this recommendation would carry far more weight than a Toyota Ad on TV. Invest time in delivering a great customer experience as a good review gets amplified across networks and brings in new customers with ease.
Obsess Over Customer Experience: Fashion is an embodiment of how people feel about themselves. Therefore, more than in any other industry, one has to be fixated on customer experience. Everything from the box that a dress is delivered in to the helpful customer service representative reflects on the company. Your customer is not just buying a product or a service from you, he/ she is looking for an experience that makes them feel good about themselves. A card that says, ‘Congratulations to the bride!’ with a dress that the bride bought from your online store to sending an express delivery order just so the bride’s sister gets her dress on time are things that will create loyal customers. That’s not only because you have a great product but also because you made the person feel special.
Don’t Prioritize New Business Over Current Customers: As your company grows so will your customer-base but keep in mind your existing customers instead of just looking after newly won customers. It’s wise to remember that your existing customers are your strongest advocates for new customers and the reason you have been able to kickstart your business. So give them the attention they deserve.
About the Author: Sabena Puri, co-founder of Stage3, India’s leading fashion rental and styling service.
“Creating a ground breaking customer experience has been my passion and the vision that motivates me every morning when I get to work”, says Sabena Puri, a graduate of Harvard Business School and Columbia University, and a seasoned professional and entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience in creating unparalleled customer experiences, both in the offline and online worlds. Puri recently returned to India from Palo Alto, California where she had launched and run Junnoon, a modern Indian restaurant and lounge that was ranked as one of the top 20 new restaurants in the US. An early believer in mobile, she worked in product development at Verizon Wireless and product management at Palm Computing. She also spent time at onenest.com (acquired by Novica.com) an online marketplace for artisan products. With Stage 3 she brings together her offline retail experience, a strong design aesthetic and her technology acumen to introduce customers to a new way to dress up.
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