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Elizabeth Canon Elizabeth Canon (2 Posts)

Founder of Fashion’s Collective, Elizabeth is an innovator of business education focused primarily on the intersection of fashion and digital. A new-age resource for fashion and luxury brands focused on digital marketing, Fashion’s Collective is comprised of an online publication, FC Labs educational workshops and the FashionForward event series. Elizabeth has spoken at TEDx in Bali, SXSW in Austin, Casa della Creativita in Italy, Fashion 2.0 in Germany, and Luxury Interactive in New York. She has also been featured on Elle Magazine’s Digital Power List. Prior to starting Fashion’s Collective, Elizabeth was partner and director at a NYC-based interactive agency, where she worked creating digital initiatives for top global fashion and luxury brands.

Preparing Your Website for the Holiday Rush

Preparing Your Website for the Holiday Rush

The crash of the H&M website after the debut of the Versace collection last year was just one of many examples of how sites are ill-equipped to handle the surge in traffic generated by marketing activities.

As marketers gear up for what they hope to be a booming holiday season, communication strategies that have been honed throughout the year are now in full effect, as brands seek to maximize their transactions as one last fourth quarter sales push takes over.

But if the digital epicenter of these efforts crashes, or slows so considerably that customers drop off, all of the resources spent in acquiring the consumer’s dollar is lost.  Especially in the online world, where a customer is faced not with a couple competitive stores (as they would be if they were in a brick and mortar mall), but instead by tens, hundreds or even thousands of alternative retailers, this is an even bigger problem.

Though the causes for crashes (and solutions) are technical in nature, it’s not uncommon for the shrieking to come from the VP of Marketing’s office when a website crashes or drags. We, at Fashion’s Collective, spoke with Uri Foox, president at Pixafy, a New York based development team centered on using new technologies to pioneer solutions for companies. Pixafy helps clients around the world with the development of sites, online stores and mobile applications. By following the guidelines below, they have even increased their clients’ monthly online sales three times over. Marketers should ensure that they have a handle on these steps going into the holiday season, but really before any major spike in traffic, or as part of their overall optimization strategy.

1. Let your developers know that a traffic spike might be coming. Communication is key: if you happen to know that a big traffic spike is on the way, let your web guys know. For example, you should give your developers a heads up if you just purchased a Daily Deal, expect a significant PR piece to come out about you, or if a high profile person is about to wear your label, etc.

2. Scale up for a small fee. With cloud computing, what used to cost $20,000 can be achieved for $3,000. Consider renting from AWS (Amazon Web Services).

Uri mentioned that included in the perks of AWS is that it’s cheap, fast, easy and scalable.

3. Speed things up. One way to increase the speed and functionality of your site is to set up a Content Distribution Network or CDN, which is made up of servers in various parts of the world and can make your site faster by hosting content (like an image or a CSS file) from a server that is geographically closer to you. Moving unchanging content to a CDN means you are taking a greater load off your server and your site will be able to handle more people at a time. Amazon S3 and Cloudfront are two great services that are cheap and also easy to integrate and use.

Too many requests happening at once is what causes sites to slow considerably, or to crash entirely. For ecommerce in particular, the ease and speed of completing a transaction is a critical determinant of whether a user purchases with you or elsewhere. To give you an idea, by simply doing this one step, Pixafy was able to double one client’s orders.

4. Don’t put your eggs in one basket. Small businesses will often move all of their services onto one server, sharing their web server and database server on one computer. This means that if any service (let’s say your database server in this example) starts acting up, it can take down your whole site. Distribute the workload and make your site safer. As an added bonus, you’ll typically see a marked performance improvement by separating your services.

5. Simulate a traffic spike. Web traffic is like a highway. It can handle many cars but not always all at once. Asking your technical team to simulate a traffic spike to make sure you’re ready for the big day will ensure you know which parts of your site might need better functionality. In particular, ask them to use load testing, which simulates increased web activity and measures the utility of your website. How does it perform? Through load testing you’ll be able to identify slowdowns yourself.

6. Don’t lose the sale, coordinate with your fulfillment providers! The stakes are high for fashion companies to get this right. We recommend that our e-commerce partners team up with a fulfillment provider like efulfillment or Quiet Logistics, which uses robots to automate the whole process.

Some last general suggestions:

  • Don’t launch new campaigns on a Friday, or late in the day any day of the week. Wait for a time when all of the relevant teams are likely to be in the office and expecting to dedicate the necessary time and resources to monitor the site.
  • Know all of the appropriate information. This includes the name of your hosting provider and technical lead. Have a direct line to them and have logistics, like your account number, on hand. Also good to know are the type of server you’re on, its bandwidth, and the type and specs of the infrastructure.

Original image create by Niyam Bhushan

Posted in: Digital Marketing

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PreCommerce? What to Know When Launching Your Online Store

PreCommerce? What to Know When Launching Your Online Store

We now operate in an environment where e-commerce is no longer a buzz word. Much aligned with the digital space, we have moved quickly beyond the idea of e-commerce into the worlds of Web 3.0, social commerce and integrated commerce. This change can be partially credited to the recession, which created an atmosphere where brands no longer tolerated the negative impact to their bottom lines that occurred when retailers scooped up all of a brand’s online sales. E-commerce is now standard.

As the fashion and luxury worlds embrace technology, brands today are faced with one of two scenarios:

1. The re-launch of ecommerce to offer a better integrated, social and engaging experience that is more aligned with the brand image.
2. The first-time launch of their ecommerce platform.

However, what most businesses fail to realize in either of these cases is that an analysis of the potential revenue or a review of ecommerce solutions is not the first step. In fact, New York based digital marketing agency nylmedia has coined an entirely new stage in the process that they call “PreCommerce”, a phase most brands neglect initially and pay the price for later.

So what exactly is PreCommerce?

PreCommerce is what is needed to prepare your brand and your audience for e-commerce in a way that positions the brand for success and maximizes both revenue and engagement.

The genesis of PreCommerce is based on a desire for the brand to sell direct to the customer, but often brands don’t have the actual databases or analytics to know exactly who the customer is, as this information is owned by the retailer. However, for a brand to go from selling successfully through retailers to selling successfully directly to the customer, several factors must be considered.

Many brands believe that a monthly user base of 5,000 – 10,000 uniques will support a healthy ecommerce business…not so, say Ross Anderson and Gregg Berger of nylmedia. The threshold for many brands should really be set at a minimum of 30,000 – 50,000 uniques per month in order to reap the rewards and justify the costs of ecommerce.

Hence, the first step to building an audience includes determining who your actual customer is, capturing information and initiating a communication program which may include email and social media. As your customer base becomes accustomed to interacting with you, you provide them with a reason to keep checking in with the brand, and this repeat visitation and increased engagement is critical to improve ecommerce results. “Essentially, brands ‘own’ their customers and control the communications and messaging.” Anderson continues, “Once a brand has this type of access and control of their customer base, the opportunities are endless.”

Something of specific consideration here is conversion rates and how this relates to your product’s price point. We know that the higher the price point, the lower the conversion rate. Therefore, if your product is dresses, priced $500 – $4,000, the minimum threshold of traffic would certainly need to be 30,000 – 50,000 uniques, because it’s more difficult to attain the same conversion rates.

It’s also a good idea to look at each category within your brand’s product offering, and segment audiences based on who’s buying what. Handbags and shoes, for example, have lower barriers to entry compared to apparel because there are fewer barriers to purchasing online.

Building the relationship you have with your audience is key. After all, your customer is used to purchasing your product through a retailer. What’s to keep them from continuing to do so? Amongst other factors, this relationship is integral.

Search, both paid (Search Engine Marketing) and organic is the other major factor. If you are not optimizing search and practicing SEM, then what is to keep people from clicking on your site instead of clicking on the retailer that they typically purchase your product from? Add in local search, Google shopping results and other sponsored or organic results, the brand’s website can often get lost in the clutter.

A startling statistic is that of keyword searches for your brand; chances are only 10% end up clicking on your brand’s website. The reason why? Most users search for a specific product within your brand. Product may be added to your site’s inventory, but are the product keywords added to your SEM strategy on a daily or weekly basis? It’s important your website be a top result for a specific product search, otherwise you run the risk of losing the customer to a retailer.

nylmedia has determined a timeline for PreCommerce:

  1. Identify people seeking, searching for and talking about your brand
  2. Send messages via ads encouraging users to fan your brand on Facebook, follow your brand on Twitter and subscribe to your brand via email.
  3. Leverage these ambassadors to strengthen your base through an ongoing communication plan.
  4. Once the fan base has reached your minimum threshold, launch e-commerce and communicate this launch to your audience.

An important distinction that nylmedia points out is that, in the PreCommerce stage, this is not yet about new customer acquisition, which comes once your e-commerce site is properly in place. The trick is to find your audience, build a stronger relationship with them, and steer them toward retail partners while your e-commerce is being setup, at which point you steer them back toward your brand directly.

As brands take their next steps in ecommerce, consideration for a PreCommerce strategy may just be the factor that determines success.


Photo Credits: Ed Honowitz

Posted in: Digital Marketing

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