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Fast Fashion Finds – March 2013, Pt. 2

Fast Fashion Finds – March 2013, Pt. 2

Open Source Fashion is all about connecting people and making information and resources more easily available to those starting out in the fashion business. These resources include the latest fashion business news and valuable insights for designers and fashion start-ups. Twice a month, OSF Magazine will bring you Fast Fashion Finds, a collection of articles, lists and op-eds curated by OSFashion Founder, Pavan Bahl and Content Coordinator, Alex J. Tunney. For more great articles check us out on Twitter: @osfashion.

Third Wave Fashion || Your Startup Needs To Host More Events. Here’s Why…  by Leticia Domenech

We all love a good party. There’s nothing better than great horde’euvres, some refreshments, and plain ol’ good company. Interestingly enough, these features are typically what makes a business/networking event so successful. So why is it that so many startups choose not to host events? It’s an interesting paradigm but we’re siding with ‘you should definitely be hosting more events.’

Third Wave Fashion || Major Brands Are Adopting Startup Strategies And Here’s Why by Leticia Domenech

Here at Third Wave Fashion, we understand the amount of research and preparation that goes into launching a successful startup. There are trends to discover and analyze, as well as previous business models to dissect — from all the things that worked to all the things that fell short. Not every great idea will translate into a solid business. VentureBeat coined the term, ‘Enthusiasticus Founder Syndrome’ (we’re not kidding) wherein a novice entrepreneur allows the enthusiasm of his or her idea to take over, and ignores the critical mistakes of inexperience. Other times that isn’t the case at all. There are plenty of fashion tech startups whose business models are so effective and downright innovative that even major brands have adopted their models into their older, more mature fashion tech functions.

Fashion’s Collective || Insider Access: Q&A with Cannon Hodge, Bergdorf Goodman by FC Staff

Cannon Hodge: I’m really fond of twitter and how it’s given Bergdorf Goodman’s single New York address such an instant connection to the world.  From the very first tweet we knew we wanted to create a human connection – Bergdorf can be overwhelming so we knew this would be the place to show the store’s personality.  That said, we still wanted to provide the best customer service possible (it’s a matter of pride for us) – so I make a point to read every tweet and mention and respond when applicable.  The entire company is attuned to how quickly twitter unfolds, so we have a rule that any customer service issue must be answered within an hour.

Business of Fashion || First Person | Brian Atwood Says Never Compromise on What You Love by Tommye Fitzpatrick

“Key” to his growth has been listening closely to customer feedback, says Atwood. “Talking to your customer at your stores and seeing what the customer’s buying, I think that is so important. [Because] what are you going to do, just have a store full of shoes and not sell any?”

So what has he learned? “It’s not only 20-year-olds who want a six-inch heel,” he says. But conversely, “some women don’t want or can’t walk in the high heels. That’s something we’re responding to very quickly. They like the fun fashion shoe — on a sensible heel, sometimes. Sensible…[it’s] not in my vocab, but we do it. I’m learning.”

He also interacts with customers directly online. “Sometimes I’ll tweet and say, ‘Guys, I need names for shoes, send me names,’ and I’ll have 1,000 names, which really helps me out when I’m thinking,” he says. “It’s fun to see the reaction, and you’re not giving up the luxury, you’re just putting it out there and getting more followers.”

Business of Fashion || The Fashion Industry (Still) Has an Image Problem by Imran Amed

As beautiful as fashion imagery can be, the so-called ‘dream’ that the industry projects can lead to unhealthy behaviour. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, twenty years ago, the average model weighed 8 percent less than the average woman. Today’s models weigh 23 percent less.Would the industry ever be able to change and step outside these ideals? I wasn’t sure.

StartUp Fashion || Success in the Fashion Industry is Relative by Nicole Giordano

Success in the fashion industry is whatever you want it to be. Yes, the fashion industry is tough. And yes, just like anything else worth pursuing it takes a lot of hard work to build a business and become profitable. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. And it surely doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go after you want. When I hear people talk about being successful, so many concentrate on making exorbitant amounts of money. Don’t get me wrong, this can obviously count as success. But so can making a living spending your days doing exactly what you love.

Retail Minded || 5 Things to Consider Before Purchasing a POS by Jason Richelson

Your POS system should be easy to set up and simple to use. You’ll want a POS system with an intuitive interface to process sales quickly and keep lines moving. Training cashiers and managers should take minutes, not hours. Managing inventory should be straightforward and painless. Remember that any POS system that’s confusing to learn or complicated to use will decrease employee satisfaction and waste time that could be better spent elsewhere.

Tweak Your Biz || Super Advertising Via Social Networks: Amazing Ways To Leverage Customers And Sales by Maria Lynette

Which factor measures the success of a few companies while others falter? The reasons vary. But, most often the prime reason behind the failure of most companies is the poor marketing and advertising campaigns they have tried on social media sites. Well, leave the ones that faltered, but consider the ones that have succeeded with their exceptional campaigns. Trying the tricks they have followed would give a deeper insight, which in turn allows you to come up with an interesting advertising strategy yourself.

Inc. || 5 Lessons From 361 Start-ups by John Harthorne

MassChallenge founder and CEO John Harthorne explains what early-stage entrepreneurs can take away from the experiences of more than 350 start-ups that have participated in his annual $1 million global start-up competition and accelerator program since 2010.

Inc. || The Only 2 Words an Innovator Needs to Know by Howard A. Tullman

The key to successful and ongoing innovation is simple. You need a perfectly clear understanding of the two concepts that define the process: mistakes and failures. Understanding and discussing these two ideas correctly in every conversation about innovation is crucial to your focus, clarity and momentum.

 

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Our friends over in DC, The Tailored Man, were featured in The Washington Post.

The Washington Post || Alexandria tailor weaves custom solution for taking orders by Abha Bhattarai

It takes 25 measurements, including the circumference of a client’s ankles, for Sanjay Daswani to design a suit. By the time he is done, there are numbers upon numbers to calculate and crunch.

All those numbers add up to data, and Daswani, vice president of operations for The Tailored Man, has found a way to weave the information together, in hopes that it will help the Alexandria-based business become savvier about marketing and anticipating customers’ needs.

Meanwhile our friends at L+C featured our other friends, The Vanity Project, in a recent article:

Lifestyle + Charity || The Vanity Project – Finance to Fashion and Philanthropy In Between by Danielle Valente

These graphics represent “TVP’s” mission: to create non-profit apparel that “people would actually want to wear,” compared to oversized, unappealing tee shirts typically given out at charity events. It donates 51% of proceeds to the organizations it represents.

The meaning behind the clothes is just as significant as the story behind its Northwestern University co-founders, both of whom stumbled into the industry somewhat untraditionally

Even though Sochol’s family participated in service work throughout his life, he never thought he’d work with non-profits full-time, until several experiences swayed him away from the life in corporate America he had originally imagined.

 

Original Image created by Elena (on Flickr).

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The Naked Truth About Subscription Start-Ups: The Good, The Bad & The Scams

The Naked Truth About Subscription Start-Ups: The Good, The Bad & The Scams

[Opinions held by the contributor do not necessarily reflect the opinions of OS Fashion and its members.]

Is there a fundamental flaw in the application of the subscription model to consumer commerce start-ups with physical goods like fashion and CPG (consumer packaged goods) companies? There are some terrific consumer companies like Netflix and Spotify that have proved the viability of subscription models. They have innovative ideas. They create something that people want like streaming movies and music. They disrupt old-fashioned ways of doing things like having to physically go into Blockbuster to rent movies. They created markets and trends, instead of chasing the trend. But when start-ups apply this model without innovative products and branding, they sometimes rely on scams to lure customers and smoke and mirrors style PR to lead people to believe that their company is successful. In fact, you can even argue that most (with a few exceptions) consumer subscription models with physical products are flawed and unnecessary.

Initially subscriptions became popular among VCs because a subscription implied predictable, recurring revenue. Recurring revenue software businesses tend to have better valuation multiples. However, consumer commerce subscriptions with physical products generally should not. The problem is that many of these well funded subscription start-ups engage in deceptive customer acquisition, lack focus on retention and branding, and partake in poor business practices.

 

Just last week, the Science incubator in Los Angeles launched yet another subscription start-up, a company called ELLIE. It offers workout clothes for women with a monthly subscription service. Seriously, who buys workout clothes every month?  I wonder what the people at Science do with their clothes every month. Throw them away? Don’t they do laundry like the rest of us?

Science start-ups have one thing in common: an aggressive emphasis on paid and socially-driven customer acquisition. To build a customer base quickly, ELLIE reportedly engaged in deceptive bait and switch tactics that are downright shocking and unprofessional. Prior to launching ELLIE, the founders launched a company called PvBody which offered customers two pieces of designer fitness apparel from brands like Lululemon, Nike and Under Armour for $39.99 a month. PvBody even offered a 40% promotion via popular fitness blogs like SarahFit.com to lure customers. Over 70 of Sarah Fit’s readers who signed up for the promotion complained about their less than stellar experience: everyone got a notification that PvBody was not going to be sending out the designer brands they promised , but their own brand named ELLIE.

Now, PvBody has been rebranded as ELLIE. ELLIE used the clout of leading brands like Lululemon and Nike to deceptively acquire subscribers while promising those brands instead of its own. These alleged bait and switch tactics – sometimes known as  fraudulent conveyance — were used to create “traction” for ELLIE prior to the brand’s launch. Ironically, ELLIE’s scam was rewarded with $2M from three venture capital  funds. (For more information about ELLIE’s bait and switch scam, read posts at: Complaint ListThe Purple Giraffe and Marathon Lar.)

According to a recent Venture Beat article, “the lack of highly sophisticated tech is becoming part of the Science blueprint.”  Well, Science start-ups don’t have sophisticated branding or product either. Their strategy has been to focus on unnecessary subscription start-ups with vanity customer acquisition proof points. This does not work since a subscription model isn’t a guarantee for long-term recurring revenue or customer retention.  In the case of the Science portfolio company Dollar Shave Club, which raised $9.8M on an exceptionally healthy $30M pre-money valuation in their most recent round, it experienced impressive but very fleeting traction after their extensive paid customer acquisition efforts. Paid customer acquisition is useless if your brand and products cannot retain the customer. Customers will not engage or purchase after being acquired. Good brands and products are capable of organic growth with monthly churn under 4%. Good content and branding make a brand sticky. Retargeting makes a brand stickier. When you have exceptional branding, product and content, customers will discover you.  Then the focus shifts to customer retention.

 

Just as Science’s Dollar Shave Club and Wittlebee don’t solve any problems or offer anything new, Ellie does not either. If someone is merely looking for Lululemon- style activewear at a lower price point, there are plenty of online retailers that offer lower priced workout-wear such as H&M, Gap, Athleta, even Target. Unless new start-ups are offering great products, prices and experiences, they shouldn’t even bother to try to compete with established big brands or e-tailers. What problem are they solving? What is their point of difference? Are they making the process easier? Plenty of online retailers are offering lower prices.

Subscriptions only work when the price, product, quality and user experience are great. If there is a product mix, it must be personalized or expertly curated, not random. Beauty subscription companies have a hard time satisfying customers with their one-size-fits all (non-personalized) boxes of sample products due to different skin types, customer preferences in color cosmetics and fragrance. Following the success of New Beauty & Beautylish, companies like Birchbox are now focused on content and eCommerce. New Beauty’s Test Tube,  the original beauty sample subscription company which launched in 2005 (well before Birchbox’s launch in 2010), works because of its targeted focus on high performance and efficacious luxury skincare and haircare products; every month you get some of the hottest new products coupled with the latest issue of New Beauty magazine, an industry authority. Since they aren’t offering random color cosmetics or fragrances, color and scent preferences aren’t an issue and there’s a higher probability of satisfying the customer.

Birchbox’s beauty and greatest vice is that they don’t pay for products from brands. Although Birchbox, which received $11.9M in venture funding, clearly has the cash to pay for the products, it engages in dangerous business practices which jeopardize the long-term viability of their core business model.  I recently interviewed Suk Chan the founder and CEO of Soukenberi, an eco-friendly home fragrance and bodycare brand.  Ms. Chan said, “Birchbox requested 300,000 units of a product for free; in return, they said that could offer a conservative purchase order of 400 units for that product if it was received well by their sampling audience.” Birchbox also requested a special sample size, which Ms. Chan would need to create, that would yield at least 3 uses of the product. After Ms. Chan negotiated with them, they lowered the amount of requested free product to 75,000 and then to 50,000 units (for a more targeted customer base). Birchbox only wanted to pay for a purchase order of 400 units after receiving 50,000 units for free. Ms. Chan decided not to do business with them since it was clear she wouldn’t get even a 1% return. Beyond a very conservative purchase order, Birchbox cannot quantify a significant return to brands despite their huge subscriber base. This is a flawed, inequitable method of doing business with brands since it puts many brands in financial jeopardy. Having a large subscriber base doesn’t necessarily yield a successful business. A successful business invests in its supplier ecosystem, it doesn’t destroy it.

 

The sad truth is most subscription companies are NOT doing anything special and are just adding unnecessary clutter to the ecosystem and our mailboxes.  That’s not to say that I don’t like any subscription models.  Three fabulous consumer commerce companies with subscriptions that make sense are Barkbox, NatureBox and Lacquerous whose visions go far beyond their initial consumer-facing product.

Lacquerous is the Netflix for luxury nail polish. It offers a 3 nail luxury polishes that are on trend for $18/month which is less than the cost of 1 bottle of luxury nail polish. It’s an affordable option for women who want to experience trendy new colors from luxury brands while spending a fraction of the cost. There is no other way to do this; Lacquerous is definitely innovative and disruptive. Although they just launched a month and a half ago, they are overwhelmed with customers; at the moment, there are 5,000 people on their waiting list to become new Lacquerous members. Why does it work? Nail polish is one of the hottest consumer commerce categories right now. Customers want to discover the trendiest luxury nail polishes at a discount. Lacquerous offers nail polishes from the most premium brands like Tom Ford, Chanel and NARS.  The products are on trend (focused curation), and, more importantly, its customers can choose the colors they want (personalization). It’s a business model that is a WIN for the Lacquerous team, the brands that they work with and its customers.

It’s trickier to apply the subscription model to fashion and consumer packaged goods start-ups. While many tech start-ups end up sacrificing their EBITDA to pursue future growth, future growth is often less obvious with some consumer commerce start-ups.  Where can you go next if you’re Dollar Shave? For a consumer commerce subscription to work: 1) the business model must be viable, and 2) the brand, product and price must be really compelling and perhaps even addictive. It should make life easier, solve a problem or create a new market. In the case of superstar subscription companies like Spotify, they initially earned their subscribers via freemium offerings and then turned many of them into paid subscribers. They succeed because they keep evolving and creating new markets and trends. That should be the goal of every start-up!

NOTE: All l the information in this article was compiled from public information and articles online which are hyperlinked except for one interview I had with Suk Chan, Founder of Soukenberi.

Previously by Sindhya:
My Break Up Letter to (Some) VCs
VCs Think My Boobs Need An Algorithm

Original header image provided by Lacquerous.

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OSF Discussion Recap: Instagram for Brands

OSF Discussion Recap: Instagram for Brands

Taking place within the Fashionopolis room with The Townhouse building of LIM’s campus, Open Source Fashion hosted it’s first discussion series and event of 2013 on Tuesday (Febuarary 5th). Focusing on how the speakers’ companies and the brands they work with use Instagram, the featured speakers for the discussion were: Jose de Cabo of Olapic, Brian DiFeo and Anthony Danielle of The Mobile Media Lab and Erica Lavelanet and David Pena of LP Fashion Philosophy

Starting off with hour of networking, attendees and speakers came in from the snow and the cold to mingle before the discussion started. Dr. Dudley Blossom, Associate Dean of Experiential Education & Career Management at LIM College, welcomed the OSFashion, speakers and attendees to the college. Dr. Blossom hoped that the speakers, many of them entrepreneurs in their field, not only saw LIM as a great place to hold these type of events but also a place where they could find potential interns and employees already trained to understand the business of fashion and ready to work.  LIM is a great place for professionals to invest in their business of fashion education through their graduate studies programs!

Olapic Logo

Jose de Cabo introduced himself as one of the co-founders of Olapic, the sponsor of the night’s event and explained briefly about what Olapic does. Olapic is a social photo crowd-sourcing service. One of the great features of Olapic is capturing conversations and images of your brand form Twitter and Instagram and bringing them to your site. Jose explained that photos from the online community often drive more traffic to brands than images create by the brand itself. The duo from LP introduced themselves as stylists for brands, bands and individual clients. They also run a style blog. The duo from TMML helps brands market themselves by pairing them with Instagram power-users and Instagram related events.

Here is a summary of some key points discussed:

  • Instagram can be a great way to create and shape an identity for a brand. Erica and David of LP are their brand, so their followers are following the brand because they also want to follow the people working at LP. On Instagram, the two showcase their work and also some behind the scenes shots.
  • “You get what you put into it.”:  You can just post pictures on Instagram, but there is also great value in interacting with other users. When you engage with users, they are more likely to engage with you.
    • If you use photos from the community, credit the user. Using community photos is a great way to give back.
    • TMML uses a 70 / 30 time split on Instagram.  70% interacting with others, 30% posting to their own profiles.
  • Instagram is great for event coverage. You can create and curate a gallery of the event or do live printing of images to extend the life of event. Olapic technology allows event organizers show off attendee Instagram images in near real-time at events.
    • Live events are a great way to get the community around a brand engaged offline.
  • Avoid paragraphs of hashtags when tagging photos. Instead be general or be really specific (such as creating your own hashtag.) You can sometimes just use hashtags to give your brand and photos personality, #forrealz.
  • Check out these apps and sites for analytics and image editing recommended by the panelists and audience: Nitrogram, Statigram and Instaeffects.
  • Don’t just post random photos on your Instagram feed. People appreciate quality shots.
  • Conversation: Do you take down a photo or leave it up if it’s bad or not getting attention?
  • Have a few solid social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) that your brand uses, don’t jump on to every new platform that comes out.
  • Think about how you are using Instagram: Are you using it to sell your product or for attention towards your brand. Which is more important?
  • Online audience can often tell if marketing something feels forced or somewhat organic.

The ideas and engagement was active. Attendees connected with each other and downloaded the recommended apps during and after the discussion. Of course, people were also networking face-to-face before and an hour after the discussion.

OS_Logo

Join us on Meetup to learn about the next NYC event in the Open Source Fashion discussion series.

Special Thanks to LIM College, Olapic, and Justin Lee Images!
View event images by Justin Lee Images on our Facebook Page here.

Follow us:
Instagram – @limcollege @JCabo80 @bridif @takinyerphoto @davieanderica @osfashion
Twitter – @limcollege @Olapic @bridif @takinyerphoto @MMLNYC @davieanderica @osfashion

Header image by Justin Lee Images

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Social Retail Summit – NYC Jan 17th

Social Retail Summit – NYC Jan 17th

The small Social Retail Summits taking place every six months in Dumbo, New York, are very different from the average social commerce event. The evening insider conferences go beyond Facebook and Twitter, covering how social media change customer relations in retail, offline and online.

One panel at Thursday’s (Janurary 17thSocial Retail Summit #4 will cover extending the two-way conversation with customers to product development, with panelists Rachel Brooks (Citizen Made), Seph Skerritt (Proper Cloth), Carine Carmy (Shapeways) and Stephan Clambaneva (Dassault).

In their Case presentations Jen Rubio (Warby Parker) and Abe Burmeister (Outlier) will describe how they use social media to build brand value. The Summit has five panels. Other panelists include Claire Mazur (Of a Kind), Angela Min (Snapette) and Robert Gaafar (CropUp). Check out the full schedule with information all the panelists here.

Open Source Fashion readers get a discount on the registration fee by clicking here.

While you’re waiting for the event on Thursday, check out these quick interviews with some of the panelists:

[Left to Right] Panelists speaking at Social Retail Summit in July 2012 featuring: Liza Kindred (Third Wave Fashion), Mark Curtis (Enter:New Media), Jen Rubio (Warby Parker) and David Fudge (Bonobos).

 

Social Retail Forum is a project by Modified Ventures LLC, a post-internet market development company founded by Dutch business and retail industry journalist Peter Verkooijen.

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VCs Think My Boobs Need An Algorithm

VCs Think My Boobs Need An Algorithm

[Opinions held by the contributor do not necessarily reflect the opinions of OS Fashion and its members.]

VCs think my boobs need an algorithm. My boobs don’t need an algorithm. If that’s not enough, VCs also think that women need a bra subscription. They gave $2M in seed funding to True & Co., an e-commerce bra company with an algorithm and subscription model. Never mind that the clear majority of women don’t buy bras every month. This start-up’s algorithm involves answering questions online for about 3 minutes that’s not only boring and painful but also futile. The algorithm, like the brand’s name, is ridiculous. An algorithm cannot provide you with a better fit just as answering questions online cannot help you find the best pillow for your preferences. Some products need to be touched and tried on. An algorithm cannot account for technological advancements like soft stretch in bra straps, seamless fits, softer lace with stretch, and good quality padding that isn’t cheap and itchy. Finally, as a lingerie brand, this start-up lacks fun and sexy branding. There’s a place for an algorithm–it isn’t my bra. VCs simply don’t understand consumer psychology, consumer purchasing patterns and what it takes to build a great brand or product. It seems as if they think consumer tech is easy and that anyone can do it. This misunderstanding is a big problem, and VCs are screwing up the ecosystem.

Charlie O’Donnell (@ceonyc), a VC at Brooklyn Ventures, recently tweeted in reply to Sanjay Raman (@sanjayraman), a VC at Greylock Ventures:

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OSFashion Announces DC Chapter!

OSFashion Announces DC Chapter!

Open Source Fashion is launching a DC Chapter and we’re doing it in style!

Open Source Fashion started in New York City in April 2011. We have cultivated a community of helpful innovators, and we are going to do the same in DC!

The idea of the OSF Meetup group is to bring like minded people together to openly share ideas, contacts, and expertise with each other for the benefit of the entire meetup community, and our individual projects.

For our first event, we are excited to bring you an opportunity to learn from Holly Thomas, Editor of Refinery29 in DC! Refinery29 is an online platform that connects a fast-growing audience of users with content, commerce, and community, giving them all the tips, tricks, and tools they need to live a more beautiful life – and share it with the world.

Join us as we pick Holly’s mind!

If you represent a brand or business - We will uncover what it takes to be noticed by one of the most prominent lifestyle media outlet on the planet!

For anyone publishing content regularly – Learn how to engage your reader, and best practices in regards to distributing your content!

This is an incredible opportunity to learn, and network with follow innovators in the DC Metro area.

RefineryDCHolly E. Thomas is the D.C. editor for Refinery29, a global platform for exploring and discovering personal style. As editor, she covers all things stylish, fun, and cool in Washington, D.C. Before joining Refinery29, she was a reporter at The Washington Post, where she reported on fashion, consumer interests, and the local creative scene. Holly co-founded Butler & Claypool, a vintage retail and design collective, in 2010, and spends her free time scouring for vintage treasures, hosting pop-up shops, and dreaming up DIY projects.

Join our DC Meetup Group to RSVP!

 Personal twitter: @hollyt81
Professional twitter: @refinery29 // @butlerclaypool
www.refinery29.com
www.butlerandclaypool.com

 


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Turning Digital Influencers Into Brand Ambassadors

Turning Digital Influencers Into Brand Ambassadors

Free stuff, invitations to exclusive parties, and opportunities to travel the world: bloggers may seem to have it all, without the stress of a day job. However, many people do not realize that these digital influencers have just as much work if not more than those in their usual 9 to 5. Blogging is a full time job. That means they have to be representing their “brand” all the time whether that’s through social networks, blog posts or simple day-to-day activities. In some ways, bloggers have become the modern day celebrities yielding thousands, sometimes millions of views or hits per month.

So, how can your brand leverage these fashionable online personalities for your benefit?

First of all, don’t be a creep! E-mail etiquette is extremely important when reaching out to these influencers, as it’s the first point of contact. Think of this email as an interview – would you show up to an interview without knowing your employers name? No. Therefore, be sure to address your influencer correctly. Mention something unique that you enjoy about their blog, how you discovered it and why you feel your brand is a good fit for them.

Next, it’s important to realize that bloggers are not going to respond positively to a list of demands. They understand that you both need to receive something from the partnership; however, unless you are paying them, they do not want to be treated as an employee. Rather, ask them questions and get feedback on what they feel would be beneficial for both parties. Digital influencers appreciate being apart of the initiative at hand.

Finally, even though you may have completed your brand initiative, the relationship with your blogger is not. This is the most rewarding aspect of partnering with a digital influencer is the relationship created. Continue interacting with them on your social platforms. This will not only build your brand audience, but could result in additional future initiatives.

Original image created by Jorge Franganill0.

Posted in: Digital Marketing

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OSF Interview: Mike & Nathaniel of Tip Or Skip

OSF Interview: Mike & Nathaniel of Tip Or Skip

Tip or Skip was founded by Mike Weiksner and Nathaniel McNamara, childhood friends and experts in social and m-commerce. Tip or Skip is based in the heart of the fashion district in NYC.

Q: What was the inspiration behind Tip or Skip?

Nathaniel: After years as an entrepreneur involved in mobile commerce and online advertising, I was working as a venture capitalist. I was becoming increasingly interested in the power of social networks to drive traffic and when Facebook opened up its application platform and I heard about the results from Mike’s research I knew there was a huge opportunity ahead combining the power of social networks and applying it to shopping.

Mike: People often think that virality only happens by chance when someone captures something like a silly pet trick on video. At Stanford, my research shows that persuasion in social networks actually happens in repeatable patterns (Read Mike’s research here: “Six Patterns of Persuasion in Online Social Network“). By applying these patterns, students in my class were able to create applications that were installed by 10 million people in just ten weeks. The inspiration for Tip or Skip comes from this research.

Q: What’s the objective of the game?

Mike: The object of Tip or Skip is to be recognized as a top tastemaker by spotting great products! Tip what you like, skip what you don’t. If your followers agree, you earn points called “sway.” Players and products with the most sway rise to the top.

Q: Can you share an example of a top tastemakers and how they’ve been successful?

Mike: Rona Luo, a dressmaker in Hong Kong, discovered Tip or Skip and then tipped several of her dresses. The response to her products is amazing. She has garnered over six thousand followers on Tip or Skip, and one of her products has gained over 1,500 “retips” (positive votes by other players) alone. She is cultivating a large, engaged audience around her products.

Nathaniel: We also have a broad selection of people using the platform, from fashion bloggers to college students, tipping everything you can imagine. From the most beautiful dresses to the best additions to a man cave. Nearly everything has an audience on our platform – or you can help create the audience!

Q: How do you engage users?

Mike: The key is simplicity. Tip or Skip is “hot or not” for products. It’s an endless stream of beautiful, full-screen product images that load quickly. Try it– you’ll love it!

Nathaniel: The overall results are terrific and the numbers are compelling. Users play 57 rounds of Tip or Skip (i.e., product evaluations) on their first visit. Overall, Tipsters played over 750,000 rounds in October, which is double how many rounds they played in September.

Q: As Tip or Skip attracts more and more users, how do you envision working with brands?

Mike: Tip or Skip is becoming a personalized Fab – a place where you can connect with brands from literally anywhere, and even help discover the next hot products.

Nathaniel: By creating a presence on Tip or Skip, great brands can naturally garner significant exposure for themselves and their products for free. If they want to accelerate this process, we can assist them by featuring certain brands and products. For example, Theory has garnered over 20,000 followers in three weeks as a featured brand. Coming soon, we’ll also assist brands in converting this exposure into sales.

Q: What are plans to monetize the app? How soon do you plan to start monetizing?

Mike: To be clear, we don’t charge to play Tip or Skip and Tip or Skip will always be free to play.

Nathaniel: A few ideas that we are planning to test soon:

  1. Instant buying. Perhaps the most common feedback we receive is “I need to buy what I tipped!” Our buying experience on third party sites is crummy, and we can make e-commerce revenue if we sell directly on our site.
  2. Sway deals and giveaways. Our users would like to get benefits for being a great tipster, and brands are asking us how they can reward their best advocates. We can charge brands to identifies their influential advocates and provide these rewards to them.
  3. Provide price drop and other alerts pertaining to your tips, to help you get the best deals on the products you desire.
  4. Kickstarter for fashion– provide brands analytics about what influential people desire so they can make the products they want!

We see are these opportunities and many more to help connect buyers and sellers and earn a little for ourselves for improving the digital shopping experience for everyone! It’s early days, but our users and brands are clamoring to connect with each other on mobile social platforms like Tip or Skip.

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Fast Fashion Finds – December 2012, Pt. 1

Fast Fashion Finds – December 2012, Pt. 1

Open Source Fashion is all about connecting people and making information and resources more easily available to those starting out in the fashion business. These resources include the latest fashion business news and valuable insights for designers and fashion start-ups. Twice a month, OSF Magazine will bring you Fast Fashion Finds, a collection of articles, lists and op-eds curated by OSFashion Founder, Pavan Bahl.

Tweak Your Biz || 5 Ways To Prep Your Pinterest For The Holidays by Adrienne Erin

While they lagged behind on providing some key features for businesses, Pinterest recently made it possible to create an account as a business, not just an individual. Among the new features for businesses is the capability to register with your business name instead of a first and last name – which is great news if your business is only one word – and access to case studies that provide ideas for getting the most out of Pinterest.

Start Up Fashion || 8 Reasons Your Boutique Needs Yelp by Dominique Leger

Yelp. It’s been around since 2004, has over 84 million registered users and over 33 million reviews posted to the site and is definitely one of the most powerful when it comes to social review sites.

Independent Fashion Bloggers || Why the Battle Between Instagram and Twitter Matters For Bloggers by Amanda Boyce

The integration between Instagram and Twitter was a fashion blogger’s dream, as users were able to spotlight Instagrams on their Twitter feed, connecting both platform’s communities and helping blogger’s share their outfit posts and other social happenings. While many are speculating about why this is happening (oh hi, Mark Zuckerberg), the main issue at hand is: what does this mean for fashion bloggers? What can you do while Instagram and Twitter battle it out?

Likeable || How To: Encourage Your Customers to Share MORE This Holiday Season by Gabby Piazza

Tis the season for holiday shopping – and, of course, for holiday marketing! The growth for sales driven by social media is increasing at a RAPID pace, and you need to make sure you’re your company has a piece of that pie. In the next few weeks, packages are coming and going, online orders are being added to shopping carts faster than the blink of an eye, and customers are a completely captive audience, with your product in their hand. For most companies the ultimate goal is to acquire new customers – this will obviously increase the consumer base, drive awareness, and of course amplify sales. However, one thing to keep in mind is that retention is JUST as important as acquisition – the ability to turn one-time customers into lifelong purchasers is where social media marketing can show the most success.

Mashable || 4 Best Practices for Digital Marketers in 2013 by Johnathan Gardner

Another year, another attempt to predict the future. If 2012 was the year of Korean dance videos, citizen curation and Superstorm Sandy, who can possibly tell what 2013 might bring? It’s exciting to think that a year from now we’ll be buzzing about all new startups, fresh apps to obsess over and maybe even a new device or two we can’t imagine ever having lived without. But in the realm of digital marketing, the writing’s already on the wall.

Entrepreneur || What You Don’t Know About Sweepstakes and Contests May Hurt You by Lindsay Levine

Many businesses use sweepstakes and contests to excite consumers about their products or services. These promotions can be exciting, but when problems arise, it can lead to a messy (and expensive) legal battle.

Take for example, when a consumer tried to buy a Harrier Jet with Pepsi points in 1996. The promotion encouraged consumers to collect Pepsi points in exchange for merchandise such as t-shirts and sunglasses. A Pepsi commercial featured various items and their point values: a leather jacket for 1450 points, and a Harrier Jet for 7 million Pepsi points. Pepsi contended the jet was a joke, but plaintiff purchased 7 million Pepsi points and tried to redeem them for a fighter plane. Pepsi ultimately won, but had several years’ worth of legal fees battling the case in court.

To make sure you don’t end up in a similar situation, here are a few tips to keep in mind for running a successful promotion.

The Next Web || Square to Announce Payment Trial with Burberry by Matt Brian

Following the roll-out of gift cards in its iOS apps over the weekend, well-placed sources have informed The Next Web that digital payments innovator Square is set to make another announcement – a partnership with British fashion house Burberry in what will be the company’s first tie-up with a luxury brand.

Fast Company || The Future Of Mentorship In An Age Of Entrepreneurs by Maynard Webb

We have to acknowledge that in the Age of Entrepreneurship, the onus of personal and professional development is on the individual, not on the company. I hope that instead of fearing this new responsibility, you’ll see the many benefits it brings.

PandoDaily || Fifteen NYC-based Enterprise Startups to Keep an Eye On by Johnathan Lehr

What’s not being discussed however, is how important NYC is going to play in the coming enterprise tech boom: Flybridge recently expanded here from Boston. The Partnership for New York City Fund’s FinTech Innovation Lab (a fintech accelerator) had its second successful graduating class this summer. We’ve had some big exits and many new entrants, which is the purpose of this blog post.

From my vantage point leading the NY Enterprise Technology Meetup (NYETM), it is tremendously exciting and fulfilling to see how much NYC is growing and continues to lead the charge of enterprise tech innovation. We have the customers here, with verticals including financial services, media, advertising, fashion, healthcare, and more.

Also check out:

The Emerging Designer || 24 Days of Emerging Designers by Melissa Hall

24 designers emerging! Melissa Hall of the The Emerging Designer is showcasing 24 up-and-coming designers throughout the month of December. Check out these designers to look out for in 2013 and possibly check out something to splurge on in 2013 as well!

Original Image created by Jon S.

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Who, When, What & Where: Developing a Social Media Strategy

Who, When, What & Where: Developing a Social Media Strategy

While it’s important to know the various social media platforms available to you, you have know how to use them. We at VERVE Management have developed at 4-Step plan for our clients that you can use for the basis of your social media strategy.

1. Develop an Online Brand Identity (OBI)
At VERVE Management we’ve developed something proprietary for our fashion clients called an Online Brand Identity (OBI). It’s important that you create one for your company, as well. An OBI is a document that lays out the personality of your brand. The idea is to take your core brand and product offering and build out all of the various elements that make up your brand. You want your brand online to jump off the screen as a living, breathing person with all these various colors and facets to its personality. This will help you transition from a 2-dimensional into a 3-dimensional brand online which will go a long way in building a meaningful community that actually follows your brand online and feels something positive towards it.

In your OBI document, you should write down the tone of your brand’s “online voice,” what genre of music it likes, what genre of movies it watches, whether it’s political or not, what pop culture icons it follows, who it’s heroes are, it’s favorite hobbies, etc. You have to really get imaginative with this and be creative. You are bringing your brand to life after all! This is the biggest challenge business owners have when developing a successful fashion marketing strategy.

2. Develop a Fashion Marketing Editorial Calendar
Once you’ve planned out your brand’s personality, the next step in developing your fashion marketing strategy is to create a fashion marketing editorial calendar. Set a weekly schedule where you plan to consistently share content. You have to be consistent. After all, if you don’t put time into your “relationship” with people online, they won’t put time back into your brand either. When creating your fashion marketing editorial calendar, use a simple online calendar management site and add an entry for each day of the week you plan to share content. You should also plan what content you’ll share that day. Use your personality elements in your OBI to inform your content. Share movies your brand likes, music artists that inspire your brand, favorite quotes, heroes, and of course promote your company and products/services. You want to strike a balance in promoting and sharing other content. The fashion marketing editorial calendar will help with that.

3. Grow Your Audience
Unfortunately, I can’t dive into detail on how to grow your audience, as that alone would take up dozens of articles. I can give you advice on how to approach this task. A great first step is for you to research “influencers” and “innovators” in your industry, reach out to those people, and partner with them. You can provide them with free samples of your product to review or include them on a contest your having. The idea is to get them to promote your product/service/promotion to their online following which will in turn expose your online profiles to all of their existing followers! Another great step is to speak at events, guest author posts on other blogs, or hold and promote webinars / seminars!

You can also go the guerrilla marketing route and start posting / commenting on other pages / groups / etc. that have people who would be potential clients of your company. Taking part in conversations on these other pages, without blatantly promoting your company, will integrate you into the broader community and introduce you to a great deal of new people.

4. Track, Track, Track Your Results!
Once you have your OBI and fashion marketing editorial calendar in place, the next step is to begin sharing content and tracking your results! There are social media analytics tools you can use to track how people respond to your content. You want to keep track of what content gets the most “likes”, the most “re-tweets”, the most “shares” and “comments.” Tracking your progress will inform you about your audience and what content is important to them. The more data you analyze, the more intimately familiar you will become with your market. This will inform your fashion marketing strategy as well as inform all other aspects of your business!

Original Image created by Urs Steiner.

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