arrow-right cart chevron-down chevron-left chevron-right chevron-up close menu minus play plus search share user email pinterest facebook instagram snapchat tumblr twitter vimeo youtube subscribe dogecoin dwolla forbrugsforeningen litecoin amazon_payments american_express bitcoin cirrus discover fancy interac jcb master paypal stripe visa diners_club dankort maestro trash

eCommerce Case Studies

How to make your Shopify store Succeed - a Black Milk Clothing Case Study

How to make your Shopify store Succeed - a Black Milk Clothing Case Study

by John Larkin

John runs the blog here at eCommerceLift and is a verified Shopify Expert. Interested in an initial growth consultation? Click here

10 years ago

How to make your Shopify store Succeed - a Black Milk Clothing Case Study

Black Milk Clothing is a very popular Australian clothing brand which originated in a kitchen by self taught fashion designer James Lillis in 2009. The vision the fashion designer had was to transform the look of women’s leggings from being hardly noticeable, to being the centre of attention.

The company started out with a $0 Dollar marketing budget. James, the founder, sold his first legging for $10 through a blog, as this was his only option to do so online at the time. Today Black Milk Clothing is a multi-million dollar company that’s grown to 150 people and distributes its products globally and a prime example of a successful Shopify store. 

You are probably wondering as to how a company gains so much momentum, with virtually no marketing budget, in a relatively short timeframe. That is what we are going to look at now.

There is no question that their marketing efforts have paid off big time. The owner of the brand cannot say enough about the power of Social Media stating that: 

If it wasn’t for Facebook, we’d probably be stuck down on some downtown street in Brisbane. There’s just no way we’d have been able to build an international community, absolutely not” 
- James Lillis, Black Milk Clothing
They can be found on virtually every relevant social networking site. To date they have a substantial presence on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube and Google+.

Black Milk Clothing have almost 750,000 fans on their instagram page, just under 600,000 on Facebook, roughly 40,000 followers on Twitter and approximately 20,000 on Pinterest, 7,500 YouTube Subscribers and 2,500 followers on Google+. Although not a huge amount of followers on Google+ there are numerous advantages for being on it as pointed out in a previous PropelAd blog post. Black Milk has easily over one million fans around the world. 
Some say email marketing is not as powerful as it once was but when you get a fan delighted to receive in email from a clothing company on a Monday morning and responding to it like this then you are obviously doing it well.

A super fan raving about a marketing email they received AND tweeting it… now that’s not something you see everyday!
You are probably wondering how on earth a company with no marketing budget can become so successful. From day one of operation their unusual and sometimes peculiar product designs and concepts have garnered them much attention in the media spotlight. Initially they had a blog called toomanytights which encouraged conversation about the brand around the world and of course was virtually free to do so. 

A fan of Black Milk uploaded a photo on Instagram saying “Finally working out #blackmilk #musclelegs”.
Notably one unusual product launched by them was muscle leggings. The attention it received in the media was mostly bad publicity and was around the same time of the popular female icon Lady Gaga and her meat scandal outfit but as the saying goes bad publicity is better than no publicity at all. You can be guaranteed that the company saw an increase in traffic to their website and social media channels.

Their muscle leggings may be considered suitable only for a Halloween outfit by most. Though it is not unusual for a fan to upload a picture to Instagram of themselves at the gym wearing them. If you are designing clothing that is inspiring people to take pictures wearing them, then that can only be a good thing.

Black Milk’s muscle leggings shot to fame in the media

So what is it that sets this company apart from the rest? 

Although their clothing range is made of stretchable nylon products that embraces shine, it is their detailed and sometimes abstract designs which set them apart from the rest. They are very much their own company and a part of geek culture where you can find lines of clothing based on fictional universes from Hogwarts to Star Wars. Designed so well they make them look at home on the runway. They are also currently working on a Game of Thrones range.

Harry Potter Clothing range seems at home on the runway
Star Wars Collection
2013 Halloween Collection
“Today, you can basically set up an online store for nothing. And then it is about coming up with something unique or niche”
– James Lillis, Black Milk Clothing


Black Milk owes many of its social media successes to its authentic nature. Authenticity of a brand online fosters trust between the brand and the consumer and creates credibility which ultimately leads to an increase in consumer conversion. It must be organic, if not the consumer will be able to see right through you. Black Milk has an amazing team of people behind them who interact with Black Milk fans through their own Facebook pages & social channels. If the people in your organisation have their own personal web presence it builds trust and demonstrates that the company is being transparent i.e.  they put a face to the brand. The Facebook page itself is often run by company founder and product designer James Lillis. James is regularly the voice of the page and responds directly to the fans. 

We find people respond to realness, to authenticity.  Don’t be dismissive. Treat every interaction with your social media as important communication from a valued friend.”
- James Lillis, Black Milk Clothing

Black Milk responding to a customer on Twitter in real-time with a personable tone
Black Milk is quite extraordinary as they go the extra mile with their customers and get to know them. Company founder James Lillis and their marketing manager Cameron Parker can often literally put a face to the name of a customer. It is not unusual for them to list out their customers Instagram handles, names, and what they like. So if they meet with somebody, which they do, they can identify & connect with them on a deeply personal level. All from being personally active on their social channels.

Employees of Black Milk showing off their outfits on Pinterest in the Board Staff Style

Story Telling 

Companies today are evaluated by much more than their products. Great products just don’t sell themselves. Today the consumer is far too sophisticated and informed to buy generic-quality products without good reason.

As the customer simply cannot touch the product online it is important to create an identity for your products, to give it life per se. Standard descriptions are cold; so try and associate emotions with the item on your website through interesting product descriptions. Talk about the story behind it if possible, which will hopefully create results you wouldn’t even imagine. 

It is worth noting that for a new venture online you may not have some social proof of the product such as reviews, likes, tweets, pins or +1’s so this is where the product description in eCommerce comes into play. 

Check out how Black Milk go the extra mile to give their products personality by using pretty unique descriptions:


Have a read of the situation behind these leggings, Pretty Orchid if you ask me…

If you are actually on the wrong side of the ocean… Love it!

This design was created from a suggestion on the Black Milk facebook page


Not only does Black Milk stand out from the crowd with its very unusual and uncanny clothing collections it has managed to construct a language of its own and it is only four years old. Black Milk’s Glossary of its language appeared on its blog in the early days. I’m not recommending you write a new language but to instead try to use the kind of language your target customer would relate to. Black Milk have managed to create a tribe of followers with over 80 closed groups from around the world founded by Black Milk fans themselves. Is it any wonder English isn’t their first language. Ultimately using tribe-like language helps to foster intimacy with the consumer and build rapport and heightens a sense of community

A collage of Black Milks language…. you’ll be fluent in no time ;)
Here is a description and the usage of the most popular words used by Black Milk on their social media sites:


Hot Little Boss:

Megga Hotties :



An avid wearer of Black Milk. Usage: “where my sharkies at?”
The general state of being for all those wearing Black Milk – including customers and staff. Usage: “She was rocking out, being a Hot Little Boss”
Black Milk customer support team. Usage: “If you need to make any changes to your order, ping an email to our Mega Hotties and they’ll sort you out”
This is what happens to Black Milk when it launches a new collection / has a sale and is flooded with so many orders that its website breaks and/or stocks run out. It literally means being “eaten alive.” Usage:  “Sale coming up in 20 mins sharkies… get ready to NOM.”

Just an average post to their Facebook fans, have you grasped it yet?

A tweet from Black Milk’s using its very own language, spot the word not yet in your dictionary

The Selfie

Yes it has officially been the most overused word in 2013. If you are not familiar with the term you must have been living on Mars as even the Pope has embraced it. According to the Oxford dictionary the selfie is a self-portrait photograph, typically taken with a Smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media platform. It has become a full blown phenomenon in a short amount of time; let’s just say there are possibly an unwelcome amount of social media footprints in the form of selfies out there. 
As Black Milk were one of the very first brands to embrace the hash tagging system it doesn’t surprise me they were also one of the early adopters of the selfie. The success of this was down to their customers love for showing off their individuality. With hundreds of pages of selfies from girls around the world, Black Milk has managed to leverage the hashtag and the infamous selfie together. 

A Facebook post encouraging fans to post selfies of them wearing their brand (that goes without saying)

A Selfie / hashtag combo on Instagram
So to conclude Black Milk shows us all how truly connecting with your customers through authenticity, story telling, language and sheer personality can be a great recipe for success in eCommerce. Definitely one to watch and to learn from. Well done Black Milk Clothing!

Please do check out their store, like them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, follow them on Instagram, and repin them on Pinterest! Oh, and share this article you hot little boss!


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published