Until relatively recently, the question of what Kim Kardashian was famous for was something of a mystery. To paraphrase the comedian Dylan Moran, it was like asking what the spaces between the prongs of a fork are called or what the place underneath the kettle is called, it was one of those questions that have no answers. She was famous for being famous. That was about the height of it.
Granted, she is still famous for being famous now, but that might all be about to change. Kardashian at the forefront of one of the growing trends of eCommerce at the minute; that of the celebrity curator. Celebrities like Kardashian and stylist Rachel Zoe help pick shoes for customers at Shoedazzle, Jessica Alba picks natural baby products at Honest Company and basketball player Grevis Vasquez picks men’s clothing at Gentology. And these are just some of the growing number of ‘curated retail’ sites expanding in the area of eCommerce right now.
Basically these sites work by asking the customer questions and surveys about their needs and wants, and then directing them to clothes picked out by the celebrity they follow. Granted, this might not seem like an area that many start-up eCommerce stores can emulate – it’s hard enough to pay regular staff, let alone the million-dollar endorsement fees charged by genuine A-listers.
But the concept is easy enough to replicate, no matter what the level. The key thing ordinary eCommerce retailers can learn from these sites is how they interact with their customers. There’s no shame in taking lessons from the market leaders. As Jimi Hendrix once said, “I’ve been copied so much I’ve heard people copy my mistakes.”
In the world of curated retail, customers are asked questions about their unique desires and wishes, creating a veritable treasure trove of information that the retailer can use going forward. Co-founder of curated-fashion website Dressipi, (which we look at in depth below), Sarah McVittie, said in an interview with Carly Chenoweth of the London Times, “We do lots and lots of work with our customers, asking what we could do better, what’s not quite right, and people are incredibly good at giving us that feedback.”
Dressipi: Dressipi is basically an online store selling women’s fashion, but one that is curated by Dressipi’s fashion experts. According to their own “About Us” page (a crucial avenue for sales, as we discussed earlier) “Dressipi’s fashion recommendation service is based on the principle that every woman has a Fashion Fingerprint – a combination of size, body shape and personal taste that defines her unique style. We combine the eye of a top stylist with the technological expertise required to select the best garments for each individual woman from the many millions available online.”
Dressipi created waves in the world of online retail by hiring Sir Stuart Rose, former chairman of British retail giant Marks and Spencer, as an advisor and board member. For a three-year-old start-up, it was quite the coup in hiring a man seen as one of the “big beasts” of traditional retail.
“I’m delighted to be able to advise Dressipi at such an exciting time for the business and a pivotal time for the fashion world,” said Rose when he joined Dressipi. “Retailers have been crying out for years for a solution that can help them merchandise and sell clothes more effectively online. Getting a woman to buy an outfit on the internet is about much more than showing them it’s available in their size. Before they click ‘buy’ they want to feel confident it will suit them and complement garments they already own. “Giving online shoppers the confidence to make a purchase is the problem I think Dressipi have nailed with their recommendation service.”
Dressipi also reaches out to customers via their blog, which is a million miles away from the usual corporate blog. Here, customers can write in with items they have already purchased (even if not purchased on Dressipi) and ask Dressipi’s curators which accessories they think would suit it. It’s a simple measure, but one that customers love.
Honest Company: Somewhat unlike the earlier-mentioned ShoeDazzle, where Kim Kardashian and Rachel Zoe were hired in by the founders, Honest Company was actually set up by its celebrity curator. Actress Jessica Alba struggled when trying to find natural products when she was pregnant with her first child four years ago, and on the rare occasions she could find a natural product – it was usually pretty ugly. Her answer – to set up her own eCommerce retailer selling “cool” natural baby products.
“We created The Honest Company with the dream to one day provide natural, affordable products to families everywhere,” said Alba. “Our mission at The Honest Company is to provide healthier, more sustainable products for today’s families and generations to come. We are excited to work with supportive partners that share the same vision and look forward to continued growth and reach. I really, really wanted one brand that I could trust that was transparent. People can outsource their trust to us."”
While still at the early stages of development, plenty of people believe in Alba’s idea. Honest Company has over 125,000 followers on Facebook. Honest Company recently announced a second funding round of $25 million, bringing their total funding to a whopping $52 million.
The company isn’t just competing for the green eco-dollar though – a recent survey showed that Honest Company was actually cheaper than Diapers.com for diapers.
As we said earlier, these celebrity endorsements are all well and good, but what lessons can the regular eCommerce store learn from these sites?
- Sell the dream, not the product. Four years ago the idea of buying a diaper from Jessica Alba would have seemed insane. She was an actor and constantly at the top of the “most beautiful women in the world” polls. She didn’t seem like someone you would turn to for advice on toddlers. But she got out there, telling her story of how she struggled with allergies about synthetic products and soon her dream that “people can outsource their trust to us” became a reality.
- Gather as much information about your customers as possible. Ask them what they want and more importantly, how you can help them to get it.
- Become a celebrity in your own right. To paraphrase Andy Warhol, we all get fifteen minutes of fame. But in this example, the idea is to become a trusted expert that your customers can believe in. Be it via your blog or your Facebook page, try and convey your expertise to your customers.
- Hire a local celebrity. But don’t just go for a famous face… Choose someone that actually buys into the message of your brand.