This piece was first published on June 25, 2013.
Sarah Curran is the entrepreneur behind online fashion retail dynamo my-wardrobe.com. Seven years ago, the then French-based Curran sold her house to fund the start-up of her company.
Now, my-wardrobe.com is on target to hit £20 million ($33 million) in sales this year, which is up 40% on the year before. The company has offices in London and Nottingham, as well as in Sydney, New York and Norway, and employs close to 100 staff.
Curran spoke to SmartCompany from Istanbul, where she was a keynote speaker at the Dell Women’s Entrepreneurship Network conference.
My passion for keeping connected with the customer comes from having originally had my boutique in North London. When I launched my-wardrobe, I really wanted to retain that personal element. Online, you’re faceless, and it’s very easy for a customer not to relate with you and to shop without that emotional touchpoint. That’s been a real challenge, but I love a challenge. It was an opportunity to solve the problem.
The way we do it is we have our events, which we host in every territory where we have an office. They’re a way of letting a customer see the trends of the season, and of allowing the customer to feel part of the community. They’ve proved very successful.
It’s not about selling on the night. I remember when we did our first one in London. A woman came up to me and said it was really amazing that she didn’t feel pressured to buy something. I said: ‘It’s not about shopping.’ It’s about seeing the trends and thinking about how to wear them, and about being connected to the my-wardrobe brand.
In growing the business, our biggest challenge has been marketing. We didn’t have the cash to invest in customer acquisition. We grew organically. Once we get a customer, our retention is extremely high. We’re sitting at 65%, most sit on 30-40%. We do invest heavily in our team that supports customers and makes sure they’re loyal to us. We just didn’t have the cash to get more of them.
Events and partnerships helped with that. That’s how we started our relationship with Dell. We partnered with people who were much bigger than us, but not in fashion. We thought about the brands our customers were engaged with, in terms of beauty, lifestyle, health and technology. We used partnerships to bring us new audiences.
Australia is our second largest market. Our Australian customers have a higher average order, and they spend more time browsing. Our statistics are very high and very positive with regards to the Australian market.
I don’t believe in just going into a territory, taking market share, and not giving back. Having an office in Australia, and participating in things like the Melbourne Fashion Festival, are our way of adding value. We believe in doing things like finding and selling new Australian designers. The relationship has to go both ways. I’m not comfortable otherwise. It’s a moral obligation.
All our customer sales girls come from a fashion background. All have been trained on the key products and seasons, as well as the new designers. Those sorts of things are really important.
We think it’s important to be flexible about how we show a product online. So when you go to a product, you can scroll and see it in different ways. No other site does that. It was important for me to make the item as relevant to as many people as possible. So, a woman might say, ‘oh, I’d wear it like that instead’.
Myriam Robin travelled to Istanbul as a guest of Dell, which paid for her flights and accommodation.