An Aussie online fashion retailer has seen its revenue grow more than 500% in three years, thanks in part to a social media network which is often overlooked by business owners.
Tram Tran founded women’s fashion retailer Koogal when she was just 16, having a “light bulb” moment when window shopping at a local fashion boutique.
“My cousin and I often exchanged clothes because I loved what she thought was uncool and she gladly took what I didn’t wear anymore. One girl’s trash is another girl’s treasure, so I thought to myself, ‘why not sell my own clothes?’” Tran tells SmartCompany.
“On my way home, I coincidentally saw an eBay banner that said something along the lines of ‘sell your stuff to the world’ and boom! That evening Koogal was born.”
Beginning in 2013 as a casual eBay store side-hustle, Koogal started to grow, with Tran saying her business-owning aunt and uncle helped her with both advice and finances. Soon, the business moved off eBay and on to its own website, and today ships dresses to more than 150 countries worldwide.
From 2015 to 2018, the site’s revenue has grown more than 500% and boasts more than 60,000 followers between Facebook and Instagram.
However, there’s one social network Tran values above all others, where the small business has nearly 30,000 followers, which fuels a whopping 70% of the business’ revenue and drives the lion’s share of its social media traffic.
That network is Pinterest, an image-based platform much like Instagram, where users can ‘pin’ (much like a share) various images, gifs, and videos to their own or others’ boards (which are similar to an Instagram profile or a Facebook wall).
However, though these pins appear as images, they can link back to the website the post was found on. For example, a delectable loaf of banana bread might appear in your Pinterest feed, linking back to the recipe when clicked on.
It’s this backlinking angle which gives Pinterest a unique edge over other platforms such as Instagram, which has only just recently allowed businesses to link products through their images. The company boasts about 250 million users a month and is rumoured to be planning to IPO later this year.
Tran says she first got onto using Pinterest after her store moved off eBay, as she was looking for ways to grow her traffic across all forms of social media.
“We were utilising all forms of social media, but I noticed that most of our social traffic was coming from Pinterest,” she says.
“As we grew, I saw that traffic from a pin lasts much longer than traffic from a Facebook or Instagram post. For example, a pin with 500 repins could generate 10 times the amount of traffic from an Instagram post with 500 likes.”
An opportunity for all businesses
For something like Koogal, selling via a visual platform such as Pinterest makes sense given the visual nature of its products. However, Tran still believes the site is broadly overlooked by small-business owners and says SMEs shouldn’t rule themselves out from using it.
“People go to Pinterest to get inspiration for all areas of their life, so all types of businesses should see it as a brilliant platform to start an initial relationship with customers. Because people come to Pinterest to discover ideas, and brands want to be discovered, it’s a natural fit,” she says.
“I think business owners can be really creative with using it to promote their business.”
For SME owners feeling dazed and confused about how to use the millennial-saturated pin-friendly platform, Tran has some practical tips to get started.
“Firstly, pin regularly — try to pin a few ideas every day instead of pinning a large number of pins at once and then stop. You should also have vertical pins (long pins) instead of horizontal pins,” she says.
“Pinterest is also a visual search engine, so try to do SEO whenever you can by adding relevant keywords to your pin’s description, and by pinning it to relevant boards and naming your board in a descriptive way.”
“For example, use the term ‘blue dress’ for describing your pins about blue dresses so when people search for ‘blue dresses’ your pins have a higher chance of being found.”