Michelle Glitman decided to start her own online clothing retail operation, called Miishka, in August 2010.
Unusually, however, she didn’t create a website to sell through. Instead, she launched a Facebook page and took orders manually.
“Fan” numbers subsequently exploded. Less than two years after launching, the page has nearly 87,000 fans with a 40% return buyer rate.
The business’ entire revenue is driven via Facebook, with 60 new customers purchasing from Miishka each week.
She tells StartupSmart how she managed to build an army of Facebook fans in such a short period of time and why she’s finally looking to launch a dedicated website for the business.
Why did you decide to launch a Facebook page before a website?
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It was a conscious decision to do it this way. We’ve had a Facebook page since August 2010 and our website won’t launch for another month.
Before I launched the business, I thought, “Why would I launch a website without a fanbase? How will people find me?”
There’s SEO, of course, but I wanted something beyond that. I wanted brand recognition and I wanted to know that people liked the idea and wanted the products.
Setting up a Facebook page is a low cost way to do this. I decided to start the Facebook page and then see how it went.
It ended up growing so quickly and so organically that I concentrated my efforts on building the Facebook fanbase, rather than immediately launch a website.
What was the market like when you created the Facebook profile?
There were just two other people selling fashion via Facebook in Australia back in 2010. It really was the beginning of online commerce in Australia, especially when it came to Facebook.
It all started with girls selling their old clothes online by taking a picture of their wardrobe and posting it. I saw that I could do this in a more professional way. People ended up loving it.
So what drove people to your page?
Advertising has been important, but what girls loved most was the way we put different clothes together, both vintage and new, and displayed them.
Another important part was the customer service and interaction. Every single comment on the page gets a reply and people really like the engagement.
I’d spend ages every day just replying to customers. Interacting with your customers provides you with the best research possible. They’d tell me what they liked and what they didn’t in a really uncomplicated way.
I would run sponsored stories to encourage friends of fans to also become fans of the Facebook page and increased the reach of page posts by running ads to target friends of fans.
How quickly did your fanbase grow?
It feels like it exploded overnight, really. I initially invited 500 people I knew on Facebook and then put together a small collection of clothes, around 20 to 30 pieces, and put it up on the page.
The clothes literally sold out within two days. The fanbase jumped to 5,000 within the first month and it then hit a tipping point.
It was at this point I started doing adverts within Facebook and I managed to get some coverage in various publications.
Facebook has been an incredible marketing tool. It has completely changed the business.
Did it take you by surprise?
Yes it did. I’m very much full-time now and I had to bring on another full-time person within the first three months. That definitely took me by surprise.
The plan was to engage people first, see how Facebook went and then build the site. It has got to the point now that we need a site to cut out a lot of the processes involved in selling via Facebook.
There’s a lot of things we can streamline. Sales via Facebook have to be done manually – buyers email us if they want to purchase something and we have to then invoice them.
As there is no incentive or compulsion for them to pay, people tend to lag and we have to spend time chasing them up. A website cuts down and automates this process. We need to do this as it just takes up so much time doing it manually through Facebook.
It’s a mix of vintage and new. I travel around markets, have personal contacts, connections with Australian designers and overseas suppliers.