10 Apr How to sell wholesale to retailers in the fashion industry
As an owner of a brick and mortar wholesale showroom you may be inclined to think it’s time to close shop. Sales have been declining and you can’t seem to get a good price from your vendors to make up for the dismal prices you have been forced to sell your few loyal customers. However, as you take a look around, overall sales of clothing have not been cut down and buying at wholesale level hasn’t either. It seems like they have just found their inventory elsewhere. So this brings about the next question. Where is this ‘elsewhere’ and how easy is it to venture into that market? The answer many will tell you is that this ‘elsewhere’ is the internet, but before you start listening to all the well-wishers in your life, here are a few things I would recommend considering.
Points to consider when determining how to wholesale your product:
1. Assess the legitimacy of any company you potentially want to do business with
2. Evaluate how much time and money you are willing to invest in marketing your products
3. Consider your current resources when devising your strategy
With the vast array of online companies trying to get your money without actually furthering your business, it is very easy to become victim to one of them. For instance, you may come across a few that even state in big letters, ‘We can help you sell your wholesale products to retailers with ease.’ It sounds good and they may even have many success stories posted on their website, but before you invest anything in grand words and stunning reviews, do your research and make sure you are working with a legitimate company before placing any money in their hands. I’ll touch more on this subject later, but for now let’s assume this isn’t an issue for you.
Instead, let’s say your issue is that you don’t know how to gain better visibility for your website and one of your friends nonchalantly tells you,
If you want more buyers, go on LinkedIn and look for buyers.
This may seem helpful at the forefront since LinkedIn has already proven itself to be a legitimate site as a great networking tool, but before you start stalking various people who list themselves as buyers of such and such company, consider this, how much extra time are you willing to spare on the technologically advanced equivalent of cold calling? Yes, you may catch a buyer, but will the finalized payment terms and purchase order be worth the time and effort of catching them? Since you are reaching out to them, you essentially give them the power to set the terms most agreeable to them which may not be worth the extra effort.
Although, if you are serious about getting some real distribution going for your wholesale business and don’t mind the extra effort and cost in the beginning I would advise you to approach your marketing differently. Rather than finding your customers, let them find you. If you already have a website setup and running that’s great, but if not, don’t be discouraged, there are still other great online marketplaces where you can sell without dealing with the hassle of starting your own from scratch. I’ll get to this later, but for right now I’ll focus on how those with websites can get noticed by potential customers.
If you are still relatively new to online marketing you may be thinking to yourself,
How can I get noticed with a limited budget amongst so many competitors?
The answer to this question is multi-faceted, but simply put, you will need to invest in getting your business seen and branded within the fashion industry. This can take on many forms with the growing awareness of social media, but two of the main ways is SEO and PPC.
Let’s begin by discussing SEO (search engine optimization). This form of marketing is constantly evolving as search engines get smarter about what they’ll output, but it really breaks down to making a search engine link your site with certain keywords that appear a lot on your site. For instance, let’s say my business specializes in selling classic dresses and I am especially detailed in my descriptions of each and every dress. In this case, my lengthy descriptions become keywords that increase my likelihood of appearing in a potential customer’s search. For example, if I have a lot of dresses that are ‘A-line’ or have a ‘sweetheart neck’ and I describe them as so, I am in turn increasing my site’s chances of appearing when a potential client searches for either of these keywords. This is a simple example and I would recommend discussing your situation with one of our SEO specialists before venturing out that avenue on your own, but I hope that gives a basic familiarity with how SEO works.
Now, let’s discuss PPC (pay-per- click) marketing. This form of marketing is two-fold, but before I get to the why, let me explain the what. PPC (pay-per- click) marketing is just what it sounds like. You are paying a search engine for directing traffic onto your site. Typically speaking, you will develop specifically designed ads and set them to a group of particular keywords or phrases that you’ve selected to target your clients. Each month you’ll need to bid and set a budget for your campaign. The goal here should be to increase your quality score (Google PPC) so that you can get a better position and at a lower cost per click. Vanillamonkey.com has done this quite well and has been its only marketing channel online for many years. If you’re looking to try PPC yourself, I always recommend you study a few books and watch some “how to” guides before you waste your money. Search Engines like Google has really made it easy for anyone to run PPC campaigns themselves but you’ll still need to spend a few days studying up the basics. Although this also seems relatively straightforward, if you don’t have the time to study up the basics, I would also recommend approaching a seasoned PPC specialist so you don’t waste your time and money on futile results.
Now that you have a general understanding of how to bring customers to your website, let’s discuss how to keep them there until they have placed an order. According to industry statistics, 30-70% of people who visit fashion sales websites automatically leave without making a purchase. This is due to a number of reasons, but general appearance/impressions is most likely a forerunner of them all. For example, imagine bringing a bus load of potential buyers to an unorganized brick and mortar showroom with untrained sales staff and inaccurate inventory listings. It’s understood that no sales associate would ever do that if they wanted to make a sale, but websites that appear to be designed by a juvenile while lacking basic payment security and regular updates give off just that impression. Updating your website so that it looks professional and safe is well worth the effort. Just because you don’t make a sale during a first visit doesn’t mean you won’t come to mind the next time a buyer is shopping for new inventory. As the saying goes, ‘you never get a second chance to make a first impression’ so make the first one a lasting one. Listed below are some key features you may want to consider when updating or creating your site.
Basic eCommerce features to implement:
1. Build your buyer’s trust – Add SSL Certifications to your site
2. Answer any questions quickly and as clearly as possible – Instant Messaging and FAQ page
3. Offer the best services – User friendly site, easy navigation, and easy return policy
4. Always ask to close the sale – Add call to action buttons
You can read more about my tips for your wholesale fashion website here. (10 ecommerce tips)
Now that we’ve discussed how your website’s general framework ties into your marketing tactics we can delve into a few specifics. As mentioned earlier, tread lightly when finding companies to partner with in your marketing needs. There are many SEO companies who will claim to be ‘The #1 SEO Company’ and some of these singly owned and operated companies rent a small office space in a large corporate building just to make it appear like they run a large operation. Here’s my biggest TIP: These businesses always want to meet you at your office. As inconvenient as it may be, going to their office and meeting their staff members will help build your assurance that they have the resources to help you. If they avoid meetings at their office, it may be a sign that the company cannot offer you the services you need and is most likely outsourcing ALL of their work to a third party. Although, most companies will outsource at least some of their work to lower costs so don’t rule out outsourcing entirely. Just keep in mind that these single owned and operated companies may not be able to offer you the customized marketing campaign or communication level needed to meet your project deadlines. Also, if you are just starting out with your marketing campaign, I would recommend that you have a single company help you with branding, content marketing, social media, Search Engine Marketing (SEO), and other creative services under one roof because it saves you time and money on miscommunicated ideas and further reinforces a unified look.
Read more about my opinion on how to market your fashion business online here. (Internet Marketing for your Online Fashion Business)
I’ve discussed quite a bit about marketing your own website, but if you don’t want to be bothered with that or would like to supplant additional revenue from an online marketplace this next section is for you. Since online marketplaces are utilized by many qualified buyers ready to buy they are always worth trying out and may even garner your site additional traffic. They offer a quick way to start pulling in new buyers from online and are cheaper and less riskier (if you don’t know what you’re doing) than PPC or SEO. In addition, some of these marketplaces will even offer you alerts to block suspicious or poor paying buyers. Listed below are a few I would highly recommend.
Recommended online marketplaces to sell wholesale to retailers (in no particular order):
If you like the pre-existing framework of online marketplaces I would also recommend partnering with online distributors. Online distributors or budget line distributors will work on a consignment level or if an item sells well, they can buyout your stock. (Contact us for our list of local distributors) You may want to build trust before offering terms, but be sure to offer them your TOP samples so they can be photographed to sell. Also, if you don’t mind having your distributor use your product pictures, you can connect directly to their system by utilizing a Product Management System or PIM that can transfer all your product information to your distributor. This will omit any delays in the presale process, offer live inventory to your distributor and to their buyers, and gain more loyalty to your brand by distributors because you just saved them a whole lot of time and money with better margins to spare than the other brands they distribute for. For better line branded products, contact showrooms who carry multiple lines located in LA’s New Mart, Gerry Building, California Mart, and Cooper Design Space. Many of these multi-brand showrooms are in the progress of or already have multi-brand websites. These showrooms already have a list of loyal buyers who are looking to buy instock and preorder items. They usually charge you a monthly fee to be displayed in their showroom but you can negotiate for a consignment based plan for online orders only. The challenge when working with better line multi-brand showrooms is that you’ll need to offer them product pictures with a live model (usually) and product data like live inventory to be constantly updated on their site which can be resolved through PIM.
Finally, if you can afford it, a few years of consistently going to shows like WWDMagic, is still one of the best ways to stack new buyers quickly. However, don’t think you’ll be making your money back on your first show. If you can only afford to go once, you may be taking a large risk due to the expenses. You are most likely to save more and make more on your second show because you will be able to utilize the equipment and booth materials you already purchased for a past show. Additionally, your past clients will seek you out and in the process track even more traffic to your booth. Always remember though that consistency is the key. If you don’t show up at the next show, past buyers may assume you went out of business. So, if you plan on attending trade shows as one of your strategies, keep attending. Additionally, during off seasons, utilize your website to keep in touch with buyers by sending them new arrivals, best sellers, and restocked items.
Lastly, the above methods I addressed were geared more towards a B2B (business to business) model, but that is not to say that a B2C (business to consumer) model is impossible. It may however require more exposure to get the sales you need to keep afloat. In fact, the fashion district in LA is evidently starting to transition from a B2B model to a B2C model as consumers become more aware of where they can directly purchase products. This isn’t necessarily a new concept for people in the industry but it is sure to have its own challenges in relation to tracking inventory (open pack), marketing, and operations. However, if that is the route you wish to take, you may find yourself better equipped for future changes once you’ve overcome the hurdles in transitioning Also, it would be best to keep in mind that unless you have a perfect design and price combo, you may still have trouble selling through any channels if you don’t start by branding online. You may even need to push retail marketplaces to sell for you by getting your name out there through online media channels like YouTube, Instagram, noteworthy websites or blogs, celebrity placements, etc. Have a story, a plan, spread your name consistently, and you may be able to transition with few hiccups.
I wish you all the best as you venture into the ever-present world of online marketing. Our staff of highly knowledgeable representatives is always available for clarification on any of the above content. Just let us know by phone or email.