The global apparel market is valued at $1.39 trillion according to Statista, and in 2020 the market is projected to grow to $1.65 trillion. If you count bags, footwear, and accessories, then fashion is a $3 trillion industry. According to Shopify the worldwide revenue for the e-commerce fashion industry is expected to grow from $481 billion in 2018 to a staggering $713 billion in 2022.
What do these numbers say: HUGE opportunities for everyone in this industry (if you know how to tap into the opportunities and possibilities out there).
Startups and small to medium size brands have huge opportunities to market their products and brand, with some clever tactics and a pinch of wit. Online and offline marketing strategies are equally important – the biggest growth is online but the deepest connections with your customers are “physical”.
A general rule of thumb is to have 7 or more “touch points” with your customers. A touch point is, for example, Instagram, your email newsletter, your online shop etc. Wherever a customer gets in touch with your brand or gets information about your brand counts. To effectively and efficiently plan for this you have to first know who your customer is and where they are, to optimize your connection with them.
Here are some tips on how to market your clothing brand and get true, authentic and long-lasting relationships with your customers.
The list is divided into General Marketing, Online Marketing, and Offline Marketing.
General marketing ideas
General tips are ideas that should be rooted in your clothing brand culture, all employees including yourself, and in everything you do as a business. Marketing IS everything you do, and how you do it. From how you talk to the DHL guy, to how you reply to your emails, to how you handle customer care, to your engagement in social media, to the packaging of your products and the quality of your products.
- What do you stand for? What causes are you dedicated to?
- Because of the oversaturated fashion market, brands need more than just good products with a cheap price tag to sell. Customers, especially the younger generations care what brands stand for. This is a big reason for the connection.
- What is your story? Storytelling is the strongest marketing there is. To emotionally connect, one must understand the background, the struggles, the wins of a company, instead of getting plain technical info. The technical info should be there as well to reinforce and to strengthen the brand and its products, but the stories are the ones that capture customers hearts.
- Your products are your best marketing. Word of mouth is THE most powerful marketing strategy with 84% of consumers trusting recommendations from family and friends. Happy customers, that love their products, enjoy the experience they had when receiving the product, and like the way they feel when they use your products are most probable to spread the word about it to their friends and families. Word of mouth and recommendations are incredibly effective. Focus on making insanely good products. Without a killer product, it’s hard to market fluff, people will see through the bullshit.
- What are the benefits of your products compared to other brands products? What is it that your garments have that they can’t find elsewhere? Make it clear to your customers what’s unique with your products. Tell them, show them, and educate them about the benefits of your products.
- Build a marketing story in your collection names and product names. The names of your garments will help you carry your story. Come up with unique names that ties back to your story and help you with your branding.
- Transparency. Social media and online reviews have forced brands to be more open about the way they operate and do business. Transparency brings customers closer to brands, increases loyalty and word of mouth. Here are some points on how you can increase your transparency, to help push your brand forward:
- Communicate openly with your customers
- Hold your company accountable
- Own your mistakes and share how you are going to make things better
- Be honest and authentic
- Be human
- Be honest about how you price your products
- Be honest about your supply chain
- Build good-will into your apparel brand from the start. There are brands that donate one product for each product sold. There are brands that support and donate 1% each year of their income. There are brands that collaborate with foundations, charities, and organizations in their communities. How can you and your clothing brand help in an authentic way, not just because it’s great marketing?
- Collaborations between brands to co-create products, to use each other products in photoshoots and displays in shops. You are an apparel brand, why not collaborate with a shoe and a bag brand? Do easy collaborations like social media takeovers. The goal with a collab is to work with brands that offer services or products that make sense in your niche, and that can strengthen your positioning in that field. Brands that you can learn from and that can complement your marketing. It would, of course, be foolish to do a collab with a direct competitor.
- Provide value. The best way to provide value (except for through your incredible products) is through your content marketing. Everything you communicate should align with your values as a brand, with your mission and vision and your general goal. Preferably all your content should be interactive, it should let the customers in, to be engaged in what you do and to comment, test and be visible in what you do. This helps brands differentiate themselves from the competitors and gives credibility among the audience and customers.
- Be personal. Customers and especially the younger generations are tired of big anonymous brands. When there is a face, a person, a team to connect and relate to, it’s easier to engage and feel part of the brand. Customers feel “in” when they are brought behind the scenes.
- Create a yearly marketing calendar for gift guides. There are hundreds of awareness days and key days to keep track of during the year plus special life occasions like weddings, birthdays, graduations. Focus on a couple of key dates and events every month that are important for your business and target your marketing around those dates and happenings to increase your audience and sell more products. Be prepared and ready for when people are in shopping mode.
- Know your customer. The better you know your customers, the more effectively you’ll be able to reach them and give them what they want. Remember that not everyone is your customer. You need to figure out and determine who your ideal customer is, to better communicate with them.
Online marketing tips
Online marketing is as it sounds, every bit of marketing you do online – computer, mobile, and devices. Nowadays, this is where you should spend most of your focus. Social networking sites reach 82% of the world’s internet population and for every 1 dollar spent on email marketing, the average ROI is 44,25 dollars!
- Have a mobile-optimized website, and use resized images to have a quick site load. More and more users are using mobile devices to visit your site and make purchases from you. Make sure your website looks and works well on mobile so that you don’t lose your potential customers.
- Optimize your site for SEO – search engine optimization. When someone searches for a specific type of product you want to come at least on the first page on the Goole search. You probably do it, and most of your customers do it. They search online to get information about a product or brand.
- Grow your email list. This list is your platform, no one owns it but you. Facebook, Instagram, Google, and other online players can whenever they want to, change their algorithm or terms and there goes your visibility. With email, you have 100% control. The bigger your list, the better chances you’ll have to sell on that list. Implement strategies to constantly collect email addresses.
- Send well-written emails and newsletters. As an apparel brand, it’s easy to send emails with products and text that says Buy this, Buy that. Some people will buy, but the majority of people will click the Unsubscribe button and there goes your future customer. When you write well-written, thoughtful and engaging emails you will have a much higher percentage of click to open rate. Tell stories, have styling tips, product care tips, how to pack tips, and of course also action buttons to those products you have in those examples so that the customer can with one click buy your product. What you are doing is not forced and pushy. It’s storytelling and offering the customer to buy or not, and to always get inspired and educated.
- Write a blog. This ties back into educating your customer and there is no better way than writing great content on your own site. You train your customers to constantly come back to your site for some inspiring well-written blog posts and hey, they might find some new products they like and will buy at the same time. How often should you write blog posts? Consistency is more important than how often you write, but once a week is great. Write about your production methods, write about your team, give behind the scenes at your photo shoot, the topics are endless.
- Start pinning your brand’s product images on Pinterest. Pinterest is like a visual Google. The information doesn’t go away or get changed by updated algorithms. Pinning regularly and linking back to your website can increase your traffic to the website by several hundreds of %. And it’s traffic you want, it’s people coming to your website to shop your products.
- Implement a social media strategy. Instagram, Facebook, and Youtube are huge for the apparel industry. These are must platforms if you want to be relevant in this industry. If you are on these platforms already, great, if not, get started right away. They are all free and with Instagram having 1 billion active users, Facebook 2,7 billion active users, and Youtube 1,6 billion users worldwide, it can mean a lot of exposure for your brand and products. With your strategy, you want to be authentic, engaging and transparent, to tell stories and to connect with your customers and followers. Have a creative and inspiring visual and take advantage of the shopping features to actually make sells on these platforms.
- Up your video content. Youtube, Insta Stories and Insta TV. Some facts regarding video consumption: By 2019, 80% of all consumer internet traffic is expected to be video. A great length for your video content, to get the most engagement is about two minutes long.
- Work with influencers. Connect with influencers that have the same values and stand for the same cause. Let them help increase your engagement with your existing audience, plus extend your reach to a new wider audience. They help you generate sales, convert leads and build brand awareness. Either work with well known, paid influencers or up-and-coming influencers that believe in and like your brand. When a brand finds well-matched influencers, it can generate high-quality leads and dramatically boost your ROI. The most important thing here is to find the right influencers.
- Implement a referral program. Referral marketing is incredibly effective and can give your brand great results. An example of a referral strategy is to share a link on social media, where friends are invited to sign up. The sign-up gives a discount while the sharer gets a monetary reward for every purchase made by the friend. You have to install a referral system in place on the website in order for this to work smoothly for customers that want to spread the word and earn some money or products themselves.
- Have loyalty rewards programs. By giving your existing customers some incentive in terms of rewards, you can have them coming back again and again and again. It’s cheaper to keep your existing customers than attaining new ones. Implement systems to make this easier for yourself.
- Run contests or giveaway posts on Instagram and Facebook. This tactic is extremely effective and can increase your engagement and give you many new followers. The cost is low, most of the time the value of a product or service you offer, and it’s an easy and fun thing for followers to do. Take for example a t-shirt, make a post about it, write a contest caption and post it. You will see your number of followers going up immediately. There are rules for how to run a contest or a giveaway post on Insta and Facebook so make sure you read up on them to not have your account shut down.
- Increase engagement through competitions. Competitions are not only for Instagram and Facebook, but you can also engage people by letting them give tips on for example what to name your latest product, or what colors to choose for your next print, or give suggestions for new products. Let the customers be a part of your team.
- Start a podcast. Part of a great marketing strategy is education. To educate your customers about topics related to your product and the apparel world you operate in. Telling stories that are close to your heart and your values as a brand is incredibly inspiring and motivating.
- Buy Google ads and Facebook ads. Nowadays people spend considerable time looking at their screen. Therefore it comes quite naturally to put your ads there as well. Google and Facebook advertising is an expertise by itself. There are many agencies out there that can help you with this type of service. Most brands use this kind of advertising to widen their reach.
Offline marketing tips
Offline marketing refers to activities that are not directly dependent on computers and mobile devices. Here you find the more traditional tactics. However, these can still be very effective and help you succeed with your brand.
- Start a physical magazine. A great opportunity to expand into something beyond online, something that people can keep and read over and over and over again.
- Host live events. With the increase in the digital world, brands can tap into something that can never be attained online: human connections through amazing physical experiences. An offline event can be made with a tight budget as long as you are creative. It can be a music festival, a product discussion evening, it can be about inspiring talks/lectures, it can be a meet up at a partnering, local coffee or restaurant. The only thing that matters are the connections made at those events, between you, your apparel brand, and your customers.
- Pop-ups and temporary showrooms. Invite customers in to try on, feel and immerse themselves into your entire world in “your” space. Style the place according to your brand values to become your world and aim to give your customers an amazing experience.
A pop-up store in San Sebastian, Spain.
- Outstanding unique packaging. Give your customers an experience every time they receive goods from you or are in contact with your products. It should be a wow feeling, a feeling of surprise, and a genuine positive experience. Preferably, customers should want to keep your packaging for other things than your apparel, like place your boxes on a shelf, or use the stickers you send in your boxes to glue them on their phones. A fantastic way to spread the word. In the age of unboxing, Youtube, Instagram, and other social media platforms, you want your packaging to speak your brand as loudly and clearly as possible. Something to also think about when designing your packaging is:
- To use environmentally friendly, recycled and recyclable materials.
- Test new ways of opening – portrait instead of landscape.
- Write stories, add drawings and make the inside of the box fun and photo/video friendly.
- Giveaways and freebies. Every time a box is sent out to one of your customers, you have a chance to place a freebie, a reduction code or some sort of sample inside the box. This can lead your customers to other products in your range. However, it’s an opportunity, the space is there, the freight is paid for, take advantage of it and give more value and give your brand a chance to up-sell as well.
- Go back to snail mail. People today are used to emails and phones, so when something well designed, well written with an interesting concept gets in your mail, you take notice. Except for bills and maybe the newspaper, we rarely get this type of marketing in our mailboxes. At least it’s different and goes the opposite direction of what everybody else is doing. Could be worth a try.
- Guerrilla marketing. Here there are no rules, hey you might even have to break some rules to make your guerrilla marketing effective. The creativity you use will be your only limitation. The point is to get your apparel brand name noticed, to get talked and written about, and to get associated with something you stand for.
- Win awards. There are some very prestigious design awards and business awards in the apparel industry. Each apparel segment, like outdoor, fashion or sportswear has their own awards. Winning awards give the brand extreme credit, brand exposure and tons of marketing. It does take time to apply, and some awards charge an application fee, but a win could be invaluable for exposure.
- Marketing is a never ending story, it’s something you and your team work on, bit by bit, every day, all year. The main purpose is to connect with your audience in a human way, through great storytelling, good design, and an emotional feeling.