If you’re thinking about expanding your fashion label internationally, 2021 might just be the year to do it.
Despite the havoc wreaked by COVID19, e-commerce sales boomed over the last 18 months… which means that there’s never been a better time for style mavens to buy your brand, even if they’re a continent or two away from your physical storefront.
But before you embark on your international adventure, here are three things you need to do…
Identify your Ideal International Client
Before you do anything, you need to get crystal clear on who your Ideal International Client is – that person who loves your clothes and wants to wear them every season.
Too many fashion brands – including some that have been selling internationally for a while – don’t don’t really know who their ideal international client is, or what s/he wants. They either take a ‘one size fits all’ approach and hope for the best, and/or they assume that international clients will want the same thing as clients at home. These companies usually struggle to get traction in the international space.
There are two problems here. Firstly, you can’t hit a target you haven’t identified. Secondly, the global fashion marketplace is super competitive. Our Facebook and Instagram feeds are swamped with ads for the latest, greatest trends from around the world. It’s hard to get cut-through in a sea of messaging and promises.
The secret to standing out isn’t just bolder fonts, brighter colours and more ad spend (although great marketing definitely matters), it’s about knowing exactly who your ideal clients are and focussing all your love, attention and messaging on that select group of people.
I’d go as far as saying that knowing who your Ideal International Client is and what they value should drive every facet of your international business, from the styles you create, to the text and images you use on your website and what you post on social media, it all needs to be directly targeted to a specific set of values and desires.
Don’t forget fashion seasons
Although there are those who argue that we’re seeing the end of seasonality in fashion, fashions seasons are still a thing and they can have a big impact on your ability to supply customers overseas, especially if you’re selling wholesale or retail, rather than online.
Different countries have different approaches to fashion seasons and you’ll need to consider which season will be most suitable for your business.
You also need to work out whether your production schedule matches the seasons of your target market and whether your business can meet these deadlines. For example, the US has earlier season launch dates than Europe. If you’re manufacturing garments in Australia, Vietnam or Indonesia, can they be ready in time for the start of the season in the States? Or only for Europe?
Make sure your marketing is magical
Every fashion brand needs a good marketing strategy in place to help it stay ahead of its competition… especially the international competition. When you’re starting out, it’s likely that you’ll test international markets by seeing how your product fares on international e-commerce channels, so I’ll focus on digital marketing here.
While you probably already have a website and use social media to target customers in your home market, here are a few things you can do to up your game in the international space.
Create a Lookalike Audience. Once you’re crystal clear on who your Ideal International Client is, you can target more of the same people on platforms including Facebook, Instagram and TikTok. A Lookalike Audience is a way to reach new people who are likely to be interested in your business because they’re similar to your best existing customers.
Connect With Influencers. Working with influencers in the countries where you want to make more sales can be a great way of catching the attention of your ideal international clients. Ideally, you’ll hook up with fashion bloggers and vloggers who have a following that is similar to your ideal international client. Influencers are viewed as trusted authorities and trend-setters by their followers and millennials in particular prefer taking style tips from their favourite influencer over more traditional marketing methods. If you’ve chosen the right influencer, it can lead to new customers as well as create a repeatable form of digital marketing for your brand.
Engage With Your Audience. If you’re constantly engaging with your target audience, you’ll improve their perception of your brand, enhance their connection to it and drive sales. Running contests on Facebook, responding quickly to messages on Twitter or promoting giveaways on Instagram are all great ways to engage with your audience and highlight your values and products to shoppers.
Retarget Visitors. You can target visitors by displaying reminder ads that make them recall a product they saw previously on your site. Known as ‘retargeting’, this tactic can be effective with prospects who have an item in their cart but haven’t purchased yet, especially if you offer a discount to shoppers who have abandoned a cart. Retargeting helps to increase turnover and an effective retargeting campaign can produce a great ROI.
Check out marketplaces. We’ve all heard of eBay, Amazon and Google Shopping, but there’s a wide world of niche online marketplaces and fashion apps out there that love working with independent fashion labels, vintage boutiques and pre-owned designer fashion resellers.
The marketplace you choose should depend on the geographic market you want to target. For example, Zalando is top of the pops for women’s fashion in Europe, while North American shoppers love Poshmark. Other popular platforms include Farfetch, Etsy, and Depop. Do your research though, as each platform caters to different audiences and has different price structures – some have greater reach and others are relatively more expensive.