Ralph Lauren. Tory Burch. Nike. CHANEL. Louis Vuitton. And the list goes on and on…. To be in the company of these fashion behemoths and others makes becoming a lifestyle brand such a powerful allure for so many growth-stage fashion companies. Lifestyle brands venture far beyond selling products in building their brand’s story.
For example, while Ralph Lauren ready-to-wear resonates with many shoppers, the allure and aspiration of the Ralph Lauren American lifestyle resonates with millions more. Further, the brand’s numerous product categories – footwear, eveningwear, handbags, jewelry, accessories, home decor and more – make the brand accessible to exponentially more consumers. For example, an evening gown may retail at upwards of $2,000, whereas a comfortable throw for home retails in the $400 range.
Other benefits include:
- Ample brand awareness
- Increased wholesale and retail revenue
- Communities of loyal shoppers
- Greater opportunities for content creation
- Decreased risk due to product diversification
- …and more.
As such, introducing new product extensions remains a popular option for scaling up. Whether your women’s RTW brand is introducing shoes or your unisex shoe brand is introducing travel bags, socks and accessories, the same rules hold true: stay true to your brand, listen to the market and test new categories in multiple interations.
“It’s not like I said I wanted to do a lifestyle brand immediately. It was organic. It became that. I just knew I wanted it all to be different from what was on the market. And when I was personally missing things, it wasn’t just one category. It was the ballet flats. It was a caftan. It was a bathing suit. So it became a lifestyle concept.”—
Use Your B2B eCommerce Platform to Educate Buyers
Personally contact all current and former wholesale clients, as well as any retailers who have expressed interest in working with your brand in the future. Leverage your wholesale eCommerce platform to share new linesheets, updated brand marketing materials, lookbooks and any other new collateral in an analytics-driven email campaign. Emphasize your brand DNA they’ve come to know, continuing with the newest chapter in your story – the creation of the world of your brand.
Everything you do as a business should be directly related to your brand. If you can’t explain why you’re doing something in relation to your brand, your target market and your company’s mission, you’ve gone astray.
Similarly, if you currently have a product-driven brand, it’s time to revisit your brand DNA, branding and marketing messages to convey your brand in a manner that remains true to your roots while opening up the possibility of introducing new categories in ways that make sense.
Storytelling is at the heart of every lifestyle brand. Keep this in mind when you’re ready to share media assets and email marketing campaigns via your B2B eCommerce platform.
“Understand your story so well that you can tell it to anyone: media, new customers, brands you can co-market with, and more. If you can’t clearly say who you are, what you do, why you do it and what inspired you, you will lose anyone who could help you build it. Great PR people are great translators and storytellers. Use them to ensure your story is being told clearly across every digital channel.”—
Nicole Rodrigues, CEO and Founder, NRPR Group, LLC
“We see many ‘Me Too’ brands popping up that want to ride the trend wave and cash in on others fast-growing successes. Instead of following this knee-jerk reaction, look to what makes you different. Figure out your brand differentiators and in some cases recalibrate to fill the void, not follow the trend. With every great brand idea there was a first to market; aim to be the leader and innovate.”—
Taja Dockendorf, Founder, Pulp and Wire
Listen to the Market
On the subject of filling the void, be sure to enlist customers’ assistance. Put your ear to the ground to learn what shoppers are requesting most or what products can satisfy their most in-demand needs and desires. What do buyers at trade shows and existing wholesale partners have to say? What kind of feedback or requests are you hearing from shoppers?
You can also listen to the market by analyzing data with your wholesale eCommerce platform:
- What categories are seeing the best sell-through?
- Which categories are seeing slower growth?
- Who are your strongest retail partners and what categories of lifestyle products do they offer in stores?
- How would your lifestyle products likely perform next to the newly acquired competition (i.e. your wholesale partners’ sneaker brands, home goods designers, et al.)?
“Technology and social media platforms like Instagram have fundamentally changed the speed at which businesses can grow today. They have also made it possible for founders to build their brands and strategies by listening to what their customers want and need.”—
Jen Rubio, Co-Founder, Away
Test, Test and Test New Categories
Testing is paramount when it comes to introducing new product extensions. Some of the best ways to test new categories as a brand executive is harnessing the power of your B2B eCommerce platform.
If your business has both DTC and wholesale channels, test demand with your wholesale clients first. You may glean valuable buyer insights based on their responses, which provide insights as to how end customers could respond. Present product stories and linesheets through your B2B eCommerce platform and develop a strategic marketing campaign. Send the campaign during a quieter time for buyers (i.e. not around markets or holidays), presenting your potential new product extensions. Ask for feedback from your closest retailer partners, if even in the form of draft orders through your B2B portal. Once the campaign comes to a close, you’ll be able to assess the viability of your plan.
If you’d prefer to test the market via actual sales, look to limited run productions. Ideate products with the intention of introducing them in the form of exclusives, limited-edition capsules or product collaborations. As consumers clamor for newness, every one of the aforementioned offerings are in high demand. In fact, Intermix’s Buying Manager of Designer Secondary, Sportswear, Denim and Outerwear, Alexandra Willinger, recently revealed the company takes in approximately 30% of revenue from exclusives. At the same time, the fact that these collections call for more modest production batches makes them ideal for strategic experimentation.
“I often say it’s like a lab. We test. That gives us the opportunity to learn. We apply our patient mentality–and then eventually we launch.”—
Brigitte Kleine, President, Tory Burch
To learn more about how you can leverage your B2B eCommerce platform to segue into a lifestyle brand, request a demo or speak to your account manager today.