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How to build and grow an online fashion community: Step Two

First of all, I would like to introduce myself very briefly. I am Joep, co-founder at United Wardrobe, responsible for all the ‘technical processes’ and the helpdesk. Last month you could read our first experiences since our launch in January. Sjuul told you about our mission, to become ‘the largest online wardrobe of the world’. At the end, we want to connect our users from all over the world with each other. However, we are not so far yet. Let me tell you about our experiences of last month, and most of all, how we managed to grow from 80 to 8.000 users since our launch.

Girls from 16 – 26, an easy and difficult target group

Since the launch in January, our users uploaded more than 30.000 items. For me that is a surprisingly high number, because it means our users are willing to spend (a lot of) time on United Wardrobe. If I say ‘users’, it mostly means girls between 16 and 26. Right now, 95% of all our products are meant for women. That is partly because women just love clothing and shopping, but most of all: talking about it. This is not just a generalization of women, it is true. For us, it means that we have to make it as easy as possible to ‘interact’ with other users about the products on the site and, of course, United Wardrobe as a great concept. How did we manage to do this?

First of all, we looked at all the platforms our target group uses. Not surprisingly, platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest are hosting a very large percentage of our target group. So, we made a Facebook-page which now has more than 18.000 likes. At this moment, 44% (!) of our daily visits come from Facebook. We post two times a day (in the late morning and early evening) a ‘status update’, most of the time with four pictures of new good-looking products that are recently uploaded at United Wardrobe. Believe it or not, but the minute we post some popular products like for instance ‘Nike Air Max’ or ‘Buddha to Buddha’-items, our visitors on Google Analytics (the software we use for our visitor-statistics) doubles or sometimes triples instantly. This is not really because we have 18.000 likes, it is mostly because girls start talking ‘in public’ about the products – and thus – about United Wardrobe. Friends ‘tagging’ other friends, sharing the posts and reactions like ‘Oh, wow! I desperately want that [itemname]!’ or ‘Hey Laura, aren’t that the shoes you were looking for last Saturday?’ all contributes to the reach we have with our posts on Facebook.

Right now we are trying to do the same thing at our own site. To increase the interaction on our website between the users, we will launch this week our own ‘tagging-system’ in which users can mention each other if they see a great product. The more users see United Wardrobe as a community rather than a boring webshop, the more it feels like you are shopping with friends. Besides this, we will launch our own iPhone and Android app to make United Wardrobe ‘portable’ and to enhance the interaction even further. We will discuss our app in the next guestpost.

There is no such a thing as bad publicity

Well, I don’t agree with this famous quote. Like the header of the previous chapter mentioned, our target group is easy and difficult at the same time. Because our users constantly uses social media, we have to work very hard making sure that no one feels ignored if they have a question or problem. When we launched in January, we completely underestimated the time we needed for our helpdesk. Right now, I answer 60 to 80 e-mails per day! In the first period, I tried to do this by just using my Outlook email software. Well, that doesn’t work. Even with 20 emails per day you lose focus. Every email that I didn’t answered or – in the eyes of the user – too late, means one user is unhappy. Particular with users like ours, who have a big network, this is the last thing you need. So, we bought a very useful tool: Zendesk. With this software I can work far more efficient.

When I respond to someone’s question, I follow the ‘Apple strategy’. If you ever send Apple an e-mail, you know what I mean. Apple’s e-mails are extremely kind, even when you aren’t that kind yourself. I try to answer within 2 hours, but if I know I can’t solve the problem within two hours, I always let the user know. People usually won’t judge a helpdesk on their speed of solving the problem, but the way how they do it. After all, if I have send 70 mails and my fingers hurt from typing, I want that our users know we are there to help them, not to empty their wallet. So, keep interacting with your users!

Guest post by Joep Dohmen, co-founder of United Wardrobean online network for secondhand fashion.

Photo by Pieter van Marion (creative commons via Flickr)

StartupJuncture welcomes guest authors from the Dutch startup community / ecosystem to publish guest blogs. for more information, send an email to team@startupjuncture.com

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