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Why Going DTC Isn’t As Simple As Putting Your Inventory Online

Perfectwhitetee co-founders Jen Menchaca and Lisa Hickey are fashion industry veterans who know the wholesale model well. Combining their experience and knowledge, the pair teamed up to start their own wholesale t-shirt brand, using a fabric mill in Los Angeles to manufacture the wardrobe staple. 

Selling wholesale and getting their tees into retailers was relatively easy, because of their background and networks. But when perfectwhitetee’s customers started asking for more colors and encountered stock issues in-store Jen and Lisa decided to enter the direct-to-consumer (DTC) market. 

It proved to be a smart move. The company grew 400% to 500% year over year in the early days because of this new sales channel. “It’s a whole shift in mentality for us,” Jen says. “We were wholesalers before, and now we’re two feet in with our end consumers and we really enjoy it.”

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5 tips for making the leap to DTC

Jen and Lisa are still learning the in’s and out’s of ecommerce. Find out how they made the transition, and get advice for your own jump to DTC.

1. Know when to outsource

Jen and Lisa’s first lesson was realizing how much they didn’t know about ecommerce. “You can’t just take your assortment and that wholesale strategy and just plop it online and expect that to work,” Jen says. “Lisa and I had to educate ourselves, and it’s a daily, ongoing process.”

One of the biggest hurdles was the technology. Suddenly, Jen and Lisa found themselves learning about the Facebook algorithm and how to optimize their digital advertising campaigns.

Lisa recommends working with advertising agencies if you don’t know where to start. “Our most recent one has just really held our hand and walked us through the process,” she says.

2. Embrace the feedback

One of the biggest benefits of going DTC is getting feedback from customers as soon as a product goes live. “We can put something on the website and we can find out, ‘Hey, this is the hit,’” says Lisa.

While selling wholesale, Jen and Lisa were getting feedback only from buyers. Jen called the new perspective eye-opening. “It’s been really fascinating to be able to create a balance and to really understand the differences of the dynamic between the wholesale buyer and the end consumer,” says Jen.

3. Tune out the noise

Lisa warns, however, that there can be “too much of a good thing” when it comes to feedback. “You have to stay true to yourself, because you can really get lost,” she says. “You do need to learn to cut out the noise and filter the most important information.”

For example, when it comes to designing new products, Jen and Lisa enjoy crowdsourcing ideas for their line, but also making sure the suggestions stay true to their brand. “We basically take the trends that you see in the marketplace and we adapt them to our aesthetic.”

Girl wearing perfectwhitetee hat, shirt, and jeans
Neutral colors are a defining characteristic of perfectwhitetee's timeless aesthetic. perfectwhitetee

4. Humanize the brand

For perfectwhitetee’s founders, telling their brand story was a big part of their marketing strategy. “We got online and we quickly realized that no one knew who we were,” Lisa says.

Jen and Lisa used marketing to educate their customers on how the company calculates the cost of their t-shirts, and why they’re so proud to work with an American factory. 

Jen sometimes even picks up the phone and calls customers directly. “When there’s a human being and a story behind the brand, people love it that much more,” Jen says.

5. Scale your customer service

Humanizing the brand might buy you some goodwill in case things go wrong with an order. Jen and Lisa ran out of inventory during last year’s holiday shopping season, and they found that they lacked the customer service to help deal with it. “If you’re going to put yourself out there online, you better be ready to answer your customers as soon as possible,” Jen says. “We cannot emphasize that enough.”

To learn more about perfectwhitetee’s journey from wholesale to DTC, listen to the full interview on Shopify Masters.

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This originally appeared on Shopify and is made available here for wider discovery.
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