What I learned from analyzing 20+ high-growth online fashion brands

One of the things I like the most about my job at Custora is building our research platform, The Custora E-Commerce Pulse. I get to work with dozens of e-commerce retailers, geek out over their data, and interview the best & brightest minds in e-commerce and digital marketing (by the way, if this sounds like your idea of fun, we're hiring).

Working on our just-released research report, The Custora E-Commerce Pulse: High-Growth Fashion Index, was a perfect culmination of all of these elements. I worked closely with one of our data scientists, El-ad, on analyzing data from over 20 of the fastest-growing fashion and lifestyle online retailers in North America. Our goal was to figure out what makes them different from everyone else — specifically, how they were able to grow annual revenue by 28% on average in 2014, double the e-commerce industry average of 14% growth for the same period.
Following the data analysis, together with our designer Dave, I turned to interviewing e-commerce and marketing leaders at some of the retailers we identified as best performers. They graciously agreed to share some of their experiences from the front lines, and it was fantastic to gather advice and insights from marketers at retailers like Bonobos, Crocs, The Tie Bar, and Trunk Club.
The end result is a research report that dives into the drivers behind this stellar performance using both quantitative performance benchmarks, and qualitative insights shared by these e-commerce leaders.

Fun at work

What I learned


Here are some of the things that I learned during the research process. You can check out the full research report here, and register here to a webinar co-hosted by Custora and Tim Grace (VP eCommerce at The Tie Bar), where we'll drill into some of the report's lessons for online retailers.


1. There's no silver bullet. Being a top online fashion retailer isn't about doing one or two things right. The fastest-growing fashion retailers excel in a variety of ways across customer acquisition and retention, and optimize a host of online marketing channels to driving revenue and profit.
For example, revenue growth was not driven by a single factor, but instead was a combination of three factors: Expanding the customer base (customer acquisition), increasing customer spend per transaction (Average Order Value - AOV), and increasing customer spend overall (Customer Lifetime Value - CLV).
This is both good and bad news to aspiring high-performers: On the one hand, there's no one thing you can do to miraculously turn into a high-performer. On the other, it means that every team member can drive incremental gains within their domain, adding up to a meaningful improvement. Continuous experimentation is key, and so is making sure that experiments are well-measured and optimized for the right metrics.


We run a lot of contests on Facebook. The prizes and other attributes of two contests might be very similar, but the quality and CLV (Customer Lifetime Value) of the leads and customers coming from these two contests can be very different, and it’s important to understand them. —David Nagy, VP Marketing, Live Out There


We experiment a lot but we’re careful not to spend too much money on experiments that don’t work. — Vishal Agarwal, EVP & Chief Marketing Officer, Choxi


2. Everyone's marketing team is too small and stretched too thin. Huge omnichannel retailer, small startup - it doesn't matter. The typical e-commerce marketing team is lean & mean, doing a lot with a little.
It's undoubtedly hard, but the best marketing teams we researched found ways to make it work. One example for making the team "bigger" than it really is is using data and analytics tools as a competitive advantage.

We’re a lean team that does a lot with a little. Our ability to use data is one of the enablers to do that. Over time our team got very good at writing SQL queries, but that’s not scalable. Tools like Tableau for data visualization, and Custora for predictive analytics and customer segmentation, are great for having these data science capabilities in-house without hiring data scientists. — Tim Grace, VP eCommerce, The Tie Bar


3. The e-commerce marketing community is a generous, helpful bunch. At Custora, we'd discovered a long time ago that e-commerce and marketing folks love connecting with others in the industry - sharing success (and horror) stories, learning what others in the field are doing, or just commiserating over drinks. We're fortunate to work with some of the world's most innovative e-commerce brands, and for a while now we've been trying to facilitate better communication and knowledge sharing within this community. It's been great to discover that so many people in the community are generous with their time and insights.
If you're interested, you can check out some of our webinars, e-commerce interviews, and events here - with insights and advice from e-commerce and marketing leaders at BaubleBar, NastyGal, Hudson's Bay, Guess and others.


Get the full report with 24.6 additional lessons for aspiring high-growth fashion retailers

You can check out the full report here. Our goal is to produce useful research for e-commerce marketers, so let me know if you have any feedback - just like the retailers covered in this research, we're always looking for ways to get better.
We'll be hosting a webinar discussing the report's findings with Tim Grace - VP eCommerce at The Tie Bar, which is one of the fast-growing fashion retailers included in our research. You can learn more about the webinar and sign up here.


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