Many of you have heard me speak about the frustrations I have with fashion business books and gurus tell you everything you need to know to start a fashion business but skim over the first step of starting ANY business- not just a fashion based business.
Many of the books on the market will tell you that market research is important. But they almost never get around to showing you how to do it. One industry guru I know, won’t even consider working with you if you don’t already have a business plan put together to show her. Without one, she says you just aren’t serious and you aren’t ready to start a fashion business.
But what if you ARE serious about starting your fashion business? You know market research is important but you just aren’t sure where to go or how to look up this sort of information. Yes. You are smart. Brilliant. You KNOW you have to get into the head of your customer. You know you need to get to know your customers likes and dislikes but how do you FIGURE that crap out?
Welcome my friend to the super secret, held tightly to your chest ways of the apparel industry. It drives me INSANE. Mostly, because I remember a time when I was like you. I was frustrated with my 9 to 5. My dream was to have my own clothing line. I was serious, but I was not sure where to start. (If this sounds like you stick around, I have a goodie to help you).
When I started my clothing line, things took off a bit quicker than I expected and I contribute ALL of that to the market research I did ahead of time. I was prepared. I knew who my customer was. I knew what she liked to wear, where she shopped and what colors caught her eye. I knew all of this before I even opened my doors. I had a long-term strategy to expand my line into retailers. I had a list of retailers to contact that I was 90% sure would be interested in my line when I was ready to start selling wholesale.
If you are unsure of whether or not you really need to do market research before starting your fashion or retail business ask yourself the following questions.
- Would I feel more confident and less stressed starting my fashion based business if I knew there was a market out there that was interested in what I had to offer?
- Is the reason I don’t want to do market research a fear based one? Meaning I think it will take too much time, I’ll miss out on an opportunity I have right now, I’m scared I won’t do it right, etc?
If you answered yes to either one of these questions, let me address them for you. (AHEM. Clears throat- steps up on soapbox).
There are MANY benefits to doing market research before you start spending ANY money on business licenses, legal paperwork, finding suppliers, making samples or ANY of that stuff that all the gurus tell you to do when you want to start a fashion based business.
The most obvious reason to do market research is that you may discover that you don’t have enough of a market to sell to. It would be wiser to figure this out before you spend time, money and resources that you can’t get back while you are surrounded by hundreds of watches you can’t sell and eating Top Ramen in your mother’s basement.
Yes, I’m being extreme to get my point across. A little. I did know someone who spent thousands on a men’s accessories line that he could not get to sell and he STILL has wallets and watches in his home that he can’t give away. He’s already given some of the inventory away to family and friends for birthdays, Christmas, etc. It’s a tad bit embarrassing actually. All of this could have been avoided if he had prepared with market research rather than jumped in with ready, fire, aim.
In addition to the confidence you get in your business idea, there are some other benefits of doing market research that can place you ahead of the competition when you launch your fashion baby.
1. YOU HAVE A CLEAR UNDERSTANDING OF WHO YOUR COMPETITION IS
Part of doing your market research includes finding out who your competition is. Please for the love of everything coffee, do not say you have no competition. Consumers have options, which means that EVERYONE has competition in some form.
When you know who your competition is you can learn important things about your customer such as what price are they willing to pay for your products. You can also view what types of products and services that you will be competing against. Observing your competition will allow you to see where they are failing to serve your customer and can give you the opportunity to fill the gap.
2. YOU KNOW YOUR CUSTOMER LIKE YOUR BEST FRIEND
OK so maybe not THAT well. You won’t know things like who she dated in high school and agree to simultaneously hate Steve other than because she said so. But you will get to know your customer in depth. This kind of research helps you to find out what colors your customer is attracted to. What styles, silhouettes and shapes does she like? What sort of prints and patterns may catch her eye?
If you are opening a retail or ecommerce store this can help you find suppliers that match what your customer is likely to buy, reducing your risk of having to deeply discount merchandise you bought that your customer does not like.
If you are fashion brand, this helps you to see how you should develop your product that will sell through for your retailers and encourage reorders.
3. YOU KNOW HOW TO POSITION YOUR BRAND
By doing your market research you will understand how to position your company. If you are unsure of what brand positioning is, don’t worry – that topic is coming up soon on the blog. For now, think of it in terms of your pricing strategy.
Since you will have a deeper understanding of your customer and your competition, you’ll know how to price your brand in a way that is appealing to your customer.
4. YOU CAN PLAN FOR THE LONG TERM STRATEGY
There are SO many insights you can get from doing market research.
You will discover places where your competition is under serving your customers and plan for future product updates to fill this gap or decide to lead with a different product idea to capture the sale where they aren’t cutting it.
If you plan to sell wholesale, keep track of the retailers who carry brands similar to yours so you know who to reach out to when you launch your line and are ready to look into wholesale sales.
There are so many different observations that can really help you shape your brand into something that is appealing to your customer base. It is likely that you will end up with more ideas than you will have the resources to execute now. Which is fine! This can help you see what the next steps are to continue to grow your business. New products, different markets, etc. THINK BIG! You’ll have it all loosely mapped out ahead of time thanks to your market research!
5. YOU CAN BUILD INTEREST IN YOUR COMPANY BEFORE YOU EVEN LAUNCH
When doing your market research you are naturally going to come across people who are interested in your brand idea. Be sure to keep in contact with them and keep them updated throughout your progress.
You can even take this a step further and begin what I call Online Listening to discover more people who are interested in your brand before you launch. Starting a presence online and getting people excited about it may mean that you are able to take pre-orders and have people waiting to buy when you launch.
Ok. (stepping down from soapbox now).
If you are still unsure about market research because it seems like a big, scary thing and you aren’t sure if you can do it right, where to look, how to find it all, etc. Don’t worry. Breathe my friend. You can totally do this on your own. You do not have to hire an expensive consulting firm or have access to some obscure database to figure this out. In the FREE 6 Day Feasibility Challenge I walk you through the steps involved in doing some of this market research.
I’d rather you go through the steps and start your business off on a good foot rather than dive in and “figure it out as you go along”. The Feasibility Challenge will show you where you may need to do some further research before diving in. Best of luck to you!