How Revolve Built a Global Ecommerce Fashion Business

Published: 02/15/2019

It’s no secret that eCommerce has experienced exponential worldwide growth in the past decade, including in emerging markets.

This growth presents abundant opportunities for small to medium-sized fashion businesses in the U.S. if they’re willing to take advantage of it.

One company who has been leading the charge and killing it for fifteen years is Getting to Global partner Revolve, a fashion retailer. Today we’ve got some great insights into the ways they’ve successfully grown into a global business!

Fashion eCommerce: A Growing Global Audience

In the U.S. alone, eCommerce market share of retail sales tripled from 3.5% in Q3 2007 to 9.1% in Q3 2017. Fashion has represented a significant portion of that growth, driven by innovative business concepts, pioneering digital marketing strategies, and creative visual technology and website merchandising.

Looking beyond the U.S., eCommerce has made fashion more accessible worldwide and today represents a significant part of the global eCommerce economy. Emerging markets are growing fast and with them the demand for fashion. So much so that the McKinsey Global Fashion Index projects that global fashion sales will grow by up to 4.5% in 2018!

Revolve: From Two Man Band to Global Juggernaut

Since 2003, Southern California-based fashion retailer Revolve has grown from a two-man band to an international fashion destination online, with a loyal band of ‘Revolve Girl’ followers for whom the brand is as much about a lifestyle as it is about the clothes themselves.

With well-established visibility in Google searches and a large, engaged social media following, Revolve has always had customers outside the U.S., but their efforts in recent years to reach a global audience have paid off with roughly a quarter of their $1 billion in annual turnover coming from markets outside the U.S.! This significant overseas growth is due to concerted efforts to understand overseas markets and offer a fantastic and customized experience designed to drive conversion and build brand loyalty.

Here are some key lessons you can learn about growing a successful global fashion business from Revolve’s success:

Know Your Customer To Define Your Value Proposition

A big mistake many brands make is assuming that their international customers are the same as their domestic customers. This is as well as not actually understanding the value the brand represents to these different markets.

In doing so, they fail to put the needs of customers in different markets at the center of their international growth strategy. Comparatively, Kai Li, VP of International at Revolve says satisfying customer needs is the driving force behind Revolve’s growth strategy.

“You have to understand your value proposition and how it changes when you go into a different market,” says Li. “You re-evaluate to understand your customer and make the customer experience a high priority. A customer in China is not identical to a U.S. customer in the U.S.”

Here are a few ways that you can research the local market:

  • Use Google Trends to obtain search volumes for competitors, their products, as well as your products.
  • Mine any existing local customer data (e.g. addresses) and compare to available demographic data about the location. This will provide important demographic information to guide marketing mix and price points.

Once you have done this, you can define your value proposition. In general, Li says the most common cross-border propositions are accessibility and price. For example, Revolve’s value proposition is offering access to luxury and boutique fashion items that aren’t otherwise accessible for markets like China or India, rather than other draws that might drive Americans to shop at Revolve.

Localize and Test

Just as customers overseas have different needs than US customers have from a product perspective, it’s likely that they also shop differently. For example, Li says that in the U.S. people search by styles i.e. they’ll navigate to ‘Pants’ or ‘Dresses’. Comparatively, Asian consumers shop by brands.

To improve results in different markets, Revolve uses local versions of its website in different regions, customized to serve the shopping preferences of the local consumer.

In addition, Revolve assesses various analytics including conversion funnel metrics to assess performance and make adjustments accordingly. By testing and iterating ‘constantly,’ they’re able to optimize their local websites to better serve consumers and in turn increase sales.

Offer A Great Experience For Overseas Customers

In recent years, the company has made a concentrated effort to improve the customer experience for their worldwide audience. They have:

  • Opened logistics hubs to serve Europe, Asia, and Oceania.
  • Introduced free returns in some countries.
  • Studied customer behavior in various markets to ensure they are doing a better job of serving these audiences.

These efforts yielded significant returns of shorter shipping times, happier customers, and (most importantly) exponential growth in their international business.

The first two in particular set Revolve apart from other eCommerce businesses, who often don’t offer fast shipping or free returns for overseas markets.

While opening local hubs and free returns are not always options, especially for businesses that are smaller or recently established, the lesson is that making an effort to improve the experience is never a bad idea.

Know Your Customer, Test, and Serve To Grow Globally

You do not have to be a large, established business for Revolve’s strategies for international growth to benefit you. By taking the time to learn who your customer is in global markets, define the value that you offer to them, localize to better serve them, and offer the best experience you can at each stage of growth, you can have a piece of the $300 trillion pie that is the global fashion retail market.

For help with selling more online, overseas, check out these resources and our many exclusive interviews with ecommerce thought leaders.

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