Brand Story: ModCloth

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I bow down to modcloth as an e-retailer. It is purely coincidence that their aesthetic is “mod” and retro (which is what my personal e-commerce journey began with), and that they use a pug as one of their site icons. Even without those two things, I would love them because they are smart online merchants.

Modcloth, a fairly new e-retailer, came out of the gate with a strong sense of who they are as a brand and what they want to represent in the marketplace. They carved out a niche within the already-saturated women’s apparel category and focused on whimsical, vintage inspired clothing at an affordable price point.

Here is my list of top reasons why the brand is a retail force to be reckoned with:

  1. [highlight color=’#81caea’ text-color=’#ffffff’] COMPELLING PRODUCT[/highlight]
  2. Shockingly, this almost didn’t make the list possibly because it was so obvious that it almost goes without saying. Everything about their product assortment is compelling. Personally, I don’t identify with the “geek-chic” aesthetic, but I appreciate a distinct point of view. ModCloth also has such an extensive collection that there is some crossover potential – just one item could lure in an unfamiliar shopper and prompt them to explore new style territory.

  3. [highlight color=’#81caea’ text-color=’#ffffff’] SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY [/highlight]
  4. One of the main reasons eBay is so successful is that it plays off the competitive nature of human beings. People have something, other people want it. The fact that other people are buying something right now, and might take it away from me, makes me want it more. Even if I didn’t really want it in the first place. Despite our constant quest for individuality, people are sheep. On ModCloth, hot products at risk of selling out are marked on the category page. The plain text “Only 2 left!” make you wonder if you’re missing something, even if it’s a product that may not have caught your attention previously. You click through, read a shining review that strikes a cord, and boom. Quickly add to cart so that you snatch one of the last two left.

  5. [highlight color=’#81caea’ text-color=’#ffffff’] CROWD-SOURCING [/highlight]
  6. When you’re dealing with a customer base who is committed to looking and feeling sassy with their outfit choices, you better believe they will have something to say about it. In general, people like to feel important. The greatest power that consumers have is the power to buy and ModCloth wants the user to feel empowered and take ownership over their role in the commerce cycle. Additionally, Modcloth knows that their customers are not vapid customers. They are real people with an interesting perspective on fashion. So, they empower shoppers to play the role of merchandising buyer through their “Be The Buyer” program. Additionally they have dedicated main top category navigation real-estate to the “Style Gallery” which is a photo mashup of (gasp!) REAL people wearing their clothes. Obviously, each photo allows the consumer to click through and shop that exact look with the suggestion of some similar products. Add some keyword classification and you’ve given the user an endless shopping rabbit hole to fall into.

  7. [highlight color=’#81caea’ text-color=’#ffffff’] RELEVANCE [/highlight]
  8. I have said to myself “Wow! I love this _____,” or especially in preparation for the holidays it’s “This would be GREAT for ___.” But here’s the truth about consumers living in a lightning speed world: despite how much someone falls in love with your product/brand/story in the heat of the moment, you will be forgotten. I rarely visit ModCloth without putting something in my cart only to get distracted and wander off. Luckily, their re-marketing tactics include magical widgetry that displays product-level reminders of what I was once interested in. A dynamic carousel widget shows multiple “recently viewed” products in one banner, which is very affective and reinforces how much cuter and unique those shoes are than the vanilla ones I’m looking at elsewhere. It also helps to subconsciously validate my shopping choice. Additionally, I actually look forward to their abandon cart emails because they make me laugh. They aren’t afraid to have fun with their customers. For example, a recent subject inspired this tweet:

  9. [highlight color=’#81caea’ text-color=’#ffffff’] LIFESTYLE CONTEXT [/highlight]
  10. What is a lifestyle brand? A lifestyle brand says to the consumer, “Hey, stick with us. You’re safe here. Trust us with all your consumer needs and we will help curate the life that you want to live. In fact, you don’t even need to think from this point on because we will deliver.” They manage to offer a cohesive set of products that spans multiple categories (with hundreds of products in each) but somehow their brand or aesthetic never feels diluted like some other fast-moving product pushers. (Thinking of wanelo here – WHAT ARE YOU?).

And, Free Shipping both ways. Enough said there. I feel badly for newer online merchants because that is a bonus that is only attainable by bigger fish. You can thank Zappos for setting the shipping policy bar so unbelievably high. A few other optimization details also help them dominate such as robust category navigation and filtering, detailed and organized product level presentation, compelling blog, emphasis on customer feedback and ratings, in-cart cross-sells and add-ons, a beautiful fluid user-experience, and many other small (and not so small) ecommerce details that many people take for granted. Oh yeah, and that pug.

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