Could you tell us a bit about yourself, what you sell at Runway Catalog and how you got started?
We are a mother-daughter run business with strong sense of fashion and style. My mother brings many years of fashion experience from the European market. For many years, she was heading a key marketing role in the Eastern European division for Puma. I graduated from university specializing in MIS and Marketing and worked as a product marketing manager for years.
We started with a cute little brick and mortar store in Montreal working mostly by appointment with the local fashionistas. We were shy, offering just a few brands, but quickly realized that our customers wanted more. So, we decided to explore the opportunity of bringing in timeless pieces by world known designers. Our customers enjoyed the savings we were offering and the selection of clothing and designers we were bringing in.
Having an IT background, I decided to test the online shopping world and put together an online store using an open source platform. A couple of years down the road we realized that we were taking too much time on maintenance, fixing bugs, making sure everything flowed well, etc. So, we decided to move our store to Shopify. That allowed us to concentrate on what we do best – make our customers happy by selling beautiful fashion at reasonable prices. And that’s how our online store was born.
What did it take to get your first products in stock? Has that changed since you started?
My mother had plenty of connections in Europe so we used her sources to bring in our initial inventory. We now have the ability to buy from all kinds of vendors: big brand names to boutique, designer labels, as well as up-and-coming labels and one-of-a-kind gems.
We take advantage of a wide variety of opportunities, which can include department store cancellations, a manufacturer making up too much product, or a closeout deal when a vendor wants to clear merchandise at the end of a season. When other stores overbuy, we swoop in, negotiate the lowest possible price, and pass the savings to our customers. There’s always a new deal to find and love. If you love it, grab it! That’s what makes us so exciting to shop.
We have new brand-name and designer fashions arriving several times a week and with this rapidly changing variety we create that “treasure hunt” shopping experience that our customers love.
How did you get your first sale?
The first sale didn’t take long to come. Back in the day, we were featured on Polyvore and their endless user base liked our items and used them to create fashion sets that were then featured in fashion blogs and fashion online magazines. So, traffic was there and sales too!
Our customers were happy; they came back for more and they brought their friends along too. Our definition of ‘value’ is a combination of fashion, brand, quality, price and customer service.
What obstacles and challenges have you overcome along the way?
We always wanted to bring more value to our customers. Our main market is the USA, so we managed to negotiate great shipping rates with Fedex. That way we can offer free shipping on orders over $500. In addition, our prices incorporate taxes and duty so that customers don’t have to deal with this before picking up the parcel.
Other obstacles were breaking in other markets – Asia, Australia and Europe. We’ve picked a few partners via an affiliate network and we are starting to gain visibility. So, choosing the right partners is key.
Can you share a little insight on how you were able to negotiate with FedEx? Any advice in that regard?
Prior to FedEx we used DHL. Their rates were about 35% higher than FedEx. Our business was featured in a local blog so a FedEx representative contacted us. FedEx’s initial offer was very similar to DHL. We weren’t going to switch couriers for the same rates. So, based on volume and a bit of negotiation we managed to receive a better quote - 35% less than DHL.
What influenced your decision to use Shopify?
We initially started the online store on an open source platform. It was time-consuming to maintain the stability and the speed, to make sure all the add-ons were working fine and that there were no bugs along the way, to make sure we have the right hosting provider, etc.. So, we decided to make the move to a mature platform that would provide us with all of the above.
What was the process like to get started? Is there anything you wish you had known then that you know now?
We learned a lot with trial and error. At the beginning we were trying to bring in designers that were popular but we weren’t necessarily in love with the selection. With time, we learned to trust our own gut and fashion sense and only chose designers and timeless pieces (some worn on red carpets) that we loved. These were always the best selling, hot items.
What Shopify apps do you currently use? Which apps are most important to your business and why?
NoFraud – protects our business from fraudulent purchases
Shopping Data Feed Service – allows for data feed for various partner collaborations and affiliates
Tabs - product page tabs, allows you to add additional info to the product description
Multi-Currency - since we sell internationally, we are able to display the prices in different currencies
Mailchimp – email marketing
Product Filter & Search - allowing customers to search by size and designer.
What theme did you choose for your site and why?
We decided to go with the Turbo theme by Out of the Sandbox. First, we are Canadians and we wanted to support another Canadian business, and second, their theme gave us all we needed – stability, speed, functionality and variety.
What strategies have you used to attract more leads and grow Runway Catalog?
This year we decided to join an affiliate platform and there we found some great partners. We are also using Google shopping and Adroll.
What are some of the most effective ways that you interact with your customers?
We primarily use Live Chat and SMS to communicate with our customers.
Are there any metrics you can share in terms of order volume, monthly sales, increased revenue, growth %, etc.?
Our annual revenue growth has been increasing 30% year over year.
To what do you attribute those positive metrics?
Systematic work and lots of collaboration with influencers and affiliates.
What are you working towards now?
We are hoping to gain more visibility on the international markets and finding new influencers to work with.
Are there any blogs or other resources that have been helpful for you?
We’ve joined Store Tasker Shopify Facebook group where we’ve gained a lot of knowledge and insight about some of the great apps we use today.
Based on your own success, what advice would you share with others who might be just starting out with Shopify (or with eCommerce in general)?
The fashion industry is tricky. One has to be very persistent and love what they do in order to succeed.
Where can we learn more?
~ Kalina & Maria - Founders of Runway Catalog