direct-to-consumer business

Tips for Creating an E-Commerce Presence to Drive Your Direct-to-Consumer Business

In Fashion Features, Mingle Mastermindby Hannah Hargrove

After nearly 40 years of experience in the fashion and beauty industries, Dawn Gallagher knows how important it is to keep up with ever-changing industry trends, including e-commerce and driving direct-to-consumer business. In fact, according to a study done by Statista.com, an estimated 227.5 million American’s will shop online in 2020. In 2019 alone, Digital Commerce 360 reported that online apparel sales accounted for nearly 39% of sales within the fashion industry. That’s over a third of sales! And with much of the country’s businesses still shut down or maintaining limited capacity/hours, these numbers could easily rise.

So, clearly an e-commerce presence with a direct-to-consumer aspect is all but essential for those with any kind of fashion or beauty business. However, saying direct-to-consumer is important for your business and actually successfully implementing it are two very different things. And that’s where Dawn Gallagher comes in.   

Taking Risks: Using Successful Marketing in Direct-to-Consumer Business

Gallagher began her career in the early 1980s as a model. She achieved both fame and success, and appeared on the cover of hundreds of magazines, including Vogue, Italian Bazaar and Cosmopolitan. Gallagher has also appeared in numerous campaigns for fashion and cosmetics including Maybelline, Clarins, Ralph Lauren and Clairol, and currently runs a YouTube channel, “Beauty is Ageless,” which has over 32 thousand followers.

Gallagher has also published two New York Times best-selling beauty books, Naturally Beautiful: Earth’s Secrets and Recipes for Skin, Body, and Spirit and Nature’s Beauty Secrets: Recipe’s for Beauty Treatments from the World’s Bests Spas. And just to add to her extensive experience, Gallagher also serves as a TV host for QVC, and strategizes with brands to create a successful e-commerce presence. “I would have to say that I use the industry instead of it using me,” said Gallagher. “I took every ounce that I could get out of it and learn from it.” With a resume like that, it would be hard to disagree with her.

So, where does Gallagher suggest a young business or a new-to-the-internet business begin for a successful direct-to-consumer campaign? Marketing. I know, shocking. But this is actually quite important. Marketing, especially online marketing, is everything these days. A Facebook ad, an Instagram ad, or even just a solid Instagram following can have a major impact. “Facebook ads do not have to be expensive. You just have to target the right people,” said Gallagher. “A lot of people have made fantastic money with Facebook ads and Instagram ads and things like that.” If you can get your message to the right people, you can get your product to the right people.

This isn’t always easy to do, and Gallagher knows that better than anyone. After watching thousands of brands work to promote and establish themselves on QVC, and running her own brand herself, Gallagher will be the first to say that it’s tough stuff. “The truth: it really does take work,” she said. But at the end of the day, it will hopefully all be worth it.

In addition to social media advertising, Gallagher suggestions other online promotion. One of the most important things is having a solid website that you know how to run. Your website is where consumers will learn about you and your product, and will, most importantly, be able to actually buy your product. Gallagher also suggests participating in fashion and beauty shows, and reaching out to fashion and beauty influencers to promote your product. This may sound daunting, but there are influencers out there, like Gallagher, who are truly interested in helping. “It gets me so excited when I talk to young entrepreneurs. I just really want to give them hope,” she said. “You are the brand, so do not be afraid to get yourself out there.”

Smart Investing for Driving Direct-to-Consumer Business

Once you have succeeded in self-promotion and really started to make a name for yourself, companies like QVC just might take notice. While Gallagher admits that networks like QVC do take on new, innovative brands, they are most eager to work with brands that are somewhat established. “They [QVC] would really like you to have all of your ducks in a row, meaning you have a manufacturing set up, you have your inventory, everything is ready to ship, everything like that,” said Gallagher.

If you are at that point where you have inventory and have made a bit of a name for yourself, Gallagher suggests working with a vendor representative, especially one that has a rapport with QVC buyers. These representatives will generally get about 10% of your sales. However, this investment, as Gallagher says, “It’s worth it, because they will get you in the door.” A vendor rep can give advice on how much inventory you may need, can negotiate for the best time slots, and are just generally a good ally to have on your side. Gallagher says that just flat out looking for a vendor rep on the internet is honestly a good way to find one.

Once on a network like QVC, the platform can give you additional promotion through their show, website, and social media. This in turn could grab the attention of department stores. Take, for example, designer Isaac Mizrahi. Mizrahi made a bit of a name for himself as a designer among celebrities like Nicole Kidman and Sarah Jessica Parker, and even did an insanely coveted line with Target from 2002-2008. However, it wasn’t until 2010 when Mizrahi launched IsaacMizrahiLIVE with QVC that he was finally able to achieve major success. This success led to launches with Bloomingdales and Nordstrom. As Gallagher says, “If you’re a success on QVC, you’re a shoe-in for department stores.”

While promoting yourself doesn’t have to cost a fortune these days, establishing and/or growing a business will certainly require some cash. With COVID wreaking havoc on just about everything, taking out a loan from the government is not a bad idea. From sba.gov, Gallagher admits she was able to get $150,000 loan for her small business, with 30 years to pay it back at 3.75% interest. While good credit is a requirement, there are many loans and loan programs for small businesses to take advantage of right now. For more information, visit sba.gov.

However, these loans are not something to take lightly. “Since this COVID program has been evolving, we are finally starting to see more entrepreneurs get assistance,” said panelist Shirin Movahed, a corporate and business lawyer. “But, definitely keep clear records of exactly what you’re using the money for. They have very strict guidelines.” Be cautious and conscientious in what you choose to invest in your business, and always keep in mind your long term goals.

So, what is the best advice Gallagher has to offer? Well, to start, she knows how daunting starting and maintaining a business can be, especially in this day and age. “It’s very exciting as an entrepreneur once you start learning all of these tools you can utilize. Then you [entrepreneurs] get so overwhelmed and think ‘oh my gosh, this is going to cost me hundreds of thousands of dollars,’ but it really is about being smart and not being afraid to take some risks,” she said. “The best advice I can give to an entrepreneur starting out is just take it slow and steady. Be prudent and be smart. Slow and steady wins the race.” After 40 years of experience, I think we’ll take her word for it.

Make sure you tune into Fashion Mingle’s Mingle Mastermind webinar every Friday at 1PM EST. You can register in advance here or watch live on Facebook. Click here to watch past webinars.

About Hannah Hargrove

Originally from New Mexico, Hannah Hargrove moved to Durango, Colorado in 2014 to pursue a college volleyball scholarship at Fort Lewis College. Following the completion of her bachelor’s degree in English, Hannah moved to Denver to continue her education with a graduate degree in Communications with a specialization in New Media. Hannah is planning to pursue a career in the fashion industry in a marketing or professional communications capacity.

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