When Georgiana Yeo started online fashion store MDSCOLLECTIONS in 2007 with business partner, Joe Phua, e-commerce had just taken off in Singapore.

“I have a keen interest in fashion & Joe possessed the skills for business development,” explains Ms Yeo, Director, “When we started, we only had an online presence. But as one of the forerunners in the e-commerce fashion scene, we had the first mover advantage.”

But like any start-up, the business had its fair share of challenges.

“In our early days, we used Google Adwords to advertise our online store. The ads would work for the first two weeks and become less effective after that. So we had to keep coming up with new & short-period tactical campaigns to sustain the results,” she recalled, “We had to explore other tools as we were seeing  diminishing returns. We were also concerned it would affect the company’s brand equity in the long run.”
Today, MDSCOLLECTIONS has grown from an online blog shop to become a leading local fashion company with 8 retail boutiques. The company is set to open its ninth retail outlet by 2014.

Explaining the company’s transition from pure e-commerce to a hybrid business model integrating both online and brick-and-mortar operations, Ms Yeo says: “It was necessary to set up retail outlets because there are customers who don’t shop online. Investing in good store locations also allowed us to build our brand presence, manage our inventory and generate conversions more efficiently across our channels.”

Ms Yeo is a firm believer in word-of-mouth marketing, which has been instrumental in propelling the company’s growth. And product consistency is the key to generating sales through word-of-mouth, especially with the growing consumer trend of ROPO (research online, purchase offline).

“For example, on our website, we show customers how to wear our products, so when you visit the store and see the exact outfit, that strengthens your impression of the item. Chances are that you would be more likely to buy it. When you wear it and tell your friends about it or share it on social media, more people will get to know about our products.”

She adds: “To drive traffic to our website and physical stores, our campaigns don’t just focus on products but also on what we call trend broadcasts. This involves packaging similar items within one collection & selling this trend as a lifestyle idea to customers via our key channels of engagement, which include emails, Facebook and SMS.”

The fashion retailer also uses analytics to develop its marketing plans and manage its inventory more effectively.

. “Our product strategy is based on trend, variety and quick updates, all at an affordable price.

“We track the sales of our products against different product categories and sort them into fast versus slow moving products. That way, we can decide what designs to stock up and highlight in our marketing efforts,” sums up Ms Yeo.

Having grown MDSCOLLECTIONS from a small online outfit into a popular fashion chain that’s gearing up for its Asian expansion next year, Ms Yeo feels that retailers without a web presence should invest in an online platform to complement their physical touch points. This will allow businesses to reach their customers regardless of operating hours and geographic locations.

She sums up: “Retailers should carefully manage both channels and campaigns to prevent brand dilution, such that customers do not lose the sense of urgency to buy from you.”

  • Consider different tools for various stages of business growth
  • A consistent brand image across the various channels and platforms, online and offline is important.
  • Leverage word-of-mouth as a strategy, provide inspirational and conversational pieces for your customers
  • Leverage data and analytics to make informed decisions