My partner Sarah and I started Hello Holiday with backgrounds in design, styling, journalism, and social work. We are fashion lovers who wanted to create a charming and exuberant approach to style and online shopping that we hadn't yet seen in the market. We set out to create an accessible, friendly brand that offered sophisticated but whimsical options in fashion for women like us on the brink of a major milestone: Finishing a degree, making a big career leap, buying a house, perhaps a marriage. There isn't a lot in the market for the customer who wants a little whimsy without looking too childish.
We set out to solve some problems on both the design side and the consumer side. For indie designers, Hello Holiday simplifies the manufacturing and distribution process by offering financing and mentoring. For customers, Hello Holiday offers exclusive designs and fashion without pretense, making good style friendly and accessible to all women.
In 2012 we opened Hello Holiday on Shopify and we’ve been going strong ever since. We find our emerging designers mostly on social media, searching them out on Instagram, Tumblr, and in the blogging community. To grow our sales, we tap into the fan bases of our designers as well as our own amazing readers and followers who are our best brand ambassadors—good customers are the best marketing we could ask for. Thanks to our amazing customer feedback, we’re even planning to open a brick-and-mortar location (which will be super easy thanks to Shopify’s POS system).
How did you earn your first sales? Which channels are now generating the most traffic and sales for you?
We’re incredibly deliberate about strategically using social media to build our brand, interact with our customers in an authentic way, and drive sales by showing our customers things we know they will love. When we started out, we were mostly pushing our stuff on Facebook and Twitter, but since then we’ve also gotten into Vine, Vimeo, Tumblr, Instagram, Polyvore, and Pinterest.
Every channel can bring us value if we figure out the right message to send, but our best results come from Instagram and Tumblr, which surprised us. We like to incentivize our customers to share their purchases on social media, then we reward them with discount codes—we’ve had that promotion in place since we launched and it’s been our most successful way to get new customers.
We also work with lifestyle, design, and fashion bloggers because they work just as hard as we do. The bloggers we have relationships with are incredibly supportive. One tip is to skip the sidebar ads and buy content—product reviews, link round-ups, anything that gets your products in a blog post rather than just a sidebar. We’ve learned that good blog post with original content reaching a million readers pays off more than an ad in any of the top fashion magazines.
The internet is forever—everything bloggers and customers post about us stays searchable and keeps driving new eyes to our site. The more reviews, photos, and other content we can inspire our customers to share, the more reach we can have. Our goal is to grow our sales by 5% each week, and we’re pretty much using social media exclusively to do that.
Tell us about the back-end of your business. What tools and apps do you use to run your store? How do you handle shipping and fulfillment?
ShipStation is queen for us! It’s the most useful application we’ve been using since our launch, and there’s no way we could manage all of our customers and fulfillment. We ship everything via USPS (which is right next door to our office!), and we get all of our shipping supplies—boxes, ribbon, and tissue paper—from Uline and Paper Mart. We are also huge fans of MailChimp for sending promotional mailings every week, and it integrates beautifully with our Google Analytics and Shopify data.
One of our favorite things about using Shopify is that they're constantly reinvesting in their own platform. There are so many apps we’ve installed and then found we didn’t need anymore as Shopify has added more and more features (abandoned orders statistics, emailing people to finish their orders, more reporting, etc.)
What are your top recommendations for new ecommerce entrepreneurs?
One thing we’ve learned with Hello Holiday is that EVERYTHING we do is marketing, so it’s important to be intentional and conscious about everything you do because it’s always going to be associated with your business. From your typefaces to your website to your mailers, to the way you dress and whether or not you use swear words on Twitter (which I do)…whatever it is, you never know what someone’s first impression of you will be or how it will affect your business.
Next, always keep your hands on the things that are important to your company. Stay in control of what matters. In our first investor pitch for Hello Holiday, my partner Sarah and I were told (with much exasperation!) that we should be drop-shipping all of our product, meaning fulfillment centers or the product manufacturers should be sending out orders as opposed to us holding inventory in our office for shipment. We know that fulfillment centers aren’t the right answer for our company because being involved fully in our customers’ experiences is a huge part of our branding value.
We’ve built our company up organically with trust and communication with our customers, and I’m glad that my partner Sarah and I trust our guts on this stuff. We see our customer satisfaction in our low return rate, but most importantly we see them tweet and Instagram about our company every day.
Finally, when you have children, a family, a personal life, a second business—whatever it is that is demanding your attention—a lot of unexpected things happen that cause you to have to slow down or switch your focus. So expect those challenges, get ready to go off-script, and prepare for the hard parts by having a ridiculous work ethic.