Regardless of how you feel about fast fashion companies in terms of ethics and product quality, you have to admit they’ve been brilliantly successful financially over the past decade. Websites like Shein.com, Wish, DressLily, Romwe, and more have been all over social media and their sales reports grow every quarter. The thing is, their products are relatively low quality and everyone knows it. So how have they become such big players in the online retail space?
Reeling Customers In With Extremely Low Prices
We’ve all seen the adverts. A cute vintage-style dress for £20, a colourful blouse for £5, or a pair of ankle boots for £15. These prices are insanely low. You read through the customer reviews, most of them are fairly negative but you think ‘Oh sod it’ since the price is so low and click the add to cart button. It’s basic psychology, everyone loves to get a good bargain. That is exactly what these fast fashion companies are counting on. No, the product is not good. Shoppers have reported getting unhemmed pants, clothing with half the stitching coming out, and bizarre sizing that bears absolutely no resemblance to what is described in the chart on the website. But it was only £5, so into the back of the closet or drawer it goes, or even into bin if it’s particularly awful. Not worth the hassle of contacting customer support in a foreign country over £5.
Offering Voucher Codes, Even at Narrow Profit Margins
To compound these almost inexplicably low prices (there is an explanation though, it’s paying your labour force disgustingly low wages) they also have a seemingly endless parade of discount codes advertised on their website. Bloody hell, the thing was only £10 to begin with, and they’re going to offer it at 10% off?! How is this possible given the already razor thin profit margins? One way is by imposing minimum order amounts, usually around £75 to £100. But you also get free shipping, and you were thinking of getting that purse you’d seen in the upsell section (more commonly called ‘Customers also bought…’) so why not? Might as well get a few more items and really get a good deal. The other thing these companies are counting on is just sheer volume. They’re only making £2-3 profit on these items, but if you sell enough of them it adds up.
Which brings me to….
Using “Creative” Marketing Tactics
I put creative in quotation marks because in my opinion it’s flat out dishonesty. Even if you don’t follow a lot of influencers on Instagram, you’ve probably seen at least one post where they are promoting one of their ‘favourite’ brands and wouldn’t you know it, they also have an exclusive promotion code just for their followers! That’s another psychological tactic for you, everyone wants the VIP treatment. But hold on, how come the influencer doesn’t appear to be wearing an ill-fitting and unfinished sack? They even look cute in their outfit, are their genes just so superior that they can pull it off? No, quite simply they are getting a different product than what the actual customers do. They make clothing that is of at least passable quality to send to influencers, in exchange for advertising and promotion. In some cases such as Madeleine Petsch advertising for Shein, there is likely also a sizable paycheck in it for the influencer as well.
And then there are the ubiquitous adverts on Facebook. We’ve all clicked on at least one or two becuase the dress looked cute in the picture and it was only £20…
Offering Unlimited Free Returns/Exchanges
Another interesting tenet of fast fashion companies is their assertion that they do unlimited free returns and exchanges. However their returns are usually just returning you the money, and you get to keep the item. You see most of the products aren’t actually worth the return postage and the money it would cost to have staff manage the return & restocking. It actually costs them less to just return your money to you, and this also keeps down the negative reviews and their TrustPilot score decent. I knew a girl who would order loads of items off Wish and ‘return’ lots of them for a full refund, and get to keep them. They may have since cracked down on this, but the last time I had spoken to her she had gotten several items for free. But, she’d also paid for more than she returned so it was a net win for the company.
It’s Not Pretty (or Even Cute), But The Model Works
As I said at the beginning of the article, whether you love them or hate them fast fashion companies set out to make money selling clothing on the internet and they have succeeded at this admirably. Now, while I’m not suggesting that you use severely underpaid labour with questionable working conditions, there may be some lessons to be learned from fast fashion websites. Pricing your products attractively, offering discount codes, marketing aggressively, and going for volume could be succesful for your company as well.