We Americans are odd. We love success almost as much as we love an underdog.
Take Fabletics and Amazon as an example. Amazon was a young upstart once, fighting the brick and mortar retail foundations of our country. It could have crashed and burned, but we all know how that story has gone. Amazon is a household name. Most of us have the trademark curved arrow boxes around the house and it’s difficult to find anyone who has not ordered from the Amazon jungle.
As a result of diligent effort and perseverance, Amazon has become a giant and now commands 20% of the clothing Ecommerce market.
Enter Fabletics, a small start-up, designed to appeal to fitness fashionistas who want to keep in shape in the most current styles available. Fabletics has similar roots to Amazon. Rather than going the physical store route, Fabletics elected to go directly to Ecommerce, thereby building an electronic customer base before opening any actual stores, exactly as Amazon did.
The twist on the story is called reverse showrooming. The Fabletics and Amazon showrooms are electronic; there was no mall store customers could visit to try on and touch the merchandise. Stores such as Macy’s began with physical entities, call them showrooms, and progressed to electronic stores based on their success as actual showrooms.
Here is where Fabletics takes another interesting turn in their success story. Rather than simply offering customers their line of clothing through advertising and the Internet, Fabletics sought to garner a strong customer base through subscription. Fabletics debuted their fashion-forward line of fitness apparel by offering steeply discounted, quality clothing to customers willing to open a subscription with them.
This Fabletics shopping club is called the VIP club. To sell this concept, Fabletics had to take reverse showrooming another step, relying on their confidence in the quality of their product and the excellence of their customer service. VIP membership entitles members to the excellent value initial purchase and a monthly, curated outfit delivered to the customer’s door.
To make this work, Fabletics had to develop excellent customer service and a very liberal VIP membership policy. They knew that their customers would not be happy receiving piles of unwanted clothing identical to the clothing their neighbors were receiving every month. Fabletics added customization to the VIP deal. They track what customers like and how they use the provided clothing through observation of their purchases and quizzes on their preferences. With this information, Fabletics was able to offer a curated, fashionable, quality delivery to each customer each month.
With this dedicated VIP base on which to rely, Fabletics is now opening stores in malls and towns around the country. The combination of online and physical stores is giving Amazon a challenge for that 20% of the clothing market they have been used to command.
Fabletics will never be another Amazon; that is not their goal or desire. However, they are coming from behind with interesting marketing ideas to face the Amazon Goliath and doing so with admirable success.