Fashion forward and socially savvy

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Through its canny use of social media, Australian fashion etailer Showpo has built a huge following worldwide, creating a community of clothes-loving millennials and a booming online fashion house in the process.

Article by Georgina Safe for Australia Unlimited

Jane Lu founded Sydney-based fashion etailer Showpo in 2010 when she was just 24-years-old. By 2017, Showpo had hit over $30 million in sales and sells to more than 80 countries. It has over 1 million followers on Facebook and 1.3 million on Instagram and employs over 45 staffers who have contributed to the kind of success that other bricks and mortar and internet retailers can only dream of.

Lu started out as a business analyst but quit her office job to follow her passion for fashion. It was, in hindsight, a very shrewd decision. 

The lightbulb moment for Showpo’s initial social success came as Lu was perched on her sofa watching an episode of America’s Next Top Model. 

“I had this idea of running a model search just like that, but on social media and for our fashion etail business,” she says. “Not only would it mean that we could find a model, but also, because the demographic of our model search was our customers, it allowed me to get the Showpo name in front of thousands of potential girls.” So, she put out a call on Facebook and within a month her followers had soared from 3000 to 20,000.

 Fashion as fun

“It was the early days of social media at that time, so I could see there was a lot of opportunity to be created,” she says. “I had an idea for an online fashion store that would be fashionably fun in every sense; in the clothes, in our culture and in our content.” 

Lu built the original website herself (by Googling HTML), and funded the business by scraping together what she could in her quest for global fashion domination.

“We did it all by maxing out credit cards, and because of the nature of the business you receive money after each sale is made, so you could reinvest it immediately,” she says. 

But it was touch-and-go in the early days, and it wasn’t until she leased a large warehouse for her stock that she knew she had made it.

“It was only when I could actually see hundreds of thousands of dollars of stock sitting there that it felt legit,” she says.

Harnessing the power of social media to grow the business, Showpo built its following organically with its young, all-female staff posting selfies of themselves at parties wearing the latest clothes available on the site. Tapping into the idea that women not only use the internet to buy the clothes, but to connect with a community that has similar values and tastes, Lu was able to create a booming global online retail clothing business.

“We have a strong brand and we understand our demographic,” she says.

A large part of that brand is Showpo’s distinctive imagery, which has a fun, flamboyant and feminine flavour. Think it-girls, glamorous parties, exotic travel destinations and cute puppies and kittens. 

The images are carefully curated to cover the latest trends with playful captions and adroitly deployed emojis and many of them are generated in a dedicated photography studio in the Showpo offices. A creative team, marketing team, customer happiness division, business development, buying team and HR manager are among the divisions that populate the light and bright office space in Sydney’s CBD.

Conquering the world

And, as the staff continues to grow, so too does the business. The US is Showpo’s largest market outside Australia, and sales are also increasing in Europe.

“In the US they really like the idea of Brand Australia, which is great for us, and our country has this amazing ‘summer all year round vibe’ that gets us more international sales in general,” Lu says.

"Australians are up there with the big guns when it comes to fashion retail. In the US it would be faster or cheaper to buy domestically but the offer from Australia is so strong that people come to us."

The result is that while Showpo began as a brand Australian millennial women aspired to look like, be like, and more importantly, to buy, it is widening its appeal to a more diverse range of women all around the world.

“It’s quite a wide ranging demographic now because we sell to over 80 countries, we offer sizes from 4 to 20 and we launched a work wear product category in 2014,” Lu says.

As for what the future holds, Lu says the sky is the limit.

“We are focusing on international expansion, growing our range and building Showpo into more of a lifestyle brand through creating content that resonates with our customers,” she says. “We have a huge range of unique products, great customer service and a strong brand that’s fun and relatable.” Her mission to become a household name is well on the way.

Source: Licensed from the Commonwealth of Australia under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia Licence.  

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