Head of ecommerce Laurens Geleedst outlines how live chat and home try on services are helping Dutch formalwear retailer Suitsupply crack the online market.
Founded by chief executive Fokke de Jong, aged 26, from his university bedroom, Amsterdam-based Suitsupply aims to bring a playful anti-establishment attitude to the world of tailoring. In 2007, Suitsupply opened a UK flagship on London’s Vigo Street, followed by locations in Westfield London and Lime Street in central London. Suitsupply’s UK website was launched in August 2012.
Where are your top online markets?
We ship to 180 markets worldwide and have 14 localised websites including the UK, US, France, Germany, Korea, Sweden and China.
Our top five online markets are the US, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK and Sweden. In most cases we test the market online first and then contemplate expanding with a store. The last couple of store openings in Shanghai, Miami, Dallas and San Francisco during June and July have been in growth areas for online.
How do you convince your customers to buy a suit online?
The most complicated part of selling suits online (£259-£779) is how to convey the quality of the fabric and communicate why customers should invest. Great photography is essential to make the detail as tangible as possible, all of which we carry out in-house.
The 35-strong ecommerce team at our Amsterdam headquarters work on simplifying our content to better explain the fit. The ‘About our Suits’ guide combines text, images and video, while our online size charts are also developed using an in-house sizing algorithm to better suit our range, based on height, neck, chest and waist measurements.
We’ve also invested heavily in customer care. Since June 2014 we’ve offered a live chat tool to explain fits and styles.
In July we introduced a pilot in the US for a home try-on service. If a customer doesn’t know their size they can order up to three suits, only pay for one and send back the other two for free. We’ll start with key markets like the UK and eventually branch out worldwide, although there are no set timings yet.
How have you grown online sales by 33% year-on-year from 2014 to 2015?
A lot of traffic has come from new markets such as Japan, Singapore, Taiwan and Poland. We also see growth from more mature markets like the UK, (website launched in August 2012), Germany (website launched in early 2013), and Australia (website went live this month).
Our Polish language website will go live in late October, while dedicated sites for Denmark and Norway will launch at the end of this year.
It’s important to understand how people want to shop, so in China we don’t only sell products through our Chinese language website, which went live in mid-2014, but also through WeChat and TMall.
Social media is really important to help attract customers to the website. Facebook is great for community building, while Instagram is more of a branding channel to grow your fan base. Around 10% of our online traffic comes from social media.
How does the shirt configuration tool work?
The shirt configurator, which went live in the middle of 2014 and is available in all our online markets, begins by letting the customer select the fabric they want. Next they choose the cut (extra-slim, slim and regular), collar and cuff style, use the size advisor tool to get the right size and see a 360 degree view before ordering. The average price is £99, the same as our Egyptian cotton shirt and it’s delivered in five to six weeks. We launched the programme as we discovered an online demand for customised shirts. It’s particularly useful for returning customers, who already know which fit they want. We’re thinking about a suit configurator, although we don’t have a date planned.
How do you create a seamless delivery experience?
We offer free delivery to store, shipping and returns, which is really important. We’re also working on a delivery management layer for the website. We feel achieving a precise delivery date and time is more important than delivery speed. By having a delivery management layer we can offer customers more choice in when they want to receive the package. The UK is one of countries we plan to begin using this service in the fourth quarter of 2015.
In the Netherlands we are piloting a same-day service, so if you order before 1pm you can pick up the same day.
What’s the future for online suit/shirt shopping?
First and foremost it’s crucial to make it as easy as possible. Buying a suit is not like buying a pair of trousers, because the fit is so important. Therefore, we’re constantly working on helping our customers in each step of their customer journey, from explaining the different suit fits and size guides to after they’ve received the product helping make sure it fits. This information should be channel agnostic, like being able to start a video chat with one of our customer care representatives when you’re not sure about the length of your trousers.
We see more possibilities to offer more customisation on suits and shirts for the seasoned online shopper.