FASHION E-COMMERCE INSIGHTS: THE POMMIER
The Pommier is a global, London-based marketplace for handmade fashion accessories from 100+ independent designers and brands across the world. The newly-operating online business focused solely on handmade jewelry and bags that are mainly created by the hands of the designer themselves; all of the designers featured are independent brands usually working on their own. The Pommier launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo in November 2016 this season, featuring an exclusive collection of 36 handmade fashion accessories especially created by the designers for the campaign. Read on as Lewis Phillips, founder and CEO, discusses launching and promoting The Pommier, weighs in online and physical stores, and shares advice on a successful strictly-online business.
What is your background and how did you find yourself interested in young designers?
My background has been in business development, helping to fuel growth for startups in London.
My interest in helping young designers started in 2013, when I was working with a small family-run jewelry company on Kings Road. We were meeting manufacturers at their workshops, and I got to speak directly to the makers. Most of them had their own collections but struggled to make a good income from their designs, so they needed to work full-time to earn a living alongside running their own projects. Their collections where so exciting and unique that I couldn’t believe no one knew about them. I stayed in contact with a number of designers, some who I became great friends with, and started to help them out in my spare time. It went from helping one designer grow online to five pretty quickly, and then the idea of The Pommier grew. I wanted to build a platform that would allow me to help multiple designers a lot easier than implementing multiple marketing strategies.
How is the experience you have gathered so far making you qualified to help emerging designers?
It’s more of a collective set of experiences from the whole team that make it possible to help the brands like we do. My knowledge varies as a CEO from leadership through to digital growth, whereas our Co-Founder is a seasoned creative director with all her experience from fashion commerce. We then have really smart guys and girls working on social media, PR, content and so on. But together as a team we are fashion-forward creatives and data-driven marketers all on a mission to connect the world with amazing designers.
I believe e-commerce websites that carry emerging designers are more present than ever today. What is The Pommier doing differently, and what gap do you aspire to fill?
To be honest, I think there should be more! The more channels that help support new designers the better! Plus, the more competition a company has the more they strive to do things better and improve.
For most marketplaces, a designer has to put in a lot of effort to become successful. They have to upload their own products again and again, promote those products on social media to drive traffic to the marketplace, speak to the customers through a message portal and deal with customer service, invoice the marketplace to get paid, etc… It becomes so much work that sometimes it can be off-putting and pointless being listed with them.
We’ve built The Pommier around our designers. We understood the problems they were facing with current marketplaces by speaking with them and asking them what they wanted, and designed something that will actually help. With that in mind, we take care of everything so the designer can actually focus on doing what they love.
Are you looking to cultivate a particular aesthetic as an ecommerce? Based on what criteria do you select the designers?
We focus on handmade fashionable accessories. Our selection is actually quite simple. When we see your collection online, it must catch our attention in a split second – no second look, it must be instant! If you have our attention, we then check the quality to make sure it’s at a high standard that our customers demand. If everything is in order, you’re on board.
Do you think young designers and brands focusing on e-commerce should still pursue physical boutiques later?
Yes, I think it’s important to explore every option that makes sense and will grow your business. E-commerce is a great way to start with less money but it requires a lot of self-promotion and thinking outside the box to attract customers. E-commerce will also help you collect data, understand who your target market is and where they are, which are very important factors to know when opening a physical boutique.
What is the secret to successful strictly-online fashion e-commerce sites today? Is mere online promotion and marketing enough?
Marketing is the most important step to drive traffic, but it isn’t enough to be successful on its own. I look at websites with tunnel vision: get people to the website (marketing); keep people on your website for as long as you can by offering great products and/or content (value); make the buying process as simple and easy as possible (user experience; go above and beyond to make your customers feel valued (customer service); focus on driving repeat purchases and referrals (lifetime value).
How do you believe the fashion e-commerce industry will develop for the wholesale market in the future? Will it be just as successful?
The main question wholesalers ask themselves before purchasing from a designer is “will their products sell?” With the way e-commerce has developed over the years, most wholesalers can come to a conclusion for the products that will sell just by looking at the buzz around the designer through the press, social media and online reviews, which should help gain more wholesale contracts. E-commerce is already playing an equal role to wholesale with some designers generating more than €10,000 per month online. I doubt one will replace the other at anytime soon, but I do feel both are as important to each other.
Could it be effective, in the long run, for a designer to focus solely on sales rather than showcasing their products in trade shows and fashion week?
Trade shows can be a great way to market your product. I would recommend exploring the options of trade shows as you can pick up valuable connections either from a retailer or another exhibiting designer. Although e-commerce works well, you can never beat the power of a face-to-face relationship, it’s just hard physically be in a million places at once.
What’s next for The Pommier?
There’s always a lot to do! We now have over 100 of the world’s best emerging designers, and we will always look to bring on more. This month we have introduced men’s jewelry and watches, so there is a lot of promotion happening to drive more awareness, but our goal at the end of 2017 is to establish ourselves as the world’s largest fashionable marketplace for handmade accessories from emerging designers.
Images © The Pommier