Actress and businesswoman Kate Hudson has spent the past week in Australia with the female support and entrepreneurship membership group, Business Chicks, where she attracted a sold out crowd at each of her three lunch events in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
The 39-year-old addressed around 5,000 people while she was here, and spent a considerable amount of time chatting about her own retail business, Fabletics, that she co-founded back in 2013.
As one of the founding businesses in the ‘digital native’ generation of retailers, the activewear label (or ‘athleisurewear’ to be more precise), aimed at encouraging everyday women to live healthier lifestyles, started out entirely in the online world. It had zero physical offering, and launched using a bespoke marketing strategy, never trialled before.
It worked. Four years into production, Fabletics has hit a whopping $250 million in annual revenue. Yes, you read that right. A quarter of a billion in revenue in just four years. The company has since branched into physical stores, and is reportedly aiming to open another 75 over the next couple of years.
“I didn’t go into the company thinking it would be that successful. I did go into it thinking ‘ok, let’s kill it.’ But I didn’t think we’d be where we are after four years,” Kate said during one of her Australian engagements.
She also told the audience that she knew nothing about being a digital native retailer before launching Fabletics, and that the most challenging part was keeping up with demand, as its huge, and swift, success was completely unexpected.
“We were a start-up, we had a lot of mistakes happening, and you just try to make sure they don’t get out of hand. I was proud of how the company got on top of everything,” she said.
So how did they create an incredible customer experience, personalised curations, design exclusivity, immense sense of connectedness and community, brand recognition and global following out of nothing?
Subscriptions. But Fabletics wasn’t the usual email sign up subscription service.
A strong focus on driving a $49.95 per month membership program has generated a new and highly profitable revenue stream, for the company that sells athleisurewear at price and quality point somewhere between Lorna Jane’s and Kmart’s.
The VIP membership program created a highly-personalised way of accessing fashion, while building a community of women with a strong incentive to keep engaging with the company – thus building an enviable level of brand recognition and loyalty from a community of consumers who knew they were part of a community (I can’t help but think back to Dollar Shave Club here as well).
It offered a fun product at an affordable price point, and its highly valuable feedback loop and data capture all started with the initial ‘fit test’, where Fabletics asked questions about members’ exercise experience, the support they’d like along the way, where they worked out and why, and even what colours spoke to their souls!
And then, it did the work – curating its offerings according to members’ answers and offering up a bunch of outfits that could work, for members to choose from – and all of it offered at a members-only discounted price.
Members’ monthly fees could be redeemed against a purchase, or skipped so long as they did so before a certain cut off point, so it also encouraged people to come back. They either bought more with their credit, or dove back in to skip a month.
And all of this exceptional customer personalisation has given Fabletics access to the most incredibly valuable marketing and trend data a company could ever hope to garner on its own consumer network.
But then, there’s also the exclusive prints, support content, community connection – the list goes on.
During her Q&A sessions in Australia, co-founder Kate spoke about her aim to promote conscious consumerism while creating a retail offering that was meaningful, powerful, and would be a force for good.
No matter what the drive behind it was, Fabletics has managed to crack one of the toughest industries, with an incredibly enviable global following and profitable business model.
While the company has attracted its fair share of criticism and controversy over it, the proof’s in the pudding.
We’d love to hear from you about your trials and errors on the road to success, so please get in touch with us via www.nra.net.au or start a chat on our social channels via Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.
Have a great week.
Dominique Lamb, CEO.