The rise of social media platforms has enabled brands to develop an audience and following like never before. A popular Australian swimwear ‘online boutique’, It’s Now Cool (INC), has tapped into this and grown into an international brand in less than five years. Co-founder, Ryan Stanistreet, explains how INC has developed and the role that strategic logistics now plays in maintaining its customer base globally.
How did It’s Now Cool (INC) get started?
My business partner, Josephine Clough is a fashion photographer who works with some of the biggest swimwear designers and models globally. The initial concept of the site was a platform to showcase her photography. It’s Now Cool (INC) was created as a way to highlight her images via a content-led strategy.
Using Instagram in particular, we built a large following and moved to Bondi Beach, Sydney to continue to build our network. Within two years we attracted close to 400k Instagram followers.
We were receiving so many requests from people interested in buying swimwear from the images we featured. With my background of wholesale sales and brand management for surfwear companies in Australia, our complimentary skills set combined to create the INC retail store.
Social media has obviously played a massive part in the brand’s success. How have you capitalised on the increase in online participation to build the INC following?
It’s interesting; it’s going the other way that’s been the challenge. We’ve been really strategic in how we develop the content on the INC Instagram. When we opened the INC online boutique it was really important for us to maintain the magazine/editorial focus of what Josie had started.
Instagram is one of our primary sales channels with over 400,000 followers in the first two years and it’s taken a lot of hard not to commercialize that editorial relationship with our audience as we transitioned to the retail store. We’ve focused on developing our Instagram profile over Facebook; it’s more visual and allows us to engage with our audience. It’s also been amazing to instantly have such a global reach out of the gates as our audiences have transitioned into customers.
Where do the majority of your customers come from and why do you think INC appeals to them?
Really, it’s anywhere the beach culture resonates – people who enjoy a healthy, beach lifestyle. This is why we felt we absolutely had to be based in Bondi. Authenticity is a huge part of where Josie and I have come from with her photography and my surfing background.
As for our customers, Australia and the U.S are currently our biggest markets. We’re seeing growth in customers from Europe particularly the UK, Italy and France.
Having the logistic solutions we have in place is such an opportunity as we’re not scared to talk internationally and are borderless as to where we ship to.
You have a large number of designers you work with. How do you find the right labels to suit the INC audience?
Well around 50% of the designers we carry come from Australia and we are big on supporting the local market and hopefully helping with their exposure internationally, the other half coming from all over the world. Being based in Bondi Beach, the Australian beach culture really resonates with our overseas customers and maintains our integrity and heritage as an Australian-owned company.
INC is very trend-based – essentially we see a trend we love and look to find the designer that’s best in class to represent that. This ties back to our editorial focus: we’re essentially discovering cool products for our audience. We’re always looking for new designers, and ones that have a limited presence in the marketplace so that our customers can find those hard to get pieces.
When we can’t find exactly what we are looking for we’ll partner with brands to do a cool collaboration with in order to give our audience what they are looking for.
You also work with a number of influencers. How do you cultivate these relationships?
In a similar vein to how we work with swimwear brands and designers, our relationships with influencers tend to be very organic.
We try to work with women who represent a positive and healthy lifestyle and hopefully this comes across in the images – INC is full of women who are aspirational role models with authenticity.
From the start we had a philosophy of keeping everything simple and uncomplicated. We reviewed the market and met with all the various logistics providers, and decided to partner with DHL exclusively.
We really liked DHL’s account management style and onboarding process – all throughout we felt supported and DHL has been so easy to deal with.
The web shipping tool integrates really well with our platform and DHL offers multiple pick-ups a day which helps with the speed of our delivery. We can get products to customers in Australia the next day, and internationally in 1-2day lead-time. A lot of our customers think we have a distribution centre in the US due to our delivery speed, which has to our competitive advantage gaining traction in OS markets.
Did you need to design your packaging to be ‘delivery friendly’?
Actually we designed our branded packaging around the DHL satchels.
We wanted the customer experience online to translate to receiving your purchase, for our customers to feel like they are getting something special when they receive an INC delivery. It does add time to the packaging process, but our warehouse team actually enjoy taking care in each delivery with custom branded boxes, tissue paper, ribbon in clean lines in our core colours of black and white. We also include handwritten cards with every package, which we feel adds a personal touch and highlights the tailored and authentic nature of our brand.
As a fashion e-tailer, clothing returns need to be simple for customers. Do you have a logistics strategy to cope?
Being a swimwear company, getting the right fit on our customers is incredibly important. Shipping to the US and having the ability for customers to easily return to Australia needs to be a simple process and we use DHL both ways to make it painless for our customers. Ensuring our customers love their purchases is of massive importance to our brand.
What role has DHL played in helping INC achieve success?
DHL has been pivotal in helping us grow our eCommerce site. The speed of delivery that DHL offers to the US has been huge to remove borders and allow us to compete with companies on the world stage.