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Building a VC-Funded Fashion E-Commerce Company: Weddington Way CEO Ilana Stern (Part 4)

Posted on Thursday, Jul 17th 2014

Sramana Mitra: This is not exactly a wedding planning site? It’s a bridesmaid shopping site.

Ilana Stern: No, it’s not. It’s a rich collaborative shopping experience.

Sramana Mitra: Yes, but your focus is still on bridesmaid dresses or has it broadened?

Ilana Stern: Our focus is still on bridesmaid dresses and we’ll be expanding beyond that. Earlier this year, we launched our own private label. We started to vertically integrate, which gives us the ability to get even closer. We’re so close to understanding what our customer wants and what she’s missing. We’ve got the power to serve that up to her through our private label collection. Over the next couple of years, we’ll be launching new categories of merchandise that’s still focused on the wedding industry.

It’s leveraging two things. One is this collaborative experience, because even the most independent bride is involving others in pretty much every purchasing experience leading up to her wedding. Then we’ve also collected all this data around her aesthetics. We understand based on what she’s shopping and buying. We know what her color palette is. Ultimately, we’re going to be able to leverage all this data and our collaborative platform to offer this rich experience where she can build her wedding vision and execute on it. One of the challenges for brides, other than the collaboration and coordination, is actually turning that vision into a reality. Weddington Way is actually a place where you can turn the vision into reality with the merchandise we have to offer.

Sramana Mitra: In that process of building up to this point, we started with you getting convertible notes from your classmates and working with a couple hundred customers. You then launched this bridesmaid dress shopping at the beginning of 2012?

Ilana Stern: Yes.

Sramana Mitra: Take us through a bit more of the step-by-step business building process. What are some of the key things that happened once you launched? It sounds like social was a big customer acquisition strategy. What were the other strategic moves in the process?

Ilana Stern: On the customer acquisition side, what’s interesting is we started with the consumer research. The time I spent doing consumer research acted as the building blocks for what we ultimately built and how we found our customers. We had very specific leads to find targetable customers. If you think about an engaged woman, for example, on Facebook, her status is engaged. Customers are really making themselves known in some of the digital channels. We were really focused on the highly qualified leads. Our focus was not on trying to get Weddington Way out there for everyone, but specifically n this customer and finding where she is.

Sramana Mitra: Was Google PPC the primary customer acquisition strategy?

Ilana Stern: That’s a part of it – Google SEM, SEO, Facebook, and Pinterest. We were really focused on where she is, what she’s looking for, how we can meet her where she is, and offer a solution. We did a lot of testing early on with customer acquisition just to understand how much it costs in different places to get her to come to Weddington Way. You need economics for an e-commerce business. It’s part of the heartbeat of the business. So that testing on the cost of acquisition and the effectiveness of different channels and targeting was really important for us.

This segment is part 4 in the series : Building a VC-Funded Fashion E-Commerce Company: Weddington Way CEO Ilana Stern
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