Word-of-Mouth and Referral Marketing Blog

How ModCloth Evolved From A One Woman Firm to A $100 Million Company

ModCloth started in 2006 as a simple online store where Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer Susan Gregg Koger would sell her preloved vintage closet finds.

Today, ModCloth has grown into a full-fledged company headquartered in San Francisco with a full design, manufacturing and marketing team behind it.

And an excellent content marketing team to bring everything together.

How sort of marketing strategy did ModCloth use to become such an incredibly successful ecommerce story?

1. Strong brand philosophy — A social shopping community

modcloth logo mushrooms

Koger describes ModCloth as, “not just another retailer, but a social-shopping community with our customer at the center of everything we do.”

Staying true to this brand philosophy, ModCloth keeps it real with an organic content marketing approach.

modcloth twitter interaction

ModCloth stylists interact with their customers online via Twitter and Instagram, dishing out prompt style advice and suggestions on outfit coordinates for any and every occasion.

modcloth models

ModCloth also celebrates individuality and authenticity, rejecting traditional interpretations of beauty where models only come from modelling agencies and are photoshopped to an airbrushed finish.

Instead, ModCloth selects models that represent the day-to-day women. They invited individuals with no modelling experience to audition, and even welcomed emailed applications.

As part of its Model of the Month series, ModCloth also features individuals who are both aspiring and successful career women. In the past, they’ve feature women bloggers, artists and even engineers, redefining the concept of what a ‘model’ is.

Word-of-mouth tip: A strong brand philosophy is an important guiding principle. A customer-focused brand philosophy works because it makes the customer feel like a valued member of the community. By adhering to this principle of putting the customer at the center, ModCloth achieved very organic, authentic marketing content.

2. Empowering the customer by letting them choose the designs they want

modcloth be the buyer

Be The Buyer was created to solve a dilemma in-house designers at ModCloth had. They were unsure if customers would love their designs as much as they themselves did.

To gauge how receptive customers were to a particular design, ModCloth launched the Be The Buyer program where customers could vote on whether ModCloth should produce a certain design. Customers could also share the designs on social media to get their friend’s support.

Customers could also share their feedback on a particular design, which designers would then read and take into consideration before sending the final design to production.

Such a program distinctly lets customers know that their opinion matters and is valued. Also who knows better what the customer wants than the customers themselves?

Word-of-mouth tip: Be The Buyer created a win-win situation for both parties because it not only helped customers signal to ModCloth what their tastes and preferences were, it also showed customers that ModCloth was listening and valued their input.

3. A great blog provides another way of outreach to loyal fans of the brand

story by modcloth blog

The ModCloth blog offers a refreshing take on vintage fashion and finds, focusing on content that fashion-conscious vintage-loving ModCloth customers would be interested in.

Blog posts cover everything from interview features with trendy individuals, occasion-specific style advice, gift guides, travel tips and advice, and even delicious recipes.

What’s remarkable is that there is no hard-selling at all on the ModCloth blog.

Instead, blog posts featuring products that can be bought on the ModCloth website are simply linked in an unassuming way.

For the fans, the blog is an easy way to find out about the latest vintage trends, while for Modcloth, the affiliate links on the site might provide new customers!

Word-of-mouth tip: Having a blog helps a brand to elaborate on their brand story, and to bring to focus an extended range of topics and ideas the brand is committed to. By expanding on its brand philosophy through its blog, customers can understand the brand and like it even better.

4. A well executed referral marketing campaign gets new customers and rewards old ones

share the love referral program modcloth

ModCloth also employed a referral marketing strategy to spread brand awareness via word-of-mouth.

Known as the “Share the Love — Give $15, Get $15” campaign, customers were given a unique referral link that they could share with as many of their friends and family.

A successful referred customer would qualify the referrer to receive $15 credit towards future purchases on ModCloth.com. The friend, too, who referred them, would get $15 credit as well!

Word-of-mouth tip:  Referral programs are a tried and tested way to spread the word about brands you use and love. And what’s even better is that everyone wins! Your friend gets $15 off their first purchase, and you too get an additional $15 off your next purchase. The brand benefits from new satisfied customers, and old customers who will keep coming back for more!

5. Strong social media presence and engagement of influencers through Style Gallery

modcloth style gallery

ModCloth has a whole section on its website dedicated to “Outfit Photos” named Style Gallery.

With the tagline “Inspire & Admire”, Style Gallery gives users the chance to showcase their sartorial creations.

Users can also share their love for the outfits curated by other users by clicking the ‘like’ button, and by sharing these wonderful ensembles on social media platforms like Pinterest, Tumblr and Facebook.  

Outfits are neatly categorised into “Seaside Style”, “Summer Street Style”, “Jet-Setting Looks” and “Elegant Ensembles”, allowing for easy navigation, and providing users with quick inspiration for that next date night look.

Word-of-mouth tip:  This highly interactive platform gives users a sense of ownership in the fashion-conscious community, and allows them to engage in meaningful social interaction with other like-minded people.

Let’s rewind – how did ModCloth achieve its success again?

  1. Having a consistent and strong brand personality that people care about
  2. Letting customers play a role in choosing what exactly they want to buy to directly cater to their tastes
  3. Creating a ‘lifestyle blog’ to attract new fans and interact with old ones
  4. Providing a good referral program that rewards both advocate and friend generously
  5. Interacting with fans through a style gallery that features fans and builds a community

Andrea Lee

Andrea is an undergraduate majoring in international relations and East Asian politics. She enjoys a good run in the city.

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