Podcast

Learn from Fast Growing 7-8 Figure Online Retailers and eCommerce Experts

EPISODE 66 80 mins

How Bikini Luxe Drive Sales from Social Media Content and Influencers w/ Candice Galek

Posted on 26th February 2016 , by Kunle Campbell


About the guests

Candice Galek

Kunle Campbell

Candice Galek, who is also fondly known as the 'Bikini Geek', is the founder of Bikini Luxe, online retailer of designer bikinis, women’s fashion and accessories. In just two years, Candice has managed to garner a huge social media following for her e-commerce brand totalling 250,000 in 2015



Candice Galek, who is also fondly known as the ‘Bikini Geek’, is the founder of Bikini Luxe, online retailers specialising in designer bikinis, women’s fashion and accessories. In just two years, Candice has managed to garner a huge social media following for her e-commerce brand totalling 250,000 in 2015. Influencers on Instagram, YouTube, as well as fashion bloggers have enabled Bikini Luxe to receive a direct return on investment on social media. Bikini Luxe’s unique use of both visual social media, influencers, and PR drives a significant amount of word-of-mouth market and sales.

In this episode, we explore the behind the scenes how Bikini Luxe grew from it’s early beginnings operating out of her living room. Shoutouts have made a huge impact on her social media followings and sales and we also gain insights into how Candice sourced her social media influencers and the importance of creating a cohesive look. Along the way, Candice details the wide range of valuable tools and apps that has helped her and her team manage and optimise their social media posts, analytics, as well as sales. Finally, Candice shares how her in-house PR team has helped Bikini Luxe to get ahead of their competition.

This episode is packed with valuable insights and inspiration to more than 2X your social following as well as your sales through social media. Don’t miss out!

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This episode is brought to you by Salsify, a SaaS based product content management platform built specifically for Multi-Channel, Omni-Channel retailers and brand owners.

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Salsify will notify you when it spots missing critical fields across your product catalog. It is really a modern, flexible and robust product management platform I recommend if your store and brand’s product catalog changes often and if you sell across numerous channels.
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Key Points in Driving Sales Via Social Media Content

1: Bikini Luxe

Something For Everyone

In the beginning I was like, okay, I like this bikini so everybody must like this style of bikini. But that’s not how the world works, not everybody wants the same things. So we morphed from a few select styles into now we carry extra-small to a E cup in some cases or an extra large bottom. We offer multiple types of coverage now. We try to feature different price ranges because we do have a customer base that ranges. So it grew from having a small clientele to how we cater to everyone.

Branding

We mostly sell other brands.  You get to know brands and their quality and their size and fit, and you look for it online and that’s what our customer really wants. I know personally myself, I have a brand and I stick to it, you know, that’s my size, that’s my colour, those are my people, so that’s what I kind of stick to. Our brand of items focus more on coverups or clothing because personally I cannot design a bikini to save my life. So I’m going to leave that the experts and we just curate those brands because they get it right every time and their customer base loves them for it.

The Team

team

We stretched from working out of my own living room to a small office to now we have a warehouse here in Miami and we have on a daily basis around six people who come in and do SEO, packaging, all those fun things. But we also enlist a lot of virtual employees who work all over the world at all hours of the day, which is honestly necessary with online business. Nobody wants to ever think that you’re closed. So we now have a team of I think around 30 people who are writers or SEO ninjas.

Social Media Management

We do focus on social media, it’s not going anywhere and every channel is becoming more geared towards businesses. Instagram has advertisements now and it’s something that you just kind of have to jump on board and buckle down and figure it out. Currently we have a social media manager, we have a few employees that maintain the various accounts and make sure there’s a steady flow of posts on a daily basis, that things look cohesive, they’re true to the brands and we use a few different apps to help us get through the day and keep track of everything. Bufferapp helps us with our scheduling. Foursixty allows customers to shop directly from our Instagram on the website. So those things are really vital to us at this time.

Social Media Analytics

We use Tailwind, the analytics on there allows us to see what’s going on. And Google Analytics. And we do a weekly assessment to see what’s performing, what’s not performing.  So you can kind of see, like there’s this lay-flat of this bikini, did that work well? Or does our customer like more of a model and photoshoot? Or do they like more of a realistic selfie in a mirror kind of thing? And it’s always changing but it allows you to keep up with what the customer’s enjoying.

Building The Social Media Following

  1. We have a product that everyone loves. Women love bikinis, men love looking at women bikinis. It’s kind of just like a jackpot, honestly.
  2. We found a cohesive look for all our social media channels.
  3. We did our own photoshoots and had our brands reshare the images to their followers. Because compared to the brands that we carry, our following is very small. So any time they repost us we get a little boost.

Getting the Industry Shoutouts

  1. Some of the brands that we work with, they post a lot of the same models, the same looks, the same swimwear and then we give them some fresh content and their customer base likes to see a new look.
  2. Also, a lot of these bigger brands, they have representatives and they’re supposed to be there to help you to transfer any important information you may need to know or that you may want to pass on. So we utilize our reps for everything. If we want a link on their website, because they should all be linking back to us in terms of where to buy. We do see traffic from that.

Frankies Bikinis has over half a million followers, so any time they repost us we get a little boost, and that’s always nice.

Photoshoot Management

  1. Keeping Up: We try to stay up to date, and there’s always a new collection coming out from one of our brands. By the time you get everything up, there’s something new.
  2. Models and Image: In terms of our models, recently we’ve switched our image and look to be a more a fit girl, a more healthy, body-conscious, motivational-type build, where it’s not too skinny but girls can really look up to them. A lot of other companies they use the size 2 model and you know there’s just so many different body types. So we’ve kind of touched on that to try to set ourselves apart.
  3. Photography Crew: We use a few close friends of mine, they understand what the image is and what we’re looking for.

Sourcing Models on Social Media

I don’t use agency models like most people do. For the body image I’m going after I just couldn’t really find what I was looking for. So I kind of scouted them through social media. I write them, I’m like, ‘Listen, I love you, can you please just come and shoot with us because you’re amazing.’

2: Influencers and Social Media

Shoutouts from people sharing us socially has made a huge change in our social media followings.

Sourcing Influencers

  1. I started by scouting just from my own list of people I followed. I had a small grouping of people that I was interested in what they were saying and what they were wearing.

Fashion bloggers especially, tend to blow up out of nowhere. Like you’ll be following them one day and they have 500 followers, that’s awesome, I love them, they’re great, and then you look next week and they’re like shooting a Neutrogena commercial. Like you have no idea what can happen.

  1. And then we found some on YouTube. It’s always interesting for me to see that people may have hundreds of thousands of viewers on YouTube and then their Instagram has only like 400 followers. So you have to do your research and really see who has got what going on.
  2. The YouTubers, they do unboxing or what’s-in-my-bags or ‘These are my essentials, this is the new pair of sunglasses I got from Bikini Luxe,’ and they link back to you. And sometimes they also do a blog post about it and link back to the product.
  3. And girls started writing us and they were like, ‘I really love your brand, I’d love to collaborate with you. These are my stats, I think we would be a good match.’ The inbox is full of brand ambassadors and affiliates and people looking for collaborations on a daily basis. And you know not everything is a smart business move to kind of go after but there are people out there who do fit the brand, who do fit the image. So a lot of them just kind of fall into our lap and that’s always nice.
  4. And some of them are affiliates where they can make money off of their post and their sales and that’s always amazing. But you can’t just gauge their returns based on their number of followers. Like if this person has only 500 followers but those 500 people are engaged and truly care about what she’s wearing and where she got it, it can lead to more sales, versus say an Instagram model who has 500,000 followers but they’re all men who just want to see her in a bikini.

You have to gauge these influencers and see, like are the comments, are people asking, ‘Hey, where did you get that top? I love what you are wearing,’ or stuff like that versus, ‘Hey, you’re hot.’

Platforms with the Most Returns

We really do focus a lot of our time on Instagram and Pinterest. We’ve seen that Instagram we can see immediately, we post an image and we see that items sold directly after. So you can kind of tell. Also with the help of that Foursixty app I mentioned earlier, our Instagram posts do live a little bit longer on our website because if you go to the page you can see many of the previous posts. So if they came from our buy-it-now page, which is our Foursixty page, you can kind of see, ‘Hey, this person saw the image, came to the website and bought it because we posted it.’ The same kind of goes for Pinterest, the people on there I think are ready to buy. They see something and they’re ready to buy versus some other website wear they may just collect images.

Mobile Devices

We can see what our customer base is shopping on and it looks like 50% of people are shopping on a mobile device. So it’s imperative that your website be ready for that. It has to look good on both a desktop and also a mobile phone. It has to be easy to navigate. And the content has to flow. Phones are definitely coming in strong these days. A lot of your day is spent waiting, you’re waiting at a red light, you’re waiting at a doctor’s office, you’re waiting for some sort of meeting, or you’re waiting for your coffee and you’re on your phone and you’re bored and you end up on Instagram, you end up on some sort of social media app. And everyone is selling to you all the time. People don’t even realize it any longer that they’re being sold to constantly. So it only makes sense that they would end up purchasing while on a mobile phone.

Foursixty and Instagram

There are no links in the captions for each Instagram post, but you’re allowed to have one in your bio. And you can have it go directly to your main page of your website. However, if this customer sees a photo and they have no idea what the product name is, they have no idea how to navigate your website, how to find this, the chances they are actually going to locate it and complete a purchase is a pretty low percentage. So we use that one link in our bio to go directly to our buy-it-now page.

bikiniluxe-Foursixty and Instagram_

mobile-bikiniluxe-Foursixty and Instagram

And when you do it do that, you can see all of our Instagram images and if you click on one of the images it takes you directly to that product. And you can link multiple different products from the same picture and it’ll take you to those exact products. So it’s up to you to go in there and set up to where it goes to the product, but it’s definitely better that you put the work in and locate the product than your customer having to search for it themselves.

Encouraging Customer Shoutouts

bikini luxe instagram card

Shout outs are the best form of getting new customers and there’s nothing more important to somebody than getting a recommendation from close friends. You know like, if your best friend was to say, ‘Hey, you know what? I love this brand of men’s swim trunks. They fit really well, they’re comfortable, they’ve lasted me forever. You should check them out.’ You’re probably going to look into it. So you know, if some of the girls that purchase from us do take pictures at the beach and they repost it, we tell them to tag us and to hashtag #bikiniluxebabe. And then we will send them a $10 gift card. Everybody wants to reward and we don’t mind because we love to see our customers wearing something that they purchased from us. And if that’s what we need to offer for them to give a recommendation to every single one of their followers, then that’s what has to be done. You know you want to put your name out there anyway that you can. We even have little stickers that we stick up: anywhere you can get your name out there is ideal.

Shout outs are the best form of getting new customers and there’s nothing more important to somebody than getting a recommendation from one of their close friends.

3: The Customer Experience

Customer Service

Something that we learned early on is that it’s much easier to keep repeat customers than it is to always be searching for new ones. And one way to keep these women coming back is to provide them with a service that they feel is up to par, like they want to have an easy checkout process. They want any questions they may have answered in a quick manner. They want to get their package in a short period of time, and they want the product to look the way that it does online. So customer service is very important to us. It’s something that is always changing, but currently we try very hard to not offer not only offer a great experience but to go above and beyond. We have live chat option on the website and we even have girls reaching us out to us on social media.

The Unboxing Experience

unboxing bikini luxe

As someone who gets a lot of packages on a daily basis between my own online shopping addiction or our inventory that’s coming in, I see a lot of packaging and a lot of it is very boring. I’m tired of brown boxes and bubble wrap and invoices telling me, ‘Hey, you just spent all your money on a bunch of things you don’t need from Amazon.’ So our unboxing experience is slightly different. We send things out in these bubble mailers that are metallic, they’re shiny, they’re pretty.

A photo posted by Mony siliezar (@monysiliezar) on

You know, you see it in your mailbox, you know what it is. Inside, instead of items being in one of those like flimsy plastic bags, everything is wrapped nicely in fabric bags. We have inserts in there that are telling you, ‘Hey, your package is going to come in two different packages,’ and it has a beautiful girl on it.

There are no packing slips, which may confuse some people. But we like to keep our packaging to feel almost as if it’s a gift to yourself. We even spritz the packages with a fragrance so that when you open it, it smells nice. You want to feel like you went to a boutique and had this whole experience without having to leave your living room. So packages from Bikini Lux come to you as a gift and any invoices/packing slips, those are all sent via email, which is also more friendly for the environment. So it does feel like a gift. There’s no receipt in your face that says, ‘Hey, you’ve just spent $400 on this bikini, you’re going to wear one!’ No, it’s, ‘Oh my gosh, this is so beautiful, look. I can’t wait to wear it. I can’t wait to take it on vacation.’ It’s a very kind of positive experience. So I think that it does lead to repeat customers.

You want to feel like you went to a boutique and had this whole experience without having to leave your living room.

Sometimes we include handwritten notes in some of the packaging, which I personally love to send out. We include free gifts, sometimes sunglasses, body chains, little small jewellery pieces. Just kind of as a ‘Hey, thank you so much. We really appreciate you as our customer.’ And that does lead to a repeat customer because they feel like they’re getting their money’s worth and they feel appreciated and valued.

4: Instagram

Frequency of Posts

bikiniluxe instagram page

Our main page we try to update 5 to 10 times a day. Because posts have a short life span, people are posting all the time and so if they’re following hundreds of people, your post may or may not be seen. So you want to give yourself as many chances to be seen as possible, but not in a spammy way.

Quick Editing Tools

We use a number of apps that help us to get our posts in line, to edit our images, or make a quick banner. And some are good for, like, you take a snap with your cell phone and you want to edit it really quickly before you put it up. There’s Afterlight and Facetune. Or for graphics and texts we use Font Candy to add some basic text to an image, so like if you want to write ‘SALE!’ on it. Those things make it easy and once you get the hang of using them then they come in handy on a daily basis.

Post Ideas

We’re definitely not planned out a month ahead. There’s so much that changes for us on a daily basis in terms of trends. You might wake up one day and one of the Kardashian’s is wearing a swimsuit you sell and so that’s something that you would have to obviously sneak into your daily posting. We do have someone who manages each account, who understands the brand image and tries to keep a cohesive look. We try not to make everything look so salesy just because I find that people don’t want to be sold to constantly. They want to feel as if they’re part of something and that they’re following an account because they actually like the content. And if they happen to buy, it’s their own decision. So we try to keep it with a very colourful, bright, almost like gypsy wanderlust kind of feel. And the people managing the account all understand that, so they know what to look for. And also choosing brands to sell which fit that look: it’s a lot easier to repost images when they have the same goal.

5: Demographics, Platforms, and PR Team

Male Demographic

I am always amazed by this. Menswear is pretty new for us, it’s something we kind of got it on, like hey, while girls are looking at the site maybe they’ll find something they like for their boyfriend or husband. And then something happened where we started getting all these male customers and they were buying not only swimsuits for themselves but coming on and solely buying swimwear and coverups for I guess their lucky lady in their life. And so we have, it’s always changing, but I want to say 25% of our sales are men.

And so they’re not always buying for themselves, a lot of people come to us for gifts. Sometimes this is a little bit difficult with sizing, and we can send pictures back and forth or send links and be like, ‘Well, does she look like this girl or this girl? And can you sneak into her closet and see what the sizes on the tag say?’ We do offer a wide range of help in that area, but we also do offer exchanges in return.

Sales from Fringe Platforms: Polyvore, Wanelo

  • In the beginning of the business we focused more on Polyvore because we’d heard that so many people had such a great success with it. And we did as well, you know we trended and some items of ours were being used in sets hundreds of times over again, even thousands of times. But with Polyvore, we didn’t see sales from those actions. That’s one of the websites that, at least for our business, we consider to be more of the sharing website. They click the image, they make a Polyvore set out of it, and that’s kind of where that ends.
  • Wanelo is a little bit different because the girls on there are buyers and we’ve seen some success from there, definitely. And then they make it so easy to buy there, I think it’s within one or two clicks you can purchase an item. So we do see a lot of sales from there, however their business model is like a one-click buy. You don’t have a shopping cart so they tend to be one-item purchases and therefor we see that the Wanelo purchases do have a lower price point. But that’s okay too, because they can lead to being repeat customers as well.

Tracking Sales from Pinterest

We do see sales from Pinterest. You can tell kind of from the analytics of the website and the Tailwind app has made that so much easier for us. Before the team would be sitting just clicking and clicking and clicking, adding things to different groups and trying to get the pictures out there. Now the Tailwind app has really made it a one or two click process and it’s made it much better.  So we do see sales from Pinterest, definitely. And I think that we have so many impressions on there that there’s almost no way that we wouldn’t see sales from there.

The Google AdWords Experience

Google noticed us and sent us a laptop to communicate with them on Google Hangouts and to offer us an AdWords specialist team. Because Google AdWords, everyone struggles with trying to figure out the process by yourself. So having someone come in and say, ‘Hey, we’re going to give you a team that’s going to do that for you.’ I was like, oh my gosh, this is amazing because I don’t know what I’m doing. And they gave us a digital strategy team for 14 weeks to set up all of our AdWords. And it was great because it allowed me to better understand the whole process, I went through step-by-step with them on negative keywords and all sorts of things. However after the whole process I decided to take Bikini Luxe in a more organic route and not really pay for clicks. Plus, in the fashion industry our customers are more visual rather than text based.

In-house PR Team

I was just like you know, we’re an online only business. When I look at a magazine I don’t run to the computer and type in that information and try to hunt it down on the website.

A few of the brands that I work with recommended PR agencies here in Miami Beach that they worked with that they thought were amazing. And when I was kind of debating that, I had a few interviews with them, I just found that none of them kind of struck me to be exactly what I was looking for. They were offering me things like, ‘Oh, we can get you posted in this magazine and they’ll quote you in this printed magazine. And here you will be on this flyer.’ And I was just like you know, we’re an online only business. When I look at a magazine I don’t run to the computer and type in that information and try to hunt it down on the website. So that’s not really going to lead to sales for me. We were more concerned about linkbacks and just kind of everything but what they were offering.  And we couldn’t find a PR agency here that was focused on online-only businesses.

So we created an in-house PR team that started with some PR majors and PR interns. And we’ve seen great success with that because they understand what we’re looking for. It’s more cost-effective and I honestly think that now we’re getting the type of backlinks that we’ve always wanted and needed. And it definitely does help having strong PA and DA ranking. Google trusts us, they see that we’re important, that people are talking about us. And it allows us to rank well for terms that are related to our niche, like luxury bikini, high-end bikini, even designer bikini. It allows us to get ahead of the game. A lot of our competition are not really focusing on things like that, they just allow it to happen naturally. But it is something that we really do work towards and put a lot of effort into.

6: Parting Advice

How We Hire

We post ads on websites such as:

  1. Fashionista
  2. Indeed
  3. Internships

3 Indispensible Tools

  1. Freshdesk for customer service
  2. Ninja Outreach for influencers
  3. Shippo for shipping

One Piece of Advice

Create a brand image or brand personality and stick to it: be cohesive!

Recommended Resource

I’m slightly addicted to TED Talks because they provide a view into a wide range of different areas that you don’t even know exists sometimes.

 

Key Takeaways

(02:58) Introducing Candice Galek

(06:55) Bikini Luxe

(26:49) Influencers and Social Media

(46:47) The Customer Experience

(54:36) Instagram

(1:00:09) Demographics, Platforms, and PR Team

(1:15:46) Parting Advice


Transcript

Kunle: Hello guys, my guest on today's show runs something she is passionate about. It's a bikini e-commerce website and they sell a lot more other things. The reason I brought her to the show really was to get talk about how to move a passion to an actual business in such a short period of time. In two years of business she has been able to make a lot of strides to building quite a sizeable and viral brand through social media. I'm not going to say too much because she has so much to share but I'll just, without further ado, I'd like to welcome Candice Galek. Welcome to the show, Candice.

Candice: Hello. Thank you so much for having me.

Kunle: Brilliant, brilliant. My intro probably hasn't done you enough justice so could you take about 30 seconds or a minute to introduce yourself to our listeners, please?

Candice: Of course. So my name like you said is Candice and I've created a company called Bikini Luxe, which is actually only about at this time just under two years old since our sale. I grew up here in South Florida and I've always been in this industry, you know, I was a model, it was kind of my thing and I needed a more viable career, a more long-lasting opportunity. And that's kind of how Bikini Luxe came about, so I'm here to answer your questions on the bikini world.

Kunle: Brilliant, brilliant. How did you start Bikini Luxe? I think it started in 2013 from your bio. How did you get the idea? And how did you take action to building it out?

Candice: Well, as I touched on, I was modelling and it wasn't really for me, however I always had an interest in fashion and swimwear and I lived in the sunshine in a bikini. And I thought, 'Wow, you know, if I give this up, how am I going to keep my closet full of new bikini's all the time?' [laughs] Right? And I had a few connections here, they actually were designers and had their own lines and I was like, you know, I have to put my connections to use and make something of this. So in 2013, I decided, 'Hey, I'm going to make this work,' and I started the process of creating the company and doing all the legal backend things and really just learning kind of the how to portion. However, I didn't have my first sale until June of 2014, which was actually quite amazing. [laughs]

Kunle: Wow. How did you feel? So how many months did you go on till your first sale?

Candice: It took me a few months to get started, to learn, to understand inventory and figure out what brands I really wanted carry just starting out. But in June of 2014, I sat down at a ballgame and had a hotdog in hand. And my phone made this little beep and I was like, 'What is that noise? I don't know that noise.' And it was my first sale and I was so excited.

Kunle: Fantastic. And it's never been the same again because you get those beeps every now and then. Okay.

Candice: [laughs] Yeah. Yeah, it's definitely a little bit different now.

Kunle: You've probably turned the alert off.

Candice: Yeah, I know, I was off to the races after that.

Kunle: Absolutely, absolutely. Okay so, talking about Bikini Luxe, is it a high-end luxury... what is the value proposition of Bikini Luxe? Is it a more high-end, mid-range, or low-end? What kind of bikinis and fashion items? Because I've seen it morph to beyond bikinis, you sell a wide range of other fashion items.

Candice: Of course, yeah. So in the beginning just starting out I had no idea what I was doing really. I was like, okay, I like this bikini so everybody must like this style of bikini. And you know, I came out and I had to change things because I was like, okay we're going to sell extra-small to medium because that's how things go. But no, that's not how the world works, you have to have a little bit of everything for every size, shape, every style. Not everybody wants the same things so we morphed from a few select styles now into I think now we carry extra-small to a D or E cup in some cases or an extra large bottom. And we offer multiple types of coverage now. But also we try to feature different price ranges because we do have a customer base that ranges. We have younger girls who are looking for a swimsuit that's going to last them a long time, that they can kind of get their money's worth. And then we're also catering to a clientele that wants their swimwear overnight because they're going on a tropical vacation and they don't mind spending a little bit more money for for something they're probably only going to wear a handful of times. So it grew from having a small clientele to now we feature or cater to everyone.

Kunle: The point I took from there is you are not your customer. Which is quite interesting, you know, and the fact that you had to expand the range and the offering.

Candice: Exactly.

Kunle: Okay, right, so do you sell your brand products or do you curate and sell well-known brands on Bikini Luxe?

Candice: We do a little bit of both, however we mostly sell other brands. You get to know brands and their quality and their size and fit, and you look for it online and that's what our customer really wants. I know personally myself, I have a brand and I stick to it, you know, that's my size, that's my colour, those are my people, so that's what I kind of stick to. But we also do have a handful of pieces that we import. Because people like to change in every once in a while and give a new brand a shot.

Kunle: It's quite interesting, because you're right there, knowing what demand is. You understand the shopping trends of your customers. And so you're so positioned to, I suppose, make or produce what they would like, given the fact that you know what kind of brands they like. Is that what sort of fits into your own brand of bikinis or products or fashion items?

Candice: It's definitely something to keep in mind. However, at the time a lot of people confused us because they think, 'Oh, you're Bikini Luxe, you must have your own brand of bikinis.' However, we don't, we focus more on coverups or clothing because personally I cannot design a bikini to save my life. I don't know what fits the female body in terms of cutting and patterns and stretch. I just learned recently that different colored fabrics have a different stretch to them and I can't imagine trying to figure that out. So I'm going to leave that the experts and we just curate those brands because they get it right every time and their customer base loves them for it.

Kunle: Okay. That makes a lot of sense. Okay so, we're in February of 2016 now and Bikini Luxe has grown quite a bit from the first sale in June of 2014. Could you give listeners an idea of the size of your team, your team size as we speak? And how it's evolved?

Candice: Of course. In the beginning it was just me, myself, and I sitting at my tiny little dining room table, handwriting labels and keeping track of tracking numbers in a notepad. You know, like seriously do not. However, very early on a few of our items trended virally and I found myself staying up all night long, wondering you know like how am I going to get these 50 orders out overnight. These customers, they want their items and I can't get it to them fast enough, what am I going to do? And I was lucky in the beginning to have the help of a few close friends. And then very quickly realised, you know what, I need more than just my friends' help, I need to enlist a few good soldiers to help me get through this on a daily basis. So we've now stretched from working out of my own living room to a small office to now we have a warehouse here in Miami and we have I think around on a daily basis six people who come in and kind do SEO, package, all those fun things. But we also enlist a lot of virtual employees who work all over the world at all hours of the day, which is honestly necessary with online business. Nobody wants to ever think that you're closed. So we now have a team of I think around 30 people who are writers or SEO ninjas, you know, who really get things going.

Kunle: Gotcha, gotcha.

Candice: Definitely a change.

Kunle: Absolutely. And in such a short period of time from the first sale in June, so kudos to the growth.

Candice: Thank you.

Kunle: Now what particularly attracted me to your brand was your social media reach. And I suppose that pipes into word of mouth. Because lots of conversations are going on social about your brand, that is definitely triggering word of mouth, you know, people are talking about it. And in almost all cases, it will be a positive customer experience. So just looking at your brand, 16,000 Likes on Facebook, you got 45,000 followers on Twitter, your Instagram is the most successful with 52,000 followers. And then you've also got even on Google Plus 5,600 followers. So what does your social media team look like? I think that would be a good starting point and then we'll talk about a few other things.

Candice: Of course. So, we do focus on social media. As I think everyone is aware of at this time, it's not going anywhere and every channel is becoming more geared towards businesses. Instagram has advertisements now and it's something that you just kind of have to jump on board and buckle down and figure it out. But currently we have a social media manager, we have a few employees that maintain the various accounts and make sure there's a steady flow of posts on a daily basis, that things look cohesive, they're true to the brands and we use a few different apps to help us get through the day and keep track of everything. Like Bufferapp helps us with our scheduling and there's one called Foursixty which is great, which links with our Instagram and allows customers to shop directly from our Instagram on the website. So those things are really vital to us at this time.

Kunle: Okay, and do you measure social media reach? And if you do, how do you measure social media reach?

Candice: We do. I mean beyond just seeing the obvious, which are the number of Likes and the number of Shares that you get, you can also check... we use Tailwind. The analytics on there allows us to see what's going on. And also, Google Analytics, which is pretty vital to any online business. And we do a weekly assessment to see what's performing, what's not performing. And you can kind of see, you know like there's this lay-flat of this bikini, did that work well? Or does our customer like more of a model and photoshoot or do they like more of a realistic selfie in a mirror kind of thing? And it's always changing but it allows you to keep up with what the customer's enjoying.

Kunle: Okay. That makes a lot of sense. I'll link up to Tailwind on the show notes. How, this is the core question, how did you build up such an audience over such a short period of time?

Candice: Well, you know we got kind of lucky because we have a product that everyone loves. Women love bikinis, men love looking at women in bikinis. It's kind of just like a jackpot, honestly. [laughs] We kind of built it up between finding a cohesive look for our social media channels and also once we started doing our own photoshoots and having our brands reshare the images to their followers, because compared to the brands that we carry, our following is very small. I think like Frankies Bikinis has over half a million followers, so any time they repost us we get a little boost, and that's always nice.

Kunle: I can see Frankie's logo on your homepage. Okay, so you're in a segment that naturally attracts and audience, and you're riding the wave, which is fantastic and it's natural for both men and women to like bikinis. So okay, that makes a lot of sense. And then you're sort of leveraging off the back of photoshoots and other brands you work with.

Candice: That's true, yes.

Kunle: Right, what about the co-operation? How do your social media teams... and the reason I'm asking this question is really for listeners that are working with other brands basically and that want to leverage their relationship with these brands rather than from a merchandising standpoint to more marketing collaboration. So my question is how does your social media team co-operate and interact with brands such as Frankie's Bikinis and other brands to cross-share or to help your leverage your brand on social media? Was it just a shoutout or did you have something concrete on paper to establish that synergy?

Candice: Right, you know, I think that a lot of it is the photoshoots in our industry at least, because then you do get the shoutouts and their customer base likes to see a new look. Like for example, some of the brands that we work with, they post a lot of the same models, the same looks, the same swimwear and then we give them some fresh content. So that's always nice. Also, a lot of these bigger brands, they have representatives that, they're your rep, they're your person to work with and deal with and they're supposed to be there to help you to transfer any important information you may need to know or that you may want to pass on. So we utilize our reps for everything, you know. If we have a question, if we want a link on their website, like they should all be linking back to you in terms of where to buy. So that's always a great thing also.

Kunle: Stockists.

Candice: Yeah, of course, and that's important. We do see traffic from that. And why people leave and want to go somewhere else I'm not really sure, but they do, so take advantage of it.

Kunle: Yes, absolutely, absolutely. Okay, so you did mention photoshoots and that just pipes into my next question which has got to do with content for social media. How do you schedule and manage photoshoots? Do you have like and editorial calendar that has a pipeline of photoshoots? What does it look like from your perspective?

Candice: From my perspective, I think that we do things a little bit differently. But it is a process that is always changing. We try to stay up to date, and there's always a new collection coming out from one of our brands. By the time you get everything up, there's something new. So we try to stay up to par with what their doing. But in terms of our photoshoots and models, recently we've switched our image and look to be a more a fit girl, a more healthy, body-conscious, kind of like a motivational-type build, where it's not too skinny but girls can really look up to them. And we've done that and I think we've gotten a great response from that in terms of, you know a lot of other companies they use the size 2 model and...

Kunle: Yeah, unrealistic.

Candice: Yeah, you know there's just so many different body types. And personally I'm a smaller person that doesn't mean that everyone else is, and as I mentioned I learned that early on with creating Bikini Luxe, so now we use a girl that's a little bit more relatable. Beautiful girls, but they're not necessarily what you would normally see. So we've kind of touched on that to try to set ourselves apart. And I think that girls who are looking for a fitness motivation or inspiration have landed on our pages, our social media, looking for that and I think we've gotten a good response.

Kunle: Yes, you sure have, you sure have. So touching base again on photoshoots, did you have your photo crew or did you hire an agency or independent photographer to carry out those? Is it fundamental? Is it core? You know, kind of like how when you're running a blog and you need some writers on staff. Do you have a photographer on staff or is it still outsourced?

Candice: It is sort of outsourced but we have an interesting team. I wouldn't say that we are the type to kind of just hire anybody and get the job done. We use a few close friends of mine that actually I shot with before Bikini Luxe was even a twinkle in my eye. And they're close friends of mine, they understand what the image is and what we're looking for. And realistically I could just give them a handful of bikinis and be like, 'Here, go get this done. Like I trust you to choose the right girl.' It could work that way. So it's kind of hard to leave a comfortable nest like that and go and choose someone new and work with an entirely new team. I feel committed to my team, like I use the same photographers, the same makeup artists. They get the Bikini Luxe look and they get it right, so that's kind of what we stuck with. I do have a dream team that I've drafted actually just the other day of like, 'Oh my gosh one day we're going to use this team of people, this makeup artists, this hairstylist, these models, and this photographer.' So it probably will change in the future but for now I'm very comfortable with some close friends who know how to work the camera.

Kunle: I like that. The dream team.

Candice: I wrote it all out and everything, I was like, 'One day, this will be.'

Kunle: Okay. And then the models, they're all quite attractive. Do you get them...do you just use them through your photographer or do you have job listings to get them on board?

Candice: This is something that is probably going to change soon as well. However, funnily I don't use agency models like most people do. I don't know how to say it in a positive...like, you know like I've looked and for the body image I’m going after I just couldn't really find what I was looking for. So I kind of scouted them through social media.

Kunle: Wow.

Candice: Yeah, I kind of write them, I'm like, 'Listen, I love you, can I please [laughs] can you please just come and shoot with us because you're amazing.' And we've gotten a pretty good response so far.

Kunle: The beauty about that is they would have their following on social media and all of a sudden they're put on this platform through Bikini Luxe. And there's that affinity with them and their followers. So it works. As against just paying someone through an agency and it being a job to them.

Candice: Definitely. And I'm not saying that we're against that in future because I have recently found a few girls who are signed to agencies or even some of the girls that I find on social media who are, they literally have 10 followers...a week later I look at them and they're signed to one of the best agencies in Miami so I think I have an eye for those who are about to blow up. And sometimes I snag them just before and then other times we shoot and everyone's like, 'Wow, look at this person, let's find them.' And they steal them from me and I hate it, but you know. [laughs]

Kunle: It's quite interesting. Very, very interesting space you're in. So when did you start to see seismic shifts in your social following in general, from the early beginnings?

Candice: Let's see. I think with the help of influencers and, again, the shout outs from larger companies. Just getting the word out there that we're here and we have content that women like to see. We've gotten very lucky in terms of other people sharing us socially. So I think that's made a huge change in our social media followings. Basically just shout outs. However, we love opportunities like this where people who are listening to your podcast who have no idea who or what Bikini Luxe is, they may be interested in and check us out. So there's opportunity everywhere. So we just kind of take advantage of whatever new people we can meet, we love to meet them, we like to make new friends.

Kunle: Friendly brand. Okay, let's talk about influencers, your influencer marketing and how influencers have been a fundamental part to your success. Was there a strategy? Who did you reach out to? And what platforms? Obviously because bikinis are very visual, what platforms did you feel were a natural fit for the brand and how did you start identifying influencers on the platforms to potentially work with Bikini Luxe?

Candice: Well, it started I think probably just from my own followers to begin with, the people I was personally following. Had a small grouping of people that I was interested in what they were saying, I was interested in what they were wearing. And people tend, fashion bloggers especially, tend to blow up out of nowhere. Like you'll be following them one day and they have 500 followers, that's awesome, I love them, they're great, and then you look next week and they're like shooting a Neutrogena commercial. Like you have no idea what can happen. So I kind of scouted just from my own list of people who are interesting and then we found some on YouTube or girls started writing us and they were like, 'I really love your brand, I'd love to collaborate with you. These are my stats, I think we would be a good match.' And we honestly, the inbox is full of brand ambassadors and affiliates and people looking for collaborations on a daily basis. And you know not everything is a smart business move to kind of go after but there are people out there who do fit the brand, who do fit the image. So a lot of them just kind of fall into our lap and that's always nice.

Kunle: Yeah, it's that attraction and putting the right things out there, the right messaging out that to attract your target influences. So you touch base on two platforms, YouTube which is surprising because that never even popped up into my radar prior to doing some research for this interview. And Instagram, which is a given, I mean it's the biggest platform. What did the YouTube influences do for you? Did you send them samples and then they did some u boxing for some of your products? How did it look like, your YouTube engagement?

Candice: Yeah. A lot of them have personal blogs as well as YouTube channels. And it's always interesting for me to see that they may have hundreds of thousands of viewers on YouTube and then their Instagram has only like 400 followers, like they don't always translate from channel to channel. So you kind of have to do your research and really see who has got what going on. And especially you know, not everyone uses Twitter, not everyone uses Facebook. So the YouTubers, they do unboxing or what's-in-my-bags or 'These are my essentials, this is the new pair of sunglasses I got from Bikini Luxe,' and they link back to you. And sometimes they also do a blog post about it and link back to the product. And some of them are affiliates where they can make money off of their post and their sales and that's always amazing. We've even seen some fashion bloggers who found via Pinterest and I think we have like 1 million Pinterest impressions every month. And we've gained a few people from there and they have a following as well you know, you can see someone who you don't think... like an influencer who you don't think is that high, for example like let's say that you only gauge people based on the number of followers and this person has 500 followers. If those 500 people are engaged and truly care about what she's wearing and where she got it, you can lead to more sales, versus say like an Instagram model who has 500,000 followers but they're all men who just want to see her in a bikini, you know.

Kunle: They're not going to exactly buy or transact with Bikini Luxe are they...

Candice: Right. We do have a great male clientele, don't get me wrong, but you just kind of have to gauge these influencers and see, like you know, are the comments, are people asking, 'Hey, where did you get that top? I love what you are wearing,' or stuff like that versus, 'Hey, you're hot.' You know? [laughs] You have to kind of pick...you can't judge a book by its cover, basically.

Kunle: Absolutely, absolutely. So just putting it into perspective, if I was a YouTube blogger and I was female and I had an audience of say 1000 subscribers who listen to every word I say and my recommendations and like my style and all of a sudden I'm presenting them a product from your store, you may get a handful of sales. But if I was on a model on the other hand, and people just like me for being "hot" on Instagram, not many people really are looking at the brand of the bikinis I'm wearing, it's just the way I look. So it makes a lot of sense.

Candice: It's very true and you know a lot of them themselves cannot distinguish that. They just say, 'Hey, do you want to work with me? I have a quarter of a million followers.' And it's like, 'Well, yeah that's great but they don't care what you're wearing, so no, I don't.'

Kunle: Who are they, exactly.

Candice: Exactly. So you have to choose wisely.

Kunle: Okay. Those are really really good points on influencer marketing. So what are your top channels? Because there's so many platforms on social media and you know time is a finite resource. So how do you prioritize on platform? And where are you seeing the biggest returns from an influencer marketing standpoint?

Candice: We really do focus a lot of our time on Instagram and Pinterest. We've seen that Instagram we can see immediately, we post an image and we see that items sold directly after. So you can kind of tell. Also with the help of that app Foursixty I told you about, you can see exactly where they came from, so they came from our buy-it-now page, which is our Foursixty page. So you can kind of see, 'Hey, this person saw the image, came to the website and bought it because we posted it.' The same kind of goes for Pinterest, the people on there I think are ready to buy. They see something and they're ready to buy versus some other website wear they may just collect images.

Kunle: That is interesting because there's a preconception. A lot of marketers think that traffic from social media is more transitionary, most people are on social media to converse and to consume content as against the direct response of, 'I want to buy a bikini' on Google, how much are bikinis to buy a brand of whatever. It is very, very fascinating that you are getting sales from Instagram directly. I have two questions off the back of that observation, or the points you've made. First question is how instant is the purchase from a post on Instagram? And what device are they using for these purchases? Are they purchasing on their mobiles or are they clicking through, bookmarking, and then closing the purchases on their desktops? What does it look like from your perspective?

Candice: You know I think that Instagram posts have a short lifespan. With the help of the Foursixty app that we're utilizing, it does live a little bit longer on our website because if you go to the page you can see many of the previous posts. And of course on your Instagram page it stays up there, so if people just scroll they can still kind of find it. However for them to see it on their feed and for it to be very relevant, the lifespan and the time between post and purchase is within a few minutes. And that's also probably when you're more likely to realize, 'Hey, this came directly from that post.' That could happen in the future, but you're not going to put two and two together because you've already made 10 other posts. Also in terms of...where my going with this...

Kunle: The devices...

Candice: The devices, right. We can see what our customer base is shopping on and it looks like...it's almost even on most days. Around 50% of people are shopping on a mobile device. So it's imperative that your website be ready for that. It has to look good on both a desktop and also a mobile phone. It has to be easy to navigate. And the content has to flow. So I think that the people or the customer base is shopping on both. And personally I feel more comfortable purchasing on a desktop just because it's easier for me to put everything in. But you know, the generations that are coming up now, maybe they don't even have a desktop, maybe they mostly use a cell phone. And with different forms of payment like Amazon payment and PayPal, you don't even have to have a card in hand any longer, you can just kind of just like one click and you're done. So phones are definitely coming in strong these days.

Kunle: Okay. And I assume if they're comfortable hanging out for hours on end on social media on their mobiles, they should be... if the mobile experience is just as decent as the social media experience, they should not have any problems actually making a purchase through their mobiles.

Candice: Exactly, and they're also waiting. A lot of your day is spent waiting, you're waiting at a red light, you're waiting at a doctor's office, you're waiting for some sort of meeting, or you're waiting for your coffee and you're on your phone and you're bored and you end up on Instagram, you end up on some sort of social media app. And everyone is selling to you all the time. People don't even realize it any longer that they're being sold to constantly. So it only makes sense that they would end up purchasing while on a mobile phone.

Kunle: Okay. Makes a lot of sense. I just started to follow Bikini Luxe on Instagram by the way, and, how does it integrate? Because I can't see a call to action on each post. Obviously Instagram doesn't allow links. So how does Foursixty.com integrate with Instagram?

Candice: Okay so, as you mentioned there are no links in the captions for each post. But you're allowed to have one in your bio. And you can have it go directly to your main page of your website. For us it would be www.BikiniLuxe.com. However, if this customer sees a photo and they have no idea what the product name is, they have no idea how to navigate your website, how to find this, the chances they are actually going to locate it and complete a purchase, it's a pretty low percentage. We use that one link in our bio to go directly to our buy-it-now page. And when you do it do that, which I'm doing right now, you can see all of our Instagram images and if you click on one of the images...

Kunle: That is so clever. So it takes you to the landing page for the Foursixty store which showcases every single item on your feed. And there's a where to buy. It's kind of like, you know when you're reading a magazine and there's a look-book in the magazine and they tell you shoes by Zara and they give a price. And this just takes you straight to buy on the mobile.

Candice: Exactly. Yeah, so it takes you directly to that and you can link multiple different products from the same picture and it'll take you to those exact products. So you know it's up to you to go in there and set up to where it actually goes to the product, but it's definitely worth it it. It's better that you put the work in and locate the product than having your customer look for and have no idea what they're looking for.

Kunle: Okay, so I suppose when you're posting to Instagram you'd probably also need to post to Foursixty.com. Or it probably picks it up from your Instagram feed, but you'd still need to add product links and product titles on Foursixty as part of your work flow process. Okay.

Candice: Yeah, correct. You do need to go on there currently, however this app, just like every other app is constantly changing. They're constantly bettering themselves, so I wouldn't doubt if in the future there's going to be some sort of cookie in every image and it allows it to automatically update for you. Because let's face it, everybody wants an app that does it all. So I wouldn't be surprise if one day I didn't have to go in there and do it to it any longer.

Kunle: That's true. And what does it cost? Foursixty.

Candice: You know what, I'm not exactly sure. Wait, actually I think it's around 25 - 50.

Kunle: Okay. Okay.

Candice: So it's definitely not expensive, and it pays for itself.

Kunle: 50 bucks and then there's 100 and 300 dollars, there's basically three tiers. Okay. It's really, really good stuff. So tracking back to social media and influencer marketing, do you encourage your customers to send photos of themselves wearing your brand? Wearing your products or bikinis or like...?

Candice: Definitely, we do. Like I said, shout outs are the best form of getting new customers and there's nothing more important to somebody than getting a recommendation from one of their close friends. You know like, if your best friend was to say, 'Hey, you know what? I love this brand of men's swim trunks. They fit really well, they're comfortable, they've lasted me forever. You should check them out.' You're probably going to look into it. So you know, if some of the girls that purchase from us do take pictures at the beach, which the majority of them do while out having fun with their friends, and they repost it, we tell them to tag us and to hashtag #bikiniluxe. Or we even have a new one, #bikiniluxebabe. Yeah, and then will send them a $10 gift card.

Kunle: Aha! So there's a reward. Okay. Okay.

Candice: Definitely. You know, everybody wants to reward and we don't mind because we love to see our customers wearing something that they purchased from us. And if that's what we need to offer for them to give a recommendation to every single one of their followers, then that's what has to be done.

Kunle: So I suppose the shoutouts with customers actually wearing your products in beautiful settings along with the photo shoots, the standard photo shoots you need for e-commerce, actually just fuel the content across social media for Bikini Luxe?

Candice: Yes. You know you want to put your name out there anyway that you can. We even have little stickers that we have in the warehouse and sometimes I have a little handful in my purse and I'll just, have you ever gone to one of those restaurants or bars with his put stickers all over the walls?

Kunle: Um....

Candice: Well maybe you haven't but they do exist. [laughs] Especially here in Miami, they do exist.

Kunle: [laughs]

Candice: So we put our name everywhere. There's a dart board somewhere that has the Bikini Luxe sticker on it. There's a small bar in the Keys called The No-Name Bar and the walls are covered covered in dollar bills, and there's a dollar bill on there that says BikiniLuxe.com. And somebody wrote us and said, 'Hey, you know what, I'm sitting in this bar in Key West and I saw this dollar bill that says 'Bikini Luxe' and I just wanted to write you and say hi.' So anywhere you can get your name out there is ideal.

Kunle: Yeah. Just being out there, being in as many different places as possible. I was just looking at the #bikiniluxebabe on Instagram and there are just loads and loads of happy customers here.

Candice: There are. And you know what also, other brands have jumped in there and tried to steal our Bikini Luxe glory by using our hashtag which we don't appreciate. Which is we why we made #bikiniluxebabe, because it's a little more geared towards us. But you know.

Kunle: It's a fascinating business, given the fact that a lot of it is driven by social and your customers, so good on you.

Candice: Cool.

Kunle: So let's move on to customer service. How do you view customer service at Bikini Luxe?

Candice: It's something that is vital to every online business. I'm sure obviously brick-and-mortar stores focus on it as well. However, something that we learned early on is that it's much easier to keep repeat customers than it is to always be searching for new ones. And one way to keep these women coming back is to provide them with a service that they feel is up to par, like they want to have an easy checkout process. They want any questions they may have answered in a quick manner. They want to get their package in a short period of time, and they want the product to look the way that it does online. So customer service is very important to us. It's something that is always changing, but currently we try very hard to not only offer a great experience but to go above and beyond.

Kunle: Okay, okay. And I suppose you are everywhere, you cover all the bases: phone, email, chats.

Candice: Yep. We have live chat option on the website as well that's on whenever they're in the office. So if you're looking at a page and you have a question you know, like, 'Is is going to fit me?' ...you can reach out to us right away and get us there live. We kind of do everything, we even have girls reaching us out to us on social media. [laughs]

Kunle: Yeah, to ask questions. Especially Twitter. Twitter is now an avenue for customer service teams to take on complaints head-on, before they escalate really, and Facebook I suppose.

Candice: Yeah, they put them out there really quickly and that's how they know they're going to get an answer.

Kunle: Exactly, because it's out there in the open and it's a matter of time, response time. Facebook is actually putting a feature on pages which puts average response time, which is quite interesting in itself. Okay, let's talk about customer service as it extends to the unboxing experience and what your thoughts are, whether you pay special attention on packaging? And how customers receive their goods? What's your approach at Bikini Lux?

Candice: You know, as someone who gets a lot of packages on a daily basis between my own online shopping addiction with Amazon Prime or our inventory that's coming in, I see a lot of packaging and you know a lot of it's very boring. I'm tired of brown boxes and bubble wrap and invoices telling me, 'Hey, you just spent all your money on a bunch of things you don't need from Amazon.' So our unboxing experience is slightly different. We send things out in these bubble mailers that are metallic, they're shiny, they're pretty. You know, you see it in your mailbox, you know what it is. We have not only that but inside, instead of items being in one of those like flimsy plastic bags everything is wrapped nicely in these fabric bags. We have inserts in there that are telling you, 'Hey, your package is going to come in two different packages,’ and it has a beautiful girl on it. There are no packing slips, which may confuse some people, people aren't used to getting the packages that I do, they're very boring, here's your receipt, your invoice blah blah blah. But we kind of like to keep our packaging to feel almost as if it's a gift to yourself, you know. When you open it up it's wrapped nicely. We even spritz the packages, I know this is going to sound slightly ridiculous, we spritz them with a fragrance so that when you open it, it smells nice. You want to feel like you went to a boutique and had this whole experience without having to leave your living room. So packages from Bikini Lux come to you as a gift and any invoices, packing slips, those deals are all sent via email. Which is also more friendly for the environment, so we try to go that route. However, I do have a funny story about the fragrance thing, I wouldn't recommend it for everybody. We once had a customers say, 'You know what, I think that somebody wore my outfit. It smells like perfume.'

Kunle: Oh no! [laughs]

Candice: Yes! And I was like, oh my gosh, she so right. And we had to explain it to her and then we had to change from the sent that we make things smell good to something that's more, you know... clothing friendly maybe, so.

Kunle: To make you feel new and... Okay

Candice: Yeah, it like, oh my gosh, no, it was the total opposite. Here we are trying to make something different and they're like, 'What are you doing, like, did you wear this?' [laughs]

Kunle: Yeah, and absolutely taking action on their feedback, it's actually interesting, to iterate. Right, I'm just on YouTube and I suppose perhaps after the show you could send, if you have any photographs of the unboxing, of your packaging, so that we could share on the blog post, on the show notes with this episode, that would be quite interesting. I'll check YouTube out later to see if any of the bloggers actually featured an unboxing, so we'll just link up to that from the show notes. Okay.

Candice: Of course. And I can always send it to you as well.

Kunle: Okay. Brilliant, brilliant. Okay, right. So, do you think the un-boxing experience, as well as, which is a given, you know, great customer service in terms of answering questions, leads on to creating a memorable brand for customers and repeat repeat customers?

Candice: I think it does definitely does. You know when you open it, it does feel like a gift. It's nice, there's no receipt in your face that says, 'Hey, you've just spent $400 on this bikini, you're going to wear one!' No, it's, 'Oh my gosh, this is so beautiful, look. I can't wait to wear it, I can't wait to take it on vacation.' You know, it's a very kind of positive experience. So I think that it does lead to repeat customers. I can't say that because my Amazon purchases don't come in pretty box, like, don't buy from them. But I think that when they do come nicely wrapped, like for example, sometimes we include handwritten notes in some of the packaging, which I personally love to send out. We include free gifts, we include sometimes sunglasses, body chains, little small jewellery pieces. Just kind of as a 'Hey, thank you so much. We really appreciate you as our customer.' And there are tons of articles that you can find online where businesses have seen a lot of success from that. And that does lead to a repeat customer because they feel like they’re getting their money's worth and they feel appreciated and valued.

Kunle: Absolutely. It's a whole surprise and delight element. Okay, all right. Good stuff, let's quickly move on to Instagram, your Instagram management, because I think that has been the most successful platform if I'm right for Bikini Luxe? So how often do you update the Instagram, your Instagram profile or page?

Candice: Our main page we try to update at least... I would say up to 10 times a day.

Kunle: Wow.

Candice: Yeah, you know, in the beginning obviously it wasn't as much and even now it's not always 10 times a day. But like I said, they have a short life span, people are posting all the time. When they're following hundreds of people even thousands of people, your post may or may not be seen. So you want to give yourself as many chances to be seen as possible, but not in a spammy way. It's not Facebook, so you don't want to upload an entire album because realistically, who wants to look at an entire album of what you have? Not that many people. So we try to do around 5 to 10 posts a day.

Kunle: Wow, that's heavyweight. Okay, and what tools do you use to make this process easy, you know, uploading 10 photos a day?

Candice: You know I wish that there was something that would go in and post for us. It's coming, it's in the works. However, we do use a number of apps that help us to get our posts in line or edit our images or make a quick banner. And some of those things are... just like quick editing, like you take a snap with your cell phone and you want to edit it really quickly before you put it up, there's some things like Afterlight, or Facetune which is really popular. Or something that has more graphics and texts we use Font Candy, just to add some basic text to an image. Like, if you want to write SALE on it or... like, currently we're having a Valentine's Day sale so I'll probably put something up with that. But those things make it easy and once you get to know or get the hang of using them then they come in handy on a daily basis.

Kunle: Okay, okay. What about content ideas? You know for 10 posts the day, the content is, so we're talking about pretty much at least 70 photographs of the week. So who comes up with the ideas? You know, you still need to caption them, you still need to hashtag them yet, it's an awful lot. So who comes up with the ideas? And how does your pipeline look? Do you have a pipeline with the posts for the next one month or are they slightly shorter?

Candice: It's definitely a shorter time spent, at least for us. We're definitely not planned out a month ahead. There's so much that changes for us on a daily basis in terms of trends. Like you might wake up one day and have no idea that one of the Kardashian's is wearing one of the swimsuits you sell and all of a sudden you're completely sold out. So that's something that you would have to obviously sneak into your daily posting is, oh my gosh there's this person with millions of followers that's wearing a swimsuit that we sell. So it's definitely not planned out a month ahead but we do have someone who manages each account, who understands the brand image and tries to keep a cohesive look. You know, we transfer between pictures of beautiful locations to tropical-looking fruit which you'll see a lot of on there currently, to pictures of Agua Bendita swimwear. We try not to make everything look so salesy just because people don't really want to be, well I find, that people don't want to be sold to constantly. They want to feel as if they're part of something and that they're following an account because they actually like the content. And if they happen to buy, it's their own decision. They don't want to feel like it's being shoved down their throat constantly. So we try to keep it with a very colorful, bright, almost like gypsy wanderlust kind of feel. And the people managing the account all understand that, so they know what to look for. Sometimes we repost other images or we edit ours to look a certain way, so it's highly managed now.

Kunle: It seems like it's a lifestyle. You're communicating on Instagram and it appeals to a certain kind of person and those happen to be your customers. Yeah, it's hard work, there's a lot of craft and it.

Candice: Yeah and also choosing brands to sell which fit that look. It's a lot easier to repost images when they have the same goal, you know, so it's nice.

Kunle: Exactly. Makes a lot of sense. Okay, talking about demographics, you touch base a bit on Instagram influencer, babe, and Instagram that's got lots of male followers. Just out of curiosity, what do your demographics of followers look like across the board?

Candice: You know, I am always amazed by this. And sometimes you realize it, and sometimes you don't. Menswear is pretty new for us, it's something we kind of got it on, like hey, while girls are looking at the site maybe they'll find something they like for their boyfriend or husband. And then something happened where we started getting all these male customers and they were buying not only swimsuits for themselves but coming on and solely buying swimwear and coverups for I guess their lucky lady in their life. And we have, I think, it's always changing but I want to say 25% of our sales are men. And they're not always buying for themselves. A lot of times they are buying for someone who I'm assuming they're going on vacation with, it's a gift. A lot of people come to us for gifts, we get that a lot. Like they email us like, hey can you please get this to me by this date, it's a gift and I really wanted to it to be special.

Kunle: How do they figure out sizes?

Candice: [laughs] Sometimes it's a little bit difficult and we can send pictures back and forth or send links and be like, 'Well, does she look like this girl or this girl? And can you sneak into her closet and see what the sizes on the tag say?' We do offer a wide range of help in that area. But we also do offer exchanges in return so as long as they leave some time in between then we can figure out.

Kunle: Okay, okay such. Just being mindful of your time, I was curious to know what your thoughts are. I'd say there are secondary social media platforms outside of the Facebooks, the Pinterests, the Twitters and the like. so Polyvore, if that's how it's pronounced. Wanelo.

Candice: Yeah, I think it's Polyvore. Wanelo, I think it might be. I've always called it ‘Wanillo’ but I think it might be called Wanelo. I think I might've even corrected people and told in the wrong word. [laughs]

Kunle: [laughs] So what are your thoughts on both platforms, from a commerce standpoint and reach also?

Candice: Awesome. So in the beginning of the business we focused more on Polyvore because we'd heard that so many people had such a great success with it. And we did as well, you know we trended and some items of ours were being used in sets hundreds of times over again, even thousands of times. But with Polyvore, we didn't see sales from those actions. That's one of the websites that, at least for our business, we consider to be more of the sharing website. They click the image, they make a Polyvore set out of it, and that's kind of where that ends. You know, Pinterest... I'm sorry we're not talking about Pinterest, we're talking about Wanelo. Wanelo I think is a little bit different because the girls on there, they are buyers. You know, we've seen some success from there, definitely. They're on there, they're collecting images and then I think they make it so easy to buy there. I think it's within one or two clicks you can purchase an item. So we do see a lot of sales from there. However, their business model is like a one-click buy, so you don't have a shopping cart. So they tend to be one-item purchases. So it's a little bit different from your e-commerce website where people can buy a multitude of items at one time. So we do see that the Wanelo purchases do have a lower price point. But that's okay too, because they can lead to being repeat customers as well. So I think that we'd choose Wanelo in terms of an e-commerce platform.

Kunle: So it's a really commerce centric social platform. Social commerce, in the full sense of it.

Candice: Yeah I think it's great and I even have a few friends who have decided that they wanted to create e-commerce websites as well, and it's something that I recommend to them just starting out. Because they have a following, they have women on the website searching for things to buy versus you know just being a separate site with no one looking for you.

Kunle: Interesting. I just published an episode with an investor in Wanelo and hopefully he may, well, we hope to speak to someone from Wanelo, perhaps a founder or something.

Candice: I have a few friends with the company, I've made friends with a lot of them throughout this whole business so if you like I can send you over the info for maybe like the Head of Communications or so.

Kunle: That would be brilliant, I would appreciate it, thanks. What about the Pinterest? What are your thoughts on Pinterest? Has it help with direct sales for Bikini Luxe yet?

Candice: Yeah, but Pinterest we do see sales from there. You can tell kind of from the analytics of the website. We paint everything. I think the Tailwind app has made that so much easier for us. Before we would be sitting, the team, just clicking and clicking and clicking, adding things to different groups and trying to get the pictures out there. Now, that app, Tailwind, has really made it a one or two click process and it's made it much better. But we do see sales from Pinterest, definitely. And I think that we had so many impressions on there that there's almost no way that we wouldn't see sales from there. There's a lot of viewers, so.

Kunle: Okay. Brilliant. Okay. I'll just wrap up with some questions on PR and SEO. But prior to that, I learned that Google at a certain point in time got in touch with you for a potential interview. And they posted you a laptop to talk. And you said that was moment, the point in time, that you realized you'd gone viral. Could you shed some more light on that experience, please?

Candice: Yeah, of course. That was closer to the beginning of Bikini Luxe. I went to the post office to go pick up all the packages and there is this giant shiny box. And it was white and beautiful and it just said Google right across the front of it. And I'm looking around, like, did somebody order this, like what did you guys order? And no one had any answer. And I'm like, well, I didn't order anything from Google. So I get home and open it up and there's a laptop. And I'm like, what is this? [laughs] And there's a little note in there and it mentions, I don't remember word for word now, but that they had noticed us and wanted to send us a laptop to communicate, I think it was like a Facechat thing. [laughs]

Kunle: Hangout, something, yeah. [laughs]

Candice: Yeah, at Google Hangouts. They wanted to communicate with us and offer us a marketing team, like an AdWords specialist team, something strange like that. And it's something that I had never heard of. And I was like, oh well, that's kind of cool. Because Google AdWords, everyone struggles with that, you know. It's like when you're going to a university and you're trying to figure out your student loan process by yourself. And you have no idea what's going on. That's exactly what Google AdWords is to me. So having someone come in and say, 'Hey, we're going to give you a team that's going to do that for you.' I was like, oh my gosh, this is amazing because I don't know what I'm doing. So that's how that started. And they gave us a digital strategy team for 14 weeks or something like this, to set up all of our AdWords.

Kunle: Wow. Okay.

Candice: Yeah. And it was great because it allowed me to better understand the whole process. You know I went through step-by-step with them, like why you would do something versus doing something else. Negative keywords and all sorts of things. So it was great in that aspect, however after the whole process I kind of decided that we wanted to take Bikini Luxe in a more organic route and not really pay for clicks, so.

Kunle: The challenge with AdWords and growing businesses in fashion is it's pretty text based. And that's why they brought in the product listing ads, the PLA ads. I wrote a blog post about why SEO and PPC will not necessarily grow your fashion brand and why you need other aspects. Everything we sort of touch based on today, you know, is exactly what you should be doing. You know, social, the un-boxing experience, customer experience, working with influencers, and just making customers happy and driving repeat business, which is just brilliant.

Candice: Definitely. And they're a visual customer, so.

Kunle: Visual, exactly. Okay, so really, really quickly, PR and SEO. What are your thoughts generally on PR? You did mention you have an SEO team. So have you also got like a PR team? What are your thoughts on how SEO integrates with PR?

Candice: To begin with, a few of the brands that I work with here recommended PR agencies here in Miami Beach that they worked with that they thought were amazing. And when I was kind of debating that, I had a few interviews with them and went and spoke to some of the more influential PR people in Miami. And I just, honestly didn't, none of them kind of struck me to be exactly what I was looking for you know, they were offering me things like, 'Oh, we can get you posted in this magazine and they'll quote you in this printed magazine. And here you will be on this flyer.' And I was just like you know, we're an online only business. When I look at a magazine I don't run to the computer and type in that information and try to hunt it down on the website. Like, that's not really going to lead to sales for me. So we couldn't really find a PR agency here that was focused on online-only businesses. Because we were more concerned about linkbacks and, I do know, just kind of everything but what they were offering. [laughs] So we created an in-house PR team that started with some PR majors and PR interns, that's kind of how it started. And we've seen great success with that because they understand what we're looking for. It's more cost-effective. And I honestly think that now we're getting the type of backlinks that we've always wanted and needed because our team understands that, you know they're not... For example, we recently we were on the front cover of a major magazine, Bikini Luxe was mentioned as the provider of the entire ensemble. And we didn't have a single sale from that. However, you get one link on a fashion blog and you see 10 or 20 sales, so. You know we created our in-house PR team that kind of fits exactly what we're looking for. And in the future it may be different, we may find someone who kind of has something to offer in terms of SEO and backlinks, but right now we haven't.

Kunle: You've done a pretty good job. You know, you have a domain authority of 45. For a two-year-old company that is a feat, that's good. Many companies are struggling, they'll be in the 20's in SEO business in e-commerce, especially. Prior to the interview you sent me links and I also saw links from things like FoundersGuide.com, The Free Hand, Voices of Marketing, so you're doing a bit of B2B PR in the entrepreneurship space just like you're appearing here on 2X eCommerce. And then there's also the fact that you're showcased on fashion blogs and fashion magazine websites, online magazines. So it's a pretty good job so far and that's why I said I just had to talk about PR and SEO because that definitely is helping with some natural organic SEO traffic, I suppose.

Candice: Yeah, it definitely does help having strong PA and DA ranking. Google trusts us, they see that we're important, that people are talking about us. And it allows us to rank well for terms that are related to our niche, like luxury bikini, high-end bikini, even designer bikini. It allows us to get ahead of the game and a lot of our competition, they're not really focusing on things like that. They just allow it to happen naturally. And I think that it will happen naturally in time. But it is something that we really do work towards and put a lot of effort into.

Kunle: Yeah, and just to add to what you said, this is not the holy grail of the business. You know the business is thriving on other sources of traffic and exposure, which just diversifies, so it shows the health of the business because you're not relying on one single channel to get customers in the door. And people are talking about the brand, which is great.

Candice: Right. You know, you wouldn't want to put all of your eggs in one basket. Things are always changing. And one day you don't want to wake up and see your sales are at zero, and be like, well, why did that happen? And realize that all of your hard work has been ruined because of something like a algorithm change.

Kunle: Exactly, exactly. Okay. So wrapping up. We are in the final stage of this interview and this is where, I do this with every guest, it's called the lightning round, and the evergreen questions. So I ask a question and if you can answer in a sentence or two, that would be brilliant, please. Okay so, how do you hire people?

Candice: We post ads on websites such as Fashionista.com, Indeed, and something... Internships.com I think it is.

Kunle: Okay. What are your three indispensable tools for managing Bikini Luxe?

Candice: For customer service that would be Freshdesk. And for influencers that would be Ninja Outreach. And for shipping, it would be Shippo or GoShippo.com.

Kunle: Okay, brilliant. What has been your best mistake to date? By that I mean a setback that's giving you the biggest feedback?

Candice: Best mistake to date.... You got me on that one. [laughs]

Kunle: It happens, it's a recurrant reaction.

Candice: I swear I was prepared for that question and now I'm not. Let's come back to that one.

Kunle: Okay, all right. What one piece of advice can you give to e-tailers listening, keen on 10Xing or growing their business as fast as you have through social media and influencers and word-of-mouth?

Candice: I would say create a brand image or brand personality and stick to it. Be cohesive.

Kunle: Be cohesive. Okay, brilliant. Okay, if you could choose a single book or resource that has made the highest impact on how you view building a business and growth, which would it be?

Candice: I'm slightly addicted to TED Talks, only because they provide a view into a wide range of different areas that you don't even know exists sometimes.

Kunle: Absolutely. Okay, good one. Right. Good stuff. Candice, it's been an absolute pleasure having you on the show to share your insights on how you've built Bikini Luxe to this point through very clever, very customer centric social media engagement. It's been fantastic having you on the show, Candice.

Candice: Thank you so much for having me. I had a great time.

Kunle: Okay, thank you. So thank you guys for sticking to the very end of the show, and hope you've found Candice's insights on building a social media presence for an e-commerce store inspiring and that you've been able to pick up a few tactics you can immediately start applying to your online retail business. Because taking action is the only way to move the sales needle. To download the show notes and read the full transcript, head over to 2XeCommerce.com. And for updates and tips on how to grow your store, just be sure to sign up to the 2XeCommerce email list. Until the next show guys, do have a good one.






About the host:

Kunle Campbell

An ecommerce advisor to ambitious, agile online retailers and funded ecommerce startups seeking exponentially sales growth through scalable customer acquisition, retention, conversion optimisation, product/market fit optimisation and customer referrals.

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  • Thank you for this opportunity Kunle, What an amazing post!