I sat down in the Starbucks Reserves on a sunny Sunday afternoon, and through the huge windows next to my table, I saw Brian Li walking to our meeting with his shinning Christine Louboutins. Brian is the founder and CEO of ModeSens, a Kirkland-based fashion startup that aims to disrupt women’s luxury goods market.
What is women’s luxury goods market, specifically? Well, if you follow bloggers on Pinterest or Instagram and are highly influenced by what they wear; if you purchase designer handbags and occasionally purchase shoes that are worth more than 500 US dollars, you are exactly Brian’s target customer. As an experienced software developer who loves and follow fashion, Brian realized over the years that the luxury goods market is fragmented with different websites and apps exist for different purposes through a customer’s buying process: consumers receive fashion information through bloggers, fashion shows, magazines; Then they write down the brands and styles they like, so that they can purchase through department stores. Finally, they share their own looks through social media channels such as Facebook and Instagram. Brian consolidated all of these steps and created ModeSens, a website that positions itself as your best personal shopper because it feeds you information, learn your shopping behaviors, gives you information about where to get the best price, and even allows you to share your purchase inside the ModeSens community. When consumers get used to ModeSens, it surely is disruptive enough to change consumers’ behaviors.
However, how to get customers to trust, adopt and stick with ModeSens has been and remain to be the biggest challenge for Brian. “We want to get as many users as possible because that’s how we make money, but at the same time we want this website to be exclusive and by invitation-only so that customers feel special”, as Brian explained during he interview. After careful considerations, Brian decided to forgo some of the revenues in the early stage and build the site as an invitation-only personal shopper because in the end of the day, his target customers are people who have large disposable income and who shop for luxury goods, and exclusivity and status is definitely something they value.
Limited Invitations are sent to customers’ emails once they request access
Although it is a lot slower to grow the customer base with the invite-only method, Brian was able to get more than 100 subscribers within the first 3 months through promoting among his friends. Although Brian is an ordinary software developer, his wife has been working in the fashion industry for years and personally knows a number of celebrities. In terms of how to acquire new customers outside of their friend circle, Brian said that he is giving Facebook ads and Instagram a try. Since ModeSens’ target customers are clear: females who are 25-50 years old and have high disposable income and love fashion, Facebook would be very helpful to feed ads to these people through targeted ad campaigns. A piece facebook ad can cost anything from 20 dollars to a couple thousands. A $20 ad can reach 6,000 people if you set up good keywords, and if your product is valuable to these people, a conversion rate (people who like your page) can be 5-10%.
ModeSens’s Facebook Page
Instagram is a different story: ModeSens needs to create attractive content and slowly acquire followers on Instagram because of the nature of the app. However, Instagram is where fashion lovers and bloggers share their outfits and purchases, therefore it is necessary for ModeSens to build up its presence there. Moreover, ModeSens is planning to partner up with Instagram influencers (specifically shoe bloggers who have at least 100K followers on Instagram) to promote itself, which should bring in at least 300 followers with every campaign.
If you read this blog all the way through here and love ModeSens’s business idea, give a try. I signed myself up a couple of weeks ago and am getting addicted to it. I had a great interview with Brian, and I am very looking forward to the success of this innovative fashion startup.
Photo with the Founder of ModeSens, Brian Li