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From Thrift Store to Online Store: The ModCloth Story

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Vintage fashion, retro pieces, jewellery that dates back… These are the things that Susan Gregg Koger loved about thrift shopping. Her love turned into an e-commerce business that is only getting better day in and day out.

Vintage fashion has been making its way back into the hearts and lives of fashion lovers across the globe. Susan Gregg Koger was at the forefront of the vintage fashion revolution. She has had a long time passion for thrift shopping and her constant search for unique vintage items led her to realise that too much of a good thing results in overcrowded wardrobes and numerous clothes that don’t actually fit.

“My dorm room began to fill with all these spectacular pieces that just weren’t my size or style, so with the help of my boyfriend at the time, and now husband Eric Koger, I started a website,” explains Gregg Koger. “That is how ModCloth was born!”

Susan Gregg Koger and Eric Koger are the Co-Founders of the successful vintage inspired clothing start up, ModCloth.

Wardrobe to Website

Still full time students in Pennsylvania when the company began, the Co-Founders were unprepared for the challenges that the large amount of attention their site would bring. With no real experience in the industry, Eric Koger had started his own web-hosting business at 17 and Susan Gregg Koger had a self taught idea of fashion, the young thrift shopper was left looking after numerous aspects of the business.

“For the first several years, I handled marketing, merchandising, photography, shipping and customer support,” explains Gregg Koger.

Supply and demand plays a vital role in the running of ModCloth. As the demand grew, more supply was needed, and Gregg Koger needed a new way to fill that demand.

“Once it became clear that there was a demand for the retro aesthetic of ModCloth, the next challenge became how to scale the business, which is when we decided to begin selling vintage-inspired items from independent designers,” she explained.

The increase in stock levels allowed the website to grow bigger than ever anticipated. Numerous items are launched on ModCloth each day, however only in small lots. Items may be given an encore if they sell well the first time round.

Susan gives an insight into the numbers, “ we carry a wide assortment of indie fashion and décor from over 700 designers and launch between 25 and 50 new products daily.”

Dress to Impress – The Customer

“Our mission is to change the way fashion is discovered, developed and delivered around the world,” says Gregg Koger.

How is the ModCloth team planning on reaching such a feat you might ask, the fashionable entrepreneur explains that it is done by staying up to date with current technologies as well as listening to what your customers want from your brand.

“We’re building a platform that will further empower our global community to directly collaborate on the production of unique and inspiring merchandise. We research our customer behavior and test new features with real users before we launch them. Once launched however, we collect feedback from customers through customer care, Facebook, Twitter as well as through our research team,” says Gregg Koger.

Modcloth has a strong following on Facebook and Twitter and uses these social network sites, including Pinterest and Instagram to meet their customers on whichever social network they may be using at the time and communicate in a way that shows there are ‘real’ people in the company.

“We consciously use initials at the end of responses, so that customers can see there are people behind the tweets of posts. Our story really began with ‘a girl in a thrift store’, so no matter how large we grow, we want our customers to see the people behind the company,” she explains.

The team behind ModCloth always has a certain ‘girl’ in mind when doing things for the site, and they will only make changes or incorporate new ideas if they think it will engage their target market.

“We want to involve our customer in almost every aspect of the business,” says Gregg Koger. “As I mentioned, we launch many items a day but in small lots, and we allow our customer to let us know what she wants to see come back in stock. This allows us to gauge demand and notify our customers directly when the items returns to the site.”

Thrifting gets an Upgrade

“We just launched the first iteration of our mobile site a few months ago and we’re seeing a steady rise in traffic, but we’re still in the process of building the best mobile experience possible for our customer,” explains the Co-Founder. “We know that our customer engages with her phone and tablets quite a bit and we’re already seeing impressive conversion. But ultimately, we see mobile as another way for our customer to engage with us beyond purchasing.”

Mobile is proving itself to be a vital part of the ModCloth business but the ModCloth team has also found that there is a change from search-driven technology to discovery-driven technology.

“With the popularity of applications like Instagram and Pinterest that allow users to create inspiring and beautiful content, we think more and more customers will want to see inspiring user-curated and personalized product discovery experience.”

According to ModCloth visionary Susan Gregg Koger, the new e-commerce experience is all about the customer participation and how the customer can be involved with the company. ModCloth has a Be the Buyer program which allows the customer to vote on different products and recommend changes and Gregg Koger doesn’t think it will stop there with customer interaction.

“We’re excited about the ways we can continue to involve our customer in product selection and design.”

Check our our exclusive video interview with Susan Gregg Koger from Online Retailer Roadshow earlier this year.

Seeking more information on how to get an online retail venture off to a flying start? See our complete A-Z guide, Power Up: The Online Retail Entrepreneur’s Guide.

Samantha Youl

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Sam is a content creator for The Media Pad. She was never sure what type of media job she wanted to settle for after studying media and communications at University, but being a bit of a shopaholic and a mobile phone junkie, The Media Pad seemed to be the perfect fit. When she isn’t watching the online retail space she spends far too much time playing netball and investigating her next trip abroad. Follow Sam on Twitter or connect with her through LinkedIn

One Comment

  • I found meeting Susan from Modcloth a real inspiration. She’s a no-nonsense sort of person but with heaps of energy and vision. In fact, we liked her so much, we interviewed her dog!

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