3 things I found out about clothing subscription. The last one is the one I am obsessed with.

I just recently applied for an internship position at some startups, and realized that I wanted to know more about the business that I was applying for.  So, as a result, I made a 3-hour search and found out the first thing: most of them are in the subscription business.

This is actually a very promising market. Indeed, the number of  startups out there offering similar services tells everything.

But this is no ordinary market – this is market of personalized service. And this is no ordinary market of clothing – we need to deliver what a customer love to wear regularly and make her satisfied everytime she receives a new box of clothing. This might seem not that difficult if we look back on the progress of technology and computer intelligence.

However, right when I made a quick search on the internet, I knew that something was not exactly right. Among the positive feedback and reviews, we can easily find negative reviews that are very intimidating, which could prevent one from the idea of starting the subscription. Comments following these negative feedbacks can be like:

“You saved me from literally entering in my credit card details!”

BOOMS! We lose the customer right there.

The siutation can get even worse if this negative review ranks first in Google search. We can see that this does no good to the subscription business, which is based mainly on trust and loyalty.

But now I am not reading the review of the clothing subscription service anymore.

I am reading a brighter side of review – from a marketer – to see how the customer (even though as cynical as he can be with emails) is so happy with the email he received from Everlane- the online clothing retailer. Surprisingly, it is not the quality, the design or the delivery time that the author is talking about. It is the email. Yes, you are not getting wrong. People are writing blog posts just about an email that they received from the online clothing retailer.

I am not going deep into this but there is one thing that is very clear here. People want personal touch as much as possible. We do not have salesman or saleswoman to make our customers feel happy but we actually have more contact with our customers than we think. When the relationship becomes more personal, people become more tolerant. In the case of personalised clothing shopping, are we seeing the same thing? I read one comment on a blog review expressing how they feel that the customer service is unhuman with the email address: hi@abc. It is such a small detail, you are right. But we know that people do care about such small details.

But how much should we personalize our communication? from our email? from our social media post?

Or should we get in touch more with the reasons people like or dislike their subscribed box?

Or should we be present on most media platforms and reply every feedback or review instantly to show that we really care?

Whatever popping up in mind right now is all correct. Though ridiculous as it may seem, first and foremost, the more intelligent technology become in understanding people, the more human touch should be provided to understand people.  When I consider you as a friend who tries to help me, I am more tolerant towards your mistakes and help you improve. When I know that you simply want to earn money from me, a small mistake can be the reason for me to leave you.

We don’t have other kinds of relationship here.

Next, information is the key. Everybody wants the best things or, if not possible, the best choice. However, there are negative feedbacks about the bad quality and design of the subscribed clothes all over the place. Why would a sensible person choose to subscribe the same service after reading such bad comments? unless she wanted to write another soon-to-be-popular “honest” review.

However, there is one twist around this: by providing and receiving more information about the clothes you are offering.

Firstly, provide more product details and better presentation.  I myself never feel enough with a few images and some short descriptions. I always want more photos from different angles. I always want to see more product information: where is this clothes manufactured? where should i wear it? what is the cost of producing one piece of clothing, etc. I want to reassure myself, and I bet that many people would want the same thing. What we want to reassure ourselves is that this is the best choice, the best decision we make after considering all the product information. So often, people don’t know much about what they buy and turn disappointed when they actually receive the clothes. If I already knew that this fabric was produced in China with acceptable quality, and I still bought it for the design, I would not become that disappointed receiving the delivery. In short, more information, clearer expectation, less disappointment.

Secondly, receive feedbacks and make adjustments. This might not be a matter of second. But we need to find out our true customer satisfaction with the quality. Email or call randomly some customers and ask for their honest feedback for improvement. If they do think it is bad, we need to change the supplier, find other sources, change the design. Because in the end, it is the customer loyalty that keep subscription business alive. They may even appreciate our effort with the message: We are not scamming you with bad quality products. We are on our way to offer you the best.

Last but not least, share your story with customers.

I may be quite obsessed recently with my bachelor thesis about storytelling, but honestly, who don’t like story? There are so many competitors out there offering the same subscription service, so why should I choose you? If you tell me the story why you start this first or stories of people like me, something like “because you won’t need to compromise time and fashion”, “because you can feel beautiful and surprised every day without losing focus on your life goals”. If I am in your story, I like your clothes design, and I see that you are responsive to my feedback,  I can be your loyal customer for a long time. What I buy is not limited to convenience, indeed, it is the belief, the lifestyle, the dream that i buy into.

So what’s in it for clothing subscription business:

1) have more personal relationships with customers in different ways and on different platforms

2) provide more product information and listen more to what the customers has to say. Listen, understand and change to stay in customer’s heart.

3) tell stories, make our customers believe, and then write the stories together.

Honestly, i guess that this is easier said than done. But as soon as one business starts the wheel, it will undoubtedly become the leader and finally set the expectation for the rest.

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Titi Ngau-Thu Nguyen

I am fascinated by new ideas every day. Know more about me at

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