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Fashion Business Advice

Building a Fashion Brand: Know Your Target Audience to Maximize Growth

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Target Audience Insights Generate Growth

Target audience and competitor research are two of the most influential activities on launching, building, and running a fashion startup. Results inform actual product design to messaging and executional marketing tactics. Insights gathered from research enables you to make strong business decisions and ultimately generate growth.  

We recently addressed competitor research in this article. Now, we are going to focus on another another important endeavor – target audience research.

Understand Your Target Audience

Prior to launch – understanding your basic target audience is incredibly important because it helps you analyze the market and if it is large enough to support your fashion business (i.e. who is your target market and how many people are included in it?). Additionally, you need to understand what your audience will really be looking for in the products/service you provide – what do they need and what are their expectations. Let those answers guide your decisions moving forward.

Post-launch target audience research allows you to find more customers efficiently and support your current customers in a way that keeps them coming back.

Target audience research allows you to:

  • Develop products and services your audience wants or needs
  • Set the personality for your brand that grabs your audience’s attention
  • Create clear offers and marketing materials that again, grab the attention of your audience
  • Know where and how to reach your audiences. For example – where to place your ads?

Target Audience Research: Dig Deep

You probably have some idea of who your target audience(s) are. But in order to successfully launch and grow a business you need granular details.

Let’s follow an example: Let’s say you design elaborate, colorful prom dresses for direct-to-consumer purchases. You may pinpoint high school girls as customers. This is a starting point from which to create outreach initiatives and marketing materials to drive sales. But you can’t advertise to all high school girls across the country – you don’t have the budget, nor would it be strategic and efficient.

By completing deeper research, you could find that your designs specifically appeal to girls who live in a certain region, come from a certain household income level, and have a specific set of design criteria – influenced from their culture and environment, and like to shop a certain way.  

Following the prom dress example, let’s say through research you found that your colorful designs appeal to girls who live in sunnier, warmer climates, can afford luxury price points, and actually love the process of in-person shopping. Using this information, you may choose to target digital ads to very specific regions of the country based on not only climate, but income level, during a certain time period (when prom dress shopping occurs).  You may also start to target wholesale accounts because your potential customers like the in-person experience.

What we’re trying to illustrate here is that a product can appeal to a variety of buyers who have different motivations for purchasing. Marketing works best when it is targeted and focused, so ultimately, that is what we are aiming for – gaining insights that lead to compelling, targeted messages that drive action.

To effectively market and get products out into the real world, startups need to identify their main customers and different types of buyers, and refine their profiles over time. To do this, they must undergo consumer research.

Conducting Research and Refining your Target Audience

There are many methods of target audience research. The most helpful and easiest for startups to implement include hosting focus groups, analyzing secondary research (reports), and crafting customer surveys.

Before using any of these methods, you must develop a research strategy, figure out the goals of undertaking the research, and even think about hypotheses for outcomes. A list of things to consider:

How are you going to use results?  

  • e.g. Is the resulting information going to inform product development, advertising messages and placement, or do you need specific information for an investor deck?

Who do you need to talk to to get this information?

  • e.g. Potential or current customers?

What research method (or mix of) is going to be the most conducive to getting this information above?

  • e.g. Before launching a new design, you might conduct a small focus group, then follow up to a wider audience with a survey for further product validation.

Note: You may not only need to use multiple methods, but use several sessions for one method. Do not try to get every single question you’ll ever have taken care of in one focus group for example. You’re better off starting with a manageable set of questions and asking people to commit to a shorter length of time and coordinating the process again with a different group, than cramming too much into one session.

Target Audience Research – Focus Groups

What are Focus Groups

A focus group is a group of people, brought together for research purposes, to discuss a particular product, service, or brand. Often, they are used prior to a launch, but they can also be used to provide ongoing feedback.

When to use it

Create focus groups when you need in-depth, detailed, and actionable information. It seems particularly helpful when you need feedback prior to the launch of your product/design. Insights can help guide good changes and finalize details, or provide marketing ideas. For example, if you show a focus group a new collection, they might be able to tell you how they envision wearing the pieces; where they would wear the clothing to, what accessories they might add, or what they need to complete a “look.” They might be able tell you what they would change to make it even more compelling.

Going back to the prom dress example, you may find that in your particular focus group, high school girls are not interested in carrying a purse all night and you may consider providing dresses with pockets.

Another beneficial activity is to observe audience reactions to competitor products (show pictures!). This may help refine product/market fit, and provide other ideas. Throughout the focus group process, you should start to understand the audience’s issues and challenges around your product category, and the resulting buying decision process and use cases. You may also investigate how your target consumes information – where they go, where they shop, what they read, etc. What kind of attitude and personality do they like brands to have?

Some tips

  • Start with a group that is close to what you think your target audience is
  • Go in with a plan – a list of questions – but allow the conversation to flow organically.  
  • Pay attention to what people say, how they interact with others, and what they don’t say

Secondary Research

What is Secondary Research

There are two main categories of research methods: primary and secondary. In a nutshell, primary research is original research, conducted first-hand. Secondary research is the process of accessing data that has already been gathered. Sometimes you may need to pay for access, but other times, with a little luck and a lot of googling, you may be able to find free reports containing relevant data.

When to use it

Secondary reports are helpful for assessing general, overall trends of large groups. You’ll need to have some idea of what audiences you are going after and why, to find research relevant to your business.

For example, if you know you want to target millennials, you will be able to find reports that describe consumer attitudes, shopping habits, and buying behavior. You may be able to find what brands appeal to this group, and what they are looking for in products and companies. You may not be able to tell from this research if they want to buy your specific product, but you will be able to piece together a hypothesis based on information on their consumption and attitudes.

Tips

Again – you’ll need to have some idea of what audience you are going after and why to make this a useful practice. For example, are you looking for marketing messages or trying to determine the potential market size? Those questions lead to different paths. Specifics lead to more relevant information. For example, if you take “Millennials” as mentioned above, but add in “interested in eco-friendly products” you will have more targeted results. Maybe there is a hole in the market for eco-friendly prom dresses?

Surveys

What it is

Surveys are polls that allow you to collect information from a group of people. The format is efficient for compiling quantitative data, although it can be used for qualitative too. Surveys can be used before a launch and are especially useful through growth and management of new brands.

When to use it

Surveys are best used when collecting straightforward information. Typical questions are demographic focused; age, gender, household income, etc. You may also ask psychographic information, which reveals customer likes, interests, and habits. You can use a survey before launching something new as part of your product validation process (survey monkey and google have services that allow you survey consumers you may not know). You may also use it to check in with your current customer as you grow – to get their feedback about specific items or measure their satisfaction.

Some tips

  • When drafting questions, make sure every question will tell you something meaningful.
  • Don’t make the survey long – people won’t finish it if they get bored. Tell your audience upfront how long it will take to complete.
  • Ask for email addresses in case you want to follow up with individuals (but make this optional).
  • Host a contest for completion to increase takers

Analyzing Target Audience Research

As mentioned, you should have a very basic idea of your target audience when you set out to launch and in the early stages of growing your brand. The goal of audience research is to refine this basic concept as much as possible and to identify distinct groups of buyers.

When breaking an audience into groups, you may discover differences in how your designs and products should be marketed. You should be able to answer the following questions after research:

  • Is the market large enough to support your business – do you think enough people will be interested in your product to support a business?
  • Do these people need or desire your product? How so?
  • How does your product help your targeted audience solve a problem or create a unique need?
  • What do your buyers have in common?
  • What drives your target audience to make buying decisions?
  • How can you efficiently reach your target audience?
  • Demographic information (Age / Location / Gender / Income Level / Education Level / Marital/Family Status/Occupation)

Conclusion

Results of target audience research should drive product development, marketing and business decisions. If you haven’t launched yet, it should provide insight into tweaks that can make your debut stronger. If you have launched, it should help you optimize selling strategies. You are aiming for an understanding of what triggers buyers to take action. You need a mix of information, gathered from primary and secondary sources, both qualitative and quantitative to fully answer that question.

 

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Evelyn Frison

Evelyn is the co-founder of Pivotte – Low Maintenance Clothing for High-Performing Women, and an Integrated Marketing Strategist that specializes in startups. She is motivated by the energetic atmosphere, creative thinking, and dynamic personalities found within the startup space. Check them out at http://www.pivottestudio.com/

4 Comments
  • Robert Inestroza

      REPLY

    Wonderful articles, thanks. It would be really helpful if you could use a thicker version of the paragraph font as it is almost invisible, even on a desktop computer....just saying. :)

    1. Nicole Giordano

        REPLY

      Thanks for your feedback, Robert. We'll look into the font situation. ;)

  • grace Eze

      REPLY

    Hi just graduating from fashion school in Nigeria. That was very helpful as am still putting ideas together on how to start my fashion outfit.

  • gabrielle woodhams

      REPLY

    Thank you for that information, Evelyn. I'm just starting out, so I found it very helpful.

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