Fashion is a tightly controlled and often volatile market, but the rise of the online marketplace is quickly shifting the destination of where stylish consumers go to shop. As the concept of online fashion retail continues to evolve, many stores are now catering to those who don’t just want to buy, but also want to swap and sell their own garments amongst the community.
StyleAlley is the latest Australian social marketplace to join this competitive space which calls itself a hybrid of the eBay marketplace atmosphere with the social aspects of Facebook.
Founded by Wendy Huang and Andrew Chak as an alternative to eBay for women, StyleAlley hopes to create the largest closet share community in Australia.
Huang came up with the idea for StyleAlley through her popular YouTube channel where she is currently a beauty and fashion blogger sitting within the top-fifty channels in Australia.
“I get a lot of feedback from my community and listen to their problems all the time,” she says.
“One common theme that kept coming up was girls searching for a place to easily sell clothes; eBay took too long and was also quite costly, especially if it didn’t sell.”
Huang further emphasises that on the social front, Facebook groups were often very sporadic and user listings would get buried into the social feed. Other girls who tried to sell their clothes via Instagram found that it was too much work to maintain and build a following.
The final straw came when she noticed the amount of clothes and shoes she had that either didn’t fit or never wore, many still with tags on them.
“I ended up throwing away a mountain of clothes away which was as tall as half my height. I realised how much waste happened due to my shopping habits and love for fashion and knew there was an easier way to go about it,” she says.
StyleAlley came to fruition soon after with the help of Chak who looked after building the site from scratch and overall user experience.
Given that there are already numerous competitors in the fashion marketplace ranging from local players like Young Republic right through to online clothing giant ASOS, Huang and Chak could face some stiff competition unless they have a serious point of difference with StyleAlley.
How does the pair aim to differentiate their service?
“Our community comes first so we will never charge our users listing fee’s and endeavour to make our selling experience the easiest ever,” says Huang.
“We created our sixty-second listing process which makes it super easy and quick to list your clothing.”
Huang adds that instead of every transaction being stand alone, they also wanted to create a platform where women could sell to each other on a returning basis. She says that once a buyer finds their liking to another person’s style and their clothes fit perfectly, there’s no reason not to buy from that person again.
“It’s like having access to the closets of multiple friends in your local area,” she says.
This kind of approach is a step in the right direction as it allows StyleAlley’s users to build a loyal customer base where sellers can update their new items and streamline the overall selling process. The marketplace also encourages local trading to save on postage costs.
With the level competition out there, generating revenue in this space could pose as a serious obstacle. Huang says that passing any costs onto their members was never part of her plan and this subsequently ruled out revenue from product listings.
“Advertising and data is a continually proven method of revenue and due to the data we collect from community members, we will be helping brands promote or find out more from our group of members,” says Huang.
She adds that the community has also been forthcoming in helping StyleAlley by “having over 92% of our members complete the whole onboarding process”.
To ensure the consistency in revenue into the business, Huang says that they will be looking to introduce other revenue streams such as featured listing fees, branded stores and also affiliate product add-ons in the future.
The main challenges that Huang and Chak faced when starting StyleAlley was the postage costs, competition with larger services and needing to continually educate the market on buying pre-owned clothing.
Furthermore, Huang says that the one thing they found in particular with buying second hand was that many girls had a positive view on pre-owned clothes, but not the regular frequency to buy them.
“StyleAlley will be focussed on ensuring that pre-owned is a consideration when hunting for that new dress for Friday night,” says Huang.
The service has currently gained over 300 members within 3 months of its launch. Huang says that they are getting new members everyday and are currently looking for new ways to reach their audience on a bootstrapped budget.
More intuitively, Huang plans to use their 5,000 strong Instagram following to further drive growth in the future; a strategy that has already been proven and worked for various fashion-based businesses like Showpo and BlackMilk Clothing.