How online suiting brand Eph Apparel uses AI to grow conversion
Bold Metrics spoke with Andrew Parkes, one of the co-founders behind custom shirting company Eph Apparel, which uses AI to help its customers accurately and quickly determine over 50 individual body measurements for its custom suiting.
Parkes had some interesting tips and advice for online retailers looking to engage their customers and build loyalty. The brand leverages content in a fun and exciting way to build a loyal customer base and increase conversions. It provides detailed information to educate and add value to a customer’s retail experience, managing customer expectations and questions effectively despite operating in an online environment without in-person sales staff.
Below are some excerpts from our podcast series, which gives excellent examples of how Eph Apparel meets the challenges of custom apparel retail in innovative ways.
- What challenges did you face when first getting the business up and running?
There are all these processes and procedures that are part of (Eph Apparel) today that were born of necessity and not knowing what we were doing. Now we take them for granted, but we had to navigate these things independently. My business partner, Alex, and I measured everybody, serving everybody, basically delivering and handing clothing for every order on top of handling inbound queries, logistics, etc., everything.
We have a pretty good appreciation for how many moving parts there are when running a business—there are just so many things to learn, and taking those experiences to improve constantly. Those early days were pretty crazy, we would hold private events in my condo building or my business partner’s living room, and once we got slightly bigger, we rented out some space and threw an event there for 40-50 guys who wanted to get measured for suits. Then finally, we got big enough to have our own office space and then, eventually, our own storefront.
- How is Eph Apparel currently tackling being an independent small business dealing in custom clothing?
Ours is a very cyclical business. A lot of our revenue comes from weddings, graduating students, and people attending events, most of which occur in the spring and summer. When COVID-19 hit, you could pretty much narrow it down to that day our business took a hit and the (pandemic) started impacting us. Things are canceled, postponed, and scaled down. People’s disposable income is at a premium. It was tough.
- Are there any tactics that are top-of-mind for you? What did you do as a brand to navigate this new normal?
Our experience is best when guided by one of our sales associates, but we’ve always taken a technology-first approach to everything we do. We want things to be easier and less prone to human error, more scalable, and up-to-date, all of these things. Luckily we have several processes that we’ve been practicing for years that allow us to have a certain amount more flexibility than many other businesses might have.
By leveraging an AI solution like Bold Metrics, we can get custom measurements from people regardless of where they’re located, within minutes, and with tailor-grade accuracy. We have well-trained support staff conducting phone and Zoom consultations with prospective clients who are still getting married. They can’t take the steps that they need today to get their wedding suits organized, so we can do that consultation digitally and send samples out and. We mobilized pretty quickly to make those things a reality and tried to keep the ball rolling as we worked under these unprecedented circumstances.
- Has focusing also on content been a game-changer for you guys? If so, how?
Yeah, I mean, it’s paramount now (compared to) when we started ten years ago. Facebook didn’t even have a monetized platform for people to advertise on, so obviously, a lot has changed in the last nine years since we started out. We’re a visual business with a product where aesthetics are important, so using visual platforms to tell our story is a big part of our work. Back in the day, outside of traditional media like radio advertisements, newspaper advertisements, you know, expensive TV spots, all that have been a way to show what we do and what we are and how we operate.
There’s a lot of noise in the marketplace now on various platforms. Still, we try and stay in front of trends, ideas, new offerings and show those to people and use the different platforms to do it because really that’s the only way to get people to understand a custom suit versus an off-the-rack suit or potentially do with their wedding suits versus what the standard was.
I remember that my brother got married in 2008, and I look at the wedding photos now, and I can cringe because everybody’s in these big boxy tuxedos. Everybody wore those same godawful suits. Now we have when we were working with the wedding, it’s not uncommon for a bride or groom to come into our showroom or email us photos of bright green suits that they saw on Pinterest that match perfectly with what they’re planning on doing for their weddings, and that would have never even have entered anyone’s head ten years ago.
The ability to showcase that kind of stuff gets other people’s creativity flowing and lets us show that we can do any of these things. It’s been crucial for us, we use all of the big platforms, and it has been really integral to our success.
- Is there one of those platforms that you’ve found, and these change over time, but is there one, say over the last year, that’s come out to be the front runner, or is each one allowing you to just access a different kind of customer?
In the past year, what I focused on as a marketer has been lead nurturing through email marketing software. We use Active Campaign, which I highly recommend as it’s a very versatile platform. We can really tailor our messaging based on a variety of factors. It will send different messaging and different visuals and different calls to action to somebody who’s 12 months away from their wedding and hasn’t been on our website at all yet than for somebody right that sweet spot of deciding on what they’re going to do for their wedding suit, who is six months to their wedding and has been on our site a couple of times. We have all these automated sequences that can send people the right message at the right time for what they want to do, and implementing those has seen our conversion rates on things like wedding consults really see an uptick.
Interested in finding out more? Listen to the full BOLD BRANDS podcast.