LOS ANGELES — Bridal, influencers and e-commerce. There’s plenty going on at online fashion retailer Lulus as the company remains focused online even as more and more of its contemporaries look to physical retail as the way to continue momentum around scale.
The multibrand retailer originally started out as a brick-and-mortar store in 1996 before transitioning fully to an online business in 2008. Last May, it closed on a $120 million round of funding from IVP and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. IVP has also invested in companies such as Glossier and The Honest Co.
The funding will partially help streamline the backend where, in early spring, Lulus will transition away from a third-party logistics provider and open its own facility in Pennsylvania, to service East Coast orders faster.
This year, the company continues to refine its influencer marketing strategy — something that has helped the company grow — by continuing working with a balance of both small and large influencers. Momentum around the company’s bridal collection continues to build, with the company just dropping its largest collection of bridesmaids dresses that reflects an expansion in colors, sizing, fabrications and styles — including the introduction of jumpsuits.
“It’s gotten a lot of steam and social inertia,” said Colleen Winter, who cofounded Lulus with her mother, of bridal. “It’s just taken a life of its own.”
Bridal has been a part of the business for four years now, but the recent introduction of a dedicated Instagram handle for that category has helped the company home in on the potential for growth. About two months ago, the company launched an online portal for its bridal concierge program that puts customers in touch with Lulus team members who offer advice on color, fit and styling.
The popularity around the category is, in part, due to the natural aging of the Lulus customer, which ranges from 18 to 34. For that same girl who may have first discovered the brand in Seventeen magazine, she may now be preparing for marriage or starting a family, Winter pointed out.
“We’ve aged up and chic’ed up throughout the years so we’ve evolved our customer,” Winter said. “We’ve been validated with outside brand studies that our customer is now 27. She’s graduated college. She’s affluent. She’s the chic, modern person. Now, she’s getting married with us.”
Winter said the company also receives requests for maternity and even kids — both areas the business is considering.
Most of the Lulus business is domestic with international accounting for about 4 percent of sales. This year, the company will look to make its site more “international friendly,” Winter said before increasing marketing efforts via grassroots efforts with influencers initially in English-speaking countries, such as Canada, the U.K., Australia, New Zealand and Mexico.
Sometime around the end of the second quarter, Lulus will roll out an app to assist with conversion, coming on the heels of a recently launched loyalty program Winter said has “gained a lot of traction.”
While much of the industry has studied and dissected the efforts of Revolve and TechStyle Group for their prowess around e-commerce and Millennial influencer marketing, Lulus has been just as effective.
The company’s strategy tackles it from an SEO perspective, paid performance, social media and content both from influencers and in-house.
As companies such as Revolve, Boohoo and PrettyLittleThing build on or explore in-real-life, Instagrammable clubhouses for their roster of influencers, Lulus remains largely committed to the digital world.
“We have events throughout the year so we don’t have anything fixed in a location,” Winter said. “We usually do an East Coast event, a West Coast event and we do other little ones throughout the year, but we try to hit influencers on both coasts. This year we’ve actually been really focused on micro-influencers, so people who have anywhere from 3,000 up to 20,000, 30,000 followers. This has really been a nice sweet spot for us.”
There’s also a college ambassador program launched in the fall that’s also placed the brand in front of more people with the help of individuals with strong follower engagement, given Instagram’s changed algorithm.
The company, all in all, usually sees anywhere from 10 to 15 posts going live daily via its influencer network.
All of this is not to say physical locations are not of interest. They’re just not in the near future.
“I think long term that interests us,” Winter said. “We are going to start more with pop-up shops and figure out the success of those shops and then probably take that data for something that would be a small presence in brick-and-mortar. We are a digitally native fashion brand and we expect that to continue. We do get a lot of requests from customers [for stores] so how do we do that, where do we do that?”