Jeetly: Democratising petite women’s clothing
Jess Jeetly is Founder and Managing Director of JEETLY, an award winning clothing brand for women under 5'3. The company is on a mission to democratise the fashion industry which has already started to shape the future of fashion. The former optometrist, measuring 5'1 herself struggled to find work clothes to fit her petite frame. Last year, she launched Jeetly, a clothing brand for petite women that lets customers vote on which designs are manufactured. With no experience in the fashion industry, she has already sold products in 16 countries, secured retail partners in China and Russia and is in talks with John Lewis. Jess is the winner of NatWest Business Mother 2015, the Director of pitchINDIA angel investor network and Chair of International Women In Business Committee.
Jess is continually invited to speak at Retail Conferences with industry veterans, and has been shortlisted for numerous awards. Jeetly won Best Fash-Tech Start-up in London and was the only start-up finalist for Best Retail Innovation at Retail week Awards 2014.
Tell me a bit about your background – how did the idea for Jeetly come about?
My background is in Optometry; I was working as a consultant optometrist in private practice. I didn't plan a start-up in retail; it was just my way of finding a solution to a problem I was facing as a retail customer. As a short woman, I experienced first hand the lack of clothing in petite proportions and I was becoming frustrated to have to alter every garment I bought. Although clothing from the teen's department was a good fit, I was mistaken for being too young to do my job and was having to justify my professional credibility far too often that I felt there needed to be a change. The fashion industry had failed to recognise the need for premium clothing in petite sizing, so I followed my gut instinct and recognised the gap in the market and wanted to make a change. My market research proved that I was not alone and 85% of petite women felt their needs were not being addressed by existing retailers. When short television presenters wanted to wear our clothes on national TV only a month after we launched, triggering international sales, it was that moment of market validation I was looking for to pursue the business.
How has Jeetly changed the market for petite women's clothing?
Jeetly has reinvented petite fashion as the first brand for under 5'3 women to put consumers in control of what gets made. My aim was to democratise the fashion industry for petites therefore, I felt it was only right to ask 'real' petite women what they want to wear. For decades, the fashion industry has operated in a top-down fashion, from designer to consumer via TV, digital marketing and print media. Jeetly is disrupting the traditional business model by working from the bottom-up and using social commerce to drive sales. We give our customers control over the design and production process which has been described by press as the 'Eureka moment in fashion' because 'finally a brand is listening to what real women want'. We have launched with work-appropriate clothing but we plan to expand into several womenswear categories to become the world's first specialty brand for everything petite.
How does Jeetly work and how does it enhance the user experience?
Our business is based upon our 'In-or-Out' platform where we showcase our design samples online. Our customers have 30 days to decide which of these samples are put into production for the collection. It's a very simple process - if they like it, they vote IN, if they dislike it they vote OUT. If customers feel that changes should be made to a sample design, be it a change in colour, cut or style, they submit their comments and we share it via social media for votes. At the end of the voting period, garments which achieved greater than 65% of votes IN, will be produced with a lead time of four weeks, before they are retailed. The customer with the most popular design suggestion which is put forward for manufacture, not only gets the garment free when it is retailed, the garment is also named after them. Therefore, we identify consumer interest through the voting process and social engagement/feedback from our social media channels, then we design and manufacture apparel in response to real time feedback from our consumer. I introduced social currency in March this year, to reward customers with £1 credit per vote, a win-win for customers who build up credit quickly to receive a large discount against a purchase, and for us to achieve greater customer interaction and sales. We've created an online community of petites worldwide who are truly engaged with our brand and excited to be part of this new, exclusive shopping experience.
How are your users being rewarded for utilizing your platform?
Our users are rewarded with credit on their shopping cart if they have a registered online Jeetly account. We know our users are cash-rich, time poor, so they need a valuable incentive to give us their feedback and set two minutes aside each week to place their votes. We remind them to click on new 'IN-or-OUT' products on our website via social media and our weekly newsletter. Since we've incentivised the voting process, users know that the more they vote the more credit they get which equates to a bigger discount on purchases and more reason to buy!
Why is this approach beneficial for users and how does it provide them value?
Customers finally have a voice in fashion and can buy clothes they want to wear as opposed to having retail buyers dictate trends. We were named by The Independent as the best petite retailer for providing petite women value because we react directly to their demands with this social commerce model. As an example, our customers told us they wanted more A-line dresses, which we have incorporated in our next collection. They told us they wanted trousers in 26inch "inside leg" measurement with adjustable waists, which is exactly what we produced four weeks later.
What role did technology play in enabling the development of Jeetly?
Technology has played an instrumental role in not only reaching customers worldwide, but forming the foundation of our business as an online retailer. We are labelled a fashion-technology company because we are using tech to create fashion and commerce. Everyone knows tech has made it cheaper and easier for any business to go global and it has been the hottest topic in retail for five years, but it requires innovative thinking to harness tech to your advantage and that's what I believe I did. When I launched my concept and introduced it to fashion retailers in 2012, they discarded it and said it would never work, but I always knew it made business sense to involve our customers in our range planning in order to eliminate the inventory risk by only producing apparel that will sell (based on binary data).
Platforms are becoming more and more prevalent, how do you think this is going to affect the traditional market?
With the increasing number of tech-driven, pure-play "e-tailers" in fashion and retail with sky-high valuations at IPO compared to traditional retailers, it is evident that ecommerce and social commerce platforms are the new wave of the industry. Traditional retailers have adopted multichannel and shifted their focus and capital on establishing their online and mobile platforms to avoid being left behind. We've seen our long established competitors watch us closely and follow our lead, by introducing a social-led strategy in their business too. Consumers are on their mobiles all the time so that is definitely their first contact with any brand, which is why I believe it's essential to aggregate consumers on your OWN platform (be it mobile, app or web) to filter the noise from social media where consumers are bombarded with marketing.
How do you see the future of the sector developing and what is Jeetly's role in shaping its future?
Consumers are driven by price and value, online shopping makes it easier than ever for shoppers to search the best price for items rather than remain loyal to a single brand. Jeetly has proven that a true community based model is the answer to maintain brand loyalty amongst today's consumer. Not only is Jeetly founded by a petite woman, who is the petite consumer herself and understands the fit issues of her target market, but Jeetly is uniting petite women across the globe to share ideas on styles and designs they would like manufactured. We keep them engaged with new products to vote upon and they keep coming back to see if they won the product free for having the best design suggestion that goes into production. There is a strong loyalty from our customers because they know that we listen to them and we gave them the privilege of having their voice heard.