Clothes shopping has been largely the same for decades. But online customized clothing marketplace Balodana  wants to change all of that.
The online clothing marketplace offers customized sizes and tailoring options that allow shoppers to find the perfect fit. And people can find options from creators around the world. To learn more about this unique business model, read on for this week’s Small Business Spotlight.
What the Business Does
Offers a customized clothing marketplace.
Founder Dana Todd told Small Business Trends, “We are an online marketplace that offers custom, made to measure clothing for designers around the world.”
A wide selection.
Todd says, “As a marketplace representing multiple designer-makers, Balodana has over 1000 made-to-measure women’s garments in rotation and are adding more each month. We cover a wide variety of styles and occasions, from dressy to daywear and even lingerie.”
How the Business Got Started
From a personal pain point.
Todd explains, “I was extremely frustrated with trying to navigate the inconsistent and insufficient sizing in women’s retail, both in stores and online. Nothing fit, the quality was poor, and nothing made me feel confident in my clothes. When I discovered that I could buy custom made-to-measure garments from sites like Etsy, I was really excited – but the customer buying experience was less than perfect.
“I hated that I didn’t have an easy way to store and access my body measurements between designers, and I wanted a consistent customer support experience as well. I started researching the opportunity and realized that it’s a significant market to address: currently about $2B is being spent in custom tailored clothing. But the bulk of it is in menswear. No one was addressing the women’s bespoke market at scale. So I set about creating a digital platform to enable not just the customer experience but also to support the small businesses around the world who are providing the service.”
Creating important relationships.
Todd says, “Our first sale was awesome, and our first “big order” for a bridal party was even more awesome because it was also our first repeat customer. But probably the most impactful win for us so far has been gaining commitments from some exclusive designers for which we are the sole representatives in the US. Most of them came through personal referrals in countries like Romania and Canada, and a few came to us when they heard what we were doing and our vision for building massive market adoption for tailored clothes.”
Developing the company’s marketing technology.
Todd explains, “It is literally the foundation platform for everything we are building. And we investigated numerous “build vs buy” options. Marketplaces are very different than standard e-commerce software. And the price ranges for are all over the board, some as high as half a million dollars.
“In the end, we found a partner who could offer the best of both worlds. We invested in a hybrid SaaS (software as a service) which allowed us to heavily customize what we needed but still meet our aggressive launch schedule. As anyone who works in digital product development can tell you, making a wrong technology decision at the beginning can cost you significant time and money later. And you may end up having to complete rebuild it if you want to switch directions.”
Not all shopping experiences look the same.
Todd says, “It might have taken us longer to get to market. But I would have done more of a “pretotype” approach, using simply a combination of social media and affiliate programs to test out the customer sales experience. We would have discovered earlier that our customer acquisition process does not actually mirror a typical e-commerce or retail conversion. It’s a more experiential sale, a lead-nurturing sales process.
“Fortunately, we found out pretty quickly after we launched. And we were able to make some changes to our shopping cart and our marketing approach to accommodate. But, we did waste some time and money learning that our assumptions were incorrect.”
How They’d Spend an Extra $100,000
Creating a pop-up experience.
Todd adds, “Now that we know how important the “touch and feel” is to our target customer, we’d test a storefront pop-up where customers can come in and relax, look at samples, and get measured with a body scanner or traditional measure, depending on their preferences, and meet with a personal stylist who can help suggest options for their style and body type.”
Todd explains, “Nobody can pronounce our brand name! It’s become a running joke for us. And we really want to produce a video where everyone tries to pronounce it. I think we’ve heard more than a dozen possible combinations so far. (For the record, it rhymes with “bandanna”.)”
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Images: Balodana, Dana Todd