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Preview Internet Retailing Expo: Melissa Littler, marketing director, BrandAlley

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Aimed primarily at women, private sales fashion site launched in January 2008, selling luxury goods at up to 70% discount. The company quickly expanded into menswear, homewares and beauty. In the last three years its membership has grown to over two million. “It’s grown simply because we offer fantastic brands, amazing prices and represent exceptional value to our members,” says marketing director Melissa Littler. “We only put a sale on if we have a good range of sizes to suit our members and good depth of stock. This, our range of lifestyle brands and our creativity in how we take our business to market is what stands us apart from our competition.”

With its innovative Le Lab concept, BrandAlley is expanding its remit from sale stock retailer, to crowd sourcing, and directly involving the member base in the development of new ranges. The Le Lab concept gives members the opportunity to vote for their favourite new designer, and the winning brand gets promoted on the site. How did this come about? Littler says it grew out of a “Perfect Little Black Dress’ competition run in 2010, in conjunction with Fashion Enter. “Young designers submitted their designs and our members voted for them,” she says. “The top 10 went into production and members could then buy their favourite dress. The sale was a great success and it made us look at how we could source new designers for our members as they clearly loved to input and have their say. They also loved having ‘something a bit different’. We are only just launching Le Lab now, so watch this space for results.”

BrandAlley already has its sights on how to develop further in future. “We see Le Lab as a long term thing and we’re working on how it will evolve,” says Littler. “We have to keep an open mind. The most exciting thing about our members having a bigger say in what they want to buy, is the fact it could take us into any product category.”

What would be Littler’s key piece of advice for other ecommerce retailers who are just starting up or expanding at the moment? “Create, don’t follow,” she says. “Be very clear in your mind about who your target audience is and stick to it. Mass or niche, it doesn’t matter, but it focuses the mind enormously on every activity in the business, and allows you to develop those all-important points of difference.”

On Day 2 of the Internet Retailing Expo this March, Littler will be speaking at the Evolution Conference, giving insights into the strategic planning required for a successful operation such as BrandAlley. With speed to market being the essence in a private sales model, online retailers of all kinds can learn from the experiences of BrandAlley’s product journey.

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