Happy customers = loyal customers
Above anything else, making its customers happy is what matters to Urban Girl. The result: loyal customers.
When Nikita Acharya was shopping in a store a while ago, the sales person kept asking her to hurry up because the store was closing. She asked him if this was the way the store treated its customers. He replied that she was only one of many customers the store gets.
“Even though there is so much competition in Kathmandu there is still no respect for customers,” exclaimed Acharya. She and Kiran Timsina, both founders of Urban Girl, are providing customer service that is the opposite of Nikita’s experience at the store. To the quickly booming clothing and accessories online shopping company that is Urban Girl, every single customer is a valued individual and treated like one.
The Urban Girl staff know many of their customers by name and respond to their Facebook messages in personalized manner. Because it is entirely on Facebook– Urban Girl has no website or even a store– the company takes full advantage of the engagement aspect of social media to create a highly satisfactory shopping experience for female teens and college-age women. When customers request certain types of products through comments or messages, Urban Girl does its best to make it happen from its overseas suppliers.
If customers are not pleased with what they requested or with any Urban Girl product, they can return their purchase for a complete refund. To minimize disappointments, Urban Girl does a quality check on the ordered items before they are delivered to its customers. If it does not think a product meets the company standards, they do not sell it. “From the beginning, we have been focused on customer satisfaction,” Acharya insisted. “We’d rather have a small number of customers, as long as the ones we have are happy. We have customers from day one still buying our products.”
To improve customer satisfaction, the majority of Urban Girl’s products are accessories and the clothes it does sell are mostly free size. Acharya and Timsina have a pretty good idea, based on past sales, of what types of accessories and clothes draw in customers. What sets their sales tactic apart from others is their heavy reliance on Facebook to analyze popularity, as well as increase sales. For instance, after Urban Girl’s customers revealed on a survey that they don’t care for brand names, the company decided to not order from the popular brand Forever21. Since its launch in September 2012, Urban Girl has determined what types of products and posts generate the highest amount of likes, comments, and shares. The number of Urban Girl’s page likes has steadily grown to the current number: 21,000 plus.
While the number of people who like the page matters, Acharya and Timsina care more about the interaction rate. To increase this, they post when their customers are the most active (early morning and at night), ask questions, request customers to provide their input, and hold contests and giveaways. Using this strategy, Urban Girl received over 200 likes and over 150 comments on a recent post.
Acharya recognized Facebook’s ability to engage a large number of people as a teenager herself when she began to formulate the concept of Urban Girl. Disappointed by the shortage of online shopping options for female youth, she began to think that Facebook could be a solution while playing games on the website. “Before they even check their emails, young people get on Facebook,” Acharya explained. “Our market was already on Facebook. Why would we look elsewhere?”
When she and Timsina decided to launch Urban Girl, one of their biggest concerns was payment. If they were going to provide an online shopping experience, they needed a system in which customers could easily pay Urban Girl. However, Nepal hasn’t exactly embraced online payments and they were worried about fake orders. So, Acharya and Timsina asked their customers about their payment preferences. It turned out cash-ondelivery was the best option for them, since the products would be delivered to the customers’ homes anyway.
The business partners did other research as well. When Urban Girl was just an idea, they went around Kathmandu to explore the local market. They were planning to sell products online in collaboration with the stores, but no one was interested. They then decided to put a small margin on the items available in Kathmandu’s wholesale market and sell them online.
That was a failure. “We still have almost the entire stock with us,” Timsina said, laughing. One of the problems, Acharya explained, was that Urban Girl was selling products that were already easily available in the local market. The team then decided to become the bridge between suppliers from abroad and Nepali customers hungry for more options. Urban Girl now brings in products from Australia, China, Hong Kong, and Thailand. “The majority of suppliers that Nepali stores work with pick up products on the streets of Guangzhou. They pack up the items in bulk without checking their quality. We collaborate with suppliers that haven’t targeted Nepal. They sell internationally and therefore have to pass strict quality checks,” Timsina explained. Acharya and Timsina acknowledge that quality products are expensive, but they want their customers to be pleased with what they purchase.
Focusing on quality products has its risks. Urban Girl ordered high quality warm hats; however, they were only able to sell two pieces over the winter. The problem, explained Timsina, is that various manufacturers in China make replicas of a foreign product using its image. Then they use that image for marketing, but the product quality and price vary across manufacturers. Customers, therefore, wondered why Urban Girl was selling a product for a higher amount than what they had seen in other places.
Failures such as this are a big part of the learning process. “If a plan fails, we don’t give up. We move on to other plans and strategies,” Timsina clarified. “Other companies, once they fail, seem to give up.” When Urban Girl started, other online stores opened as well. Overtime, those companies faded out or aren’t doing well. Acharya and Timsina attribute Urban Girl’s ongoing existence to their persistence and strategic thinking. Instead of focusing solely on profit, Urban Girl’s energy has been devoted to building a community on Facebook.
Some of the ways Urban Girl is building this community are through group contests that included a soccer match and being a platform on which customers’ fashion photos could be shared. While Facebook’s advantage is its ability to bring together a large number of people, it does have its down side. Orders are made through messages and comments, which can be hard to process for a company that gets orders worth Rs 20,000 a day. On a website, Urban Girl consumers could fill out an order form. A website, which the company is planning to launch soon, could also better organize products. Instead of having to look through albums on Facebook, customers could browse through categories and be recommended with similar items. However, Urban Girls worries that because the products become sold out very quickly, the website will have to be constantly updated to reflect availability.
Whether Urban Girl uses Facebook solely or also incorporates a website, as an online company it has to provide around-the-clock service. “We have to work from the moment we wake up until our customers go offline at night,” Timsina explained.
The high interactivity that Facebook delivers also means that Urban Girl staff has to be on guard all the time. Acharya and Timsina therefore advise entrepreneurs to use Facebook the way
Urban Girl has only if it can provide exceptional service, give their time, and have patience. Using the social media platform so heavily doesn’t mean just responding to messages and comments; one needs to be aware of what’s going on in the social media world. Urban Girl monitors businesses’ pages to see how other companies are doing so it can continually improve itself. Acharya and Timsina are planning to combine this analytic ability with their experience to provide social media consultations to other companies.
They have seen how much the right use of social media, along with a focus on exceptional customer service, can help entrepreneurs thrive. But Nikita Acharya and Kiran Timsina do not credit themselves. They are thankful to their customers, with whom they feel a personal attachment. ”Sometimes, I think wow, what a wonderful community of girls we’ve found,” Acharya divulged. “We’re moving forward because of these girls.”