How to Build a Fashion Brand Online (According to Bonobos)

I came across an online education website called Grovo this evening. Perhaps you’ve heard of it already?

Grovo has lined up a series of what promise to be interesting interviews with successful figures in the world of online business. Their first interview (and only one for now) is with Andy Dunn, one of the co-founders of Bonobos which is a very successful men’s fashion brand in the US that was launched via the web.

In the interview, Andy offers some fascinating advice about doing the kind of vertically-integrated retail that has worked for Bonobos. He sees personalisation and curation being extremely important trends that will improve the online shopping experience.

In case you don’t have time to watch it, here are my notes:

Building a Brand Online

Four keys:

  1. Aggregate customer service to one point and staff that well (the “Zappos model”).
  2. Have a high-quality product.
  3. Vertically integrate so that you look after sourcing, design and merchandising.
  4. Get great at brand story-telling.

Customer Acquisition

Early phase: use word-of-mouth, editorial/PR and direct-selling; get up to a run-rate of $1 million to $2 million (!)

Growth phase: multi-channel (test everything and use what works best). Requires:

  1. Culture of analytics and experimentation
  2. Money to run the tests
  3. Understanding of your customer lifetime value (LTV)


  • Bonobos have differentiated through their vertical integration into design (starting with better-fitting men’s trousers, now expanding into other garments).
  • They focus on serving a specific demographic really well: 25-50 year-old active, urban, professional males.

Leveraging Social Media

  • Have a conversation (don’t just talk at people)
  • Use social media as a channel for real-time customer feedback
  • Be hugely responsive on social media
  • Use social media to let customers and your team connect on a human level (e.g. Bonobos ran a poll to ask customers to vote on which Bonobos team member had the best Halloween costume)

Evolution of Commerce

  • Think of the online experience as a bundle of product and service.
  • Be a great storyteller.

I love what Bonobos have managed to do and I think there’s lots to learn from their success.

Grovo have done a great job with this interview, so I’m looking forward to checking back with them soon.

I’ll keep you posted here with any interesting notes.


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