Five minutes with lingerie brand Bluebella founder Emily Bendall

Bluebella is a modern lingerie and nightwear brand, which sells its products online via Bluebella.com and Bluebella.us, and through wholesale partnerships with a fast-growing roster of internationally-renowned retail partners such as ASOS, John Lewis, Zalando, Nordstrom, Figleaves, and Revolve.

Emily Bendall, founder of Bluebella, talks to Retail Connections about the company, its willingness to take risks with new-generation tech systems, and the value of conducting customer conversations on social media.

What are the aims of the business and what are its unique selling points?

Our mission is to redefine sensuality. We design for spirited women that buy lingerie to please themselves and we have pioneered the ‘underwear as outerwear’ trend. We are inclusive and proud of our affordable pricing and extensive size range.

At Retail Connections we like to focus on technology, what examples of sophisticated systems/ecommerce tech/fulfilment options/payment methods are there at Bluebella (both internal and customer-facing tech)?

We were one of the early mid-size companies to migrate to Shopify from a very established but first generation ecommerce platform, and then successfully integrate Shopify with Netsuite, which is now owned by Oracle.

We are also one of the early Shopify stores to integrate with Amazon Pay and are building a B2B Shopify version for our trade business. We have lots of further exciting developments in progress based on our good integration record and willingness to take risks on new generation of systems.

We notice you like to use social influencers. What role does user-generated content and social media play in the success of your business?

Leveraging social media has been key for Bluebella as a young fashion brand. It’s where our customer hangs out and also provides such brilliant insight for us as a business – we are endlessly inspired by how our followers style up their Bluebella.

It allows us a direct and authentic conversation with our customers which is two directional and incredibly valuable. We also have worked hard to develop meaningful relationships with influencers which include product co-labs and top bloggers wearing Bluebella at the right festivals and parties. Bluebella now has 150k followers on Instagram.

Talk to us about your recent crowdfunding success and what it means for the business…

We were delighted with the success of our recent crowdfund. As a consumer-focused brand I really liked the idea of having investors that were also brand ambassadors. We now have a new marketing channel in the form of an army of enthusiastic investors. The raise was primarily for growth capital for international expansion and since closing we have launched our US facing B2C site and secured a number of top tier international stockists.

Selling fashion online is clearly growing in popularity, but what problems do you have with returns/fitting, etc – and how do you rectify that?

Once upon a time people thought lingerie could not be sold online due to the complexity of the fit. Figleaves really pioneered the challenge to that. The fact is that people like trying things on in the comfort of their own home – the key to minimising returns or the concern about returns is brilliant product, as good as possible fit guidance on site and making the return and exchange process as painless as possible. We are very proud of our low return rate.

What are the key benefits of selling lingerie online, and how do you ensure you create the compelling customer experiences required in today’s competitive market?

One benefit is that it’s a fast-growing sales channel. And its one particularly well suited to our young and cosmopolitan customer. For us it also helps to show the product on the body – our more complex pieces can look stronger on a body than on a hanger.

Creating a compelling customer experience is half art and half science – like much of retail. The data available behind ecommerce is one of the things I love most about it – and that data must be respected and UX continually improved based on that science. But it’s also art – beautiful imagery, creative ideas, little unexpected surprises.

Content and commerce is a growing theme – the likes of Net-a-Porter have helped develop this concept – what’s your view on the trend and your approach to it?

I think unless your core offering is price alone content is always key. Just as physical retail is moving more and more towards experience, online retail needs content. It develops brand loyalty, allows a higher tolerance for the frequency of marketing activity and really builds community. But of course, it has to be high quality and authentic.

Lots of online retailers are opening stores. What considerations have you made to physical retail? High street shops? Pop-ups? Anything on the horizon?

We have done pop-ups before very successfully and we would like to do more. Giving our audience the opportunity to touch and feel the product, see the full collection and have a brand experience is important. But of course permanent stores come with long-term commitment and the high street is changing fast so these need to be considered carefully.

What are your key goals for the year ahead?

2018 is all about growth – we are developing our international markets, focusing on raising our brand profile and have some exciting new product launches. Watch this space!

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