Providing good customer service may be difficult to achieve without face-to-face interaction. That’s one of the main challenges in the e-commerce business. However, social media has the potential to become the perfect ally to succeed at offering a top notch customer service.
This time we had the chance to interview Brooke Howerton, CEO of The Paisley Heart, an e-commerce clothing company based in Fort Worth, TX that is making shopping easy and convenient for busy women while still having that same fun experience as physically shopping in-stores.
The Paisley Heart was named 2017 Best Women’s Fashion Store by Fort Worth Star Telegram and Small Business of the Year 2018 by Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce for their unique business model and excellent customer service. They explain to us how they’ve come to understand their customers’ needs and find ways to accommodate them on an online platform, making them thrive in the e-commerce business.
How did The Paisley Heart come to be and why is it called The Paisley Heart?
Honestly, I just love the name “Paisley”. I love the print Paisley and have a lot of it. I’m also a mom of four boys and if I had a girl, I would name her Paisley and that’s how the name came to fruition. As to how it came to be: I always loved fashion, I loved shopping and as I said, I have four little boys so it didn’t afford me the time to go out and shop in the mall or even in the stores.
It’s always online trying to find things that fit and areas/shops that benefit me. It was hard, so I decided that I could do it. I was going to make it my mission to find a way to cater to women, especially, busy women such as moms, teachers, business women, who don’t have a lot of time to spend shopping. I wanted to bring that to them and that’s where it started.
I started really small, just sharing with my friends and other ladies that I worked with because I did work in a corporate environment. One thing leads to another and it just blossomed into this magical thing that it is today.
The Paisley Heart was voted 2017 Best Women’s Fashion Store by Fort Worth Star Telegram and voted Small Business of the Year 2018 by the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce. What makes your clothing store different from your competitors and why do you think you won these awards?
I think honestly it’s because of the personal touch. My goal is to make women feel like they’re shopping with their best friends. When they login into the Paisley Heart, whether it be the website or a Facebook group, or a mobile app, any of the mobile platform they can go to, it’s not a bunch of stock photos of models modeling pictures.
It’s real women, myself a lot of times, modeling those clothes for them in a video, explaining how they fit, why we love it, what the materials feel like, and how’s it going to fit on you.
If customers have any questions, they have outlets where they could just pop us a question and tag us, either myself or another staff member is going to reply to them and say, “hey, if you’re on the borderline on sizes, I would size down on this one.”
So basically you have a personal shopper that’s there for you, with you, making you feel like you have your best friend shopping, you have that advice and reassurance that you’re not just choosing it. On top of that, we have free shipping so you’re not wasting your money on shipping and then have to return something.
What is the marketing channels do you use and which one of those drives the most customers/leads?
Facebook was the first social media channel we use and continues to be the driving force and where we do most of our business. For sales-wise, we have a mobile app that we utilize often so it’s easy for a customer to pop on and purchase something with just a click, but still, it stems from Facebook because we’re posting things there and it’s notifying and linking up with all the different platforms and notifies customers on their cellphones.
What kind of content do you post in your newsletter and how often do you send them out?
We don’t do a lot of newsletters so to speak, but we do ‘announcements’ because they go out through Facebook messenger. We don’t do emails as much as alerts. If we post something, it’s gonna alert you on a ping on your phone letting you know something was just posted. If we’re running a sale, we’re gonna post it all over social media.
We do live videos so that engages our audience and we get to know them just as much as they get to know us. It feels both ways because we know what they want and they also feel like they have a personal relationship with us because they do. They could reach out to us and tell us what they want, to see what they need, and what they like and don’t like.
I see that you are a vendor at events hosted by schools in which locals can shop The Paisley Heart clothes in person. Could you tell me more about?
I would say that’s my biggest advice to anyone who’s trying to start a boutique or any other small business and you’re trying to get your name out there. You have to be out there in the presence of actual people, get to know them, put your face out there, show them your product and that involves doing shows and giving back to the community, and getting involved.
So I started out going into teacher’s lounge and setting up there and giving 10% back to that school for whatever they are doing to give back to their teachers and PSA fundraisers. I also went back to my home high school and set up for their craft fairs and support the drill team and there are band boosters.
You’re also going to get head-ups for a lot of donations too and so you got to be very careful and wise with your time so if you can say, “Hey, yeah, we’ll love to donate. Let me know what your next pop-up show is or when can I come to your school and I’ll give 10% back to your school.” This way it benefits both parties.
You get to be in the eye of new potential customers and it’s benefiting that school or organization. You can both benefit from that and grow together and it puts you out to the community more too. It feels good and fun to give back as well.
How often would you say you do these events?
Literally, as much as I could. We are talking sometimes 4 times a week. As often as I can get into school or a craft fair on the weekends. I didn’t push myself on anybody by any means. I wanted them to want me there, but I wouldn’t say I’m not a hustler because that’s what it takes to be successful, right?
I would get myself out there and everywhere I could to talk about Paisley Heart and I still do that. It’s just natural to me now. I love it and that’s my passion.
Now it’s easy to do because people ask you about it. You don’t even need to prompt that conversation. It’s just natural and they’re asking you about it. It just keeps spreading like wildfire. I always say “hustle humbly” because the more you put yourself out there, you’re going to see that return back as long as it’s coming from a good place.
When I started the business, I only had two kids, and now 4 kids deep, it’s really hard to do those shows. Thankfully I don’t have to do as many now. So I’ll do them more in the fall with 2 or 3 big shows and around Christmas time I try to invite everyone out to the warehouse so you can come in if you’re local.
You can shop behind the scenes of everything and come out and see it in person. It helps when people can try things on and touch them and know that the quality is there and know what the business is for them to want to come back and shop with you again.
What is The Paisley Heart doing for customer retention?
I would say quality for sure, over quantity. I make sure that the product that we sell is something that I’m proud of and that I would want to wear every day. Everything that comes in, I’m still excited about.
When we get a new box of inventory, I can’t help to open it, can’t wait to see what’s in it, and that needs to stay true. I want to be excited about what we’re doing and care about my customers.
Our Facebook page of women all support each other and our staff supports each other. Honestly, a group of women getting along really well together and like to support each other and have a good time makes it really easy. We accept returns as well.
Customers are always right. It’s hard because, honestly, maybe they’re not always right, but you want to make them feel like they are. So as long as they feel special and they know that you care about them, they’re gonna continue shopping with you.
At the moment, The Paisley Heart is an e-commerce clothing store, do you ever plan on opening a brick-and-mortar store in addition to the online one?
Well, never say never, but I hope not. Honestly, I love being an online boutique and that’s why I feel like we created such a presence that people do feel like they know us and they could trust us so I don’t have to venture into that brick-and-mortar because that’s a whole nother area that I’m not honestly really interested in.
We are going to have a warehouse where customers can come out if they need to and we have that for us. We have the shipping room, we have the showrooms, so in a sense, we have that brick-and-mortar. We just don’t open ‘walk-in-walk-out-anytime-you-want’, it is more exclusive, you can come in by appointment, things like that. So at this moment, no I don’t see a brick-and-mortar in our future.
What are your future plans for The Paisley Heart?
Our company is growing still and that’s super exciting. The goal is just to keep providing the service that we have but to change with the changes.
Facebook is always changing. What if it goes away, you know. We have the website, we have the mobile app, we have Instagram, so just to make sure that we are touching all the different outlets and areas where women do shop and just continue catering to them and keep growing.
Our staff this year has grown again. We have a new photo shoot coming up. We have a bigger warehouse we’re moving to next month and we continue to do that financially sound as well, making sure that we have enough to cover those expenses before we move forward, to grow in a smart way.
What advice can you give other clothing boutiques that struggle with customer acquisition?
The question that I always ask when people wonder how I’ve grown is asking them if they’ve done shows, have they done the pop-up shows, have they put their name out there, have they talked to their friends about it, and do they have a game plan.
Vision boards are really big right now and I think that’s a great idea. If you’re the type of personality that needs something laid out and written down where you can say, “Ok, here are the boxes, I need to check these to make sure I get from Point A to Point B.” As for customers, it’s the same way.
If you’re wondering where to even begin, I would say start calling your shows, get into places, and from there start talking about your business, dreams, and encourage others to be a part of it as well. That’s where it keeps growing. Slow and steady that’s how you have to do it. I was lucky to have support from the beginning and I know that that’s not always there, but it is super important that you find that support system.
I was still in corporate when I started the business so I was telling people, “Hey this is my idea and I think I’m gonna run with it and this is what I’m doing, so would you join my group page?”. And they would tell their friend and that person would tell their friend and you just got to keep it going. You can’t be lazy about hustling your name, what you’re selling, your quality, you got to be your biggest advocate, for sure.
What advice can you give to clothing boutiques that have a hard time with customer retention?
For retention, I would say, every time something comes in, you know, someone returns something that they obviously have worn or they have a question where you just want to roll your eyes, but you have to think ‘what’s it going to do to my business’, ‘how’s it going to be if I reject this return or if I tell this person this or ignore them or disregard their feelings’, ‘how is this going to pan out in the end’.
If they don’t feel like the matter then that’s bad. So I always say, ‘if it were me and I had done this and I truly felt this way, how I hope to be responded to.’ Time and time again, I always write back from a good-hearted place and make sure that the customer understands where I’m coming from, even though it’s not always easy.
In the end, if they feel strongly about something and I feel differently, I’m going to cater to them.
Give me a prediction of what you think is the best way to gain customers for the retail clothing industry in the coming years?
I would say you need to do it for them. Stores are hard to come by these days where you actually go into a brick-and-mortar store. People are shopping online. People are really needing help. They’re busy. They have busy lives and there’s a lot going on. They’re going from Point A to Point B constantly all day long. Any help they can get, that’s what you need to give.
It’s a service, basically. I sell a service. I sell helping you shop, bringing you quality for an affordable price, I do all the legwork for you and all you have to do is trust me and order the product. Time and time again once they learn that you have a good product, you follow through, and you’re truly there for them and your business is sticking around, then you get a repeat customer right there. They’re always going to come back.
I would say keep going with the changes, stay up on what’s happening, be willing to change with that, and love on your customers.