Josh Kaufman

Bestselling Author, Business & Self-Education


How Superheroes Can Sell Suits - Indochino

I’d like to introduce the “Systematic Brilliance" series here at PersonalMBA.com. Instead of generic business school case studies, which almost always suffer from a bad case of retrospective armchair quarterbacking, I think it’s more useful to look at examples of businesses that are actively applying fundamental business principles in a smart way. We can learn from their example.

Periodically, I’ll feature companies that are doing cool things, examining the principles behind the tactics. These posts will pay particular attention to the systems these businesses are using to generate results, which are almost always overlooked by media business profiles.

As a general rule, these are not businesses I advise: at most, I’ve discovered the company as a prospect or as a customer. If there’s ever a conflict of interest, I’ll disclose it up front.

First up: Indochino.

Indochino: Custom Men’s Clothing

Here’s what Indochino does in their own words:

We provide the modern gentleman with high quality menswear that fits your body perfectly. Our quick 10 minute measurement process can be done from the comfort of your own home; no tailor required. All of our products are hand tailored and delivered to any part of the world within 3 weeks. Indochino makes it easy and affordable for customers to get custom tailored menswear for a look that is professional, fashionable and truly sophisticated.

I first heard of Indochino through a friend several years ago. I don’t wear suits on a regular basis, and I hate shopping for clothing, so I filed the information away in my tracking system. The suits I had previously purchased served the purpose. I did not have a clothing problem that needed solving.

That changed two months ago, when I discovered I would need nice clothes for two big upcoming events:

  • My brother is getting married, so I need a nice black suit.
  • I’m going to be in London the first week of September to promote my book, and I need to look sharp for media interviews with the BBC, CNN, CNBC, etc.

In addition, a recent dietary experiment worked in a very big way: I lost 25+ pounds by eliminating wheat gluten from my diet. My old suits no longer fit very well.

Time to go shopping, I suppose…

Point of Market Entry

This is a classic example of a Point of Market Entry. One day I wasn’t in the market for a suit; the next day, I was. When I decided to shop for a suit, I went back in my notes, and there was Indochino, so I checked out what they had to offer.

It’s important to note that Indochino’s marketing from several years ago worked, just not right away. The idea of “nice, affordable custom suits" was interesting enough to make a note, as well as Prime me to consider a custom suit for my next purchase.

Competing With Non-Consumption

That’s not to say that I instantly became a major prospect for Indochino. After all, I wear dress clothes 1-2 times a year, if that. I don’t need a huge dress wardrobe.

Indochino sells basic custom three-piece suits starting around $450. Perfect: that’s in my budget. I love the idea of getting a custom suit for roughly the price of an off-the-rack.

I intended to purchase a single black suit and be done with it. Instead, Indochino’s marketing increased my initial order by 5x, convincing me to purchase four custom suits, complete with ties, shirts, and accessories.

How? Superheroes. Seriously.

Understanding Your Probable Purchaser

I don’t need many nice suits, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want them on some level. The challenge for Indochino was to identify what might make me Desire another suit enough to spend the money.

The type of customer who is willing to purchase a custom suit online has a few easy-to-identify characteristics. They’re probably:

  • Younger: 25-39 years old with a decent level of disposable income.
  • Looking to purchase clothing either for work or an upcoming event.
  • Want shopping to be convenient.

Indochino covers these fundamentals well: their website is nice, shopping is convenient, and clearly targets a younger customer base. That’s not, however, emotionally compelling enough to generate additional sales.

What’s interesting about a younger target market is the Associations they have of well-dressed people. An older target, like mid-50s executives or salespeople, grew up in a time where suits were more common… something that professionals were expected to wear.

That’s not true for a younger audience. My associations of uber well-dressed people come from movies, television, and yes, comic books.

Bruce Wayne. Tony Stark. James Bond. Well-dressed is a part of the persona of these characters, and that Association is alive and well in the back of my mind.

Indochino released a Superhero Collection, promising to deliver a suit worthy of Batman or Iron Man’s alter-ego.

Where do I sign up?

I’m not joking: the thought of that makes me really excited. Indochino understands their Probable Purchaser very well, so their marketing struck a nerve. My internal monologue shifted from “which suit should I buy" to “how many can I buy?"

I purchased four custom suits, four custom dress shirts, four ties, cufflinks, and a custom raincoat.

Modularity

A major part of why Indochino can put together unique collections is Modularity. Each pattern is computer-rendered, adjusted to the customer’s measurements, then cut using a laser from the appropriate cloth. The pieces are then assembled into a finished suit.

This Value Stream means Indochino carries no finished goods inventory, aside from accessories like cufflinks and tie clips. The major raw material cost is in the fabric, which can be purchased in smaller-than-typical quantities, alleviating purchasing risk and allowing Indochino to test many different offers.

Since every aspect of the suit is custom, Indochino can change any aspect of the product: primary cloth, lining, buttons, buttonholes, etc. Want a full-fabric vest instead of a silk/satin back? No problem!

In the case of the Superhero Collection, Indochino focused on two specific aspects of the offer: the suit lining and the buttonholes. The collections paired unique linings with special contrasting buttonholes, a visible Status Signal that the suit is custom-made. To top it off, they include a small magnetic lapel pin for an additional touch of flair.

Taking Away the Fear

Buying clothing online, particularly custom clothing, feels risky. What if it doesn’t fit well? What if I don’t like it? Will I be stuck with a suit I’ll never wear?

Indochino employs a classic Risk Reversal strategy with their Perfect Fit Promise:

Indochino’s “Perfect Fit Promise" makes ordering a custom suit risk-free. If your order is anything less than perfect, we will do everything in our power to make it right. If an order requires adjustments, Indochino will provide a credit of up to $75 for local tailoring. If a tailor deems the order unalterable, Indochino will gladly remake it free of charge. If you are not 100% satisfied with your order, you can return it for a full refund.

That goes a long way to eliminating risk as a Barrier to Purchase. (For the record, my suits fit perfectly without additional tailoring.)

Indochino also uses Education-Based Selling to help customers take their own measurements. A series of 30 diagrams and videos show the customer exactly what to measure, and how to measure accurately. As a result, the customer doesn’t have to worry about finding a tailor.

If the customer is still wary of taking their own measurements, Indochino provides a Traveling Tailor service, which stops periodically in major cities. The display serves as both a retail outlet and a chance for potential customers to be measured by expert tailors.

The Value of Anticipation

It’s impossible to describe how apathetic I am about clothing in general. My shopping strategy is typically to (1) find an item I like in a standard retail store, (2) buy 4-5 of the same item in different colors, (3) congratulate myself on avoiding more clothes shopping for at least another two years.

It typically takes Indochino 3-4 weeks to deliver an order, which accounts for the custom manufacturing and international shipping. What I didn’t expect was the anticipation: every few days, I’d check my order status, wondering when the suits would arrive with a feeling of excitement.

If Indochino can make me excited about spending 5x more than I intended to on clothing, they’re doing something very, very right.


How can you apply the principles mentioned in this post to your own business?


Published: August 31, 2012 Last updated: August 31, 2012

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