Gifting at AL

Gifting at AL

I initially joined AL to look after the Marketing and so when Heidi recently took a day off and I was able to have free rein of the Instagram account, I decided to get our followers feedback on marketing platforms as well as opinions on #gifting. 

#gifting meaning products which brands send to content creators / influencers / celebrities who in return share the product that they have received with their followers and in turn support in growing the audience of that brand. 

wrapped-product


In terms of growth, there is no brand out there that doesn’t want to grow bigger. (We’ve all been there when we say ‘if I can just hit / do … then I’ll be happy….and then when we do hit / do whatever that may be, we create a new target). And AL is no stranger to the need to grow, develop and find sustainability for customers and the AL team.


In the two years I have been at AL I am lucky to sit in a position to say we have grown. Our growth has allowed us to turn our business model on its head -  it allowed us to take the risk of hiring more employees which enabled our production to be moved in-house on a made to order model. Most recently in terms of growth, we added a third seamstress to the team in September 2021 and this allowed us to launch our Winter Offers. This season we have had two different offers available all season (50% off any bottoms when you buy a jumper and buy 3 garments for the price of 2). We were only able to bring these offers into fruition by adding another seamstress and changing the way we cut and sew the garments, making us more efficient. Heidi and I have always said that we want to make buying conscious clothing more affordable and where possible try to give a real option for people who want to buy independently but can’t always stretch to the price tags. We know we don’t compete with the high street when it comes to prices, but we try to offer an alternative and have no plans to stop trying. 

winter-offersWinter Offers

It may sound simple however because we are now a team of seven and pay London Living Wage alongside all other business costs (studio rent and fabric being the second biggest two) we need our customer base to continue growing in order to give back to our customers, develop ideas and bring choice without compromise. It sounds a little like a catch 22 and it often feels like one! We have so much we want to do, Heidi constantly wants to push the boundaries, be designing and creating for more people, however to do this she relies on me to market the products and get our brand in front of new people. 

Social media is ever changing and the small budget we put into advertising has definitely had better moments than others and so recently I have been trying to work out where we take our next step. Which brings me back to the questions I asked on our Instagram page last week….

#gifted instagram question box
AL Instagram question box

A simple questions box asking for thoughts on #gifting, sparked a mixed response. There were those who felt it was a great way to discover new brands, people who followed certain content creators / influencers who aligned with their values and promoted products that felt very genuine. There was also the flip side; it can very easily feel disingenuous - people speaking about something purely because it was free - and can leave people with an uncomfortable feeling as those being gifted don’t exactly ‘need’ free gifts and could often afford them if they really wanted them. 

Customer feedback
Customer feedback

 

As well as looking through the feedback, I would not be doing my job without research and stats surrounding marketing platforms. Social media isn’t going anywhere and with that in mind, neither is this idea of content creators and gifting. Big businesses who have previously had their marketing budgets split across various marketing channels, have now taken the entire budget and put it into gifting alone. With that in mind, I decided to take a proposal to Heidi (who I already knew aired on the side of caution with gifting). I filmed the conversation which we have uploaded in three parts on social media. The videos are long (approx. 8 mins each) and unedited (at one point someone is definitely trying to get into the studio!), but I wanted you to see the conversation as it unfolded. 

Part 1, discusses marketing in general, which leads us on to Part 2, focusing on gifting as a whole. This then nicely leads us on to Part 3, which is my pitch. Now it is safe to say, that with all the distractions of people entering the studio unannounced etc, this video is definitely not one of my best (cue what feels like a lot of waffling and not many conclusions) and following the video itself, Heidi and I actually ended up changing out plan of action. 

Instagram videos

Part 1, 2 & 3 videos on Instagram

Therefore following the initial pitch I did for Heidi, I have enclosed a final proposal which shows our final outcome of conversation.

The Pitch:

  • AL is to trial gifting, however in the most genuine way we think possible. 
  • Approach AL followers to submit the names of people they think best align with our business and believe would be interested in what we do / like the clothes we make.
  • Heidi and I look through the responses and pick a small number who we would like to approach for gifting. 
  • The people we approach would not be based on following. Just because someone suggests Taylor Swift with her huge social media following, does not mean that she is the right person to us. It is less about the number of followers, more about the alignment with our brand
  • The gifted products would only be selected from our annual collection (due to be launched in February 2022). The annual collection is all about longevity, which is exactly the same principle we will be applying to the people we choose to send the garments too (this isn’t a quick send out, post a picture and throw it away, proposal). 
  • Giftee’s to be contacted in advance to gauge if they would be interested (this gives them the first opportunity to refuse if it is not for them) and also gain their size and address.
  • If the giftee accepts, we send a garment alongside a handwritten letter explaining the contents. 
  • The giftee is not obliged to post; should they decide the product wasn’t for them, we are happy for them to pass it on to someone they think would love it (no strings attached).
  • Giftees will remain anonymous unless of course they choose to post. We are not here to throw anyone under the bus just because AL wasn’t for them. 

At this point, we finished the third video and decided we were going to give it a shot. However there were a couple of areas that were niggling away at us and this brings us to our follow up proposal. 

follower-feedback-promotion-guilt

Follower feedback on Instagram

 

Promotion guilt
One area Heidi and I got stuck was the ‘guilt’ that can come with posting about a product once you have received a gift. The last thing we would want is someone to receive a product, decide it isn’t for them but then feel guilty unless they post. Of course we want people to love AL as much as we do, but we would never want to put our brand upon people with an expectation that they should love us!

follower-feedback-our-existing-community

Follower feedback on Instagram

Our existing community
The second area that Heidi and I got stuck, was the reaction that more than one person made in reference to the fact that typically the people who are gifted are already making money from their platforms and therefore there are people out there - such as loyal customers - who would truly appreciate a gifted item more.

With that in mind, we have updated our proposal to include the following in terms of how we will approach gifting. You can watch the final video with why we have added these elements here

Updated (and final part of the) plan
  • Although a giftee is not obliged to post and share with their followers, we would feel more comfortable if this was an exchange rather than just a freebie. Therefore if the giftee decides the product was not for them, we would love for them to provide feedback - what they did / didn’t love, what they thought of the sizing, anything that could help us learn and grow in the future (just as we always encourage our customers to do). 
  • We will introduce the AL Community Gift (official name tbc!). Once a month, we will randomly select and DM one of our followers to offer them a gift. The entire process will be exactly the same process, with no obligation for the follower to accept the gift. Should they choose to accept the gift they then have exactly the same choices:
    • If they love the gift, share it with their platform / their friends / family - ie spread the word to their community
    • Have the option to share photos with us so that we pop them on our AL account and thus showcase more wonderful real people wearing AL
    • Share feedback. It is the power of sharing that can truly help a tiny company like ours continue to improve.
red-joggers-wrapped-order

And so, to conclude, AL is going to give gifting, in our most honest form, a shot. We are going in with a two pronged approach - those who have never heard of AL and those who are already a part of our wonderful community. 

We have absolutely no idea if this is going to work, but we will keep you posted either way!

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