ShirtsMyWay is a website, launched earlier this year, which allows shoppers to design their own shirts using an interactive model.
I've been asking co-founders Peter Crawfurd and Michael Yang about ShirtsMyWay...
Why did you decide to launch ShirtsMyWay?
We have been planning of starting a business for several years and had been juggling many ideas. Michael has a strong background in Tech and I am more on the marketing side. The reason we decided to launch this business is because we saw a quite insatiable demand for a product like this and there could be a lot of repeat customers due to the great fit of the shirts they would be getting.
We had also been getting many custom shirts made throughout the world and wanted to bring this concept to a new level online. Tailors often mainly focus on the fit of clothing and don't give a good idea of what design you really can get out of a shirt. We wanted to bring the option of design to life online while of course keeping the great fit of the shirts. We did this by building our shirt model which lets you preview and design the shirt before purchasing it.
What was your background before launching the site?
Michael had a background in IT and had developed a few platforms before. I myself had been working in IT outsourcing and running a small business on the side as well. My eduction is business focused while Michael's is a mix of business and technology.
We both had entrepreneurial experiences before starting this venture, but this was the first in selling goods entirely online.
Can you explain the concept of the site?
ShirtsMyWay lets you design your own dress shirt in detail using our interactive model. That means you can go in and pick out fabrics for different parts of the shirt such as the pocket, collar, cuffs, and more. There are a lot more details which you can adjust like buttons, buttonhole colors, types of collars, etc. There are actually over seven trillion different possible designs that can be made on our site. This truly means you can bring out your own personal style.
On top of this, the shirts can also be made to measure after your body size. This involves either taking measurements from a well fitting shirt you already own or getting a friend to take your body measurements. These detailed measurements mean you'll be getting great fitting shirts made only for you.
So in the end you'll be getting shirts you like the look of as they will follow your style and fit you well.
How did you approach the problem of making the interface usable?
We knew it had to be simple yet we wanted to be able to give a very high degree of design flexibility for our customers. We could only do that with a visual representation of the shirt, so that shoppers could see it change in real time. This visualization helps keep things simple and usability high.
One choice we made was to go with Java script instead of flash as we believe this would give a better overall experience for our users. Our site is 100% custom built in house which we had to do to create the uniqueness of what we wanted to portray. It involve a lot of hours, but one we are confident about was the right choice.
How long did it take to developthe technology?
There was a whole lot of work behind this and it took around six months to complete. There are over 3,000 images as part of the shirt model which were very time consuming to create.
What are the main challenges involved in selling fashion products online?
The main obstacle is the fact that shoppers can't actually feel the shirt before buying it, but that is common for all online clothing stores yet clothing is one of the largest online industries. I think our model works best online as there would be a lot of extra costs involved if you were to do this offline or in a combination of the two. I wouldn't really be able to compare if it were to be harder to sell offline as we have only been selling online.
How is the business going so far?
We have been experiencing a lot of growth since we launched in February and have already sold thousands of shirts. We have big plans for the future and of course strongly believe they will happen. :)
Why did you decide to offer free international shipping?
Especially for customers in countries which are not used to free shipping from 'American' sites we believe this is a persuasive tactic. For example often Australians find that they have to add USD 20 for shipping something that they of course are not too interested in. This gives us more access to the many other developed countries around the world. We have already sold to over 20 countries throughout the world.
How have you approached the marketing of the site?
At this point in time we have not had any marketing budget really. Most of exposure is through word of mouth, PR, and SEO.
Have you taken any funding for the site? Is it profitable?
The company has solely be funded through Michael's and my savings. We were in fact profitable from the first month.
How do you see it developing in future? Do you plan to expand the brand and concept into other areas?
We have a lot of plans for the future. This will involve diversification into products we haven't quite decided on yet and contant improvements to our product and website.