Honey Birdette went online, then global, without losing its boutique feel
Fashion and apparel
Since 2006, when it was founded over a glass of champagne, Honey Birdette has oozed luxury, its top-shelf lingerie made in partnership with the very same Swiss embroiderers who help outfit top couture brands like Chanel and Givenchy.
Its products were a success, and soon the Australian brand had captured its home retail market. But in some ways, this luxury company was just getting started. Since moving online with Shopify Plus, Honey Birdette has enjoyed:
- A returning customer rate around 50%
- The launch of six global online storefronts, serving more than 60 countries
- A site optimized for speed and performance on mobile
It was offline before it was online. In Australia, Honey Birdette had come to be known as a luxury boutique, its high-end lingerie a source of fascination and desire across more than 50 national stores. Shoppers came from all over the world to visit, devoted customers of ages 18 to 70. “Honey Birdette,” says Belinda Sharpin, the company’s general manager, “is a brand that’s bringing sensuality to the masses.”
Indeed, Honey Birdette had captured brick-and-mortar success. But where did its future lie? The company desired a greater footprint, a global presence that would allow it to more directly reach the international visitors it so often hosted in its Australian shops.
Online was the target, though only if Honey Birdette’s web store could be done right. The company knew well the landscape—the competition, the endless row of ecommerce sites before it, the six-figure price tags for custom site builds. It would not proceed unless it could stand out, until it could replicate the experience of its boutiques across the world online. All the while, it had to ensure its trademark client relations were kept intact.
The future of commerce—competition is getting fierce, and it’s global now. As a retailer, you need to stand out. You need to move fast, and I think you have to be customer service-focused. You need to try and stand out in the crowd and offer the customer the best experience you can.
Honey Birdette replatformed to Shopify Plus in 2015, and right away there was plenty of work to do. Among the first things was for Honey Birdette to spread its wings far and wide. Opening international storefronts was a priority, so shoppers could buy in a variety of currencies. But they were also important so customers could experience Honey Birdette’s site—and, by extension, Honey Birdette’s brand—in a way that the company could tailor for each region.
“It was really important for us to start growing online, because even though we’re an Australian boutique business, we were noticing a lot of international interest in our brand,” Sharpin says. “And honestly: it’s not a local market anymore. It’s a global market. To play with the big boys, we had to get online to compete globally.”
Next was site performance, specifically on mobile. Honey Birdette was joined by Shopify Plus partner The Working Party to completely customize its site for mobile, improving site speed, checkout, search, and search filtering. A new tailor-made theme was designed to house more video, adding clips not just to product pages, but even to collection headers and site navigation tabs.
And then there was customer service, which Honey Birdette overhauled with Flow, Shopify Plus’ automation tool. Honey Birdette gained the ability to tag and segment orders and customers, offering its VIP customers the ability to pre-order unreleased collections. The company could also automatically offer its most loyal returning shoppers express shipping instead of standard.
I love how agile Shopify Plus allows us to be as a brand.
Honey Birdette, once a boutique brand purchased only in Australia, found itself developing a true global presence. Through Shopify Plus, the brand opened six total online storefronts across the world, as close as New Zealand and as far as Canada. “Back in the early days of Honey Birdette,” says Forslov, “we only received a handful of international orders.” Now the company has sold in more than 60 countries across the planet, and 35% of its online orders today are placed by customers outside Australia.
The company’s mobile optimization has also been a boost. Currently, 80% of Honey Birdette’s customers visit the brand’s site on mobile. Anecdotally, the performance is much improved—videos, Forslov reports, have especially helped bring its site to life.
And yet customer service, and the customer experience of the Honey Birdette brand, may have been this company’s greatest online feat. Replicating the feel of boutique shopping was always going to require a great deal of nuance, though Honey Birdette has ensured it has suffered no drop-off online. About half of the company’s customer base today are returning customers, an increase of 7% over the previous year.
It’s all been music to Sharpin’s ears. “I’m most proud of the fact that we have managed to stay true to our brand,” she says, “despite all of our exceptional growth.”
The growth sometimes just feels unbelievable. I think back to where we were five years ago, and we were lucky to get a $150 sale online each day. And just to see where we are now is just... sometimes I have to pinch myself. I can’t believe how far we’ve come.