I'm Pulling Back the Curtain on the Months Long Process of Selecting Items for the Shop - Cupcakes & Cashmere

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I'm Pulling Back the Curtain on the Months Long Process of Selecting Items for the Shop

A lot goes on before you add to cart!
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We've had our Shop for over two and a half years, but we rarely go into the actual processes that happen behind closed doors with our eCommerce and marketing teams. Anytime you see pretty photos on Instagram or the blog, there are actually months of work behind them. To get an idea of how we handpick each item for our Shop, I wanted to share the process of one piece in particular. What better item to showcase than one of my favorites, our bestselling pink, fuzzy coat, The Aspen?

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A huge part of finding products involves going to trade shows and markets. Our Buyer, Lisa, always goes with something in mind that she's looking for. Before a show, Lisa and Raven, our Assistant Buyer, do a deep dive into trend forecasting and write out a plan for what they need to buy for the following season. They look for items that are not only on-trend, but that both our team and our customer would like. Some of the spring trends on the horizon include suiting, pastels, tie-dye, python print, utility, patchwork, and ditsy floral. Lisa not only wants to buy from legacy brands (brands we carried the season before), but she's also constantly looking for new brands to bring back to the office and review with me. At this point, Lisa knows me like a book—we've been working closely for years at this point—and pretty much everything she brings back gets an enthusiastic "YES!"

At the Project Trade Show in Las Vegas this past February, Lisa found the Aspen coat on a mannequin complete with all pink accessories. She instantly noted that the brand behind the coat, Kourt, is one we'd love because of its trendy, yet investment-worthy statement pieces. Once Lisa finds a brand or piece that she loves, she begins building a relationship with the vendor and schedules a meeting with me to discuss the marketplace. We ask, "What stood out?" and "How can we tackle this trend?" From there, the picking process begins.

Our Buyer Lisa & Assistant Buyer Raven at Coterie Market! 

Our Buyer Lisa & Assistant Buyer Raven at Coterie Market! 

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Once our favorites are picked, we have a several-hour meeting with the whole team (editorial too!) and we compile a list of everything we love (which is often a lot) and do a once-over to pare down to the best of the best pieces. We buy in accordance with our plan, which is a set of guidelines for how many items in each category we should buy (coats, dresses, tops, etc). Our Planner Jayme puts it together based on our budget and past selling success. After a few rounds of edits, we have a final selection of products ready to carry in the Shop for the next season. 

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The next several parts of the process are much more administrative. To start, we create an assortment by the "cancel date" (the last day you can pull out from an order, before they ship) as we buy two seasons (or six months) ahead. Once the assortment is put together, we look to see if there is any repetition, crossover, or unnecessary buys. If everything looks good to both Lisa and me, the edited assortment is sent to Jayme to finalize. The Planner writes the units we need based on the time of year, how much we love a product, and the style of the item. 

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A purchase order is then created, everything is entered into our system, and the order is submitted to our new vendor. Now it is time to wait! 

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A few months later, we approve the order to ship so that our warehouse can anticipate new product. From there, we track and record product that's arrived to see if anything is missing. Although it's mundane to track, the process is essential in order to get the style live! 

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Once our product is in our possession and counted, we get it on the site as soon as possible. Before we can do that though, we first have to decide if we want to do a lifestyle shoot (which can better showcase some pieces), or simply shoot a piece on a professional model. Depending on how quickly we want to set the product live, or if it's a time-sensitive piece, we will most likely shoot professionally. 

Lifestyle photography is a great option for seasonal pieces because it shows the customer exactly how I'd wear an item with my own wardrobe. It's also ideal for items I'm absolutely obsessed with, like the Aspen coat. Since I was so in love with this piece, I knew I'd wear it long before we could get it shot on the model (a process that sometimes takes weeks as we wait for additional inventory to come in). Instead, Kelly shot it outside of our office so we could get it on the Shop in minutes instead of weeks. We later shot it professionally when we restocked it!

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As I mentioned, it takes months to get our products from a trade show to your door. Once we receive images of the product, we take account of how much we have in stock and send the product over to Kelly, our Marketing Manager, for product descriptions. 

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Before Kelly even begins writing product copy, she looks at the piece and notes everything from stitch type to button placement. Then, she and several others from the office try on the item. In the case of the Aspen coat, we had every single person in the office, ranging in height from 5'2 to 6'2 (@G), try the coat on to see how it looked and felt on different body types. In her descriptions, Kelly tries to address everything a customer would question before purchasing, especially since our products are only sold online. Once she feels the copy accurately depicts the product to our customer, she adds the inventory available and sets it live! 

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While Raven merchandises the item on our site in order to make the product look the best it can be, surrounded by complementing items, Kelly and the rest of the marketing team look at their marketing calendar to determine how they should promote the piece. They start by assessing the kind of promotions they can give, depending on the time of the year. If a major holiday isn't coming up, they brainstorm other promotional tactics. Additionally, the marketing team looks through the sell-through report that details the life span of an item. Kelly and the team have to be totally up-to-date on how an item is performing in order to know how to properly market it. 

For the Aspen coat, Kelly knew it would fly out of the Shop because it was so unique and I love it so much. Together with our Social Media Manager Jess, they started building Instagram content for the majority of the promotion. Within days, we had sold out! 

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Every single item in the Shop is assessed by both our eCommerce and marketing teams based on how much sold, how quickly it ran out of stock, and our customer return rate. In the case of the Aspen coat, assessing the success of the product was easy. The only question at hand was not whether we should order more, but how many! 

The Shop is a labor of love for all of us—we hope you love it as much as we do! And thank you for helping us raise money for Baby2Baby during Giving Tuesday yesterday! x 

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