September 18, 2012, 5:01 PM

Marketing to 10-year-olds pays off for FashionPlaytes.com

Since shifting its focus to targeting young girls directly, membership is up 1,150%.

Lead Photo

FashionPlaytes.com Runway Challenge

For children’s clothing e-retailer Fashion Playtes Inc., a new marketing strategy that aims to provide young girls with an interactive, social experience is paying off. Since shifting its focus in January to marketing directly to girls between the ages of 10 and 12—as opposed to their parents—membership has skyrocketed 1,150% from 40,000 to 500,000 today.

“We are really excited that our business is taking off,” says founder Sarah McIlroy. “We are starting to focus really directly on the girls. They are spending over an hour on our site and coming back two times a week on average.”

These results are not going unnoticed by investors either, as Fashion Playtes, No. 935 in the Internet Retailer Second 500 Guide, recently secured $5 million in new funding. Leo Capital Holdings and Spindrift Equities participated in the financing, and existing investors Fairhaven Capital, New Atlantic Ventures and Golden Seeds contributed as well.

“FPGirl is rapidly becoming the e-commerce on-ramp for the next generation of consumers,” says Fairhaven Capital partner Rudina Seseri. “This new generation doesn’t respond to ‘point and click’ shopping. They want a rich, personal shopping experience and the ability to interact with a brand.” FPGirl is the homepage label for FashionPlaytes.com.

On FashionPlaytes.com, young shoppers can use the Design Studio to design clothing, create and share apparel collections, and purchase their own designs. The FPWorld portion of the site is a community of sorts for the girls, where the e-retailer posts content aimed at youngsters such as videos, design contests or poll questions like “How old were you when you got your ears pierced?” 

FashionPlaytes.com also uses crowdsourcing to get its customers engaged. For instance, the Trend Alert portion of the site asks site visitors to write in about what’s cool in their school. The merchant also asks shoppers to vote on which new clothing items it should offer in the future. 

“Every week they weigh in on our product line and it’s all polls and survey-based,” McIlroy says. “Like what product we should be developing for the holidays. On some weekends, we get over 10,000 fashion questions and they share with us photos of themselves wearing their designs.” 

Part of the challenge from the beginning, however, was turning engaged site visitors into shoppers who convert into buyers, because the retailer’s target audience of 10- to 12-year-olds don’t have their own credit cards. 

But the new marketing strategy is having a dramatic impact on traffic and engagement, evidence that the young buyers are finding ways to buy online. “Our girls are buying,” McIlroy says. “We really see a direct response to our marketing whether it’s a TV commercial we put out or something else. We are seeing girls purchasing very consistently.” The e-retailer declined to disclose its conversion rate or sales figures.

Fashion Playtes, which currently has a staff of 20, plans to hire an additional 10 to 15 people this year for marketing and business development roles. The retailer also is developing a mobile app that will be an extension of its e-commerce site and Design Studio that will enable crowdsourcing and social sharing, McIlroy says. The app is scheduled to launch within the next few months.

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