The growing number of influential Weibo commentators are increasingly opening their own online shops or promoting products.
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Amoruso began selling vintage apparel on eBay and promoted products through her MySpace account. Interaction with her customers began there and has blossomed to Facebook and more than 361,000 Likes. "We are showing up and talking to customers on their level," she says.
The five-year-old company has grown steadily and almost exclusively by word of mouth thanks to its vocal customer community, Amoruso says. "We have done very little deliberate marketing. Our business is built on the web interaction of shoppers and customers. Our average order value and conversion rates are relatively unchanged in the past few years."
To keep growing, many online-only retailers are developing new strategies for expansion. For example, Jackthreads.com made a big splash in 2012 with a mobile application that is bringing in 15%-20% of sales, Ross says, and the company is offering its own private-label clothing brand.
In another example, Nasty Gal hired its first apparel buyer in 2011 and added its first e-mail marketing manager in early 2012, adding structure to a business that has been guided largely by its customers' feedback for years, Amoruso says.