I’d Rather Be with My Dog is a new fashion retailer that promotes heavily on Instagram. The New York-based company has about 260,000 followers on Instagram and about 80,000 on Facebook. That is a tremendous achievement for a company that has been in business just about four years. Ninety percent of its sales are generated on the internet, and some sales come from specialty stores. Sales will be close to $1 million this year, a great achievement.
Women’s apparel, from Sherpa-look jackets to sweat shirts, tank tops, and other jackets are favorites of this company’s customers. Every garment is emblazoned with “I’d rather be with my dog” and sometimes also with an indication that the company supports animal rescue efforts.
The company was founded by Doug Ratner; he personally designs some of the garments (the rest are designed by other fashion designers). Ratner runs the company and communicates directly with his loyal followers. Born in Western Massachusetts, he lives and operates the business in New York City. His personal love for dogs may stem from the fact that he owns two German shepherds. His dogs are called Oggy and Trudy. In addition, his father, Dave Ratner, runs a chain of pet stores in Western Massachusetts.
Ratner can (and does) communicate directly with his 340,000 followers, but he also uses a social media ad agency to acquire additional new followers on Instagram and Facebook. That is expensive, since he has to invest at least $500 to $700 every day of the year to attract new customers. Acquisition of new names is important for the continued growth of the company that will achieve sales of $750,000 to $1 million this year. That would be at least 20% increase from the previous year.
His Instagram followers are loyal, and repeat business is very strong. Ratner has clearly tapped into a strong emotional reason to shop for an important customer target. Young millennials want to both identify with their pet and wear distinctive clothes. Many were attracted to “I’d Rather Be With My Dog” because of the heavy followers of the site. It’s the herd instinct – “if so many like it, I want to be part of it as well.” So, numbers do count, and the more people that follow and buy products, the further up the scale Instagram will place the platform with its fashionable offerings (and that ends up giving the brand more exposure). That decision, according to Ratner, is made by algorithm.
Not surprisingly black is the favorite color of many customers, grey the second, etc. Sizes run from baby to 3xl, suggesting that everybody is a dog lover. And, tapping into all of that pet love, when customers view these ‘people products,’ they are also shown suggested pairing of pet items to add sales.
I asked about Black Friday. Yes, they will promote – giving 10% off for purchases over $100, 15% off for purchases over $150, and 20% off for purchases over $200. A gift is added for purchases over $100 as well. That’s quite aggressive, but on Black Friday everything goes.
It’s interesting to hear who Doug Ratner watches for guidance. The list is large and includes both traditional and newer retailer brands such as frapage, Nordstrom, revolve, Nasty Gal and REI. He watches and learns from these and other sites to sharpen his presentations.
So, now it’s Instagram that is disrupting retail. Followers of this retailer will develop long-lasting relationships, and new offerings will be snapped up quickly if properly introduced. The Sherpa jacket in gray is a best seller ($90), and if tomorrow the same jacket would be introduced in pink or yellow, followers would probably snap it up because of the fashion message and their trust in the products.
My respect for Instagram as a powerful selling platform has risen because of my clearer understanding of how a relationship is developed through frequent messaging that strengthens the brand. In this case, it is really communicating to a community that loves dogs and likes to talk about it in a fashionable way.
We can learn a lot from this company’s success, and it will be exciting to see it grow.