They were against the odds. To adopt a pre-order business model for a mass-marketed shirt is practically unheard of. Sure, we’ve heard of pre-order video games, electronics and perhaps designer clothes and bags, but a common dress shirt? Some even told them that it cannot be done. But Oxwhite did it anyway, and is succeeding.
During their launch day on 30th June 2018, Oxwhite sold 2,500 white shirts in 3 hours, a massive sales achievement. It got people talking; both about the brand and their shirts. And by the end of the month, Owxhite went on to sell more than 10,000 of their Classic shirts. That’s one product code or SKU, with only one colour (white), and 5 size variations, 10,000 units sold.
Clearly, Oxwhite is not your average startup brand.
For those who have yet to know them, Oxwhite is an apparel brand that wants to disrupt the dress shirt market through their pre-order model. The brand currently has one product available for pre-order; men’s white dress shirt. Some of the benefits offered are the supreme quality of the cotton material used, the Asian-focused fitting and most interestingly, the non-ironing requirement of the shirts.
Oxwhite shirts are affordably priced yet of good quality but with one catch; the waiting time. As with the pre-order business model, customers pay upfront before production begins and would receive the shirts after 120 days. Oxwhite uses the pre-order model to cut excessive costs involving retailing, distributing, inventory and production, which allow them to set the total cost price the lowest they can. Then, by marking up the shirts’ price minimally, they sell each shirt at a comfortable RM69.
In a session exclusively with Brand360, Oxwhite’s founder CK Chang sat down with us and shared his journey and brand story as well as his marketing insights. Adorning an Oxwhite shirt himself, CK was comfortable talking about the successes, challenges and new ventures of his startup.
Oxwhite’s brand name is certainly a name that stands out. It’s easy to say out loud, has a nice ring to it and it’s something unique and catchy. How did the founder get a hold of this name? According to CK, the name is a portmanteau (a word combination) of the word ‘Oxford’ and ‘White’. Oxford, as in Pinpoint Oxford, is a type of fabric weaving used in many high-quality dress shirts. The word ‘white’ refers to the white shirts the startup is selling. And after seeing that it was available for a domain name and getting trademarked, there was no looking back to the name Oxwhite.
So how did Oxwhite do it? How did they sell 10,000 shirts in a month?
Even before the campaign started, Oxwhite’s steps can be traced back to 2 years ago when they invested in perfecting their one white shirt. By consulting industry experts, sourcing for the right partners, and constantly asking for customer feedback, Oxwhite made their research before finally executing and kick-starting their sales.
When asked about the methods he used to achieve his 5-figure sales, CK answered that it was all thanks to online marketing. Some of the main branding and marketing activities include:
Some of Oxwhite’s FB ad. Picture credit: Oxwhite Facebook Page
This is an effective way to reach people who have never heard of the brand. Among the 50,000 people who were made aware of the Oxwhite brand, a few thousands of them purchased the shirts, making the conversion very effective. And this all happened in ONE day!
Thanks to referrals, Oxwhite now has tens of thousands of subscribers ready to be converted into customers. One top subscriber had near 500 referrals under his name when he just needed 5. This was the main contributor to how Oxwhite secured 2,500 shirt sales in 3 hours on launch day.
The team was scratching their heads and thought of a way to troubleshoot the low ratings. They realised that product features were not going to attract people if they didn’t know anything about the brand behind the product.
Not only do they need to sell their product, they need to sell their story around the product. A narrative that can give the brand character and personality. This echoes what we always tell clients. Selling features and benefits, without selling the brand story and experience, is often ineffective, we said to CK. But when you turn it around and talk about your personal journey, why you’re doing this, and the story behind the brand, that’s where you attract people’s attention.
Picture credit: Oxwhite Website
And so, that was what Oxwhite did. They started to tell their story about embarking on a journey to disrupt the dress shirt market and improve people’s lives for less. They weave in values of honesty, transparency and openness into their story and brand their journey into every step of their marketing funnel. With their brand story, audience engagement improved and the referral marketing tactic went through the roof.
People were enticed by Oxwhite’s narrative before they were interested in their product and benefits. And this is true for lot of other brands as well. Since people buy with their emotions and justify with logical benefits, an emotional appeal attached to a brand can flip the switch to a positive reception. “Sometimes, you buy with your heart but then later you supplement that with all the logical reasons,” said Julia, agreeing with CK.
Secondly, Oxwhite realises the limitations of buying clothes online. People can’t try them on in a fitting room, therefore risking the purchase of the wrong size. To reduce this anxiety, the brand offers a 365-days return and exchange policy for their shirts.
And lastly, customers would ideally have little issue with any troubles and inquiries as Oxwhite strives to provide good customer engagement on their social media. Customers would only need to comment on a post, or send a Facebook message, or contact them on their website, or even drop them an email.
CK and his team are not resting on their laurels. “For us at Oxwhite, we want to do one thing right, one at a time,” said CK when asked about what will Oxwhite do next.
They acknowledge the long journey they have yet to cover from solving customer’s everyday pains to making the new products and entering new markets. Soon, the brand will offer plus-size men shirts. They are even developing something for the women soon, which we’re sure the ladies out there would be thankful (cheap and no ironing needed? We’re listening).
The story of Oxwhite is one of perseverance and curiosity. Their brand, though new, is certainly an exciting one to watch for and see how else can they revolutionise the way we buy and consume apparel. The brand has also shown how having a brand strategy can improve awareness and reception from the customers. It was a pleasure to chat with CK, and we ended the interview by wishing Oxwhite a great brand journey ahead!
Edit: It has been a while since we’ve interviewed CK Chang. We’ve been following the brand’s milestones closely since then. They have introduced many new products and are always offering something new to customers. Currently, Oxwhite have these products available:
As promised, Oxwhite released a collection of women’s shirts in a few varieties such as regular fit, slim fit, and boyfriend shirt. They are wrinkle-free, set as honest prices, and are made for the Asian frame using Supima cotton, just like the original shirts.
Oxwhite are also selling more varieties of dress shirts for men, which currently includes mandarin collar, semi-cut collar, and button-down collar. There are also shirts with regular fitting and short sleeves, along with some colour options.
For both men and women, Oxwhite offers comfortable cotton t-shirts for all-day wear. The tees are meant to look very minimalistic and classy so the wearer has more freedom to style them with a jacket, blazer, or coat.
Oxwhite also includes boxers, briefs, and panties made from their signature cotton material. There are also tote bags, backpacks and clutches for both ladies and gents, all priced honestly, with the Oxwhite name embossed in gold.
Oxwhite still retains an e-commerce website as their main distribution channel. They often come up with campaigns and promos to keep the audience engaged. Social media continues to be their main marketing platform. We’re happy to see the good reviews from customers, and how Oxwhite still holds on to their brand promise of honest pricing and providing top quality to customers.