The Red Dress Boutique Asks Customers To Do The Buying

Cristina Avila    February 22, 2015

Red Dress Boutique Logo

Organization Name: The Red Dress Boutique

Industry: Fashion

Name of Contact: N/A

Web References: The Red Dress Boutique Blog, Shark Tank Success Blog, SMU Fashion Media, Online Athens, Fast Company, Classic City Today

Description of How Social Media is Used for Business Performance:

Founded in 2004, The Red Dress Boutique is a successful online women’s retailer and a highly coveted brick-and-mortar boutique located in Athens, Georgia. The brand offers women head-to-toe wardrobe selections individually curated by owner and founder Diana Harbour.

Business Owner

Diana left her mundane office job to pursue a career in fashion by creating an eBay-based store selling handpicked women’s items. Upon moving to Athens, Diana and husband Josh worked diligently to establish The Red Dress Boutique’s brick-and-mortar location, catering primarily to local University of Georgia students.

As an early adopter of Facebook, The Red Dress Boutique was quickly utilizing social media before Facebook offered the flexibility of ‘Pages’ for businesses. The company rapidly gained attention from users by keeping followers up-to-date on the store’s new inventory, upcoming items and re-stocks, something that no other retailer was doing at the time.

Multiple Looks

With the power of mobile, Diana began sharing snapshots of the items she was perusing during her buying trips. Immediately, the response was overwhelming, giving Harbour a mainline into what her customers actually wanted to purchase.

 “Our competitive advantage is our engagement with our customers. I am able to interact with our customers in real time. By asking for and receiving their feedback, I am able to gauge within 20-30 minutes how many items to buy and even whether to buy at all. This is a unique personal interaction that my customers get from Red Dress that they can’t find anywhere else” says Diana.

As a result, Harbour’s “Buy for Boutique” program was born, which allows customers to show interest in the items that the retailer might sell in the future.

Buy for the Boutique

During Diana’s weekly buying trips she posts clothing and accessory options to Instagram, asking for feedback from her followers. She actively takes into account the responses received so that she can make strategic, real-time buying decisions.

Creating an efficient supply chain enables Red Dress to carry only the most wanted items, decreasing overhead costs, cutting the need for markdowns and providing consumers with a magnitude of outfit options priced at under $50.00. Each style is uniquely curated by Diana and is photographed using realistic models in everyday settings, relatable for the Red Dress customer.

“It’s all about engaging… after the sales are scrutinized, Diana goes back to see which items didn’t get snapped up immediately. She will analyze the photo and try shooting it again. The second try often does the trick and helps move the goods without having to mark them down” says husband Josh Harbour and COO.

Engagement is The Red Dress Boutique’s strong suit, boasting a following of close to 1.4 M on Facebook, over 15,600 on Twitter, 153,000 on Instagram and 12,800 on Pinterest.

In 2014, The Red Dress boutique was featured on ABC’s Shark Tank (Episode 605). In the Tank, owners Diana and Josh walked away with an impressive investment of $1.2 M from sharks Mark Cuban and Daymond John to further the company’s online infrastructure and order fulfillment process.


Lessons for Others:

The inclusion of customers as a critical link within the supply chain can be extremely beneficial to businesses. In order to achieve cohesiveness, the business must actively listen and trust in the feedback of their customers. Trust is amongst the most critical components of effective supply chain management.

In the case of The Red Dress Boutique, the owner Diana Harper consistently engaged with consumers via social media in order to streamline the inventory buying process. Diana exhibited trust in competency in the business’ online community by buying inventory that the majority of followers indicated as favourable.

As a result of this information sharing, The Red Dress Boutique benefits from the decreased overhead costs associated with carrying excess merchandise and a strong two-way relationship with customers. Red Dress shoppers receive unique product offerings, customization and competitive pricing.

According to Jacob Park, Principal Sustainability Advisor, Forum for the Future, the future of supply chains will take the form of one of four different scenarios. “Predictive Planet” refers to the scenario in which retailers utilize data and technology to anticipate the wants of customers and offer them highly customized services.

In anticipation of the future of supply chain management, organizations must build a strategy that is innovative, competitive and capitalizes on customers in order to remain relevant.

The above-mentioned panel discussion can be found within the following audio clip from SXSWECO beginning at the 15:00 minute mark:


Submitted By: Cristina Avila

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