Through an incredibly detailed e-commerce website, dress clothes retailer Ministry of Supply showcases its story and vast product details for its unique engineered apparel.
On the product page for its 3D Print-Knit Blazer, for example, the retailer says it is “constructed as one continuous piece of fabric with no seams for a better fit that’s mapped to the contours of the body” and provides heat map photos, even more fabric details (“wrinkle resistant, targeted ventilation”) and fit details (“cozy but flattering”).
“They’re not only experiencing our brand online, but also learning detailed information about all of our products and the technology we use to create them,” says CEO Aman Advani.
But selling apparel online—especially those items that are unique and at a higher price point, such as its resilient, but stretchy Velocity men’s dress pants for $185—is not without its challenges. “Customers are unable to experience things like product fit and handfeel, and over time, we’ve developed a formula for sharing this information and educating our customers,” Advani says. The retailer does this through video content, detailed descriptions of the product, including how the fabric feels and how the item will fit, and reviews from Ministry of Supply customers that include how the product performs and how it fits.
Ministry of Supply is one of 100 retailers featured in Internet Retailer’s soon-to-be released Hot 100 issue—available for free for members.
Built on the Shopify Inc. e-commerce platform, MinistryofSupply.com also provides a technology page that details how it developed each type of fabric and the function it serves in the garment, such as increased flexibility or stretchy fabric that doesn’t break down over time. When a shopper clicks on any of the material pictures—for example, “Kinetic”—she is led to a product page featuring products with only that material, such as “women’s kinetic blazer” and “kinetic pencil skirt.”
Every article of clothing begins at the research process in which Ministry of Supply attempts to solve consumers’ problems, for example, by pressure-mapping feet or interviewing people about how much they sweat. Products then undergo testing for durability and performance in its lab and in the real world with field testers. The retailer then takes the feedback and applies it to current and future clothing design decisions.
Ministry of Supply has shipped hundreds of thousands of units since its 2012 e-commerce site launch, Advani says, declining to share specific sales numbers, but “there’s no doubt that we’re growing quickly.”
Advani says its main competitors are mainstream brands such as Brooks Brothers (No. 161 in the Internet Retailer 2018 Top 1000) and J. Crew Group Inc. (No. 53). “We’re different because we’re unlocking new value for our customers, and empowering them to not only look and dress better, but also feel better and more comfortable during throughout their workday,” he says.
To compete further, Ministry of Supply also has experimented with physical retail, including pop-up shops, and now has seven bricks-and-mortar locations. Advani says the brand is still primarily an online one. “We’ve found a great multiplier effect where customers get to know the brand through a physical experience, but can continue to build and grow a relationship with the brand online,” he says. “We’ve also found great ways to engage online, too—by prioritizing customer service, encouraging phone calls, and using social media to share more about what it looks like behind the scenes. We’re letting our customers get to know us.”
Ministry of Supply in February used Kickstarter to help fund a new voice-controlled heated jacket called the Mercury that learns and automatically heats to each wearer’s optimal temperature. The retailer raised $642,947, well beyond the $72,000 goal, from more than 2,100 backers. The jacket uses machine learning and a smart thermostat built into it that reacts to the wearer’s environment, so he can comfortably move between walking outside in the bitter cold to riding a crowded subway or bus, without overheating, Advani says. Additionally, the wearer can tell the jacket to “turn on,” through a voice assistant such as Alexa, and the built-in heaters will warm up the jacket before he puts it on to head into the cold. The Mercury jacket will be available in November.