Merchandise buyers like Cristina Wilson of clothing retailer Ooh La Luxe and Brooke Howerton of The Paisely Heart discuss why they are purchasing through the FashionGO online marketplace, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Above: Howerton (holding a T) and the staff of The Paisely Heart.

With 2020 turning into the year of the B2B marketplace thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, buyers are finding that the value of marketplaces extends beyond the convenience of purchasing online in a safe environment when travel to a physical marketplace doesn’t always make sense.

I can search for specific patterns, such as paisley prints, and learn about a supplier before starting a relationship with them.
Brooke Howerton, owner
The Paisley Heart

The reasons buyers cite for turning to online marketplaces involve ways that make their jobs easier, including the ability to see supplier reviews and ratings, use sophisticated search engines, track orders, and review invoices.

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Brooke Howerton, owner, The Paisley Heart

Brooke Howerton, owner of boutique apparel retailer The Paisley Heart, says a big reason she purchases through the FashionGo online marketplace, at FashionGo.net, is that she can see all products from competing suppliers in one place. That makes her more knowledgeable about listed items, as well as the suppliers, before completing a purchase transaction, she says.

“I can find everything a vendor has in FashionGo, search for specific patterns, such as paisley prints, and learn about a supplier before starting a relationship with them,” says Howerton, who has used FashionGo since launching her business in 2013. “Even if I went direct to a supplier, I would go to FashionGo for knowledge first. It has really helped my business.”

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Tracking orders and rating suppliers

One noted feature Howerton likes about FashionGo is the ability to see her order and invoice history, as well as order status and order tracking numbers by each vendor. She also likes the supplier ratings, as they can reveal a lot about a supplier, such as how fast orders are shipped.

In addition, Howerton says the marketplace’s customer support has helped her evolve her buying strategies over the years. “The sales representatives are really in our corner and look to cater to our needs as a buyer,” says Howerton, who learned about the marketplace through word of mouth during visits to the Dallas Market Center. “It’s important to have that kind of support whether you are a new or tenured buyer on the site.”

As is the case with many marketplaces that were seeing substantial growth pre-pandemic, the number of registered buyers on FashionGo has exploded in activity since the coronavirus hit earlier this year, the marketplace says. The marketplace more than tripled the average number of new registrants this past July and August, bringing its total number of registered retailers now to 475,000, FashionGo says. Since June 2020, FashionGo says, retailer activity on its platform has doubled every month in comparison to corresponding months in 2019. There are now more than 1,200 vendors on FashionGo.

Buyers have reported that, of all the suppliers they do business with, they began a relationship with 80% of them on FashionGo, says Paul Lee, CEO of NHN Global Inc., the parent company of FashionGo.

Putting photos in the site search box

“Traffic has been on the rise, and that trend is expected to continue through 2021,” says Lee.  “We also expect retailer activity levels to hold steady and stick as social distancing and travel restrictions are relaxed in the future.”

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Travel restrictions imposed during the pandemic have made online marketplaces such even more valuable to buyers. “Being able to purchase through FashionGo has been a lifesaver for us during the pandemic, because we have not been able to get to the marketplaces in Los Angeles,” says Cristina Wilson, co-owner with her twin sister Michelle Wilson Bien of Ooh La Luxe, which defines itself as “a modern bohemian clothing boutique.” “It’s also faster ordering online than it is purchasing at a physical marketplace,” she says.

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Cristina Wilson (left) and Michelle Wilson Bien, co-owners, Ooh La Luxe

One feature Wilson especially likes about FashionGo is Style Match Plus, which allows buyers to attach photos in the search box. This feature makes is easier and faster to find specific and related items.

“If I am searching for a specific look, such as a sweater and sequined pants, I can easily find everything related to that look,” says Wilson, who has used the marketplace for five years.

Ooh La Luxe, which has been open since 2009, has three retail stores in Petaluma, Healdsburg, and Santa Rosa, California, in addition to an online store at Oohlaluxe.com.

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Since the pandemic hit in March, Wilson says she has increased her orders through FashionGo. “We are selling a lot more through our website, and items are selling fast,” she says. “With FashionGo, we know we can get an item that has sold out on our site shipped to us fast. The quantity of their items is a strength.”

A single order for multiple locations

Looking ahead, FashionGo plans to add new features to enrich the buying experience, Lee says.

For example, one new feature on tap is the ability for buyers and vendors to track orders sent in multiple shipments to one or more addresses.

“These are uncertain times, and it’s good to know that a resource like the FashionGo marketplace is available,” says Howerton.

Peter Lucas is a Highland Park, Illinois-based freelance journalist covering business and technology.  

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