Five years and over a million swimsuits later, Andie Swim founder Melanie Travis shares why an omnichannel presence is essential to growth.

If you purchased an Andie Swim swimsuit when the retailer first launched online in 2017, there is a good chance you saw them on Instagram. “Instagram has been a major investment channel for us, even prior to the pandemic,” says Melanie Travis, founder and CEO.

“We’ve dovetailed our success on Instagram by focusing on bottom-funnel digital marketing strategy,” Travis says. “We used Facebook, Instagram and Google. All the core channels that everyone talks about.”

Bottom-funnel marketing refers to where a shopper converts into a customer. Some tactics include showing shoppers case studies, testimonials, and detailed product pages.

Collaborations and a wide range of swimsuit sizes (0-26) have led to a loyal following of customers. In the five years it’s been in business, Andie has received more than 75,000 loyalty rewards member signups. And in December 2021, Andie raised $18.5 million in Series B funding. A large part of those proceeds will go toward expanding the brand’s omnichannel offerings. Actress Demi Moore was an early investor in the brand. Most recently, Andie launched its Demi Moore x Andie collection in July 2022 featuring swimsuits made from materials sourced in Italy and France and manufactured in Morocco.

“I think to be successful as a brand today, you need to be where your customer is,” Travis says. “You must have an omnichannel presence. Ecommerce is the vast majority of our business, but I think to really mature, you need to be in more places.”

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As a result, Andie opened its own test brick-and-mortar locations, including a six-month pop-up store in West Palm Beach, Florida. The experience proved to be an invaluable learning experience, Travis says.

Merchandising in-store versus online

Melanie Travis, Andie Swim

Melanie Travis, founder and CEO, Andie Swim

Travis says what sells in store is different from what appeals to Andie’s online customers.

“We know our swim brand works well online because we have a great return policy,” Travis says. “You can try on swimsuits in the comfort of your own home. But, on the flip side, with swimwear being such an intimate item, sometimes women really want to touch, see and feel the product in-store.”

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Andie Swim wanted to give customers the ability to shop in-store if they want to. And the results are an interesting lesson, Travis says.

“For example, different things sell in-store versus online. Online, women really gravitate toward our core, black, bestsellers,” Travis says. “Whereas in store, women are interested in our seasonal fashion collections.”

And women tend to buy more when in-store.

“If you try it on in-store and realize the fit is great, you stock up,” Travis says.

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As a result, the average order value for in-store versus online is different. In-store is about 20% to 25% higher versus online, Travis says. It’s a combination of women buying more swimsuits online as well as the complementary products Andie’s merchandiser selects for in-store shoppers.

Items such as beach hats, sandals, and other similar accessories are “easy to pop into your cart in-store,” Travis says. Andie is also adding similar third-party accessories online as well. Since launching its Sag Harbor, New York, and Berkley, California, stores, Travis says Andie has followed what sells in-store to determine what would translate well for customers shopping online.

“We know when a woman is shopping for a swimsuit, she’s probably in the market for other things she’ll need on that trip,” she says.

Conversion rates online are in the low single digits, Travis says. In-store conversion rates are 35% to 40% higher, she says.

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“In-store conversion rates are from another planet,” Travis says.

Social media and the role of influencers

Andie Swim used social media like Facebook and Instagram to help garner a following. The pandemic forced the retailer to cancel its in-person photo shoots. Instead, Andie turned to micro-influencers in its social media community.

“We made arrangements with influencers, and they could shoot their own photos wherever they were,” Travis says. “Whether they lived near a beach or shot photos from their backyard, we were able to successfully shoot all of our spring/summer collections for 2020.”

Travis says the resulting images felt authentic, and shoppers responded. Currently, about 25% of Andie Swim’s marketing budget goes toward influencers.

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Retention marketing

Andie focused on growth pre-pandemic. But Travis says retention became a focal point for the retailer.

“We have a really strong in-house retention team that we’ve continued to build,” Travis says. “We realized that repeat customers are great customers. And we’ve gotten pretty good at retention marketing.”

Return customers return merchandise less frequently, Travis says.

“They know their size. They’re great brand advocates,” she says. “They have higher AOV, which leads to higher customer lifetime value.”

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Fulfillment: Air freight versus sea cargo

Inflation is top of mind for everyone, Travis says.

“I think anyone who says they’re not feeling it is lying,” she says. “I think different industries are feeling it to different degrees, but we’re all affected.”

One way Andie Swim has adjusted to increased costs and lead times is by switching to air freight. Andie Swim’s collections are manufactured throughout the world, including in China, Sri Lanka, Morocco and in California.

“We try to have a number of different factories we work with for different things.” Travis says. Diversifying where collections are manufactured is a strategy to ensure the brand’s operations are not dependent on one major source. As supply chain delays and rising fuel costs continue, Travis says the Andie team continues to evaluate what is most cost-effective.

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Travis says Andie tries to leverage its collections based on lead times and transit times.

“We’re trying to do what we can to keep costs down without raising prices for our customers,” she says. Some of that prep includes putting orders together earlier.

“We used to do all air shipping for our goods,” she says. “Now we do air/sea splits, and that helps a lot with the margin when we can put the majority of a collection onto a boat.”

Andie Swim sustainability collections

Andie Swim introduced a loungewear and intimates line made from a bamboo-rayon blend manufactured from recycled materials. The brand wants to be 100% sustainable, “but we’re not there yet,” she says.

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Most of Andie’s swimwear is made from recycled nylon fabric. It’s an ongoing process that includes facilities are located where the retailer has the technology to produce the items.

“As we’ve diversified our warehouses, we had to make sure they’re certified green,” Travis says.

That entails recycling water and limiting overall water waste and using alternative power sources like solar energy.

The impact of the apparel industry overall on the environment is substantial. According to data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Americans threw away more than 13 million tons in 2019. More than 70% of that clothing was sent to landfills, while 13% was recycled into new clothing or a different use.

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Andie must have its operations on a global scale if it wants to produce greener products, Travis says.

“The United States is not a swimwear manufacturing powerhouse,” Travis says. “We couldn’t keep up with demand by producing everything domestically.

“There are very advanced technologies in Asia doing things sustainably — namely recycled water, a huge point of waste.”

Andie’s loungewear is produced in the U.S. Since it’s a smaller portion of the business, Travis says it is cost-effective to produce domestically.

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How Andie Swim prepares for the holidays

Spring into summer are Andie’s high periods. During the holidays, business is softer, Travis says. But the opportunity to appeal to discount seekers remains.

“It’s a different demographic of customer,” she says. “It tends to be a more affluent customer who is shopping around the holidays to prepare for their getaway to the Caribbean or another planned trip.”

Travis says Andie doesn’t rely on discounting around Black Friday and the Cyber 5-week period. But, they do participate.

“Because if you’re not doing something for Black Friday at this point, you might as well be closed,” she says. “It’s one of those social media periods that if you’re not running some sort of discount, you’re going to be shut out of the action.”

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Andie Swim tracks which customers come in during a sale period versus a non-sale period.

“We’ve found that Black Friday shoppers tend to shop with us again, but they look for a discount moment,” she says. “So there will be moments throughout the year like Labor Day, Black Friday and a little around Memorial Day. It does help us model out what to expect throughout the year.”

One day, Travis says Andie might follow along with retailers that close over Black Friday.

“I love that brands like Patagonia and REI close over the holiday — maybe that’s in our future some day,” Travis says. “But for now, we’ll keep playing the game.”

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