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Before any fans of the bargains found on Overstock.com start scrolling to the bottom of this blog to post angry comments, let me say upfront that what I’m going to share here doesn’t target Overstock.com or threaten its business model … at least not too much.

The point I really want to make is that you, and folks like you, shouldn’t have to resort to moving unsold merchandise at deeply discounted prices via Overstock.com or anywhere else, including your own stores and websites.

It’s amazing how many business geniuses back into their best ideas and I want to outline how Lolly Wolly Doodle backed into a fantastic inventory and production control system. You’ve probably heard of this children’s clothing company by now. It’s the brainchild of Lexington, North Carolina’s Brandi Temple and is being touted as the first successful retailer to sell on Facebook.

Two-week Delivery Time

It’s funny, while most e-commerce sites are investing thousands of dollars on shopping carts and fulfillment systems that get product to your door a millisecond after your mouse has clicked “BUY,” Lolly Wolly Doodle has gone the opposite direction on Facebook. Customers order by simply commenting on an item in their news feed and the product itself shows up in two to four weeks. Nothing fancy. No costly coding. Nothing particularly fast.

However, it’s how Temple, the Founder and CEO of Lolly Wolly Doodle, uses Facebook to plan production and keep her finger on the pulse of her customers that are really central to her success. Tying up your money in inventory is like a professional baseball player forgetting to set down the lead bat when he goes to the plate. It prevents you from being nimble and positioned to take advantage of a rapidly changing market.

Each day Lolly Wolly Doodle posts new children’s clothing designs on Facebook. Lolly Wolly Doodle fans have to react quickly and make their comments if they want to order the featured clothing. However, just because you comment on the post doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed the product. Lolly Wolly Doodle has a system where you “win” the item. This system allows them to make only enough of the item to satisfy the number of orders that it received or to only process orders for the amount of product they have. In that respect, Facebook adds a “velvet rope” element to the buying experience; shoppers have to act fast to get the merchandise.

Predicting Viral Content

However, you’ve probably noticed that some of the Facebook status updates you make receive far more comments than others. And if you’re like me, you’re often surprised by what engenders participation. When most of us set out to create viral content, it usually falls flat and then one day some offhand remark hits a nerve.

By using the Facebook customers’ reception of new designs, Lolly Wolly Doodle is able to more accurately predict what will sell well overall. Facebook isn’t the clothing maker’s only retail outlet; it acts more like a “pre-sale” site that is then used to gauge market response to various products. Production of winning designs is ramped up and sold on the company’s website.

Follow Trends in Real Time

Further, over time Lolly Wolly Doodle is able to see which styles, colors, and features are solidly trending and navigate its catalog to those areas. I’m certain that in the very beginning, Temple saw Facebook as a place just to sell more clothing. But its value has exceeded that modest goal. Temple and her team are able to create a variety of iterations of the most popular designs, offer them on the company’s website, and know they are taking “proven winners” to market.

If you’ve been looking to social media as a way to boost sales, why not take a step back and start looking at it as a way to conduct inexpensive market research. Then take the lessons you learn and apply them to your traditional sales channels. This should result in less waste and less deep discounting at the end of a product’s lifecycle.

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About Megan Totka

Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com, which helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources and business news. Megan has several years of experience on the topics of small business marketing, copywriting, SEO, online conversions, and social media. Megan spends much of her time establishing new relationships for ChamberofCommerce.com, publishing weekly newsletters educating small business on the importance of web presence, and also contributes to a number of publications on the web. Megan can be reached at megan@chamberofcommerce.com. Follow her on Twitter @ChamberOnline or @MeganTotka.


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