Vacations and global travel may be on hold, but swim brands aren’t letting that stop them from selling bikinis and beach gear.
The timing of the pandemic hit just ahead of spring and summer travel season, when people typically head to warm destinations and swimwear brands ramp up marketing budgets ahead of dropping new collections. But now, these companies are weighing whether or not to move ahead with launches — most are choosing to debut new collections, like clockwork — and how to tinker their marketing messaging during a time when no one is really spending time by the beach.
The global swimwear market was valued at $18.9 billion in 2018 and was projected to reach $29.1 billion by 2025, according to data platform Statista. That was before the recent pandemic hit. It’s unclear how the market will be impacted in the long run, but Melanie Travis, CEO and founder of DTC swimwear brand Andie Swim, said she’s optimistic that while the industry may take a hit in these next few months, swimwear sales will bounce back. She is hopeful travel will resume by June or July.
“The timing of the crisis in the U.S. was not ideal for the swim market. It really required us to throw all of our fully baked marketing plans out the window and rethink from the ground up how to market swimsuits during this time,” said Travis.
Previously the company would focus marketing copy around messages like, “This swimsuit that sold out seven times is back,” or, “This item has a 10,000-person waitlist,” said Travis. Now, the focus is on “more introspective and transparent messaging,” she said. This week, the company sent a message through SMS — a channel the brand has used before — to customers who have opted in online encouraging them to respond to the text to connect with Andie’s fit experts and ask them anything. “No robots on the other end, we promise,” it states. That text got 200 responses within the first hour. The goal wasn’t to drive to the website (no link was included), but rather to check in on customers and learn how they want to engage with Andie during this time.
Over the last six week, Andie has “significantly” scaled back paid channels like subway ads and billboards, which were big channels for the brand last summer and were supposed to come into play in 2020, as well. Travis declined to share the specifics around cuts to the marketing budget, but said SMS, email and organic social have been a bigger focus and that the team is producing 10-times more daily content for Instagram, compared to before the pandemic. That content includes Stories and IGTV videos featuring Q&As with Travis and 10-minute “yoga breaks,” for example.
For Onia, a 10-year-old luxury swim brand, the company is still pushing ahead with paid marketing, even increasing it slightly during the next few weeks.
“We always maintain strategic marketing spend online; we call it the evergreen effect where we are always targeting people who are subject to wanting to shop swim. This is a good time, while people are at home, to discover the brand, so we are definitely pushing the pedal forward with marketing,” said Nathan Romano, co-founder of Onia. He declined to share specifics around spend.
On the launch front, most brands are moving ahead with product launches, including Andie Swim and Onia. For Andie’s 2020 spring launch on April 1 , which included four new suit colors, the company turned to TikTok for the first time to create a launch video of employees dancing and wearing the latest products. Andie has also been offering at 15% off code for customers.
“The reception from our community has been so strong, in terms of supporting us and continuing to buy swim, so we are going to stay on track. We had intended to launch [summer] product at the end of May and into June, so we are going to stick to that,” Travis said.
Onia is also moving ahead with product launches into the summer, focusing on the brand’s direct-t0-consumer business to drive sales, with wholesale essentially at a standstill.
“A lot of retailers are closed, so they are pushing back a lot of their orders so our original summer drops will slightly pivot. But in terms of our own DTC website, we are maintaining our calendar,” said Romano.
While both Andie Swim and Onia said they noticed sales slip during the first few weeks of quarantine, both said things have started picking back up in the last two weeks.
“In March, we actually beat our sales projections, and we are seeing those sales come in for April, as well,” said Travis. She declined to share projections and sales.