COVID-19: Alert bar

How Tragic Beautiful grew its international fan base through niche products and reliable shipping

Starting with a humble $200 investment, Tragic Beautiful has become one of Australia’s leading alternative fashion online stores with nearly half a million fans. Founder, Melanie Cramond, explains how running her business has helped her through some challenging times, and shares her secret to sustainable business growth.

Melanie Cramond has always been into alternative fashion. Unable to work due to a difficult pregnancy in 2006, she passed time surfing the internet in search of products that suited her alternative style but struggled to find anything online. Melanie figured she wasn’t the only one so she decided to test the market.

“I had $200 and ordered some Manic Panic hair dye to sell on eBay,” she says. Manic Panic is a cruelty-free product known for its selection of rainbow hair colours. “I sold out in a day and thought, OK, the market’s here.”

Driven by her own style and passion for alternative clothing, she dipped her toes into making and selling fuzzy legwarmers next. Her product range grew quickly from there, prompting her to move from an eBay store and launch her website, Tragic Beautiful.

Juggling a growing business and family life isn’t easy, though. So, when Melanie found herself in a dark place a few years ago it was her passion and the people around her that helped her emerge stronger and more confident.

“The business has been really good for my mental health. It’s something for me to focus on and gives me a great sense of achievement,” she says. “I surround myself with good and positive people I enjoy being around. It really helps.”

Today, Tragic Beautiful is one of the largest alternative fashion online stores in Australia, with a cult-like following that includes over 400,000 fans on Facebook and nearly 100,000 on Instagram. August 2019 was a record month for the retailer, with over 1,500 orders shipping worldwide.

Free and fast shipping delivers local and global growth

Once she successfully moved her customers from eBay to the Tragic Beautiful website, Melanie introduced free shipping through Australia Post for all orders above $89. No other retailer offered this at the time. She then offered customers a speed upgrade between Australian capital cities, with next business day delivery options within the Express Post network.

“I always want the customer experience to be something I would love. Fast and reliable shipping is an absolute must and offering this was probably one of the main reasons for growing so fast,” Melanie says. “Fast shipping has been pivotal for our business especially around the holiday season.”

It’s no surprise, as next day deliveries in Australia have grown by 31.7% in 2018, with 62% of these relating to fashion.

From day one, at least 10-20% of Tragic Beautiful’s orders came from overseas so reliable international shipping has always been important. But it hasn’t always been smooth sailing.

“We noticed a post on our VIP Facebook group complaining about the global carrier we were using at the time. It turned out a lot of people had similar experiences. We hadn’t realised the depth of the issue, so we stepped in immediately.” That’s when Melanie discovered Australia Post’s Pack and Track International – a game changer for the business.

“Pack and Track International has been huge for us. It was such a great thing to have parcel tracking worldwide,” she says. “Australia Post’s services give our customers the best possible outcome whether they’re in the US, New Zealand, Canada or right here in Australia.”

In fact, she adds, Australia Post has been instrumental in Tragic Beautiful’s growth from the start. “I’ve used Australia Post since my first eBay order, and we now ship exclusively with them. They’ve always met us in the middle and have grown with us. We use Australia Post’s eParcel, Express Post, Pack and Track International and returns services, and we’re looking into offering On Demand shipping from next year.”

Melanie is now really excited about her first skin care product line, Witchcraft, which will offer free express shipping for all orders worldwide. “We're shipping every single order express for free, just because that's absolute best practice,” she says.

Connecting with a community on social media

Social media has also been pivotal in Tragic Beautiful’s success. After creating a business Facebook page when the platform was still quite new, its fan base grew quickly through photo competitions featuring Tragic Beautiful products. With nearly half a million followers and an extremely loyal and close-knit community of 2,400 VIP group members on Facebook, social media continues to help the business grow organically today.

At a time when organic engagement is down on social media, Tragic Beautiful continues to appear in the top five list of fastest growing eCommerce Facebook pages in Australia. Melanie credits this success to focusing more on connecting with likeminded people than selling product.

“I think that makes us more genuine – and strangely enough, it probably helps us sell more,” she says. Using social media to get fans involved in product development has also helped develop a loyal following.

“It’s a great way to test things out. You can ask people for their opinion about a product. When we released lipsticks recently, we got all the people on the VIP group and on Instagram Stories to vote for their favourite colours and we now sell the top six.”

The power of risk-taking, focus and authenticity

When it comes to giving business advice, Melanie says it’s all about knowing when to back yourself and take risks. “I probably could have moved into a warehouse a lot sooner than I did. Having the confidence to back yourself is crucial. If you believe in what you do, then do it.”

She also advises against trying to appeal to everyone, adding that the secret is finding your niche and doing it well. “My main mistake was trying to be everything to everyone for too long. ‘Alternative’ can mean so many different things. We now focus on witchcraft and occult products and we pretty much nail it, because it’s who we are and what we love.”

Authenticity is another important ingredient. “If you’re genuine and passionate about what you do, it comes through in everything. We have incredible return customer rates, around 55-60%, which we credit to our genuine, honest interactions. They mean so much more than flashy, expensive marketing campaigns. They attract the right people and keep them coming back for more.”

With a new skin care range ready to launch and a clear focus on constantly improving customer experience, Tragic Beautiful is set to continue to charm lovers of alternative fashion across the globe.

Get business stories, ideas and offers in your inbox each month.