How ORO LA Became a Multi-Million Dollar Fashion Brand in Two Years by Fueling Shopping on Instagram with “Imagination”

How ORO LA Became a Multi-Million Dollar Fashion Brand in Two Years by Fueling Shopping on Instagram with “Imagination”

How much is a picture worth?

Not in cliche terms like word count … but in real dollars, euros, pounds, and yen. Can a picture build a brand? Can it launch a business? Can it sustain high-volume growth over the long term?

For any ecommerce organization investing in Instagram, those are big questions.

On the plus side, not only is Instagram growing by leaps and bounds — boasting 800 million monthly active users — but it’s also one of the few social platforms that genuinely loves products.

The business case for Instragram ecommerce is strong. In fact, as they revealed in a recent AMA, it’s essentially the key social media initiative that Pura Vida Bracelets focuses on

But there’s a downside.

First, all those monthly active users means that branded content is likewise skyrocketing. Standing out amidst the flood isn’t easy. Second, while Instagram has been a gold mine for brand awareness and exposure … clicks don’t necessarily convert. For many merchants, Instagram has created a painful disconnect between engagement and sales.

Thankfully, for Kevin Dao — co-founder and CEO/CCO at ORO Los Angeles (ORO LA) — that disconnect has all but disappeared.

In just two years, ORO LA has gone from an idea to a multi-million dollar men’s fashion brand. And today, Kevin is pulling back the curtain on their success, how to scale an ecommerce brand on Instagram, and the future of Shopping on Instagram …

Interested in selling on Instagram?

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Shopping on Instagram

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The Rise of an Instagram Success Story

It started humbly enough …

“Two years ago, I was working for my friend’s dad at a digital mapping company. I wanted to do something but didn’t know where to start. I had a passion for creative problem-solving, growing up I had a knack for manipulating electronics, software, clothes, and continuously trying to find ways to better different situations and predicaments.”

Kevin Dao, Co-founder and CEO/CCO at ORO Los Angeles

And so, at the end of 2015, Kevin launched ORO LA with Erol Aliyazicioglu on Shopify.

“At first, we designed and made prototypes of leather bags from overseas. We’d make a sale here and there but that didn’t really get the kind of traction we thought we would receive. After a couple weeks flew by, we went back to the drawing board and thought, ‘How can we really make this brand different? Maybe we should add apparel, like shirts.’”

They did, but still ... the struggle to find a footing continued.

“Then, one day I went online and saw a picture of these boots; they’re called the Chelsea Boots. After a full day of shopping at the mall, I come to find out that the best aesthetically looking pair of Chelsea Boots were from a well-known designer brand, which retailed for over $1200 USD.”

After due diligence and market research, the team saw a clear void and set out to create a high-end yet affordable boot that had a unique aesthetic: “We starting designing and sampling a few different shoes, made our first sample, and pretty soon released three different color-ways of Chelsea Boots online.”

It was four days before Christmas.

At the time, ORO LA had around 12,000 followers on Instagram and Facebook combined. To increase their reach, the company partnered with various well-known fashion, lifestyle, and luxury companies to feature different advertorials.

And that’s when it happened. 40,000 likes … on a single post.

“We saw immediate sales, like that hour. The phone started ringing and the website lit up. That’s when I realized you could really make money by being passionate about your work, consistent proactivity, and never being complacent.”

Of course, the ecommerce graveyard is littered with one-hit wonders. Especially when it comes to brands tied to social media.

How did Kevin scale ORO LA from thousands in a single day to a multi-million-dollar brand?

Scaling Ecommerce Success on Instagram and Beyond

The next steps, as Kevin puts it, were “trial and error.”

While ORO LA had dabbled in shirts, nobody on the team had been in the apparel industry before. In lieu of experience and even mentors, Kevin set about the task of teaching himself everything from the ground up.

Not surprisingly, the internet in general — and Instagram, in particular — played a major role in short-cutting the learning curve.

Oro Los Angeles on Instagram

For fashion brands — just as for any industry where tastes change fast — Instagram’s recent addition of “Yes or No” polls is especially helpful.

Over the last two years, a full 15.6% of ORO LA’s sales can be directly attributable to Instagram. But direct sales are just a small part of their overall approach.

On the paid side, ORO LA started investing heavily in brand awareness and direct-response advertising immediately after their partnership with various companies. This runs the ecommerce gamut from AdWords to Facebook to Instagram.

While Kevin doesn’t share exact numbers, he does call attention to a telling hierarchy of ad spend:

“We try to put a lot of emphasis on brand awareness. That’s number one.”

Other ingredients have also been crucial to ORO LA’s success. This includes:

  • Posting three times a day on Instagram with a consistent and, at times, painstakingly cultivated brand aesthetic

ORO Los Angeles' Instagram profile

  • Replicating the look and feel of Instagram onsite with a shoppable feed powered by Foursixty

ORO Los Angeles uses Foursixty to replicate Instagram for ecommerce

A more detailed look at ORO Los Angeles' onsite replication of Instagram for ecommerce

  • A site-wide currency selector built directly into their Shopify theme for international orders

  • And a handful of other Shopify apps and Shopify Plus Partners like Stich Labs for inventory management and Klayvio for email marketing:

“Shopify Plus has made scaling a lot less stressful than it would have been on our own. The apps are quick to install and make experimentation easy. Our MSM, Ariane Lusk, has been very helpful throughout our partnership and has been a great help.”

Those are all smart features, but when it comes to Kevin’s true secret to success … a single word stands out.

“In everything we do, we’re helping the customer imagine. We want them to imagine being the man in every picture. To imagine us being their stylist. To imagine, ‘That could be me wearing those clothes.’”

We’re not so much curating content as curating imagination.

“Fashion, our boots and clothes in particular, are supposed to make you feel good. When they see a picture it has to capture euphoria. Not just, ‘I’m going to look this way,’ but, ‘That’s going to make me feel this way.’”

The Future of ORO LA and Shopping on Instagram

Far from resting on his past successes, Kevin is alway preparing to the future… Not only when it comes to forecasting ORO LA’s looks and styles, but in leveraging technology as well.

Already a multi-channel ecommerce organization, next year ORO LA is partnering with major retailers to bring their products into brick-and-mortar stores for the first time. “I wanted to focus on making our ecommerce as smooth as possible first,” says Kevin. “But now it’s time to enter the retail space and make our push. We will be showcasing leather goods, new footwear, and accessories. All of this cannot be done without the help of my business partner, Erol, and the ORO team.”

As for Instagram, just last month, ORO LA joined other notable Shopify Plus merchants — like MVMT, Gymshark, and Diff Eyewear — as beta users of Shopping on Instagram: a new Instagram offering whose goal is to make discovering, tracking, and purchasing native.

In opposition to ads on Instagram, Shopping on Instagram lets you add tags to posts so users can “tap” to see product details and easily click through if they’re ready to buy.

For instance, here’s a recent example from ORO LA:

Shopping on Instagram example

And the results?

Since launching Shopping on Instagram, ORO LA has already seen a 29.3% lift in month-over-month revenue directly attributable to Instagram.

Of course, revenue is only one way to measure success. The other is time spend and ease of use …

“Shopping on Instagram’s product tagging is so much simpler than the usual ads,” explains Kevin. “Plus, it makes the experience a lot easier and more natural for our followers. Customers still take some time to review before buying, but the buying process is way shorter.”

So, why does ORO LA continue to choose Shopify Plus?

“We’re always preparing for the unknown. So after a year of growth on Shopify, we upgraded to Shopify Plus for features like Shopify Scripts and now Shopify Flow.”

“We know that with Shopify Plus if an influencer shares our product — whether through a partnership or just because they love it — our site won’t crash. The platform continues to innovate, allows us to customize, and helps us prepare for the future.”

Kevin Dao, Co-founder and CEO/CCO at ORO Los Angeles

In the end, the questions we opened with about Instagram remain.

Can a picture build a brand? Can it launch a business? And can it sustain high-volume growth over the long term?

Absolutely … as long as you’re willing to place imagination — the euphoria of how those pictures will make your customers feel — at their core.

Interested in selling on Instagram?

Shopify Flow

Shopify Plus offers 20 native sales channels across social, Amazon, retail, eBay, wholesale, and more all without plugins or custom development. For more about Shopping on Instagram …

Get started today

Already on Shopify Plus? Find out how to launch Shopping on Instagram

About the Author

Aaron Orendorff is the Editor in Chief of Shopify Plus as well as a regular contributor to sites like Mashable, Lifehacker, Entrepreneur, Business Insider, Fast Company, The Huffington Post and more. You can connect with him on Twitter or LinkedIn.