what we learned from your feedback: part II, how you stay in touch with us

When I published a post last month focusing on some of the things we learned from your responses to our recent survey, none of us thought it would garner the interest that it did. Over 200 of you left comments saying you wanted to hear more about what we discovered from the survey and what changes we’re making as a result.

Starting today, and continuing through June, I’ll be here every other Wednesday to share our findings and our resulting change in direction with you. Today I’ll be focusing on what we learned about how you prefer to stay in touch with us.

We put a lot of time, effort, and expense into communicating with you and providing you with the means to communicate with each other. Building a global community of sewists is part of what we hope to accomplish with Oliver + S, and communication is essential in that regard. So in developing our survey we included a number of questions on that topic. Here’s a recap of what you told us.

We asked you to select the ways that you use to stay in touch with us, and here’s what you said:

  • Read the blog: 74%
  • Read the newsletter: 61%
  • Use the Flickr group: 36%
  • Follow on Facebook: 34%
  • Follow on Pinterest: 24%
  • Follow on Instagram: 14%
  • Participate in the discussion forums: 12%
  • Follow on Twitter: 4%

It didn’t really come as a surprise to us that the blog and the newsletter are the two most popular ways we have of reaching you. Over the last year we have been putting more and more of an emphasis on providing interesting, useful, and engaging content on the blog and in the newsletter to inspire your creativity. We were pleased that so many of you reported that you find these efforts worthwhile and that you make use of them.

Almost everyone, 84% of respondents, reported receiving the Oliver + S newsletter. (In response to this question, 5% of respondents selected the option, “I have such a full inbox I don’t know if it’s there or not.” For all of you, we feel your pain.) In terms of how often you would like to receive emailed newsletters, 89% of respondents voted for monthly, every other week, or weekly. So clearly you’re interested in receiving regular email from us.

Two of the most frequently mentioned items you said you would like to see in the newsletter are special newsletter-only discounts and unique newsletter content. We’ve heard you, and we can do that. But we’re not going to give you details about what we’re planning to do here on the blog. If we did, when we do it in the newsletter, it wouldn’t be unique to the newsletter only, would it? So if you’re interested in what we’re doing to the newsletter in response to your requests, you’ll need to subscribe—which you can do by providing your email address on the home page of our website.

We make the content we publish on the blog available in different ways, and you reported that you make use of all of them. When we asked you how you read our blog content, here’s what you reported:

  • Visit the blog on the website: 54%
  • Subscribe by email: 26%
  • Use a feed reader: 18%

Not everyone is aware of the fact that we’ve made it easy for you to get intros to Oliver + S blog posts delivered to your email box when posts are published. This is, we think, the easiest and most convenient way to keep up to date with what’s going on in the community. To subscribe, just go to the blog and provide your email address in the box at the top left of the page. We won’t spam you; we promise. And you can unsubscribe from these emails at any time.

We also asked you to rank the kind of blog content you appreciate most. From most appreciated to least appreciated, here’s how you replied:

  • Tutorials/Customizing with Oliver + S
  • Inspirational ideas for sewing for kids
  • My favorite Oliver + S pattern
  • Inspirational ideas for sewing for women
  • Sew-alongs
  • Photo round ups and Feature Friday
  • Behind the scenes posts
  • Color palettes
  • Tween style
  • Posts on women’s style and fashion, not particularly related to sewing

When we asked you to write in what you look for on the blog and what brings you back, the thing we heard again and again was that inspiration is key. You’re looking for ideas and examples to inspire your creativity and to help keep your sewing fresh. You like seeing the fabric other people select for sewing different patterns. You like to see customizations of patterns and tutorials for how to do interesting things with the pattern you already own. And you like it that we have opened up the blog to so many guest contributors who bring fresh ideas, voices, and perspectives. One thing you said you would like to see more of on the blog is Liesl’s perspective on fashion and industry-related issues.

In response to your feedback, we’ve already begun changing up the types of posts we publish and the frequency with which we publish them. You’ll be seeing more tutorials and sew-alongs (for which we have created a special group in the discussion forums to make them easier to follow and to find in the future), and you’ll be hearing more from Liesl with her insights. We hope you appreciate these modifications to our editorial approach.

Many of you reported that you follow us on various social media channels—Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter. We weren’t particularly surprised by what we heard here. There is one thing to note, though.

Two or three years ago, Facebook was a great platform for us to use for keeping in touch with you. That has changed, however, as Facebook has become more aggressive about monetizing the content people post there. For any given update we publish on Facebook, typically only 5-8% of our followers see it in their newsfeed. Of course, we could pay Facebook to show it to more of you, but most of the time we don’t. So we’ll be expending less effort on Facebook in the future. And if you’re interested in staying in touch with our latest developments and you follow us on Facebook, don’t assume you’ll see updates from us in your newsfeed. We’ll still post them to Facebook, but chances are that they won’t be shown to you. (If you do want to maximize the chances that you’ll see content from us in the future, the best way to do that is to Like what you do see from us when it appears. The Facebook algorithm takes this into account when selecting what to include in your newsfeed.)

The two results that were somewhat surprising to us were the percentage of people who reported staying in touch with us by using the Flickr group and by participating in the discussion forums. We thought that these numbers would have been higher.

As of today, there are almost 27,000 photos of beautiful garments you’ve sewn with Oliver + S patterns in the Flickr group. If you’re looking for ideas or inspiration for your next project, you’re sure to find them there.

Several of you said that it would be helpful if we would find a way to bring selected Flickr photos onto the Oliver + S website in a more curated manner. We thought this was a great idea, and we have a project underway now that will allow you to see selected images from the Flickr group on the page for each pattern in the shop section of the site. So when you visit the page for the Carousel Dress, for example, you’ll have a tab on the bottom half of the page that you can select to see a collection of Carousel Dresses from the Flickr group. We hope to have this enhancement ready to roll out within the next few months.

Similarly, the discussion forums seems to be an underused resource that we could do more to promote. The forums are filled with content you have contributed in response to questions people have had about sewing with our patterns. And, maybe more importantly, the discussion forums are where a global community of women with children gather to discuss their shared interest in sewing as well as other important and not-so-important aspects of their lives. It truly is a global supportive community.

Over the last year we have made an investment in improving the forums to enhance the community that has developed there. Forum members now have the opportunity to create personal profile pages to share information about themselves and to provide links to their online presence in other venues. There are now special topic groups where people can gather to discuss shared areas of interest such as heirloom sewing and embroidery, cooking and baking, and sewing for yourself. (And if you have a group you would like to start and administer, you’re able to do that once you register in the forums.) We would love to have more people take advantage of this resource and join the community that has developed there, and we’ll be looking for ways to continue making the forums more useful and beneficial to you.

Again, we sincerely appreciate the time that so many of you put into giving us your feedback, and we want you to know that we’re listening and responding.

I’ll be back in two weeks with another post in this series. The next one will focus on the say we are giving you in our product development process.

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16 Comments

  1. Well as a regular blog contributor I’m delighted and somewhat relieved to read that tooling around with patterns is viewed so favourably!
    I barely use Facebook but I did enjoy how easy it was to see those projects in the Flickr pool that had caught the eye of Liesl and the team via the Facebook featured garments. I understand that it is horrid to have to play by the Facebook rules but I miss those curated samples of sewing.

  2. Sarah

    I receive all my communication through e-mail and I open each one even though my box is full of lots of other “stuff”. I especially enjoyed recent comments about a trade and fabric show Liesl attended. I would LOVE more info about fabric and sewing fairs or expos. I live on the west coast and found one in Washington State in February every year…any other ideas?

  3. Kathy

    Todd – Thanks for taking the time to provide all of this feedback yourself. It’s not often that businesses take the time to honestly engage like this with their customers. I know I appreciate hearing what you have learned and how you plan to better engage your readers.

    I think that curated photos from the Flickr group would be great. Not sure how you can do that — but I find that there is just too much content there to get through and sometimes it seems to really bog down. I think we are all a bit on information overload. You didn’t mention much about Pinterest, but I find that it’s easier to categorize on Pinterest than other image share sites. I love seeing what Leisl has posted there. Pinterest makes it much easier to see larger images than Instagram.

  4. Helena

    Thank you again! I’m also surprised by the lower percentages for the forums and flickr, maybe because they’re the bits I use most! Maybe you have to ‘feel brave’ to post on the forum, and the new flickr functionality may deter people from using that. Interesting.

  5. Ronda

    Thank-you Todd for the time and commitment it takes to keep in touch, and make us feel part of the O&S community, and I look forward to more posts from you and the team. ronda

  6. Kate

    Thank for a great and really informative post Todd. Sounds like there are exciting times ahead for us all in the O & S family. I think curated Flickr photos will be a great addition to the pattern pages. I agree with Kathy above about Pinterest too, I love following Liesl’s inspiration and have my own Oliver + S inspiration board.

  7. I really love reading these updates and also lend my enthusiastic support to a “flickr photo module” within the pattern listings! Sometimes it just takes seeing one special version in the flickr group to inspire me to make a pattern I was previously on the fence about.

  8. Margery

    Thanks again for taking the time to update us on the survey results. I think the curated flicker feed at the pattern site will be very helpful.

  9. Laura

    Thanks for taking the time to update us – it is great to see that it is proving to be useful to you guys :0)

  10. Thank you! I learn much from your forums. I particularly think this community of sewists that you have created is the best way to find help and improve one’s sewing skills.

  11. Excited to see the roll out of the Flickr feed individualized for specific patterns! This will be very inspirational. One thing I’ve enjoyed recently (that reminds me of Flickr in an updated sense) is searching #oliverands on Instagram. WOW. . .at the inspiration and lovely sewists to follow :)!

  12. What a great idea to feature a selection of Flickr photos for each pattern. Colette does that, and it’s very useful and inspiring to see people’s interpretations of the patterns. It can only lead to more sales, I would think.
    I’m surprised the discussion forums are underutilized. When I was first learning to sew using your patterns it was a boon to have the forums to refer to. All of the answers to any questions regarding a specific pattern are there, and so many enthusiastic people sharing knowledge. So valuable!

  13. amy

    I missed the last post on the survey results until now, so this question actually refers back to that one (hope that’s okay). I’m curious why the paper + PDF patterns cost the same if there are more costs associated with the paper ones? I like the convenience of PDF because I can start right away, and I trace paper patterns, rather than cut the original, so it’s not that much more time. I also save a copy to my Dropbox account, so I’m not going to lose them, like I’m apt to do with a paper pattern. But if the company (any, not just yours) isn’t paying for paper and ink and storage, what accounts for charging the same?

    1. Amy, this will be the topic of an upcoming post, but in short it’s server space, bandwidth, product development, and support. People assume digital is free, but it’s not. There are a lot of costs associated with selling and supporting digital patterns which don’t exist for paper.

  14. amy

    I don’t assume it’s free. 🙂 I sell digitally (at a much MUCH smaller scale) so I know that it’s not. But I am surprised it works out to be exactly the same. I look forward to the post.

  15. Excited to see that new feature with photos from Flickr on the pattern pages. Going over to the Flickr group for inspiration is always part of the process for me on sewing an Oliver+S pattern!

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