The Interview: Chloé Watts, Founder and CEO, chloédigital

Chloé Watts

Chloédigital is a premier tech support and digital strategy membership brand for fashion influencers; offering a service that provides technical expertise, industry knowledge and strategic direction to enable content creators to focus on creativity and building their business.

Chloédigital offers influencers a range of membership packages from Premium to Luxe, which offer varying levels of technical support, so creators know they have cover from 24/7 technical support, through to revenue-driving campaign strategy planning.

Founder and CEO, Chloé Watts, is a self-taught coder who launched the business in 2014 when she saw a gap in the market for content creators to have access to technical support and growth strategy, in order to not only maintain their websites but also accelerate and grow them as a business. CEO and founder, Chloé Watts tells more:

Could you tell us a little bit about your background?

I was always into tech growing up, I used to get so excited when the new phones would come up, reading up on the spec etc and advising my friends on what to buy. When I was 15, I had a Myspace page, and you had to code to make your page look cute, so I taught myself.

I then started to help up and coming bands and artists to create their pages. I just loved the whole process and I then went on to start designing websites for friends and small businesses. This was around the time that people had less understanding of how to build websites, so I became a bit of a go-to and spent a lot of time learning more as I worked on more projects.

I graduated from my degree and got a job as a Developer. As a young woman in this space it was tough to gain recognition and people didn’t necessarily value my work, even though I was the Lead Developer on most projects. I often felt people presumed an older male colleague had completed the work and I was disregarded a little. It’s quite shocking looking back.

The positive is, this gave me the push to know I had to start doing this for myself and building my own reputation outside of an employed position. I continued to work on side projects and eventually started to build up my own client base in fashion, I became known as Chloé Digital; the go-to girl next door to help you with your website.

This eventually led to the introduction to influencers looking for technical support and the idea for chloédigital, a membership programme that offers ongoing tech support and digital strategy for influencers, was born.

When did you launch, what was the response like and what has changed since?

I officially launched in 2014. The response was really reassuring from day one as I had been offering tech advice and support to influencer contacts for a while. When I then offered a $99/per month membership, to receive ongoing access to a technical team through the membership, influencers signed up really quickly. I remember the first email I sent to our, would be, first member when she responded and said “sign me up” I was thrilled. She still has a membership today and has grown her business with us over the 6 years.

How did you get your start in the industry?

Through carving my own path and being open to offering my services early on with individual content creators and building my side hustle outside of employment. This led to some really good solid relationships, who then went on to be my members.

You launched chloédigital as a way to bridge the gap between fashion and technology by providing tech support to fashion bloggers/influencers beyond simple website development. Could you tell us a little bit about how the idea of chloédigital came about and how you created awareness of the company?

I had been offering my services to influencers I knew for a while. I soon built a reputation and more and more influencers would contact me and ask to pay for me to fix issues on their site. I also started to see that influencers didn’t really have a partner to help guide them strategically around increasing traffic, ways of managing their campaigns to drive sales for brands and also how to start looking ahead at new ideas and opportunities. I then saw a real gap for an efficient service, through a subscription model, where we could offer packages that worked for each influencer.

We now have the Premium, VIP and Luxe package offerings and also offer larger projects outside of these products for site & app development.

Fashion influencer marketing and the blogging world has rapidly grown and transformed since you launched the company. What do you think is next for fashion influencer marketing? What advice would you give to fashion retailers and influencers on how to collaborate and succeed moving forward?

Build long-term relationships with influencers; you can learn so much from their work and knowledge. Long-term partnerships mean you can work closely together and craft campaigns that are true to both the brand and the audience. These may even be with smaller influencers initially and you may find the relationship takes you both to new levels together.

You have said your goal is to empower millennial women through technology. Could you tell us a little bit about this vision and how tech can empower women, brands and bloggers.

The contribution content creators make to the economy through so many categories is astounding. The industry was created and is still led predominantly by women, plus is still a relatively new space, which unfortunately I think is why the industry is not celebrated and given the recognition it deserves. It’s really time this changed.

There is so much potential and in order to continue to grow and thrive, each individual business needs to be held up and recognised as a driver for the economy. Myself and my team drive strategy for project-based activity with our members now, looking at key moments where they can really drive demand and revenue while continuing to connect with their audience and brands.

So many of my members have built lives that work for a lifestyle that wouldn’t be possible in any other industry. They work from their own homes, or remotely, and have built wealth and a future for themselves and their families, on their own terms. Each entrepreneur has their own mission, and I see so much potential in more young people driving their own businesses in this space.

The world was changing so much before 2020 and now following the pandemic, we need to stay creative to build our own journey, as stability in the workplace becomes even more unknown. This doesn’t need to feel scary and as we build young people’s confidence, they can gain control and a clear path for themselves.

How has the Coronavirus pandemic changed and impacted the way fashion tech operates?

The remote aspect of the influencer industry has meant we can deliver on work as we always have in many ways. We are also an incredibly adaptable industry and as the space moves so fast anyway being able to pivot is in-built in many people in this space.

As influencers put themselves online and are often the face of their own brand, it has been imperative that they look after themselves and with the shock at the beginning of lockdown and news around the pandemic, it became all about communication and humility.

Building a greater sense of community has been so important to brands’ that didn’t necessarily have this before. You could see across social media and online content platforms that brands really upped their activity to connect in some way with their audience. Content creators have their own communities that are already very active and deep.

I saw influencers really lean into content that felt right for them and their audience and perhaps came much more naturally than it has done for brands with large systems and processes to consider. I think a lot of content creators are now feeling they have an even stronger understanding of their audience needs and what they want to hear, as they communicated so much over lockdown. This is building really meaningful businesses and delivering content that works even more powerfully for brands and audiences.

In what ways has technology helped brands and influencers throughout the pandemic?

In every way! Influencers have been able to connect with their audience through their website and social in a time where the activity levels were so high because there was nothing else to do. Having live content and the creativity to play with immediate ways to connect with audiences has been really amazing to see.

Where is the fashion tech and influencer market heading?

There’s a strong emphasis on continuing to build communities; live activity and engaging with audiences has never been more important. There is also a big focus on learning. So, lots of influencers are leaning into their knowledge and offering courses and live educational/strategic content.

What’s next for chloédigtal?

We have some plans around collaborating with influencers to build technical product to help monetize their content further and make the content more efficient and practical for their audiences. More news to come…

What advice would you give to anyone starting business in fashion tech?

Always stick to your why. Business is hard but can be even more fulfilling when you are creating a lasting positive impact on people’s lives.