Social media sites like facebook, twitter, YouTube, etc are digital media tools that the fashion industry can’t do without today. Social media provides interaction between the brand and its customers, particularly the fashion and tech savvy younger generation. Interactions through social media can be informal and almost on a daily basis which helps build relationship and win customer loyalty. Different brands have tried different ideas to make their social media campaigns successful.
Some of the most popular and effective ways for fashion industry to use social media are:
- Using power of facebook to connect to fans to keep them updated and curious
- Invitation only niche communities
- Word of mouth publicity using user generated content – blogs, forums, etc.
- Mobile apps
- Social Shopping
- Other social media channels
In this article we will highlight how fashion brands today are utilizing various social media platforms to reach to their existing and potential customers.
Facebook : More Powerful than ever
Facebook is one of the most popular social networking sites and all brands looking to use social media to engage their customers and fans must have a facebook page. By ‘liking’ a facebook page users will receive automatic updates and can post their comments. Brands like American Apparel and Victoria’s Secret are known to engage their customers through regular contests on facebook. Interactions with customers let brands understand their target market better and they even learn about the likes and dislikes of their customers.
An added advantage for brands using facebook as a marketing tool is that facebook has certain viral marketing metrics through which companies having facebook pages can track how often their content is shared and how far the message is spread. That is, facebook offers them a way to measure their return on investment (ROI). Some of the metrics used are total number of interactions, number of interactions per post, post quality, number of posts, page views, media consumption, total number of discussion posts by fans and the number of times the page has been rated in reviews application. Facebook even has something called stream CTR/ETR which is a graph of the click through rate (clicking a post) and engagement rate (liking or commenting on a post) of content appearing in facebook news feed.
Companies looking to leverage facebook to engage their fans can also try creating facebook apps for their brand. Target created a facebook app in which users can mix and match outfits and try them virtually. The merchandise displayed in the game are the same as the real outfits being sold in the stores. The app links users to the same item on their website thereby increasing traffic.
Niche Communities : Essential to make a difference
While there are many public social sites that can be used by companies to spread their reach, certain Fashion Brands have developed their own social networks or invitation-only communities. Luxury brands like Louis Vuitton, Dolce & Gabbana, Chanel and Burberry either have their own social networks or have added social components to their existing web sites. Modepass and Lookbook.Nu are niche communities dedicated to fashion.
Advertising through mobile apps : A must have
Fashion brands offer apps Android smart phones and iPhones using which users can shop, receive style tips and customize fashion trend news feeds.
- Gilt Groupe, a private discounted site for luxury clothing created a custom made Android app to promote their brand and products. Through this app, users can shop, preview upcoming sales, invite friends via multiple messaging channels and share the app via QR code. Gilt widget displays a day’s sale even if the app is not open. They have apps for iPhones and iPads as well.
- Chanel showed its runway collections via its iPhone app.
- StyleCaster’s app offers style tips, customized news feeds and fashion trends. It also has a large online retail catalog of brand-name clothing.
Social Shopping : Growing rapidly and making a difference
Charlotte Russe was the first fashion retailer to add ShopTogether to its e-commerce website. ShopTogether is a technology created by DecisionStep that allows online customers to synchronize shopping sessions with friends and family, i.e. it supports ‘social shopping’. The shoppers can share their choices, compare items and also chat online while shopping, i.e. it gives all the benefits of shopping in real world with online friends. The sharing of favorites is done by sending link to a specific product to friends. Friends can be invited to shop through facebook, twitter, MySpace, email or IM and once the invitation is accepted the software launches a joint shopping session on www.charlotterusse.com which helps in faster and better buying decisions.
Similarly, Novica has partnered with Sesh to provide group web browsing and visual communication. Customers can view same web pages at the same time from different computers and can navigate the site together using the co-browsing functionality. Similar to ShopTogether, here also customers can invite their friends for a shopping session and discuss products in a chat box, write notes on top of any section of a webpage and use pen tools to draw on the site.
Social shopping boosts sales and has many benefits:
- Better buying decisions: Recommendations from a friend help online shoppers take better buying decisions. A website offering social or collaborative shopping would be sought after by most people as it is always fun to shop with friends rather than shopping alone.
- Increased Web traffic: When people can invite more and more friends to join the shopping session, they are likely to spend more time browsing through the products. And more the time spent, more likely that a purchase will be made.
- Driving immediate purchases: Many a time, people browse through websites but don’t purchase the product. In the case of social shopping, reinforcement from a friend or family member may convince the person to buy the merchandise.
- Multiple purchases: When two friends are shopping together, it often happens that both of them end up buying the product that suits their taste. So instead of one, there are two pieces of the product getting sold.
Location based marketing: Drive sales in offline stores
Foursquare and Loopt are some of the location based social media services. An example of location based marketing in the fashion industry is that of the partnership between Marc Jacobs and Foursquare for the Fashion Week 2010. Marc Jacobs and Foursquare created something called ‘Fashion Victim’ badge. People could check into any of the Marc Jacobs store in New York to unlock the badge and four randomly chosen lucky winners received tickets to the Marc Jacobs show. This partnership provided word of mouth publicity not just to Marc Jacobs but also to Foursquare. This is how Marc Jacobs looks to use location based marketing to deliver its brand messages to customers. Location based services provide the opportunity to increase in-store visits and if used well, they can enhance shopping experiences and improve customer loyalty and boost sales.
User generated content: Most trusted content about a brand
User generated content is the content generated by the contribution of fans. This is a very important element of engaging fans on social sites. Charlotte Russe has demonstrated successful use of social media campaigns. They have a strong following on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. They have a weekly trivia contest on twitter that compels participants to visit their website and boosts their online sales.
Charlotte Russe concentrates on user-generated content and social engagement. From November’09-January’10, they held a contest titled ‘You could be the next Charlotte Russe design star’. Participants had to design a T-shirt from the scratch and the winner could have his or her design produced by Charlotte and sold online apart from a shopping spree and a trip to New York City. The contest website also provided an entry editor that could be used to create the design. All entries were also up for voting and the entry that was most viral across internet sites also got a reward of $750 shopping spree. Of all those who sign up for Charlotte Russe’s email updates while submitting their entry, a randomly selected winner was also given $750 shopping spree reward. These things encourage people to participate, sign up for email updates and spread word garner votes for their design; thus increasing the popularity of the brand.
Another example of the impact of user generated content is the Art of Trench campaign by Burberry. The company created a niche community website where customers can share photos of themselves in a Burberry trench coat. This sort of gives the customers a feel of being models themselves. And others who see the photos admire the style.
Other social media channels for fashion industry
There are several other channels which can play important role in social media marketing for fashion brands. One such amazing channel is Youtube. Making fashion shows, fashion tips and fashion ‘how to’ available on Youtube can greatly enhance the reach of a fashion brand. This is especially true when it is targeted to solve some issues related to what customers might be facing.
Pinterest is another great channel to share your fashion with millions at one go. Interested people share it and make popular and known to others.
Case Study: Diane von Furstenberg (DVF)
Diane von Furstenberg is a popular Belgian born American fashion designer. Since the advent of social media she has redesigned her website to include social media functionality in such a way that shoppers can share and discuss DVF products with friends on Twitter and Facebook. She has adopted a holistic approach in taking to all social media platforms like the company website, twitter, facebook, blog and linked them all to the DVK brand.
On twitter DVF has a following of 5,55,565 and the brand makes use of the re-tweeting feature to spread their message virally and get the attention of their target demographic. Photo shoot details and information about new products is shared with followers. Message spread through re-tweets by followers has a much larger impact than traditional methods of advertising. The company even has a local twitter handle DVF Los Angeles with 2,866 followers. This handle shares information local events, etc.
DVF blog takes fans behind the scenes at DVF where they get to learn about Diane’s life and other inside stories about the company. The blog tries to build a personal relation with fans by sharing more about DVF and the brand.
DVF’s approach to a facebook page is also very unique. Fans on facebook get exclusive invites to online sample sales and then there is a ‘fan of the week’ award. The page engages fans very well and photos and videos of latest fashion shows and outfits are regularly posted. Fans can send messages directly to Diane which helps build a personal relationship making them loyal to the brand.
The fashion industry is picking up fast with their social media strategies and campaigns. Social media has turned out to be a marketing platform to reach existing customers online, rope in new customers and gain trust and loyalty of customers. Social interactions online make the customers feel more connected to the brand and gives the brand more exposure. Right social media strategies that are well executed will definitely show improvement in sales too.
In a nutshell, social media has changed how fashion industry markets its products today. You may be a leading fashion house or a niche boutique. You need to have presence in social media to make sure your brand gets recognized.