This blog is an attempt to investigate the impact of social media on fashion businesses. A remarkable development has been witnessed in this space in the past decade. Businesses are using social media not only as a promotional tool but also for constant consumer feedback. Fashion industry is one of the businesses where trend moves very fast and therefore social media becomes the most convenient and cheapest means to communicate fashion to the consumers.
However, in today’s competitive world, consumers take little time to switch if they are not satisfied. Therefore, today for fashion brands, it has become increasingly important to retain their customers for which social listening is extremely important. Many brands today are actively listening to their consumers and are taking appropriate actions to satisfy their consumer’s need. This has helped them develop loyal consumers in a short span of time & has improved their profits immensely.
The label “Marc Jacob” , an American designer brand impressed its consumers with its social listening. Its CEO Robert Duffy was so overwhelmed with the amount of twitter feedback from its customers who wanted plus sizes, that he tweeted -“We got to do larger sizes. I am with you!” to all the followers of the brand. For Marc Jacob’s fans who wore large sizes, it was a great news. This move by the company was evidence that in today’s age of social media, fashion designers & retailers can no longer operate in silos and need to collaborate with their consumers. Today , because of the company’s close relationship with its consumers, many have become brand loyal & believe that there is nothing that the brand can’t provide.
Ann Taylor , an American group of specialty apparel retail chain stores, struggled to improve sales in the recent years. The company used social media aggressively to lure new customers and analysts say that it was able to see a rise of 15% in store sales and 30 % in online sales.
LOFT, a subsidiary of Ann Taylor, posted photos of a new pair of pants worn by a skinny model on its Facebook page as a part of their season promotion. Many consumers complained and commented that “the pants look sexy , but only on the model”. LOFT responded by posting several pictures of its employees wearing the same pants in sizes varying from an extra small to an extra large. The company’s response received 100’s of comments appreciating the effort. Consumers applauded the brand for listening to their shoppers. The company also benefited financially. LOFT recorded a 50% increase in its e-commerce sales. Besides using real women to model for the campaign, LOFT also improved and expanded its petite offering and shoe collection , based on consumer feedback from social media channels like Twitter & Facebook. Other retailer brands like Banana Republic followed similar campaigns after LOFT’s success.
It’s not only retailers & brands who are listening to their consumers online. Daria Shualy is an Israel based fashion editor. She launched the website called Sense of Fashion. It was launched on popular demand from fashion conscious user of social media. These users raised a concern that designer fashion was not accessible to them. On this platform consumers can purchase designer labels handpicked by Daria. Her idea was to build closeness between designers and customers as suggested by users on social media. She wanted to bridge the gap and make designer fashion accessible. She also wanted to make it customized to consumer needs. The platform helped designers communicate better with their customers, resulting in better satisfaction & hence improved sales of high end designer wear. It became a win-win situation for all.
Francesca Audelo, a Fashion Merchant, started a vintage accessory brand called FancyThat where she regularly conducted polls on social media to collect feedback from her consumers on colours & styles that they liked. Audelo wanted to create a brand that is completely shaped by its consumers. The products were designed based on consumer suggestions. The prices were set according to the value consumers perceived of the products. Audelo spent considerable time interacting with her consumers online to understand them well and became a one of kind entrepreneur who was successful in shaping consumer demands into products that flew off the shelves in no time. This helped boost her bottom line effectively.
Dareen Hakim , a New York based Handbag designer who sells to big retailer like Intermix & Bendle also followed a similar strategy. It used suggestions from it fans on social media to develop their product range. The brand also provided customized handbags whenever there was a popular demand.
On the hind side of this strategy, the designer like Audelo & Hakim say that sometimes it becomes tough to create a balance between the brand identity & the digital feedback from the consumers. They face a challenge in securing the brand as a reflection of the designer while keeping it open to customer suggestions.
Shauna Mei launched AHALife, a specialty online retail.There she would introduce one new product each month. The products were suggested by the consumers online. Shoppers suggest products for the site & those with maximum demand are introduced on the site each month. Mei says that Ahalife relies on its consumer’s suggestions to churn out a larger part of its profits.
Lululemon, an athletic retailer also used social media dialogue with consumers to triple its operating profits over the last year. It offered a form on its website to collect consumer feedback. The company improved its products on the basis of consumer feedback & went about changing most of its product ergonomics from finer details like where pockets should sit on the pants to where the waistbands should sit on running shorts.
The power and influence of Social Media on fashion industry has become undeniable today. Engagement on these platforms has been increasing at a very fast rate. Therefore as marketing for the fashion industry would evolve in the future, new ways of connecting with consumers are sure to emerge & brands would invent their own unique ways to utilize them, creating memorable consumer experiences.