Social Media for Fashion

25 06 2009

Twitter. Facebook. YouTube. MySpace. Flickr. Chictopia. LookBook.  HypeDiss. Chictini.  Kaboodle. ThisNext. StyleHive…

It took me few minutes to count up all of the social networks that I am a part of (18, I think) -I personally got started on friendster, back in the day! There are so many options in social media and networking, and while many brands have gotten on-board, as I’ve mentioned time and again, fashion and luxury brands have taken a backseat on the action.

The irony of this is obvious- these brands are supposed to be the leaders in what is cool, not the followers. However, pressure from 2 sides of the spectrum has led many fashion brands to get moving in social media:

  1. Baby Boomers are moving out of the market and into retirement, and brands must now target the emerging market (that’s us here in Gen X & Y). Not only do we live online, but we expect that our favorite brands include us and talk to us. We don’t care so much about the branded temples of retail flagships, though they’re nice for a minute or two.
    • According to Forrester Research, 2/3 of Facebook’s 200 million users are post-college age, with the +35 group growing the fastest.
    • Twitter, which had 20 million unique visitors just last month, estimates that 42% of its users are 35-49 and 20% are 25-34.
  2. If you build it, they will come. If you don’t build it, someone else will. Many brands avoided the online forum for fear of losing control of their message. Then they lost control of their message… other players went online and spoke for them with no official brand representation or rebuttal.

Enter the Worldwide Web of Fashion

Finally, fashion brands are entering the playing field, using social media to build their brand image and community online.

Today’s WWD had a great article called Social Media Rewrites the Rules for Brands, exploring this topic:

Fashion houses, designers and retailers are rushing into the free social media phenomenon that is reshaping not only interpersonal communication, but how apparel, accessories and beauty products are marketed and sold.

They are tweeting, blogging and updating their profiles in an effort to mold their brand personalities on real-time global platforms and form relationships with a community of customers, particularly consumers for whom the Web is as important as a limb.

Social media enables brands to provide personalized customer support and drive conversion to retail sites, but it goes further in reinforcing the tribal element of fashion- the inclusive sense of identity that many brand-fans seek when they purchase fashion products.

“Customers can feel like they are part of the brand’s extended family, and therefore the brand itself, while the interactive element further deepens that relationship,” said Alex Bolen, chief executive officer of Oscar de la Renta. “These characteristics address and satisfy that ‘tribal’ part of the fashion consumer — the way in which people identify themselves by the brands they buy.”

In addition to providing a sense of inclusion, social media enables companies to be a part of the conversation about their brands. They can address controversy, reward loyal fans, and inform customers on everything from sales to upcoming collections, to the details and behind-the-scenes action that goes into producing a fashion line.

Furthermore, social media can provide the very sense of intimacy between a brand and its consumers that the recent consumption-boom and mass-marketization in fashion annihilated.

Keeping Up the Chatter

Virtue, the social media consultancy firm, created a Social Media Index to measure what people were talking about online. They found that the five most talked-about fashion and retail brands online were Gucci, Target, Gap, American Apparel and Urban Outfitters (May 26 – June 1, 2009). Not surprisingly, all of these brands are active in social media and networking, and they update frequently.

The “currency of the internet is such that if you’re not updating on a timely basis, individuals are disappointed,” said Robert Triefus, worldwide marketing and communications director for Gucci. “In fact, it can end up backfiring.”

Main point: the brand should be present and interacting online, vigilant to conversations, and constantly adapting to communicate their consistent message in new ways. Furthermore, the company should be prepared to make an investment to create social media worthy of the brand. Generic doesn’t fly in the fashion/luxury community.

Another important point is that it is critical for brands to state when a social media page is OFFICIAL. Otherwise, it’s often hard to tell if it’s coming from the company or a third party, particularly with so many fan sites out there!

Social Media Brand Directory for Fashion

I took the WWD Twitter directory, added some brands, and expanded into Facebook and a little MySpace. If you know of any additional brands/sites that should be included, please let me know!  Check it out…

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Digital Fashion

29 05 2009

iphone


Get ready!

The iPhone is expected to be the shopping norm by December 2010, according to today’s news.

Today’s Women’s Wear Daily reports that YOOX has been the latest to initiate its online shopping portal via the iPhone. Other retailers, such as Shopstyle, Amazon, Sears and SVC have long since developed their own Smartphone applications. In the meanwhile, for those who haven’t developed their own iPhone applications, companies such as Demandware are crafting retail websites  to maintain functionality across a range of Smartphone devices, including the iPhone, BlackBerry, or Palm.

A loophole for luxury?

Even if Smartphones only make up 4% of new mobile phone sales by the end of the year, as predicted by analyst Ramon Llamas of International Data Corp, it makes sense that the majority of those buyers are also luxury shoppers. They’re going to be expecting something from their favorite brands, no?

In the land of luxury, trailblazers Chanel and Ralph Lauren have already adapted iPhone applications to display their fashion shows. However, so does the ever-convenient Style.com application- in fact it provides them all, in addition to information on the models, and the Vogue blogs and headlines! (By the way, this app is so fierce that it actually boosted iPhone sales. Check out the comments in this article.)

What does this mean for our luxury players? Their products are available online through various retailers, and brand enthusiasts can watch the latest fashion shows (with added details) and read the headlines on CondeNast’s Style.com application. If, by chance, I happen to leave Milan and have a Chanel shopping emergency in Paris, I can google the address, so the location finders are not terribly original either. What I’m saying is this: Props to you at Chanel and Ralph Lauren for getting your own apps out there, but is that all you got?!

Bespoke service & building an online luxe environment

LuxuryButlerHere’s what I want out of a luxury brand: I want the feel of the brand. I want the background story behind the items I love- how it was conceived, how it was constructed; what makes it special. I want to know what music the design team is listening to, and I want to be able to download playlists from fashion week and songs that are related to the collection, whether from inspiration or just setting the mood. If, like in last year’s Versace collection, there has been a collaboration with a specific artist, I want to see some images of the artist’s original work, and where I might be able to see a gallery exhibit. If I watch the fashion show on a brand’s application, I would like some function that allows me to purchase a specific item I see, with my own measurements safely recorded into the brand’s vault… I want a virtual reminder of the service I would receive in-store, if in fact, I was in a store. (You know when you’re in a real luxury environment, and you should know when you’re in a virtual luxury environment, as well.)

Basically, I want the luxury retailing experience that is just-for-me, and I want the insider information on the brands I love. Dolce & Gabbana has made headway on this through the creation of their online magazine Swide.com. Let’s get that into an iPhone application, combine it with the online retail capabilities currently being developed for the brand by YOOX, and we’re in business!

When leaders become followers

The fashion and luxury industry was once a cutting-edge beacon of hope in the advertising world. The desire and longing it was produced with such buzz now seems like a stale yawn in today’s virtual environment, and I think that, unless the big guys step up and start innovating, their current model of following the mass market online will do more to devalue the idea of luxury than any 70% off sales could have done in the early days of the recession.

The fact that most luxury brands have limited to no online presence and retailing capabilities, much less their barely existent Smartphone presence, gives me reason to worry not only about the future of my profession, but also about the future of the luxury industry itself.

style.com screenshot

Where I see another real promise is in the fashion media industry, and they are definitely stepping up to the challenge. I love fashion and cultural magazines, but I hate carrying them around (especially with today’s weight limits for carry-on items). If I can squish my favorite magazines down into my iPhone, well, that’s something I’d definitely pay for. I’m really hoping that the rest of Conde Nast’s media portfolio and others follow suit. Vogue wins again!