The fashion industry continues to change. Many of these changes are related to the need for brands to adapt to and integrate digital technology. Some fashion brands like Burberry and Topshop have lead the way in successfully advancing the use of technology. They’ve presented collections online and made shopping online easier. One of Calvin Klein’s recent controversial campaigns drew inspiration from dating apps. Others like Celine, have fallen behind. At the heart of the digital challenge is the need for fashion brands to offer an authentic fashion experience within the limitations of a constantly changing digital media landscape.
Success in business means meeting this challenge. In a time when customers increasingly expect seamless offline and online brand experiences, fashion brands must adapt. This means keeping an eye on brand authenticity and moving beyond novel experimental approaches. J.W. Anderson may be capable of livestreaming a show on Grindr, but doing so needs to make sense for his brand. Strategies should be grounded in planning and have clear objectives. At stake is customer loyalty, one of the most important goals a brand can achieve. Anderson understood the esthetics of his fashion appealed to the men using Grindr. He was making a bold move to meet his customers where they spend time.
Understanding Customer Expectations
The industry understands that fashion consumers are highly mobile, highly digital. They want an effortless multi-channel experience. Fashion advocates are looking to engage, to be involved, to include fashion brands as part of their self-concepts. They want to participate in brand love and to indulge. Used correctly, social media proves to be a valuable platform of invitation.
Social Media: Brand Awareness to Engagement
Until the past decade or so, fashion had traditional media such as magazines and television at its disposal. Traditional media largely impacts brand awareness. Customers know Brand X exists because of advertising, published editorials and public relations write-ups. On the other hand, social media has evolved to help achieve brand engagement. Customers are given a chance to interact, to receive advice and information, and to present customer service issues.
Fashion brands now heavily populate social media. Some were early adopters. Others have taken their time. However, nearly all have adopted social media for similar reasons. First, social media is popular. A presence is expected by customers. Next, industry competition has brands looking for the next cutting edge advantage. The need for effective market spend has also lead brands to embrace social media.
There’s also the chance to connect with customers. Fashion brands effectively use social media to announce prize competitions, and share news about the latest collections. They also seek out Influencers who can spread word of mouth to their thousands, sometimes millions, of followers. Fashion imagery populates Instagram, Facebook and Twitter as few industries can. Image and video content on social media enable brands to tell stories. Storytelling is highly effective at driving customer engagement.
Indeed, the need for new content is constant. Social media experts constantly refer to “the need to feed the feed.” Storytelling is king, and is frequently undertaken on social media by specialists. In return, brands expect better relationships with customers, improved sales, and the attraction of new, targeted customers.
Brand Authenticity as a Guide
With fashion brands facing pressure to adapt to digital spaces, to fill these digital spaces with continual content, and to hold the attention of their audiences, brand authenticity is key. Authenticity is a rich source of content, stoking customers’ desire to know the brand better. Authenticity is also often instinctual. Customers know when it’s there and when it isn’t. Brands looking to maintain their authenticity can look indicators. For fashion consumers, authentic brands have fashionability, consistency, heritage and authority. Burberry has succeeds in providing a recognizable, authentic Burberry experience both online and in the store. When customers perceive that sense of authenticity, their attachment for the brand grows.
Where Customers Shop Now and Tomorrow
Customers are using what they find online to shape their purchases. They are using social media like Facebook as well as messaging apps like WhatsApp to share and solicit opinions. For now, at least. The platforms are constantly in flux. Some industry insiders point to Virtual Reality as the next big platform. Regardless of the technological specifics, brands must meet customers where they are. Fashion shoppers may wander through a store on Bond Street, have a conversation with a fellow shopper, search online for a particular item, approach a sales person or visit the brand website. Mobile apps, social media profiles, online advertisement and fashion videos are all part of the shopping landscape. With authenticity in mind, brands seek to define the shopper’s experience. The customer engagement strategy is continuously reconsidered and reformulated. Customers become involved in what brands are doing online, and this engagement leads to more loyalty.
Fashion as an industry is at a turning point. The effective integration of technology into consumer touchpoints must no longer be the exception. Fashion brands are capable of connecting with consumers in ways distinctive to their brand identities. They are tasked with mastering both authenticity and storytelling through the use of rich media. By adapting to today’s digital landscape now, fashion will be able to more easily deal with technology’s inevitable progress in the future.