Fashion Brands Bet on Digital to Change the Way You Shop

If you’re a professional or dealmaker, you know that making the right first impression can go a long way when meeting with clients. Chances are you put some thought and effort into what you wear in and out of the office. In this latest chapter of our series on the business of fashion, we look at some of the ways fashion brands are betting on digital technologies to transform the way you shop.

An Omnichannel Offensive

As fashion brands prepare for the future, a key facet of their ability to survive in a challenging retail environment is digital adaptability. This can seem daunting since there are so many moving parts that need to work in unison to keep the brand competitive, relevant and, most importantly, profitable. In a world where millions of apps and social media channels scramble to keep consumers’ attention, the expectations of individuals are higher, and also highly personal. With the right digital tools in a brand’s arsenal, there are also myriad opportunities to reach new customers with an omnichannel offensive.

Square defines omnichannel retail as, “Meeting people on the channels where they are shopping and buying, whether it’s in a physical store or an online store or on social media, and connecting the dots between those channels. The purpose is to keep customers moving around within the brand ecosystem, with each channel working in harmony to nurture more sales and engagement.”

Here are a few omnichannel digital tools that successful fashion brands are rolling out to entice you to buy online and in-store.

1. Bringing tech into the Store to Collect Valuable Data on Consumers

(Source: Zara)

Simply put, apps that use augmented reality allow users to imagine what a garment or accessory looks like in a realistic way, without the piece being physically present. It can be used in a variety of ways: De Beers allows customers to ‘try on’ jewelry by showing a mirror image of the shopper wearing an AR version of earrings or a necklace for instance. Remember not so long ago when Pokemon GO was causing car accidents all over North America? Consider it one of the growing pains of people and brands adjusting to using AR.

Fashion retailers were one of the early adopters of the technology. Last month, the ubiquitous clothing store Zara, owned by the world’s biggest fashion retailer, Intidex, unrolled an AR experience at over 100 stores. Users activate the campaign with the Zara AR app, holding it up in certain areas of the store to see models sporting items that are in stock and ready for a real-life purchase. It may be too soon to tell whether or not the move will prove profitable for Zara, but there is evidence from other retailers that supports the case for retailers utilizing comparable tech innovations.

Rebecca Minkoff, head of the eponymous affordable luxury brand, has been using smart mirrors in her retail stores since 2015. The data they collect allows the brand to surmise exactly what’s resonating with customers by tracking what is being tried on via tags on the clothing. What’s more, shoppers can browse inventory available in-store by tapping the mirror, and request additional items be brought into the change room without having to wave someone down. Minkoff reported that this tripled her in-store clothing sales. Digital innovation in-store could be a cure for dying brick-and-mortar sales, and a way to bank valuable data on what customers are looking for.

2. Using Social Media Creatively to Drive Consumer Interest

(Source: Asos)

The wisdom of meeting the customer where they are can be gleaned from social media campaigns that utilize influencers to reach potential customers. While many brands still use celebrities as the face of their fashion lines, retailers are also wise enough to know that social media makes celebrities out of everyday people all the time. As people connect directly with social media stars, brands like ASOS step in and clothe them. Using the hashtag #AsSeenOnMe, ASOS inspires buyers to share their purchases with one another and is able to scout influencers with significant followings to connect with, gift merchandise to, or to form paid partnerships. This clever insertion of the fashion line’s products is supported by Instagram’s new shop feature. Users can now simply tap on the photo of their style icon’s outfit to reveal where the influencer’s clothes are from, and can be connected directly to the purchase page. The Guardian reports that Nick Beighton, CEO of Asos, said Asos’s use of apps like Instagram boosted 2016 UK sales, with 70% of Asos’s traffic and half its sales happening via mobile devices.

3. Pushing Consumers to Online Shops

(Source: High Snobriety)

“With social media, your brand can take on a reputation at rapid speed. You have to own that messaging, and control that messaging. That’s not something you had to do before, but if you don’t do it, you’re not in the game,” Joanne Arbuckle, industry partnerships and collaborative programs expert at FIT told Glossy.

Adidas’ collaboration with Kanye West on the release of the highly anticipated sneaker, Yeezy Boost, is proof of the realized potential of this statement. Adidas adopted a bold promotional strategy: certain versions of the sneaker were limited edition releases, and the shoes were promoted for only a week before the drop date.

The brand owned their narrative with the Kanye collaboration, building borderline hysteria around the release of the sneaker. Esteemed fashion magazines like GQ released strategic guides on how to manage to get a pair against what was sure to be steep competition on release day. Behind the scenes, customers were required to sign up for an Adidas profile to access the sale online, and Adidas banked that individualized consumer data. The campaign was responsible for a fifth of the brand’s online traffic in 2017, and the product sold out almost instantly, prompting retailers to complain about an imbalance of supply to the demand they were experiencing. Could this retailer complaint be framed as a good problem?

Summing Up

The Luddites have lost, and companies investing in digital tools on all fronts are poised to outpace their contemporaries. A cohesive strategy that links apps, online retail, and brick-and-mortar storefronts to create a cohesive experience the customer can get familiar with is the best practice. Each touchpoint provides unique opportunities to engage potential customers, and the data collected from successes and failures creates a useful roadmap for future strategy. Food for thought when you head out to purchase that new suit or pair of shoes!

Nicole Edwards

Nicole Edwards is a fashion and lifestyle writer based in Toronto. She has worked as Associate Publisher of Private Islands magazine and Lifestyle Editor of Style Empire, and has contributed to NOW Magazine.