Social media is enjoying growing authority — and this influence can be seen in its effect on the fashion market. Before, we consumed fashion content via glossy magazines and catwalk shows. Through these controlled channels, fashion was kept exclusive, determined by designers and magazine editors. Fast-forward to 2018 and it’s a very different story.
With platforms like Instagram, we can essentially become our own magazine editors, sharing our personal style with potentially millions of users. Fashion, and indeed the world, is becoming more connected and interactive — but how is social media truly transforming how fashion brands engage with their audience?
What’s new with social media?
Magazines and catwalk reports aren’t the only way to get our fashion fixes in 2018. It’s all about social media — what products are online retailers pushing this season and what’re the bloggers and influencers on your news feed into this month?
Generally, the millennial generation is believed to have less faith in traditional ads — are they too orchestrated and designed to mislead? In the world of fashion, this means that magazines and advertising campaigns don’t have the influence that they once did — they’re now seen as quite distant from the reader as many are aware of the editing that goes on behind one shot. Instead, peer recommendations are more valuable and accessible than they once used to be. Of course, we’ve all heard of the power of word-of-mouth, but with social media and its ability to spread at a rapid speed across countries, it’s more important than ever before. Of Instagram’s total audience, 200 million users follow at least one fashion account. 45% of Instagram users in Britain say they follow these fashion accounts to gain inspiration for looks they can buy or create themselves. Sharing their own looks is a part of this process too, with #fashion mentioned a huge 13 million times a month and #ootd (outfit of the day) featuring in 140 million posts to date.
Many of us think that online credibility is important to people today, which means many people feel that the more ‘likes’ and ‘followers’ their accounts get, the better. Many of us are used to reading user-generated reviews about an experience or product before making a purchase now. In fact, research found that 71% of people are more likely to make an online purchase if the product or service has been recommended by others. In addition to this, 84% of millennials are likely to be influenced into making a purchase based on the user-generated content by strangers who have experienced the product or service.
Instagram is a popular avenue of engagement for many fashion brands. Even luxury brands — that once shunned social media for fear of it cheapening their image — are jumping on the digital bandwagon. While 72% of luxury fashion brands’ marketing spend is still attributed to print marketing, digital is quickly gaining pace — reaching a total digital ad spend of $100 billion in 2016.
Evidently, fashion brands must invest resources in establishing or improving their social media platforms to better engage with their target audiences.
What about brand involvement?
One of the best things about social media from a fashion brand perspective is how much it allows companies to connect with their consumers. Founder and editor in chief of independent publication, the Business of Fashion, Imran Amed, says: “The one thing that has changed dramatically in recent years is the direct relationship brands now have with their consumers. In this new hierarchy, the consumer has the ability to amplify or negatively impact on business, through sharing positive or negative responses.”
Consider catwalks and modelling events. Once an exclusive event for the elite and top names in fashion, many shows on the catwalk can now be viewed live by millions. Access to the designers’ latest fashion lines was often something that we could only hear about through magazines and the press. Now however, we can keep up with the latest through monitoring the content attached to a hashtag.
Social media is more than Facebook and Twitter in 2018 — having these platforms is simply no longer enough if you want to succeed. Now, there’s a new player on the scene — and it’s taking over. Instagram reached 800 million monthly active users in September 2017 and these users have the highest level of engagement (time spent using the app) compared to other social media sites.
Connectivity is vastly improved when brands utilise Instagram. The platform encourages brands to think more about ‘real’ people, with different bodies, skin tones and fashion preferences — it’s opened a whole new world for fashion marketers.
Even better for both consumer and brand, Instagram lets us shop! Brands are able to tag products in their posts which can then lead users to a point-of-sale. Early adopters of this, such as Natori and Magnolia Boutique, have already found that traffic and sales from Instagram have increased after implementing the shopping service.
Another successful tactic used by fashion brands that are active on social media is encouraging people to post photos of themselves wearing the clothes, whether it’s something casual — like a crop top and jeans — or chic — like occasion dresses and heels. As a type of user-generated content, this lets others see how clothing looks on ‘real’ people and eliminates the issues regarding the ‘perfect model figure’. In some cases, users are given the chance to feature on the main social media page.
What does the influencer do?
Today, it’s all about sparking conversation — and influencer marketing can help. The influencer economy of Instagram alone is valued at $1 billion and 94% of businesses said influencer marketing was an effective campaign strategy. Influencer marketing involves working with influential personas — for example, a blogger or user with a high social following — to increase awareness of a brand or influence the purchasing patterns of a target audience.
Many big brands do this very well, as they have the capital to sign-up the world’s most famous people. One example is supermodel Kendall Jenner, who is the new ‘Adidas Ambassador’. With a total Instagram following of 89.2 million compared to Adidas’ 19.2 million, the partnership will significantly increase Adidas’ social reach and position the brand in front of Jenner’s younger fashion following.
Influencer marketing works as it is like getting a fashion tip form a pal. Seeing the people we admire or look up to wearing a particular outfit or using a certain product is a vote of confidence in a brand that makes us more likely to purchase the particular product or interact with the brand in the future. This sense of community is something that brand accounts struggle to deliver; a third-party is needed to validate the products for consumers.
But it isn’t all about big celebrities. Influencer marketing can involve any profile that can add value to a brand — but generally, this value is measured in terms of volume of followers.
The best way to get on board with the influencer trend is to get an influencer who has a similar target demographic as your brand. Influencer relationships can be expensive, so the associated spend needs to be justifiable — yet doing so can be problematic for fashion brands, when you consider the difficulty surrounding success measurement.
With influencer marketing, you could significantly boost your brand exposure and company sales. Research found that 5% of the influencers that were offering product recommendations were driving 45% of social influence.
It’s clear that social media has had a huge impact on fashion and how we engage with the industry. We’re now more connected with our brands than ever before and are proud to publicly post about the names we love. With the implementation of Instagram shopping already changing the process of fashion retailing, who knows what the future holds?