In case you missed it, New York Fashion Week just finished up this past Wednesday. While there were beautiful gowns, edgy looks, and bazaar style choices galore on the runways, there were equally creative and stunning outfits on the streets. How do I know this? It all comes back to social media of course.
I, like millions of others not fortunate enough to be invited to attend the prestigious week of events, followed the action along by way of Snapchat stories from my favorite models, Instagram posts from fashion bloggers and through Facebook live videos from a plethora of news stations.
The trend towards placing more emphasis on social media in the fashion industry is not a new phenomenon. For instance, in an interview with BBC, Burberry suggested that it only recruited Brooklyn Beckham to head one of its latest campaigns not because of his superstar parents, but because of his wildly popular Instagram account. If a major fashion brand cares more about candid, self-curated photos than professional modeling portfolios, it is clear that the future of fashion is dependent on social media platforms.
In a report released by Mintel, 35% of American women claim that social media has the biggest influence on their fashion purchasing behavior. Furthermore, a study conducted in Seoul, South Korea found that across the 5 factors of entertainment, customization, interaction, word of mouth, and trend, social media marketing was effective in maintaining customer relationships and informing the purchasing intentions of luxury fashion brand customers.
Furthermore, the fashion industry has traditionally relied on strict buying cycles to sell products (one season for fall and one for spring). In an interview with CNBC, designer Rebecca Minkoff’s cofounder and brother, Uri Minkoff, explains that a customer “doesn’t have to wait 6 months and see these different bloggers and celebrities and editors carrying the product.” Social media therefore allows potential customers of a brand to be exposed to new designs and products sooner and more easily than before. Social media is really making fashion, including luxury labels, more accessible to the masses (at least more to accessible view and interact with, but maybe not so much in the way of affordability).
In order to capitalize on the social media trend, designers are taking various approaches to the issue. For instance, as per the CNBC interview mentioned earlier, Rebecca Minkoff has chosen to make Instagram the brand’s central way of engaging customers instead of investing in costly traditional ads. Similarly, designer Tommy Hilfiger reserved a photo pit exclusively to be used by approved Instagram influencers, separate from the pit used by traditional professional fashion photographers. This quite literally shows how the influence of social media is now front and center in the fashion world.
In anticipation of the upcoming London Fashion Week (September 15 through September 19), the British brand Topshop is also jumping on the bandwagon by hiring fashion photographer Nick Knight to live-post images from its show on Instagram. Fashion industry leaders are also expecting designers to use Periscope, a live-streaming platform owned by Twitter, in addition to other platforms like Instagram or Snapchat, to promote their designs in real time during London Fashion Week.
In terms of numbers, the fashion industry is truly ruling the digital world. On average, the fashion industry has a follower growth rate of 18.62 percent per brand and has the largest median sizes on Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. Furthermore, Instagram, many brand’s social medium of choice, is also the most effective distribution channel with an average engagement ratio of 13.71 interactions per post per 1,000 followers. Interestingly though, within the fashion industry, outerwear and outdoors apparel retailers significantly outperform casual clothing (13.8 average engagement ratio), footwear (12.9 average engagement ratio), and high fashion (11.8 average engagement ratio) with an average engagement ratio of 24.9 on Instagram.
Therefore, if the future of fashion is unquestionably digital, then how are designers altering their long-term business strategies to keep up with the times? In an interview with Vogue, the founder of the online service LiketoKnow.It that links buyers to products through tagged Instagram posts, Amber Venz Box said, “I think that there’s that unique connection with the individual, really, across a lot of social platforms, but especially when you’re looking at image-based content. [Shoppers] want to see someone in the photo who’s actually doing the action, wearing the clothes.” By linking their products directly to consumers through services like LiketoKnow.It, designers can get their products to customers right at the moment a customer is engaging with it over social media, thus boosting sales and brand interaction. Even traditional brick-and-mortar retailers like Bergdorf Goodman are realizing the importance of creating a strong online presence. In the same interview with Vogue, Bergdorf’s senior vice president and general Merchandising manager of men’s, women’s footwear and handbags, decorative and home, and Little BG said, “The digital world is an important aspect to every retailer, regardless of how many brick-and-mortar locations you have, and Bergdorf is no exception.”
It will be interesting to see over the next few years if social media platforms like Instagram will continue to reign supreme in the fashion world, or if other up-and-coming platforms will eventually rule the runway (and our smartphones).