So many well-known fashion brands have surprised us lately with news of bankruptcy, financial difficulties or company ownership transitions. Incapable of following their competitors, famous brands like Nine West, New Look, French Connection, Carven, Vionnet, H&M or Gap are all struggling to attract new customers and find their way to the modern fashion consumer.
The reasons why all these companies are in difficulties are various, but there is one common point to these brands: lack of mastering a digital branding. What does this mean?
Most of fashion-addicted consumers discover new brands on Instagram nowadays. They subscribe to their private events on Facebook and occasionally accept private invitations to super cool pop-up shops. None of those above-mentioned brands have managed to capture these new patterns of fashion consumption in the early stages and if they do there’s a need for a substantial shift internally and this takes time. By the time the vision is implemented, the company already has “empty accounts” (no money in the bank account) and needs to change the owner to survive.
And when I say “capture” I mean that there’s no one standard solution to touch the heart of the consumer, each brand should find their own way. The mix of strong and honest messages with seduction which goes hand-in-hand with an attractive product and an easy way of shopping may help to “break the ice” and turn the prospect into a loyal customer.
There’s no one successful formula for being a winner in this new digital era, but there are many options now open to brands to communicate with their audience. So if you’re a start-up brand, why be digital today?
1. Being online is the only way to kick-start your business.
Kickstarting a brand online is almost the only one and last option for newcomers in the market today. We are talking here about a “low” cost solution (compared to physical stores) and being immediately global, which are the keys to a thriving business set up.
But how exactly implement the strategy? How to find your difference compared to others? The “pre-launch” phase is crucial to be worked on in advance, 6-12 months before the first collection is out. It’s not even an option, it’s should be a no-brainer solution to establish your brand ahead of the competition and turn all the consumer attention on you.
Having an e-shop is really not enough today. It’s just one of the small pieces of the puzzle. For fashion designers, the battle for the market share now happens on social media, not on Google.
Ensuring you have organic Search Engine Optimization (SEO), even at a very high level is necessary, but you will still be missing what I call “emotional capital” which is one of the reasons people buy fashion today. The only place you can invest in your “emotional capital” is social media, and more precisely Instagram.
The way your make Instagram work for you is up to you, but what I can say for certain is, that there are two categories of brands investing into Instagram: those who create “emotional capital” with regular posting, beautiful pictures and by using Instagram influencers to spread the word out and the Others. First ones earn money on Instagram. Building efficient communication is one of the milestones of launching one’s products on Instagram, but targeting people with the right offer at the right moment is the another. Fashion is no different from any other needs: we buy a better version of ourselves. It’s up to you to decide whether you want to be one of a million accounts people follow or THE one and only that people discover and buy from right away because it fits their needs at this precise moment.
2. Build strong relationships with customers before going offline
Forging strong relationships takes time. Most very well-known brands have spent decades earning this privilege. With digital everything is moving so fast that a brand can gain this capital instantly just by putting the right message in front of the right audience. Before going offline, creating any physical shops or pop-up stores, the best way to make a return on investment is to develop your presence on digital platforms first, build awareness and only then implement your conquering offline strategies.
3. Amplify your business growth and make it sustainable
The first thing to remember is that fashion is a business like any other industry. It’s beautiful, inspiring and full of imaginary triggers, but it is a business first and foremost. If you’re in fashion than you need to learn how to sell your work.
This part is essential for any project set up and further development. Once you are ready to go with your products and designs to the target audience, you need to think of digital as a sales channel first.
Building recurrent digital sales will create confidence internally to move forward and will attract investors to your project to help to develop the brand further. When you think digital, it’s not about a new mobile application or connected mirror, etc. It can be much more profound than that. Just think about your potential customer, how much time he or she spends on social media today? Research has shown that we spend up to 3 to 5 hours a day on our social media accounts, checking news, discovering brands and buying. This is one of the channels that can not be ignored in today’s economy. It costs you nothing if you promote your brand organically or it with a small investment and good ROI it becomes an extremely cost-effective medium. Your go-to-market strategy should go hand-in-hand with acquisition and sales plan, which is put in place at the start, as in any business.
4. Acquire funding for your business.
Investors pump money into projects that work or have a high potential for growth. Fashion has a bad reputation: too much of inventory, it’s changing all the time, it’s a very capital consuming business. Initially, you need to invest first a lot in branding before reaping the fruits of your work. The advantage of building sustainable sales funnels online first is that you can prove that your business works and that all your inventory is sold through online orders or pre-orders. If you show that the demand for your product is more important than your offer or that you can deliver, this helps to create significant interest from many investors. It’s already a successful business story that you can quickly “sell” at any pitch meeting with potential investors.
5. Use perfect tools to sell.
Instagram and Facebook remind us of news from our community, it’s also where people spend most of their “inactive” spare time, for example, on public transport or while waiting for a doctor’s appointment. These moments are the best ones for the brands to announce new products launches, present a pop-up store opening or give us a nudge about an ongoing sale. Using data, available on your Facebook account, which is a real bonus compared to any other ads platforms (like radio, tv or magazines), you can always place your ads at the right time for the right consumer, thus making Instagram or Facebook the most efficient ways for the brands to achieve maximum ROI in paid communication.
Thinking of Instagram and Facebook as a whole customer journey may even push your brand harder for the consumer’s attention. Seeing your brand several times, following up your posts, subscribing to your local and private events – all of these daily actions contribute to your exponential emotional capital growth and earning prospects’ hearts. Somehow, after connecting with your brand several times, they end up by buying from you whether online or offline. It’s just a question of time.
But the way to build you “war machine”, invest in “emotional capital” and earn the hearts of potential customers is an entirely individual, personal story of each brand I work with. There’s no standard way because each brand has its own story, and this story is transposed to the digital arena individually thus creating customer attachment to the brand.
6. Keep your brand front of mind with your customers
We don’t like ads, who loves them anyway? They’re annoying, time consuming, and not truthful. But when we see an advertisement on Instagram or Facebook, it speaks our language, it’s individual, and it fits our style. Isn’t it the best way to sell your products? You create a perfect consumption environment. Mastering Facebook and Instagram ads can bring you so far today in your business development, that only solely focusing on this one channel can bring you enough orders and revenue. But don’t experiment with this on your own, as often it will be costly and results will be disappointing. It’s better to outsource your digital social media ads to professional managers, who are capable of marrying both your expectations and budget with the tools and rules of these two compelling platforms. Attempting to skip this part and experiment with cheaper solutions usually results in failure.
The risk of losing money is so high that it will be cheaper to hire someone to manage this. A manager who mixes both organic and paid means to acquire customers offers the best solution, creating a perfect mix and generating more returns with minimal investment.
7. Create a habit in the customer’s mind
By speaking out loudly on most social digital platforms, we remind the potential customer about ourselves. In our multitasking society, no one keeps their focus on only one thing. Despite our needs, we can forget to buy or to go to the place we wanted to buy that particular shirt or dress from.
By addressing the consumer through digital channels on a regular basis, we can create a kind of habit. Reminding them about their need or desire to look exactly the same as in an advertisement.
They have developed a habit of looking through Instagram posts and Facebook several times a day, so why not ensure your brand is front of mind every time they connect? By doing so, you will trigger a strong action to buy that shirt or sweater from your brand, even if they don’t have that budget right now.
Just don’t be fooled into thinking that every customer spends their money at first sight. When investing in social digital platforms, you need to think long-term and multiply your chances to succeed through repeat reminders about the existence of your brand. Those brands who understand this are already making millions on social digital advertising. The question is what are you waiting for? It’s an advantage of being an early adopter in this case. As soon as anyone starts doing it, people will become less and less receptive. New channels should be adopted to keep the customer’s attention fixed on your brand. Be first, and the world will be yours!