Whether we know it or not, we are heavily influenced by fashion. We’re talking about something deeper than articles analyzing the significance of a royal’s earrings or tips on how to dress like the French. There are few industries that move at the speed of fashion. In order to be successful, designers and retailers need to do more than stay trendy and perform in shows – they need to be innovative and ready to pivot at the drop of a hat.
Over the years, fashion has influenced everything from manufacturing to textiles to business and beyond. In their publication, Verticals: Fashion Industry, Sappi North America explores the impact that the fashion world has made on marketing and marketers. We spoke with Daniel Dejan, North American ETC Print & Creative Manager at Sappi, to learn more about the fashion industry and what marketers can learn from it.
Influencers have always been essential to the fashion world. People have always looked to the powerful and famous for inspiration on how to dress, where to shop, and more. Wearing the same shoes as an athlete or having the same purse as a celebrity connects a person to that influencer. These days, people rely less on “celebrity-endorsements” and want to connect to someone that they identify with or shares their interests.
According to the Fashion Verticals booklet, micro-influencers are social media and blog influencers with less than 30,000 followers. “Micro-influencers are becoming so much more influential in being able to bring attention to specific products, even brands or new offerings, and I think that is incredibly important. Word-of-mouth is one of the most significant and trustworthy way to get people behind your product,” says Dejan. “We have to be honest. The idea that someone like that can in a blog, vlog, etc. say ‘I just saw this great new thing…,’ it adds excitement, enthusiasm, and exclusivity that we like very much and will most likely act upon.”
Neiman Marcus created an app that allows people to get inspiration “in the wild.” Snap, Find, & Shop lets the user snap a photo of something they love – lipstick, shoes, a jacket, and goes through their catalog/inventory to find something similar or the item itself. “Making the shopping experience interactive with technology and fun allows your imagination to have a wonderful time. When we see the fashion industry use these techniques, other industries will pick up on it and modify the technology to support what they do.”
You can reach your audience through micro-influencers, but you can also reach them by listening and paying personal attention to them. Each purchase has data behind it and gives you clues to whom your customers are. Personalization in communication is the key to cultivating a relationship between your brand and the consumer. This can be done in several ways, including personalized catalogs, direct mail and apps.
“One of the things we’re seeing is that with our ability to employ big data better, we are able to create more personalized catalogs,” explains Dejan. “If I really want to have a more intimate, personal relationship as a retailer, I’ll look at your shopping history and create and customize a catalog so that the outside signature reflects your taste specifically. It will let me know you have a dog, not a cat or are a certain size or a have a favorite color. The idea to use technology in that way becomes a personalized experience.”
Dejan points out that a prominent lingerie retailer has created an app that allows the user to receive personalized recommendations. By creating a profile and providing your measurements, favorite colors, etc., the app filters through that season’s offerings to provide options specific to the consumer. Brands can use technology in several ways – personalization is just one of them.
Embrace Sustainability & Responsibility
The fashion industry isn’t always environmentally friendly. In today’s commercial environment clothing is made to be disposable, in one season and out the next. “On a global basis, the fashion and textile industry create one garbage truck of refuse per second. An incredible amount of clothing and textiles are created, and only a small percentage of it is sold while the rest is discounted, donated or disposed of,” says Dejan.
Online shopping has evolved over the years to be almost instantaneous. Large online shopping retailors have the manpower and warehouse space to churn online orders out at lightening speed. However, as Dejan points out, “It has in fact created an alternative shopping consciousness that while it is convenient for the shopper/buyer, it creates an unrealistic view of the real world as it feeds into consumer’s expectations for immediate gratification .”
Making purchasing easier for the consumer has its benefits, but it also has its downsides. Online returns are expected to reach $550 billion by 2020. Returns have a cost to businesses that eats into profit margins and ruins metrics. “It’s a reflection of how whimsical we can be when we’re at home doing these quick, easy purchases,” adds Dejan. “I think when we do it live and in person, it gives us a moment for reflection. I think this is such an important aspect. We don’t want to spend unreasonably or whimsically. When you look at a catalog, you dogear a page or when you save a direct mail promotion, it really adds a benefit to the decision-making process. Being able to reflect, ‘Do I really need this?’ We need to have that balance in our lives.”
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