Fashion has touched the zero point. This industry has always been dominated by craftsmanship and is now undergoing radical transformations, with digital: new channels, new ways of buying, innovative production processes, the addition of Artificial Intelligence, etc.
How should Fashion Marketing evolve in order to keep up with the digital transformation? Let's find out with Isabetta Ratti, author of a book on this subject (see here).
Q: A research carried out by Google defines luxury consumers as "tech-savy". Why do fashion brands need to create a digital narrative, and how they can link content to sales? Can you give us a concrete example of a luxury brand that has improved the shopping experience of its consumers through content?
A: With the digital revolution we have seen a reversal of the communication strategies in the Fashion&Luxury industry. To be effective, a campaign must be built on the target audience and on customer experience.
It is no longer the brand that controls the relation with its customer, but the opposite: consumers receive multiple stimuli and their increased awareness means they are more demanding, they ask to be put at the center.
Omnicanality is working in this direction: those brands that cannot easily reach their consumer, regardless of the channel used, are already starting from a disadvantaged position. This is because digital and the multiplication of communication channels allow to spread a message suitable for each of the recipients, even at generational level (Millennials, Centennials etc.).
That is one of the most exciting challenges of Fashion Marketing: to unite by differentiating. Think of the Millennials, which consume luxury brands as soon as they recognize with them. To win them over, many brands have moved beyond the traditional boundaries of product positioning, by implementing brand extension and co-branding strategies.
A well-known case is the collaboration of Louis Vuitton and Supreme, a New York freestyle brand that owns a store in Greenwich and was little known at the time. The result was a contamination between luxury and streetwear. Read more about Supreme here.
The very concept of luxury has also changed: anyone who buys an item of clothing from a fashion house buys not only the product itself, but also everything that revolves around it, including the notoriety of the brand. We no longer sell products only, but experiences.
This also applies to those fashion companies that, although they not correspond to the traditionally-intended luxury, have a considerable commercial strength. The reason for this is their ability to intercept and satisfy the emotional needs of their target audience. The new luxury consumer has no problem in spending 10,000 euros on a pair of shoes, as long as they represent them, it they reflect their aesthetic values and above all their status.
Integrating brand storytelling with experience was the first step to make the consumer a protagonist, making them feel part of a community. One of the pioneers was Burberry, one of the first fashion brands to broadcast a live streaming fashion show, with the consumer being involved and becoming a direct spectator. The result is a closer relationship with the brand.
Sales also benefit from this, with the introduction of the see now, buy now model that reduces lead-time and meets those consumers accustomed to the digital "all and now".
Social media, in addition, have proved to be excellent tools for the fashion world, a unique opportunity to create new brand content, communities able to stimulate interactivity (e.g. with the launch of contests, or with the involvement of people from the entertainment world), in short, to form strong and significant relationships with the audience.
Q: If the key theme is an extreme personalization of content and their articulation according to the destination channel, what strategies can luxury brands adopt to ensure all-round experiences? Can you give us a concrete example?
A: While on the one hand we are witnessing new shopping ways with increasingly advanced consumer, on the other hand it is necessary for companies to engage them in different ways, satisfying increasing requests for customization.
In this new scenario, online does not necessarily replace offline, but completes it, creating a harmonious customer experience along the multiple points of contact between the brand and the customer, with integrated communication strategies.
Consumers want an omnichannel experience, so the fashion houses should create as many touchpoints as possible with their brand. Oftentime, customers rely on the online channels in the search phase, but then they prefer to physically go to a store for the actual purchase.
Technologies such as virtual reality and in-store AR work in this omni-channel direction. In fact, we talk about "augmented retail" to indicate those spaces where digital and physical overlap, allowing the customer to move seamlessly between the two realms.
Tommy Hilfiger is a pioneer in the use of smart mirrors (see here). These mirrors are equipped with RFID sensors (radio frequency identification) that recognize the items worn in the dressing room, and they provide a touchscreen that support a personalized navigation within the shop.
It is no longer a matter of choosing between the physical experience of the shop or the dematerialized experience of e-commerce, because technology will increasingly help to recreate the conviviality of shopping. Think of LuisaViaRoma, the luxury store that has become the champion of made-in-Italy e-commerce, embracing multiple media, different skills and interests.
Despite being a reality born on digital, the brand wants to be a fashion consultant (a personal shopper) for its customers, offering ideas and insights on how to create a perfect total look: the consumer is one hundred percent "scanned" and followed throughout its purchasing process with tips and suggestions tailored on their desires. And content plays an important role in this process.
To create an even more engaging experience, some fashion brands have incorporated the sensory factor into their stores. For example, Abercrombie&Fitch or Hugo Boss have sprinkled their stores with fragrances, triggering a unique feeling in the customers' memory.
The more the customer experience is enriched with meaningful stories, the more engagement: the storytelling of a brand, in fact, is a critical component in communicating its value. For this reason, the past must not be abandoned. On the contrary, digital technology contributes to making the brand’s past a strong point, highlighting the story of its craftsmanship and uniqueness.
This is the case of Inside Chanel, a collection of short films hosted on a special section of the site that offer exclusive content on the brand’s history (including the N 5 perfume, the most famous of the company). But also F is For by Fendi, a platform especially designed for millennials which responds to their communication needs.
In these case, in order to support the production of the content necessary for each target, you need an adequate distribution infrastructure that respects the uniqueness of each individual consumer.
Q: With a consumer looking for an emotion rather than for a physical good, what is the role of visual hypertexts and how can luxury brands exploit them to engage users?
A: Surely the use of video is one of the cornerstones of successful Fashion Marketing strategies. What better way to tell your brand and the emotions it conveys than through the video of a fashion show displaying the newest collection?
There are also other cases of visual hypertexts (in addition to the already-mentioned smart mirrors) used by fashion brands to create engagement and increase sales. Lacoste, for example, an iconic brand that embodies the values of elegance and performance of its founder, tennis champion René Lacoste, doesn’t miss a chance to exploit the opportunities offered by technology.
In fact, to launch a new line of streetwear sneakers ("Bring the color"), signed by LCST and then approach the target of Millennials, the company commissioned Creative Engine to make a global communication campaign in AR (Augmented Reality).
The app combines 3D scanning of the products with AR and can be used in-store, so that visitors will see what the model would look like on their feet, without having to try it on. In order to use the service, the shoppers must put their foot on a sensor mat and scan it with their smartphone.
In this way Lacoste offers a response to the demand for identity and uniqueness of a consumer exposed to an increasingly globalized offer. Through the camera of the app, it is possible to build a made-to-measure shoe, an accessory that often, due to its complexity (it is composed of several elements such as the sole, upper, etc.) is difficult to match with the type of foot that it has to accommodate.
The consumer is then persuaded on the model of shoe best fitting for their feet, and can test the entire offer of a store even in the case of logistical failures (if a size in not available, or a particular model) and without having to wait for a clerk.