Social media is everywhere, and as such, its audience scope is unparalleled. The online world has become a huge influencer in its own right, and fashion is in a particular spotlight here. With the rise of Instagram and hashtags, it’s not only easier to find fashion inspiration, but there’s a much wider range available to us.
Magazines and catwalks might still be a source of fashion know-how, but social media has taken over for our daily dose of inspiration.
A different game
No one’s looking for the guidance of magazines for fashion anymore. It’s all about social media — what products are online retailers pushing this season? What dresses are all your friends wearing in their latest tagged photos? And, what’re the bloggers and influencers on your news feed into this month?
Generally, millennials are seen to be less inclined to traditional advertising, regarding it with suspicion. 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.
Raised on ‘likes’ and ‘followers’ as a measure of success, the need for validation is strong. 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.
Fashion is indeed embracing the digital age. 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.
If fashion brands can make their way onto the news feeds of users, they become exposed to a demographic that has already expressed interest in them.
Brand to customer
Social media gives fashion brands a much-needed identity that allows them to connect with customers. 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.”
Fashion shows are one example. 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.
It used to be that social media was all about Twitter and Facebook. But, 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.
With its emphasis on visuals, Instagram is a godsend for fashion brands. This 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. Now, Instagram users can shop directly through the channel. 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.
Brands can even encourage their customers to post photos of them wearing their purchases with their hashtag. This is another form of user-generated content and it allows others to see what the outfit looks like on real people. In some cases, users are given the chance to feature on the main social media page.
Getting people talking has always been important for fashion, so influencers are a key asset in the digital age. 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.
Take Adidas for instance, whose Adidas Ambassador is supermodel Kendall Jenner. 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.
Customers feel like recommendations from influencers are recommendations from a friend or someone they know. 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.
Of course, celebrity status helps to be an influencer, but it isn’t a necessity. It can involve any profile that can add value to a brand but generally, this value is measured in terms of volume of followers. However, for maximum benefit, an influencer’s followers should be closely linked with a brand’s target demographic. 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.
It’s difficult to tell how many sales are generated from influencers, but it is easy to see how connections are strengthened with influencers. Research found that 5% of the influencers that were offering product recommendations were driving 45% of social influence.
Social media has certain changed how fashion is viewed, literally and figuratively. 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?