Is Twitter responsible for increasing online fashion sales?
Social media is an effective platform for fashion brands because it develops a two-way conversation with their consumers and promotes their products in a way that wasn’t available before Twitter. Twitter was founded in 2006 and now has 284 million monthly active users. Every day, 500 million tweets are sent.
Like fashion, social media is about free expression and evolving trends. Fashion plays a huge role in our economy; the direct economic value of the UK fashion industry is £26 billion, showing an increase of 22% from 2009. Since 2013 UK online fashion sales increased by 14.5% to reach £10.7 billion in September 2014. The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, commenting on these figures, said ‘these latest figures are clear evidence of the hugely important contribution that fashion makes to our economy’.
Given that we know online fashion sales are driven by social media, are social media platforms responsible for the increase in fashion sales?
Fashion brands are battling to develop the most creative content to reach audiences in a way never attempted before. Apple teamed with luxury label, Burberry, on the womenswear S/S14 show as part of the highly anticipated iPhone 5s launch, capturing runway imagery through the camera feature of the device, prior to its release. Images were posted live to thirteen outdoor screens across London, New York and Hong Kong. This collaboration achieved record levels of social media engagement, increasing visibility and sales across multiple platforms. When talking about how UK e-commerce has changed in the last five years, Jake Herd of Econsultancy said ‘commerce continues to get more social’.
Integrated e-Commerce and social media
E-commerce became possible in 1991 when the Internet was opened to commercial use. Since then, thousands of businesses are selling products via their website and there were 110,000 English-language e-commerce websites in mid-2014. Today, 70% of internet users in the UK buy clothing and footwear online, making clothing and footwear the most purchased items online. E-commerce allows an easier way to shop and can become a journey of discovery for the consumer.
The increasing use of digital platforms for browsing and buying partially explains the decreasing in-store traffic across the luxury sector. Caroline Rush, SEO of the British Fashion Council, said ‘E-commerce is much, much cheaper than a bricks-and-mortar store, so designers are able to sell on their own terms [rather than through a multibrand boutique] much faster than they used to’. In September 2014, 43% of London Fashion Week designers were using e-commerce sites compared to 33% in February the previous year.
London Fashion Week is one of the world’s most prestigious, and a leader when it comes to high-tech catwalk production and marketing. In 2010 it became the first international fashion week to grant access to the masses by broadcasting a live stream of catwalks. In 2014 they took this to individual designers to use celebrated digital innovation in fashion. Caroline Rush, CEO British Fashion Council said: ‘this season we will be, encouraging designers to embrace technology to amplify their stories and their work’. Google Director, Peter Fitzgerald, revealed that his team held pre-fashion week ‘digital boot camps’ with London designers in the hope of creating a huge marketing push. Over 60% of the shows were live streamed, making fashion increasingly accessible.
Figures suggest 78% of guests were live tweeting during the 2014 event, showing how important the audience felt being part of an online and offline community was. In February 2014 there were over 300,000 mentions of #LFW on twitter over five days – the highest amount of mentions yet. Boris Johnson, said ‘London is developing a reputation as one of the tech capitals of the world, but it is already a global leader for fashion.’ Individual labels were encouraged to use digital tech fashion as a marketing tool.
Burberry was the social media success story during London Fashion Week. The brand has over 14 million Twitter followers and increased their visibility by trailing Twitter’s innovative use of the new ‘buy now’ button where customers could, for example, purchase catwalk nail varnish instantly through online shopping site, Fancy. Customers only had to enter payment and shipping details once, because Twitter conveniently stored all of your data for future reference. Burberry re-focused their digital strategy after realising the millennial generation they’re reaching through social media can’t necessarily afford the iconic trench coat. However, they can afford to buy the beauty and fragrance products. Their show prompted over 21,000 mentions on Twitter according to analytics firm, Precise. Their creative approach to social media has gained much attention and the company currently allocates around 60% of its ad budget to digital to ensure they gain maximum impact and exposure from each of their events.
But did all of this promotion and social media generate revenue? In 2013, sales at stores that had been open for at least a year were reporting increases of up to 12% at the end of the year. Investment in areas such as service and collect-in-store (click and collect) helped digital sales, compensating for low shopper numbers in its boutiques, Burberry said. It was also improved by its operations in China and a general increasing shift towards online sales.
At the other end of the spectrum, major high-street brand, Topshop, was the must-see at London Fashion Week. They experimented in a number of ways with original ideas and use of digital.
Topshop hosted a live Twitter Gallery on its homepage on the morning of Sunday’s 2014 show allowing visitors the chance to experience the final preparations. The show itself was live streamed on Twitter and featured model of the moment, Cara Delevingne. They also hosted a hashtag competition to win tickets to next season’s show which improved customer interaction. This all helped Topshop to achieve more than 13,000 mentions on Twitter during London Fashion Week.
Topshop employed 3D agency, Inition, to collaborate on their creative campaign, #toptrends during London Fashion Week. The campaign used Twitter data to feed information to digital screens about emerging trends and styles, and made London Fashion Week looks available almost as soon as they hit the catwalk. Each screen was directly related to specific retail locations to offer fans a virtual reality experience of its collections. It won them the Oceans annual Art of Outdoor Digital Competition prize. The Art of Outdoor Digital Competition celebrates pushing the creative boundaries in digital out of home advertising and Topshop’s aim was to democratise fashion.
Their ideas were desirable to the consumers in a way that was still authentic to their brand which is important to achieve across social platforms.
Connecting with the mass consumer by creating engaging content helps expand the loyal base which eventually leads to purchase.
Social Media Expert at Hootsuite, Merinda Peppard, observes those top performing social brands. Talking about current trends, she highlighted the ways in which ‘reputation for creative and innovative style is now placed firmly in the hands of social networkers and the designers that can create the biggest online buzz’.
Watch the Topshop Ocean Outdoor Campaign here.
How can Twitter help a brand?
Twitter gives brands the opportunity to tell stories.
The relationship between consumers and brands is becoming more personal.
People are more in control than ever before, as brands are competing with consumer’s use of other digital media.
The line between online and offline is blurring as we are online all the time; the average person has four connected devices, so consumers always have access to information about the brand, new collections etc. at the touch of one or more points. Brands can reach their consumers at any time through various social platforms. Mobiles often used to help make a decision about a purchase when shopping in-store, and Jake Herd, said ‘Mobile commerce matures as a bridge to multichannel retail’. The discovery element, re-tweeting, and engaging are what drives Twitter and its users.
Although brands could be losing the deep relationships and the human element of conversation through social media conversations, the new advantage, is they can easily communicate with more customers than ever before. The Burberry and Topshop examples show just how creative brands can be and how the reach can be global – which was not possible until now.
To be visible amongst the noise of the web, today, brands need to be distinctive by producing creative content. By utilising digital platforms; visibility, and customer relationships can be exciting and accessible. Giving insights into behind the scenes and the brand’s values opens up the world of fashion.
London Fashion Week’s focus on digital and innovation allowed brands to push content out to reach global audiences.
Twitter has helped fashion go global and the fashion tech trend is here to stay. The fashion world will keep delivering in the fast-paced world of digital and 2015 is sure to bring new, interesting ideas.