While only a small 8% of fashion retailing is done online, brands from startup chic and punk to luxury brands are embracing all things social at a refreshing and unprecedented pace. As a means to test their market and build brand loyalty simultaneously, some fashion marketers launch their brands first online, enabling these brands to identify which styles take off or flop and to gather critical feedback for their brand production and inventory managers.
Fashion pre-sales quickly are being made from the front row of the runway, as sophisticated engaging fashion brand platforms deliver Big Data critical to influencing style, production, inventory and marketing strategies. With an initial launch online, brands are able to target potential geographic markets for brick and mortar shops, like Bauble Bar, which next month will open its first stand alone shop in the trendy Soho neighborhood of New York City.
The recently defined “Geek Chic” cache can be found at the new intersection of Fashion Alley and Big Data. Perhaps the biggest lesson brands are learning from their social listening practices and data intelligence forensics is one they already know—fashion buying is experiential, as evidenced by Victoria Beckman and her engaging fashion geek forward platform. The paid content model has come increasingly under fire today as ads are considered an annoyance and not an attraction.
But no matter how engaging your platform is consumers still wish to experience the complete human dynamic of the vanity sport of fashion shopping first-hand. The tactile, ego-gratifying and even part fantasy-driven act of fashion buying has always been a major league sport, and an enormously satisfying one due to the “delight and excite” fashion hunting safari into the unknown. In our content-driven era, I am witnessing a nascent movement by a Geek Chic squad of entrepreneurial designers, developers and marketers in NYC who, notwithstanding their immense talent and passion or marketing and tech savvy, never lose sight of what they consider their “holy grail”— human engagement.
Facilitating a dialogue in large urban city centers such as NYC is one of the challenges that Yuli Ziv, founder and CEO of Style Coalition, has wholeheartedly undertaken. At the helm of a company that monetizes fashion blogs and events, Ms. Zev also is founder of Fashion 2.0 Meetup, an organization that hosts monthly speaker panels featuring leading fashion brand, marketing, media and technology personalities, and which attracts a large segment of the city’s fashion and tech entrepreneurs.
This month panel speaker Elizabeth Holmes of the Wall Street Journal recognized fashion shopping for its fulfilling holistic lifestyle experience. She also reaffirmed that “the art of merchandising” will not be relegated to a lost art. Underscoring fashion’s ephemeral, human emotion-driven experience, panelist Jared Schiffman of Perch Interactive also cautioned: “Push technology slowly forward but build on primitive instincts.”
In the quest to close the gap between human and online engagement, such social lifestyle platforms as Polyvore and Beckman’s lead the way. On the other end of the spectrum, in the absence of a social strategy or ecommerce footprint, offline retailer H&M has yet to leverage its significant global reach, opting instead to recently launch its semi-competitive & Other Stories. Elyse Estrada, client services director at Foursquare and a former H&M account director, suggested at the Fashion 2.0 Meetup that the biggest impediment to adopting a dynamic social strategy at H&M is the company’s organizational silo compression.
Even with the projected 80% increase in online investment by luxury brands in 2013, fashion brands small and large also are significantly recognizing that the silver lining lies in the adoption of a reliable listening strategy. As transient as fashion is, it appears that Geek Chic is here to stay. Of course, Oscar Wilde knew that over a century or two before Geek Chic became the rage, noting way back then that “You can never be overdressed or overeducated.”