What excites me most about the digital industry is that we are right in the thick of a fast-moving, transformative time that is showing no signs of slowing. Right now it feels like there’s an acceleration to our creativity in the commercial world; forward-thinking businesses and brands go all out to embrace brand new tools that engage audiences in a meaningful way. Around every corner is an innovation to tell your story in an original way and what’s more, it’s working. These aren’t just gimmicks; they’re deepening brand-consumer relationships and driving profits.
With that in mind, by the way, I’m about to head off to the Silicon Roundabout in London’s Old Street ‘tech district’ to hear from brands and businesses at the UK’s first Snapchat conference, Snaphappen. You’ll hear all about it in our next blog on Tuesday. In the meantime, follow us on our Snapchat channel – SoutherlyComms – which I will use to broadcast a seamless and utterly professional-looking Snapchat Story of events. We hope.
But for now, another current case in point: at this year’s London Fashion Week many big brands are leveraging the power of social media. That in itself is nothing new; what is different this year is the vastly increased prevalence of platforms like Snapchat and Facebook Live in the marketing mix.
The fact that brands have been slow on the uptake for Snapchat, for example, is largely down to two factors – high advertising prices and a lack of access to Snapchat’s data analytics. But that hasn’t stopped a few big players who recognise that it delivers big results.
What is different this year is the vastly increased prevalence of platforms like Snapchat
Burberry snaps to direct sales
Take Burberry, for example. This forward-thinking fashion brand is using platforms like Facebook Live and Snapchat to stream catwalk shows and engage with consumers across the world. What’s more, these tactics form part of the fashion giant’s first ‘direct-to-consumer’ strategy: a complete and seamless customer experience whereby you can buy the clothes as soon as the collection hits the runway. This suggests a high degree of confidence not only in its designs, but also in the potential power of these marketing tools.
Burberry is known for its comprehensive and innovative approach to digital strategy. It has used Snapchat before, to showcase exclusive campaign trails, promote its shows and generally build anticipation. Facebook Live, on the other hand, is a first. The company also launched a live customer service offering through Facebook Messenger, again, another first. This is a company that is brave in trying kooky new ways of connecting with its audience.
What’s interesting about the ‘direct-to-consumer’ approach is that the ROI can be measured in direct sales, which you don’t often see in social media marketing. That’s a short term gain, but Burberry is also using these platforms to enhance its reputation as an innovative brand and raise awareness among existing and potential customers, with a view to converting this positive brand image into sales further down the line.
So it’s effectively a direct advertising campaign that has adopted a content marketing strategy, catalysed by social media. Burberry has given its audience the choice of engaging with its content – it’s not intrusive and doesn’t push its message in front of people. But it’s also directly linking a piece of creative content with product sales.
ROI can be measured in direct sales, which you don’t often see in social media marketing
Of course, there are other good reasons to use these new(ish) fangled methods. It makes sense to be engaging with your target audience on the social channels they inhabit most. We should then consider the immediacy of Snapchat and live streaming, which certainly lends itself to covering events like catwalk shows, bringing the latest fashions to the whole world as and when the models do their little turn. But the opportunities to connect and tell interesting stories aren’t just with the designers. The buyers get to strut their stuff, too.
Selfridges most active fashion retailer
Selfridges is a store that is famously immersing itself in the Snapchat fashion experience, and is highly active during Fashion Week. Just last month, in fact, the brand was revealed by L2’s Digital IQ Index Department Stores 2016 report as the most active department store on Snapchat, posting at a rate of five times the index average, and taking a 26% share of the snaps posted, compared with US store Bloomingdales at 17% .
Posting at a rate of five times the index average
Selfridges boosts its brand image, and engages and raises awareness with a largely millennial audience through a variety of posts. These featuring Fashion Week content alongside in-store activated offers and ways to interact while shopping. Its own-branded Snapchat Stories are hugely popular, featuring backstage insights and following the stories of people who make the store what is, such as following Selfridges’ buyers as they swan from show to show and country to country.
L2’s index of retailers does, however, reveal that there is still plenty of opportunity for other companies to muscle in on the social world. Only 37% of brands maintain a good presence on Snapchat, and only 5% advertise, most likely for the aforementioned reasons. But the tide is changing. eMarketer reported earlier this month that it expects Snapchat will generate over $350 million in advertising revenue by the end of 2016, growing to nearly $1 billion by the end of 2017. Granted that only considers ads, but it gives you an idea of the scale of growth in branded content.
There is still plenty of opportunity for other companies to muscle in
The most creative brands have become increasingly open to the possibilities these new and exciting digital platforms offer. They’re telling their stories in innovative ways that really engage their audiences and provide the brand messages people actively want to hear. But while you might think the fashion industry is the kind of business that’s already saturated with creative storytelling, you may be surprised to find there are still opportunities for forward thinking creators. Like I said at the start, we’re showing no sign of slowing, which means we need to get in there, fast.