The New Age of Fashion Brand Marketing: Tips to Dominate on Digital
Fashion is a competitive industry, plain and simple. With the large players consolidating more and more, breaking through the noise and making your voice heard is no easy task. Emerging channels, new industry trends, and the rise of a more cautious consumer can leave today’s fashion marketer with analysis paralysis. On top of that, the closing of physical stores has led to rapid acceleration of ecommerce, making digital the go-to destination for wardrobe shopping. To be a winner today, it’s all about using relevant content to strike a chord with your audience.
The best fashion marketers today are not the ones who can visualize the "perfect" campaign in their heads. Rather, they're the ones compiling spreadsheets and using to data to make every meaningful decision. Fashion brands need to take a sophisticated, data-driven approach to marketing or risk being left in the dust.
In this article, we cover the basics of fashion brand marketing, the brands doing it best, and the must-have requirements for achieving digital dominance.
Fashion Brand Marketing Overview
Brand marketing is all about communicating your brand’s personality and values to the world. It’s not about slapping your logo on something and adhering to a consistent aesthetic. During the Mad Men era, this was more or less the case. Today, consumers are most interested in what you stand for as a brand. For example, McKinsey reports that, “67 percent [of consumers] consider the use of sustainable materials to be an important purchasing factor, and 63 percent consider a brand’s promotion of sustainability in the same way.” Is your brand sustainable? Does your brand stand for anything? Is your brand inclusive? These are the questions that today’s consumers, especially millennials, are asking. To effectively answer those questions, brands need to communicate their values within their content. More than ever, consumers can detect when a brand is only incorporating value-based content to capitalize on social trends. You need to be authentic in your approach and take action to back up your claims.
Rather than making sure all of your marketing materials are within strict brand guidelines and hyper-consistent, consumers are more interested in the authenticity and character of your brand. This is evidenced by the rise of TikTok as a fashion marketing tool, for example. TikTok can be characterized as fun, casual, and for everyone. Those same three elements can also be used to describe the way forward for fashion brand marketing.
Who’s doing it right?
Here are a few examples of brands that understand the future of fashion marketing and are executing it on the highest level.
In recent years, Nordstrom has undergone a complete digital transformation. The foundation for their successful digital overhaul is their reliance on data to make more informed decisions. Nordstrom uses its “personal book software” to keep track of shopper preferences and sizing. They use this information to send personalized emails letting a customer know when their favorite brand is back in-stock or inviting them to an exclusive event. They invest heavily into their website and mobile app to ensure customers have a seamless shopping experience across digital. Finally, Nordstrom frequently shares UGC on their social channels to build social proof and cultivate a sense of community. Within the posts, Nordstrom uses shoppable tools so their audience can quickly and easily purchase the featured products.
Women’s retailer, Aerie, leans heavily on UGC to frame their brand in an authentic light. For example, with their #AerieReal campaign the brand donated $1 to the NEDA (National Association of Eating Disorders) for every untouched photo posted with their hashtag. Thousands of people participated in the challenge, driving awareness for Aerie while supporting a great cause. Aerie has continued to promote body positivity by featuring content that features people of all shapes and sizes, and they haven’t digitally retouched a photo since before 2014.
Threadless was built on the idea of community, so they know a thing or two about cultivating an inclusive and dedicated consumer base. Threadless crowdsources designs from artists all over the world and prints those designs on apparel, accessories, home decor, and footwear. Threadless is not shy about their undying support for the artist community, which has been a major draw for their avid fanbase. Threadless also supports nonprofits and charities by offering them a free customized online store where they can raise money for their cause by selling merch. Even as a business built on good intentions, Threadless doesn’t leave their success up to chance. With the help of Cohley, they deeply analyze data to make informed marketing decisions and strike gold before the competition does. “All the artist-shop data, sales data — all marketplace sales data and all Threadless catalog sales data over the last two years — we’re constantly looking at that data, and it’s generating recommendations of what we should do and where the opportunities exist,” says Elizabeth Schmidt, their Digital Marketing Director. “So it’s basically been our playbook for what we need to do and what things we need to launch.”
Digital Must-haves for Fashion Brand Marketing
The brands winning right now are the ones who have a strong omnichannel digital marketing presence. They’re the ones who meet consumers where they are and deliver relevant, engaging, and helpful content at every level. With the decline of physical retail, consumers crave the in-store experience on their digital devices. There’s tons of tools and channels that you can leverage to telegraph your brand’s story and improve your shopping experience. Here are some must-haves for a strong digital presence:
A Rock Solid Instagram Strategy
For apparel brands, Instagram has the highest engagement by a huge margin. Instagram’s average engagement rate for fashion brands is 13.71. Compared to the next highest channel, LinkedIn with a 1.12 average, that’s a huge leap. Fashion brands simply can’t ignore the fact that Instagram is a haven for all things fashion. With fashion influencers, shoppable tools, and user-generated content all coming together on the platform, Instagram has solidified its spot as the go-to shopping destination for fashion. Be sure to take advantage of all it has to offer.
Make sure your feed is shoppable - IGTV now lets brands and creators tag products within their posts. Followers can then swipe up and find a straightforward menu featuring the collections and additional product details. Instagram also added Reels and Shop tabs to its home screen. The Reels tab will, of course, lead users to Reels, short form videos similar to TikTok. The Shop tab will surface personalized recommendations, editors’ picks curated by the @shop channel, shoppable videos, and new product collections. Both tabs make it easier for people to find what they want on the platform and go there immediately.
Feature user-generated content - Especially as inclusivity continues to rise higher on shoppers’ priority lists, featuring authentic user-generated content is becoming a necessity. Consumers want to see how clothing fits on a variety of body shapes and sizes, and they’re increasingly leery of heavily-staged, professional product photos. Everyone’s experienced that time the clothes they ordered looked nothing like the picture on the website. On top of organic posts, sharing user-generated content in ads can boost engagement and consumer sentiment - ads featuring UGC garner 73% more positive comments on social networks than traditional ads.
Work with influencers - While not a new tactic by any means, there’s still a lot of merit for working with Instagram influencers. While the large fashion houses are constantly rolling out new collaborations with celebrities and massive influencers, micro influencers present a great opportunity to scale up an influencer strategy. Micro influencers typically have more engaged audiences due to their smaller followings. By working with several micro influencers rather than one expensive macro influencer, you’re diversifying your campaign risk and creating opportunities for more testing. You can analyze the campaign performance of each individual influencer and use that information to either double down on the successful ones or learn why some influencers didn’t perform well for your brand. It should also be noted that micro influencers work great as content creators beyond the handful of posts they can share for you. By repurposing influencer content in ads and on organic feeds, you’ll give your channels the authentic look and feel that consumers are after.
Product Reviews at Scale
Product reviews are massively critical for fashion. Customers are 270% more likely to buy a product with five reviews than one with no reviews. As previously stated, understanding size and fitting specifications is a huge priority for consumers. People shopping for apparel commonly check product reviews to see how the clothing fits compared to the description. Without reviews, a consumer feels less inclined to purchase a product because they don’t want to risk the item not fitting properly. One way to increase your reviews by running product sampling campaigns. Product sampling is when brands ask customers to try their product for free in exchange for honest feedback in the form of a review. Sampling campaigns (one of the most popular Cohley products) are a great way to scale reviews because they’re usually predictable from a timing standpoint. After launching a sampling campaign, you’re able to predict how many reviews you’ll receive and on what date. This is extremely helpful in planning and optimizing large campaigns around those products.
High-volume Content Testing
Perhaps the most important aspect of having a strong digital presence in the fashion industry is rapidly and extensively testing content within ads. Fashion is famous for its large scale photoshoots and creative direction. Unfortunately, just because you pay a lot of money for content doesn’t mean it will perform well. As exemplified by younger, digitally-native brands, more emphasis should be placed on running hundreds or even thousands of smalls tests to understand what actually resonates with consumers. At the end of the day, the market decides what will be successful, not executives in a boardroom. The most digitally successful and disruptive brands are the ones who keep a steady pulse on consumer sentiment by testing content around the clock. If you’re worried about lacking the sophistication you think it might require, don’t be. You can start small by testing new content on your current channels organically for free and scale up from there.
Cohley and Fashion Brand Marketing
Cohley gives fashion brands the ability to generate authentic and relevant content at scale. In addition to content generation, Cohley integrates with your most important marketing channels to automatically test that content in front of your audiences - leading to more insights in shorter amounts of time. There’s no denying that using data to make important marketing decisions leads to more growth, and Cohley’s mission is to help more brands make marketing decisions rooted in data so they can grow to unprecedented heights. Don’t take our word for it - acclaimed men’s fashion brand, Rhone, increased their ROAS by 4x using Cohley.
Written by Parker Dietz
Parker is a staple in our marketing team - Our Marketing Manager brings with him an intimate knowledge of the platform, and is our go-to on technical topics, and user behavior. With a wealth of knowledge about competitors and pricing, Parker is all about exploring the best way to communicate Cohley's benefits. Outside of work, Parker enjoys poorly playing guitar at parties, watching every Adam Sandler movie ever made, and eating Arabic food.