Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Social Media Week London, Part II: Data-Driven Fashion and the Death of Trends, Continued

Social Media Week London: Data-Driven Fashion
 Just down the road from the event, what should I walk past but a massive social call to action?
Urban Outfitters incorporated social into their window display with this over-sized whiteboard.

So, it's a return to looking at fashion's relationship with e-commerce and social networking in Part II of the event write-up. The remaining speakers were Natalie, Molly and Jo, all offering a slightly different take on the topic. 

Natalie Thng, Head of E-Commerce, Temperley London (@nataliethng)
  • Temperley is at that interesting point of being 'not quite couture, but closing in on it'
  • Alice Temperley is separate from the world of social and still designs for the love of it, without the pressures of Pinterest, etc.
  • Having previously worked at Reiss, Natalie has found that the difference with this brand is that you get press without asking for it
  • Reiss had the strategy of giving products away to celebrities, whereas her new role is about being selective - this perhaps illustrates the gap between high street and designer 
Molly Flatt, Social Business Director, 1000 Heads (@mollyflatt)
  • There's been a hilarious over-reaction towards social media and how it could be destroying 'the word' - Molly compared this to the way that people considered the Gutenberg Press to be sacred hundreds of years ago
  • Bloggers are just a tiny part of social
  • "We're in a sweet shop moment right now," she said, but the backlash is an inevitable part of that
Joanna Wiggins, Editor, ASOS Marketplace (@JoWiggins)
  • ASOS Marketplace is a thriving vintage community
  • One of the problems for sellers is that they might not necessarily be an expert with social - one of the biggest sellers on the site didn't know her way around it but she has a great business
  • The great thing about Marketplace is that "brand new designers can be making things out of their bedroom or become more established."
  • One of the things that ASOS has to monitor is how trends evolve over time even to the extent of colour names, so what had always been known as 'maroon' is now called 'oxblood'
 And here's a quote from Jeff, of

"Things look organic online but there's always someone pushing it; repackaging the old and presenting it as the new."

Step forward, Urban Outfitters: what I'd think of as one of the prime examples of successful old-as-new branding. Why? Because they're the go-to shop for anyone from (very affluent) teens to men and women in their thirties who work in the creative industries or have creative leanings. You'll find a steady stream of kitsch homeware that is brand new but is inspired by the aesthetic of flea markets, thrift stores and car boot sales; you can get into Lomography (a type of analogue photography) instore, grab a hip flask or track down some upcycled vintage clothing.

I found it a stroke of luck that the flagship store was just moments from The Engine Rooms, where the #SMWLDN event was taking place. This gave me food for thought.

Social Media in Visual Merchandising at Urban Outfitters
The tiny issue I have with this display is that it left the VMs feeling a little lazy. 
In a shop filled with Diana F Lomography cameras and cool gadgets, couldn't they have made a more techno-friendly window for the Oxford Street flagship? 

Before I go totally VM-mad on you, it's back to the panel for the last few reflections on retail and fashion. 

Q. Is retail dead?
Natalie - Brands have become more established than retailers; with a brand you get a story and an emotional connection when you buy into something. Luxury brands can give snippets of information to potential customers and not lose what they're about.
Geoff, Editd - Some high street retailers are treating their company like a brand, such as Topshop or Reiss, but others like Debenhams don't manage to do this.
Tamara, Mintel - I do think the death of the high street is unlikely.
Molly - You have to bear in mind that 90% of word of mouth still happens offline - only 2-5% is online - and most of it comes from real experiences we've had, and we still love going to the shops. Fashion is very sensual as it's all about textures, colours, smells... You just need to give people a real emotional and physical experience in your store and they will talk about you.

Q. Is the future for social media to deliver customer service?
Jo - You have to empower your social media people to give the right answers, as reputation is everything. For example, Google Places affects your ranking on Google +.
M - There are certain expectations of customers, such as getting an answer on Twitter in a few hours or at least by 24 hours' time, and an answer from Facebook in a few days. The problem comes from Customer Services only being able to answer within office hours. One of the good things about social media is that if you build up loyal customers they will also defend you against the negative feedback.
Event chairperson - British Airways is a great example of customer service issues. Their Twitter bio said that they were available between 9-5 GMT from Monday-Friday, but what happens in between? This is a company that flies 24/7.

Q. Who has the power to say what is in fashion? The industry is elitist but suddenly everyone has a DSLR and yet they're not a photographer, and everyone has a pen but they're certainly not all writers.
J - Fashion has to be accessible.
N- Social media is great for giving everyone a voice, but not all brands give the same experience. Luxury and high street give a totally different commercial experience. Celine doesn't even sell online, so you have to go and buy it in person.
M- It's worth remembering that social media is not a democracy; it's owned by big capitalist companies. The people who use it can afford the phone or the computer to be able to use the networks.
G - The Arab Spring definitely had something to do with social media and people felt like consumers of the government.

And that was that - slightly strange that we closed by discussing the Arab Spring, but then again it's always refreshing to show how people in the industry are not just thinking about clothes all the time. Retail is massive but its links to social media are also relative in terms of how we all act as consumers.

If you have any thoughts on what the panellists brought to the discussion then feel free to add them below.


  1. This is a really good overview of the day. This was one of my favorite talks from Social Media Week as I think it is a marketing tool that many brands are getting confused with. The line between too much and not enough is very slim nowadays and therefore it is becoming harder and harder to please consumers.


    1. Hi Katie,

      Thanks for your comment - I'm glad you enjoyed the event as well! I agree with you that brands are getting confused about social media, and it's really hard for them to know how to approach it if they're not used to being open with consumers in that very direct way.

      Polly x


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