Mobile Connects Fashion (and distrupts retail)

As one of the more forward thinking sectors, it’s no surprise that the fashion industry has generally embraced the mobile channel.

Early apps from the luxury brands were disappointing, but companies such as Nike (if we are allowed to call them a fashion brand) have created some excellent mobile campaigns. And it’s not just apps either; Marc Jacobs and Jimmy Choo have both experimented with Foursquare, Diesel ran a ‘scan to like of Facebook’ QR code and Louis Vuitton created their own designer QR code.

Mobile has become important to all brands, but especially those in retail. We are seeing an increasingly ‘smart’ world. One where consumers can shop, share and compare anywhere they are. We have seen the rise of new behaviours, such as ‘showrooming’ which is distrupting the traditional retail and ecommerce spaces which fashion brands inhabit. We are also seeing a consumer shift away from print media, the traditional home to many fashion brands, to mobile channels. However, the US analyst, Mary Meeker has shown that there has not been a corresponding shift in brand spending. Whilst many fashion brands have created some great engagement through social media, few have been able to do the same in mobile. Who is doing mobile well, and what are the trends for the future?

New Content Platforms

Content, particularly in print format, has always been important for fashion brands. However with the consumer move from print media, brands need to develop new forms of content for the emerging platforms of mobile and tablet devices.

ASOS is a great example of how a fashion retailer is addressing this. Fashion Up is a magazine app for iPhone and iPad. Rather than creating new apps, Fashion Up acts as a platform app to deliver new updated content, offers or even push alerts. The brand has always produced good content through their printed magazine, but distribution outside the UK was always a problem. Fashion Up has allowed ASOS to reach new audiences in the Europe and US with little marketing spend. The next development will be their ‘Daily Edit’ of editors’ picks, which will only be available on mobile devices.

The Rise of The New

Another behavior change with our smart, connected devices has seen consumers become creators, commentators and journalists. You only have to look at the Arab Spring, to see how camera phones combined with Twitter and YouTube shifted the reporting of events away from the major media channels.

To some extent, the same is true for the world of fashion. Just search Instagram for tags such as #streetfashion or #style and see the results. There are also a growing number of apps and channels specifically for the fashion consumer. is a good example of the trend away from print to  SoMoLo (social, mobile, location) channels. Think of as ‘Instagram for Street Fashion’. It brings immediacy, choice and sharing outside of the traditional media channels.

Many fashion brands are successfully using Instagram in their social media campaigns. It’s hard to mention the channel though, without including Burberry (if you want to see another luxury brand using the channel well, then take a look at Tiffany). When it comes to the luxury sector, the brand pretty much owns the social media world, and it is no different with Instagram. The company has been delivering shots from the catwalks and fashion shoots for a few years and gained nearly ½ million followers.

Brands and Consumers: Co-Creation

Fashion brands need to think beyond mobile as simply a one way content platform. The shift away from old media towards user generated rich content means that brands need to create a conversation with their consumers. Co-creation is one of the best methods of achieving that. Top Shop (who do social well, but mobile not so well), used Instagram for a summer 2011 campaign called ‘Wish You Were at Topshop’. Store visitors were offered a free summer makeover. There was an iPad on hand so customers could take photos through Instagram and share them. At that time, Instagram was pretty niche, but by using it in-store with the iPad it became an accessible creation tool. Users shared over 2000 photos. A pretty good result, but the real impact was that they were posted on the Topshop Facebook page. There were 2,500 comments and over 5 million page views (and a 25k increase in online visitors).

As Instagram grows in popularity it is bringing new co-creation opportunities for fashion brands. Currently, Foot Locker are running their #kickstagram campaign, collecting a range of images from their users. If Ford’s #fiestagram is anything to go by, then Instagram is the on-trend channel for co-creation. The motor manufacturer had over 60,000 entries during their 6-week campaign. They extended the entries into the physical world with an exhibition of winning photos, and live updates on digital billboards.

Shops Won’t Be Shops

Over 28% of smartphone users have purchased clothes on their device … whilst they are in a competitors store (Google Think Insight, 2012). This presents a major challenge for the retail sector. And an opportunity. With so many consumers using smartphones, the retail experience can be almost anywhere. Tesco’s Homeplus campaign in Korea kicked began a trend of this new style of shopping.

A couple of interesting examples form the world of fashion retail demonstrates the possibilities. The online fashion retailer, Net-A-Porter created their ‘Window Shop’ campaign. They put posters in store windows in New York and London. When scanned, each item came alive with videos of models walking down the catwalk. Customers could then tap through and purchase the clothes. Although it was just one night only, the campaign received 2500 scans on the night, and considerable PR value.

Tesco’s fashion brand F&F opened a pop-up store in London during the Jubilee celebrations. They took the unusual step of having no tills. Instead customers could purchase by scanning the QR code on the clothing tags or using iPads supplied in-store. By taking shop staff out from behind the tills, it created a more customer focused-friendly experience. Urban Outfitters have now taken a similar step into to remove the tills from their stores, and arming their staff with iPads to take payments (in much the same way as an Apple store).

Mobile Connects Devices

The next iteration of the digital channel will be to connect to the devices around us. From TVs to cars to washing machines, many products will have apps which will be managed through smartphones. For the fashion sector, this may take the form of wearable technology. I say ‘may’ because wearable technologies general fail on the fashion front, making the wearer look somewhat ridiculous. Perhaps accessories are the answer, as Nike’s Fuel wristband has shown. Google also think’s the future is in wearable technologies, namely their Glass project. These glasses project and augmented reality environment to the wearer, powered by an Android smartphone. Google aren’t the only ones creating these types of glasses, but theirs are the most high profile. Some commentators have said that they would only be interested in wearing them when they are designed by Ray Bans.

It looks like the fashion world is accepting wearable technologies though. At Diane von Furstenberg’s New York and London Fashion Week shows, all the models came down the catwalk wearing Google’s Glass(es).

You can see this article in presentation form here, on Slideshare

One thought on “Mobile Connects Fashion (and distrupts retail)

  1. Pingback: When Fashion and Mobility Meet

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