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business Editor's pick social media

#Longread: Is Twitter still relevant for fashion brands?

The Burberry Tweetcam campaign on Twitter in 2015
The Burberry Tweetcam campaign on Twitter in 2015

As far as social media platforms go, Twitter is fairly down the list for fashion brands these days. Where once it led the pack with such initiatives as the Burberry Tweetwalk in 2011, even its Tweetcam in 2015, its coverage of late surrounds more in the way of axed products (video app Vine for instance), an acquisition fall out (no one wants to buy it) and increased job losses and exits (including many senior execs) – all of which led to record lows in its share price during 2016.

Couple that with persistently stagnant user growth, and it raises a real question mark over Twitter’s future. So what do fashion brands need to know in terms of whether they should or shouldn’t invest time and money in the platform in 2017?


The numbers

Although phenomenally successful over the past decade, in recent years Twitter has fallen behind its peers. The main issue is flat user growth, which impacts negatively on revenue.

On average, Twitter had 317 million monthly active users in Q3 2016, up 3% year-on-year. This compares to Facebook’s 1.79 billion, up 16% yoy and Instagram’s 600 million, which is double that of 2014. Snapchat doesn’t disclose monthly figures, suggesting that its engagement is so high it prefers to talk about dailies. It has a reported 150 million daily active users, compared to Twitter’s estimated 136 million.

In terms of revenue, Twitter is therefore finding it particularly difficult to attract brand marketers to advertise on a platform with restricted growth (albeit its advertising revenue was up 6% year-on-year in Q3 2016). What’s perhaps more troubling for the long run in that vein, however, is a potential shift in the way the platform is used.


First for news?

Twitter has long been considered the go-to platform for breaking news – often reporting on stories ahead of mainstream media channels. One in five PR disasters even break on Twitter, according to marketing tool, Year Ahead. And Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey’s focus is indeed reportedly on the social media app as a global information news network.

As social media expert, Karinna Nobbs, explains: “Many customers use Twitter as a news platform, so with the right analytics, if it is right for your target, you should be on it.” She also suggests that fashion brands use Twitter for building relationships with journalists and publishers.

Is Twitter still relevant for the fashion industry?
Is Twitter still relevant for the fashion industry?

Yet, according to Paul Berry, founder and CEO of RebelMouse, even publishers are moving slowly away from the platform. He told Digiday: “Five, 10 years ago, there was a lot of emphasis on building Twitter followings, traffic. For new media companies, Twitter is the afterthought and the side job. It used to be one person on Facebook, one person on Twitter, and now it’s three people on Facebook and half a person on Twitter.”

Further stats from the same Digiday piece show that 59% of Twitter users do indeed get news on the service, third after Reddit and Facebook. But only 16% of adults in the US use Twitter in the first place, and only 9% of adults get news there. That compares to Facebook being used by 67% of U.S. adults, with 44% of US adults getting news there, according to Pew Research Center.

Twitter has been introducing new features in a bid to combat this, and both grow and retain engaged users. Included is its livestreaming service Periscope, and “Twitter Moments”, its storytelling feature enabling users to gather (and consume) tweets under themes, or indeed news stories. In truth, however, they still haven’t made much of an impact, while Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat continue to storm ahead – especially with live video.


Fashion application

Within the fashion industry specifically, there is reasonable usage of the platform nonetheless, especially during fashion weeks – arguably the industry’s most newsworthy occasions. 503,404 Tweets were tagged #LFW for spring/summer 2016, according to the British Fashion Council. But engagement is significantly higher on Instagram. For spring/summer 2017, Burberry for instance received 415,300 likes on Instagram compared to 28,750 likes and retweets on Twitter, according to Stylight. That trend continues for most other designers.

Speaking anonymously, one industry insider said: “Twitter has become the last, and at best the fourth social media channel I think about when thinking about our communications strategy [behind Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat]. I would argue Pinterest… and possibly even LinkedIn are more relevant to fashion and e-commerce today.”

Of course some fashion brands haven’t ever used Twitter at all. Christopher Kane for instance hasn’t posted a single tweet (though its reserved account has approximately 4,500 organic followers). By comparison the brand’s Instagram account has 226k followers with over 1,350 posts.

The fact is, the internet has shifted from being a text-based entity, to a visual and video one. While Twitter has attempted to keep up with this movement, for fashion brands particularly, other platforms have become more appealing and perceivably more suitable.

Another anonymous source explains: “Fashion brands have always thought visual-first, they were just previously restricted by what the social media channels enabled. When Instagram took off, they suddenly got their version of digital beauty – something that was in keeping with the aesthetic they were trying to portray and at huge scale. They’ve grown fast on that platform and engagement remains high, albeit with its own algorithmic challenges. The new flurry of live video options – on Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat – all give them new means to provide insights, news and updates from the brand too, and importantly in quite a ‘cool’ way. It’s entirely possible they just don’t need Twitter anymore.”

Belstaff on Twitter
Belstaff on Twitter

That’s not to say everyone feels that way of course. One example of a brand that makes the best of what Twitter has to offer is Belstaff. Its global marketing manager, Melina Fenby, explains the brand’s current strategy includes using Twitter as “our news, events and information hub to grow brand loyalty”. She says the team uses Twitter for influencer engagement (motorsport and adventure figures resonate well with the Belstaff community) and event/PR activity (the Goodwood Festival of Speed content was particularly popular).

Outlining Belstaff’s Twitter strategy going forward, Fenby added: “The real focus for us is to generate meaningful engagement with our existing fans and relevant micro-communities.”


Championing customer service

Unsurprisingly where Twitter does otherwise resonate for retail fashion brands particularly is in the realm of customer service.

ASOS for instance has a dedicated Twitter account specifically for queries. @ASOS_Heretohelp is among the top 10% of help handles with an average response time of five minutes. It has over 180,000 followers of its own, against the main @ASOS account’s 1.01 million.

Others including Nike, Jack Threads and Lululemon are incredibly strong from a customer service perspective on the channel too. Overall, two-thirds of brands tracked by L2 use their Twitter accounts for customer service.

While the average fashion brand communicates with just 64 customers per month via Twitter posts, according to L2, Lululemon addresses the concerns of more than 900 customers each month and even provides personalised product recommendations. Other stand out accounts include Macy’s and Marks & Spencer, which both receive more than 10,000 Twitter mentions and communicate with more than 800 customers each month.

When customers are taking this route, they expect brands to respond quickly to mentions and queries, more so than anywhere else. This fits with the fact cloud-based social customer service provider, Conversocial, found over half of consumers (54.4%) prefer new messaging channels such as SMS, Facebook Messenger, Twitter, and WhatsApp as their primary form of communication with brands compared to legacy channels such as email, phone, and web chat.

ASOS_Heretohelp on Twitter
ASOS Here to Help on Twitter

That’s not overly a surprise. But the truth is, much like storytelling and live news, nailing customer service is also becoming increasingly competitive from a platform side. Facebook Messenger has gained an enormous amount of ground throughout 2016 as one of the early leaders in the chatbot space for instance (behind Wechat in China). This is the introduction of artificial intelligence-enabled automated conversations through a chat interface, which for retailers is especially useful when applied to scalable customer service. Though still nascent, they’re expected to increasingly resonate with consumers.

Twitter therefore, has had to up its game in this space too. In November 2016, it launched bot-like features within direct messages for brands. Included are automated “welcome” responses, as well as “quick replies”, which let users choose from a series of pre-written sentences or prompts (like “what’s the status of my order”) to facilitate faster resolutions.

Cleverly, that also takes some of the weighty customer service conversations out of the feed, and into a private space instead, freeing up accounts to refocus on the storytelling piece Twitter is still aiming for. In that same vein, the company is also rolling out “curated profiles” to a handful of brands, in order to allow them to showcase the best of their content, including that of the visual and video type favoured by the fashion industry. Notably, Twitter is pushing this side of things far more heavily than it is the idea of conversions for retailers. It is actively phasing out its “buy” button for instance.

Sedge Beswick, managing director at SEEN Connects, and former head of social at ASOS, commented: “I still think [Twitter] plays a huge role from a customer care POV primarily – visual for Instagram, Facebook for innovation and Twitter can be the supporting platform where people know they can get timely, supportive and relevant customer care support […] especially if we get the bots right.”


Comment

Twitter isn’t going away just yet, but it’s got a lot of work to do if it wants to re-forge real relevance with the fashion industry. What does this mean in terms of how you should approach it? At this point in time, the answer is relatively dependent on the type of brand that you are – mass-market retailers, department stores and more niche, or specific, brands (like Lululemon), who have developed a level of customer service activity, will likely want to stick with the status quo, explore new features and continue using the platform as an opportunity to converse with consumers on a query-led basis while engagement is high. 900 happy customers, is still 900 happy customers. Same goes for just 64. But analyse the data in terms of what you really get out of it over time.

There’s also still something to be said for using Twitter with news in mind too, but be aware of the fact it’s less of a conversion tool and more of a PR one, and even that may well be only on a good day. Approach it from a content sharing point of view, but figure out within that what your followers actually respond to and adjust accordingly. Whether you spend any advertising budget alongside will make sense thereafter.

The simple truth is, if you’re much more of a visual brand, or indeed one already channeling your focus primarily through other platforms, you may want to keep it that way. For those hovering somewhere in the middle, it’s worthwhile maintaining your Twitter accounts, but doing so by doubling up on resource, rather than promoting anything completely unique, is probably wise.

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data technology

Lyst uses augmented reality to digitally dress naked TV star

Lyst augmented reality
Lyst’s AR campaign featuring reality TV star Spencer Matthews

Online marketplace Lyst presented the world’s first augmented reality (AR) “humannequins” to celebrate the launch of London Fashion Week last week.

Near-naked models were on display in a store window ready for passersby to digitally dress them using AR on their tablets or mobiles. Included among them was reality TV star Spencer Matthews.

Viewers selected items from the hottest outfits and styles currently trending on Lyst in central London, based on an algorithmic interrogation of millions of searches and transactions fulfilled through the platform. Creative tech firm, M, captured textures and garment details close up using a 360-degree photographic rig. Shoppers could then zoom in/out and around the models without diminished picture quality.

Showcasing AR’s playful side, Lyst used technology reminiscent of Cher Horowitz’s high-tech wardrobe in Clueless. When the film debuted in 1995, computer-generated wardrobe organisation was too distant to contemplate seriously on a commercial level. Fast-forward 20 years later and numerous brands have explored what this might look like in reality, albeit largely still at a campaign or PR level.

Other brands utilising AR during fashion week include Rebecca Minkoff who partnered with shopping app Zeekit in New York. Viewers could upload a photo of themselves and “try on” garments from the catwalk. Meanwhile, models at the Desigual show wore make-up and accessories mimicking Shapchat filters, flipping the whole idea of AR around with amusing results.

AR blurs the lines between reality and digital, creating an experience that can be shared, as per the Pokémon Go phenomenon. Expect to see more of this type of technology during fashion week this season, and beyond.

Interested to find out more about augmented reality? Join us for the next in our #FashMash insights series for a deep-dive masterclass and hotly-anticipated panel debate on this technology.

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business e-commerce

Out of home screens look to capitalise on fashion week’s see-now, buy-now moves

Ocean out of home LFW
Ocean’s out of home screens in London

Ocean is broadcasting live from London Fashion Week (LFW) this season with exclusive content from the shows as well as previews and highlights throughout the five days of events.

Displayed on large format digital screens across the UK, Ocean is building on last season’s successful collaboration with the British Fashion Council (BFC), when it became the first out of home (OOH) media owner in the country to live stream directly from LFW, reaching a reported 11.5 million people.

While OOH might be considered a more traditional advertising route, it’s positioning itself to be considered part of the new wave of digital innovations reshaping the fashion industry. Seemingly there’s never been a better time.

On the eve of LFW (which generates over £100 million of orders each season, contributing to the £28 billion that goes into the UK economy from the fashion industry), Natalie Massenet, chairman of the BFC, commented: “Our designers continue to grow their businesses, embrace technology and innovate. In February, Burberry ignited the movement of ‘see-now, buy-now’, which was seen in NY and will now be seen in London.”

Indeed, numerous British brands are realising the potential to increase revenue by selling direct-to-customer during fashion week, and adopting the “see-now, buy-now” model accordingly. Providers like Ocean, which offer an alternative way of reaching consumers, stand to benefit accordingly.

Ocean CEO Tim Bleakley said: “Our ongoing collaboration with the British Fashion Council amplifies the fact that some of the labels will be showing see-now, buy-now collections. Out of home screens allow designers and retailers to reach and influence significant audiences across the UK.”

Half of Ocean’s 14 screens are positioned outside London, including in Birmingham, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle.

Before the digital era, LFW was strictly a trade-only affair, bringing collections together in order to be viewed solely by those working in the global fashion industry. With so much change afoot, Ocean is one of many providers who will be looking to capitalise further on this shift to a consumer-facing event, offering brands another channel to reach consumers in real-time.

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business e-commerce mobile

Luxury brands are relatively primitive in the world of email marketing – report

anchor_email

Despite the fact email is one of the most cost effective forms of digital marketing, and a proven route to drive traffic, only 30% of luxury brands are using it to its full potential, says customer engagement specialists ContactLab.

Its new report, conducted in conjunction with Exane BNP Paribas, suggests email marketing practice is relatively primitive in the sector, and reveals an opportunity gap surrounding better segmentation and personalisation of content, as well as integration with other channels.

It highlights brands including Burberry, Cartier and Armani as leading on its “Email Competitive Map”, comparative to others such as Cèline, Prada and Givenchy who are dragging behind. Unsurprisingly, such email performance seems to align with overall digital competency, according to the research.

contactlab_email

Other negative factors specific to email strategy include excessive frequency and an overwhelming commercial bias. But it’s brands who do not exploit data collection to achieve full segmentation that create the largest impression of complacency, it suggests.

Marco Pozzi, author of the research, says: “Achieving customer segmentation will always be a challenge but there remains a lot of room for luxury brands to differentiate in their emails and create more personalised campaigns. Simply sending generic content and treating all customers as one does not build a relationship with customers. Customer shopping habits have changed and they expect an integration of different channels as part of the omnichannel experience. ”

It’s not all bad news however, there are a few luxury brands who do already distribute personalised messages. Of those, Dolce and Gabbana is leading, followed by Armani, which addresses recipients according to gender/title, building a strong relationship with customers in the process.

Continuing on a positive note, ContactLab pointed out that, across the board there is good performance on email localisation (key languages) and structure (composition, visualisation).

contactlab_email2

“With the modern customers having an overload of content and often bombarded with emails, brands need to ensure the emails they distribute are relevant and thus capturing the attention of the consumer,” Pozzi adds. ContactLab’s study suggests customers prefer a varied mix of content that isn’t too commercial. Hermès leads the way with a balanced mix of branding, commercial and store-focused content, it highlights.

The report outlines the fact email marketing offers opportunities for brands to receive large amounts of traffic via smartphones and tablets particularly. Time spent browsing on such devices is notoriously short, so targeted emails that stand out from the crowd are essential.

So what does the future look like for email marketing? Luxury brands need to review the different services they offer and integrate cross-channel communication. A small number of brands ask for ZIP codes and postcodes, which could be used in conjunction with store locators. Elements like ‘buy now’ buttons and links to shoppable apps should also be introduced. Right now, only Cartier includes a “Book an Appointment” tab and only Burberry offers a “Collect in Store” option. Technology to incorporate cross-channel communication through email is already available, so expect to see more of this sometime soon.

It’s worth remembering that although email is only one aspect of the ecosystem, the impact of effective digital marketing can result in a 40% increase in revenue. A separate study by McKinsey also shows that 75% of luxury consumers interact with at least one digital touchpoint before making a sale in the offline world. A strategic use of email that caters to the user’s needs must be implemented.

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social media

Social media by the numbers: the big fashion week trends

Kim_NYFW

With the autumn/winter 2016 fashion week season now behind us, it’s time to run the numbers, crunch the stats and crown the social media winners and losers of the month.

Or try to…

Conflicting data and contradictory reports on brand statistics are published daily during New York, London, Milan and Paris, making it increasingly difficult to compose an accurate picture of exactly what’s what. But, equally they enable lots of thought around social media trends in general and which way the industry is moving with what it uses, favours and finds the most success on.

Given the hot debate currently underway around whether designers should move to in-season, consumer-facing shows or not, lots of this sort of information counts. So here’s a breakdown of what you need to know:


Instagram continued to dominate

During New York Fashion Week (NYFW), 427,000 images were shared on Instagram, generating more than 113 million social engagements (likes and comments), according to Traeger Communications. Year-on-year, this is a 47% increase in images and a 30% increase in engagements, proving that Instagram continues to be a powerful medium for brands that want to join in the fashion week conversation. Natalie Massenet, chairman of the British Fashion Council (BFC) added during London Fashion Week (LFW)’s launch that “97% of the BFC’s designers questioned in a survey were on Instagram”.


Designers embraced Snapchat to reach Generation Z

Snapchat exploded across fashion month, hitting all four fashion weeks in a big way. Social media uptake usually filters down through New York and London before reaching Milan and Paris a couple of seasons later, but the fashion industry couldn’t afford to ignore this trend. New designers joining included Tommy Hilfiger, Marc Jacobs, Mulberry, Gucci, Dior and more. “11% of social media activity around Paris Fashion Week (PFW) was attributed to Generation Z,” reported influencer engagement platform Zoomph, pointing in the direction of Snapchat particularly. Keen to establish brand loyalty with the next generation of consumers (Gen Z is considered to be anyone born after the mid-late 90s), brands used Snapchat to reach this sought after demographic where they already live. Snapchat’s core users are 13-24 years old.


Twitter is still relevant but sees less engagement

Contradicting general consensus, Zoomph reported that 98% of social media activity relating to PFW was on Twitter and only 2% on Instagram. Business intelligence firm L2 reported a similar trend during the Tommy Hilfiger show at NYFW. The designer posted 51 images on Instagram compared to 197 tweets. Mind you, much of that may be to do with the nature of the platform – fast-paced comments versus more considered images. Backing that is the fact that Tommy’s posts converted into 920,528 likes and comments on Instagram, while the larger number of posts on Twitter only saw a total of 30,971 likes and retweets in return.


Facebook lost ground but innovative product appeals

The social media platform largely associated with Millennials continued to fall out of favour with the fashion crowd. Facebook activity surrounding NYFW has declined year-on-year since 2014 according to the L2 report. The pay-to-play nature of the platform is said to be the reason why, with brands instead opting to focus resources elsewhere. Facebook is however experimenting in new spaces in a bid to garner renewed attention. Its Facebook 360 product allows users to experience virtual content first-hand by controlling the rotation on it themselves. Refinery 29 shot eight shows at NYFW using the immersive technology.


Others opted for a digital detox

While that debate rages on around fashion weeks transforming into consumer-facing events, others have been rejecting social media altogether. This season, Massimo Giorgetti banned social media from his MSGM show at Milan Fashion Week MFW) for instance, suggesting guests simply enjoy the show instead of watching it through their smartphones. A number of others did the same including Jacquemus in Paris and Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen’s brand The Row in New York. Belstaff also didn’t allow photographs to be taken of its capsule collection with Liv Tyler in London.


Luxury brands were outpaced by savvy collaborations

If they weren’t banning it, they were doing the total opposite and teaming up with celebs in order to hit the biggest numbers of social media instead. Rihanna modelling her own Fenty x Puma collection for instance caused an enormous stir with 140,000 tweets being posted about it, according to Amobee Brand Intelligence. That was nearly 100,000 more than Ralph Lauren achieved in the same time period (47,000) and almost double that of Michael Kors (71,000). By comparison, Kanye West opened NYFW at Madison Square Gardens with his Yeezy season 3 collection to an audience of 18,000. On social media that generated 800,000 tweets.


Supermodels and influencers ruled

Once again the choice of models taking to the catwalk also appeared to be just as important as the clothes on show. High-profile names including Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner shared backstage insights with their own millions of followers – the former also doing a stellar job launching Tommy Hilfiger’s Snapchat account. A shot of the duo swapping hair colours for Balmain also exploded, generating the brand 144,000 likes and 3,500 comments. At NYFW, of the top 10 Instagram images by total engagements, eight were taken by models and influencers, including models and social influencers Jay Alvarrez and Alexis Ren, as well as Russian YouTube influencer Kate Clapp, according to data from Traeger Communications.


Kim killed it… again

One step ahead of younger sis Kendall was publicity machine Kim Kardashian West – who once again topped the social media leader boards across multiple platforms. Her promotion of the NYFW official app garnered nearly 800,000 engagements and was the most-successful image on Instagram during NYFW for instance. Kim also won Paris by posting a number of throwback images from the AW15 season as well as a controversial-yet-censored naked shot of herself that commanded a hefty 1.6 million likes.

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business e-commerce Editor's pick social media

Digging in to Reddit: does it work for fashion brands and retailers?

reddit

Late last week, Intel’s Sandra Lopez teamed up with Rebecca Minkoff for a conversation on social news site Reddit. The “AMA” (Ask Me Anything) encouraged users to pose questions about the roles of fashion and technology intertwining, as well as the opportunities for millennial women in STEM fields.

It was a strong example of something that worked on the platform – native to how its users operate, and filled with personal responses (from how Lopez and Minkoff got started in their careers, to how they managed their work/life balance, and why men never get asked that question).

Self-proclaimed as ‘the frontpage of the internet’, Reddit has a reported 202 million unique visitors a month. During 2015, it saw 82.54 billion page views across 88,700 active subreddits (sub forums). There were 73.15 million submissions, with 725.85 million comments made by 8.7 million total authors.

Risky business

The Intel/Minkoff example is one of many AMAs, but it’s still one of few of fashion brands and retailers really getting involved.

The uncensored and unpredictable nature of the site goes some way to explaining why. The platform was designed to be a space where like-minded individuals communicate without interference. Reddit is open source and moderated by unpaid volunteers. Users, known as “redditors”, create threads called subreddits, which other members with similar interests can join.

Initially the company had just five rules: “Don’t spam; Don’t ask for votes or engage in vote manipulation; Don’t post personal information; No child pornography or sexually suggestive content featuring minors; Don’t break the site or do anything that interferes with normal use of the site.” The lack of rules and regulations, fostered an “anything goes” culture that still defines Reddit today.

For a brand, therefore, entering a community like Reddit can be risky.

RedditAMA_Intel_RebeccaMinkoff

Frequent changes of senior management has done little to improve Reddit’s volatile reputation. Three different leaders have been in place over the past three years: Yishan Wong, Ellen Pao and Steve Huffman respectively, all with very different objectives. Pao’s 2014 strategy to clean up the darker side of Reddit and remove the less savoury elements for instance – like banning subreddits “fatpeoplehate” and “hamplanethatred”, which focused on shaming overweight people – angered core members who felt Poa’s intentions went against the free-speech ethos of Reddit.

But needless to say, this did make it more appealing on the brand side. Around the same time, Nordstrom created Nordstrom1901, the official Nordstrom subbreddit, to communicate with customers after noticing increased activity surrounding the brand on the platform. Nordstrom’s first post encapsulated the relaxed, genuine attitude Reddit users appreciate. “We are Redditors at heart and can’t wait to get to know the communities better. We’re here to help so questions, comments, etc. are all welcome,” it read.

Focusing on service and avoiding aggressive marketing, Nordstrom received a warm Reddit welcome. AMAs proved particularly popular. Real-time feedback also allowed Nordstrom to navigate any minor issues before they escalated into larger problems. Their venture onto Reddit appeared fruitful, so it’s unclear why Nordstrom1901 has been abandoned (the last official Nordstrom1901 post was 11 months ago). Often such moves come down to the advocate for a specific platform no longer being in the business, but it’s also likely a change of strategy was at play; if ROI wasn’t proving fruitful from the platform, resources could easily have been allocated elsewhere.

Ensuring authenticity

One brand that has converted conversation into revenue through Reddit is Uniqlo. Speaking to Marketing Land, Uniqlo’s e-commerce manager, Arielle Dyda (who manages the retailer’s Reddit involvement), explained that it now drives more traffic and revenue for the retailer than any other social channel.

Its efforts started on the platform in 2012 after traffic from Reddit crashed the soft launch of its e-commerce site. Today, 5% of its referral traffic comes from social media, with 64% of that from Reddit. Of the 3% of monthly sales from social media, 64% is also from Reddit. On a day when Dyda posts about a special deal, it can drive up to 20% of their online sales.

One particular subreddit – r/MaleFashionAdvice – is particularly fruitful, and Uniqlo isn’t even the most mentioned brand on there:

Reddit_malefashionadvice

The key to Uniqlo success surrounds authenticity, transparency and excellent customer service, says Dyda. She focuses on being real, but also on being playful. It helps that she uses her personal Reddit account, midnight1214, tagged as an official company representative.

“So just being able to be a genuine person is important. I joke around with them, I post memes. I’m savvy with the Reddit lingo and that makes me one of them. I’m not just Uniqlo, I’m midnight1214, and I understand the jokes and I understand frustrations, but I’m going to be here to help you when you need it,” she explains. She also leans on the community’s moderators for help so as not to seem too promotional at times.

Spending time getting to know the platform, answering questions and contributing, without imposing corporate strategies or marketing campaigns, distinguished Uniqlo from other companies entering Reddit. Dyda adds: “I think if another band wants to jump in, they really have to take the time and learn and understand first of all what are people saying about your company [on there].”

By comparison, US-based, outdoor apparel company REI, conducted insufficient research when they attempted to join the platform. Misjudging the importance of authenticity, CEO Jerry Stritzke started the conversation by highlighting REI’s decision to close on Black Friday. Seemingly unaware of the distain of brands using the site for advertising and marketing, he wrote: “Hi Reddit. I’m Jerry Strizke, CEO of REI. You might have heard about us recently when we announced that we would be closing all of our stores on Black Friday this year. We’re paying our 12,000 employees to take the day off and we’re encouraging them to opt out of the Black Friday madness and spend the day outdoors with loved ones…Ask me anything!”

His comments were interpreted as a publicity drive, prompting a dramatic backlash of negativity. Redditor phD_in_Random said: “I’ve never even heard of this company and I hate it already. We don’t have one in my city and I hope we never do.”

Strizke also missed a number of contentious questions from current and former employees surrounding a membership sales scheme the company runs. Strizke failed to grasp that leaving the discussion early, didn’t mean the conversation was over, but rather gave the impression he was avoiding tougher issues. One comment in particular got so blown up (there were some 5,000 responses on the AMA in total), that he had to return to Reddit later to address it.

Unsurprisingly, there’s been no further activity on Reddit from REI.

Native advertising

Steve Huffman, one of the original founders of Reddit, returned as CEO in July 2015, shifting the focus from imposing a level of moral decency to expansion. He is in charge of the business side of Reddit, while co-founder Alexis Ohanian concentrates on editorial aspects like Upvoted, Reddit’s new publication.

Here, a small team of editors sifts through the most interesting posts, rewriting stories worthy of further development. It aims to put a spotlight on all the hundreds of conversations that otherwise get lost in the noise of the platform. It also proves an opportunity for Reddit itself to monetise, by offering brands a safer way to enter through its native advertising scheme.

Sponsored posts are likewise written by the editorial team, and designed to fit with the nature of the content rather than through traditional advertising banners. In the interest of transparency, Reddit made its intentions clear from the off: “We will be working with brands on sponsored content, all of which will be visibly distinguished as such.”

Going forward, the introduction of Upvoted reflects the positive changes at Reddit. There’s a deeper understanding that if the site is to reach its full potential, management must act responsibly. Initiatives like providing a help section with advice on “Brandiquette”, for brands thinking of advertising, makes the site much more approachable.

Brands in other industries including food, literature and music have accordingly reported positive results (case studies available). With that in mind, fashion brands and retailers will also look to consider Reddit as a suitable advertising partner in the future.

Needless to say, for any brand thinking about stepping into the Reddit world in the meantime, operating within the context of the site is paramount. With such a large audience available to tap into, and proven revenue drivers at play when handled correctly, the opportunity is almost too good not to.

Categories
business Editor's pick mobile social media

Burberry launches latest WeChat initiative amid slowing China sales

Burberry_wechat_lunarnewyear

Digital pioneer Burberry is building on its longstanding partnership with Chinese social messaging platform WeChat with a gifting experience in celebration of the Lunar New Year.

WeChat users are invited to unwrap some of the brand’s iconic products using the app’s native swipe, tap and shake functions. At the end of the experience, they can also create and personalise digital Lunar New Year envelopes to send to friends and family to celebrate the holiday through the platform. WeChat users in China are also given the chance to win limited edition physical Burberry Lunar New Year envelopes. Lunar New Year inspired gifts are available to purchase online and in store.

The Lunar New Year experience is designed to entertain but also drive sales, making it a strong example of why Burberry remains ahead of its competitors in the digital sector. Its digital initiatives concentrate on providing engaging content all the while featuring a subtle underlying commercial aspect.

Crucially, however, the move comes at a time when sales in Asia are struggling and economic uncertainty dominates China. The company reported a slowdown in sales in Hong Kong and China in October, leading to it missing its sales growth forecasts and warning of an increasingly challenging environment for luxury goods, according to Reuters. While it suggested signs of recovery during November, the share price remains at a three-year low.

For anyone not familiar with WeChat, the free messaging and calling app was developed by Chinese company Tencent. It has nearly 650 million active users worldwide. Recognising the platform’s potential, Burberry first partnered with it during London Fashion Week in February 2014. This initiative focused on delivering an interactive catwalk, where users could personalise a digital version of the brand’s Made to Order plaques with their name in either English or Chinese characters.

The second stage of Burberry’s WeChat innovation, involved a parallel social experience at its Shanghai event in April 2014. Followers were able to interact with 360? views of the London & Shanghai set/skyline. This type of brand interaction was designed to appeal to tech-savvy Chinese millennials. The hope now, is that they start to spend more again.

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e-commerce Editor's pick mobile social media

Asos relaunches members-only platform as mobile-first, focused on education

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Asos HQ dispatched 1,300 shiny parcels last week and it had absolutely nothing to do with Christmas. The free gifts were instead part of a campaign to celebrate the relaunch of Access All Asos.

#AccessAllAsos, as it’s known, is a members-only platform where the UK-headquartered e-commerce site communicates and collaborates with a small selection of brand advocates. These “insiders” (including bloggers Laila Daho, Olivia Purvis and Robin James) get things like early access to new product and invites to brand events. In return, they inevitably provide thoughts and feedback to the company, as well as share all things Asos with their own growing fanbases.

While decreased activity in the program of late suggested the e-tailer was intending to abandon it, it turns out it was instead undergoing a dramatic makeover.

Central to those plans is its relaunch initially as a mobile-only platform, which is testament to its commitment to developing and expanding its mobile offering, and evidence of the intended millennial userbase. Unsurprisingly, a core part of the Asos strategy going forward is “to offer a totally optimised digital experience on any device”.

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Collaboration remains a key part of the all-new #AccessAllAsos but there’s also a distinct shift towards education. The University of Asos has been introduced, which aims to give users “the tools you need to grow your media savvy”. Rather than inspiring influencers and ambassadors with the standard freebies, this is about offering its loyal members the opportunities to gain new skills as well as exposure around building their own businesses.

This change of direction was also reflected in the selection of gifts Asos sent out in those shiny parcels, including new notebooks, pencil sets and a book on how to speak emoji.

Watch this space for further news: a spokesperson at Asos told us to expect a lot more with the initiative in 2016.

Images via @phasesofrobyn and @leebenecke