At first glance, it’s no surprise the inaugural Glossy Forum found these topics to be the primary problems plaguing fashion executives in their struggle to master new platforms and find new growth channels. But at second look it seems to reveal the disappointing truth that today’s tactics have distracted decision makers from focusing on the future-facing strategies that will drive business tomorrow.
While “Data & Technology” is a broad category that touches every aspect of modern retail, Snapchat and influencers are not what a business’ success are built on. Instead, they’re just trendy ways to communicate a brand’s story and (hopefully) reach the target audience.
Although many companies can get hung up on these types of tactical execution (reflected in one executive’s comment “No ready for Snapchat”), that is just distracting from the core issues that can prevent fashion brands from nailing their Snapchat or influencer strategy.
Snapchat Problems = Storytelling Problems
Although fashion executives think they’re describing Snapchat problems, they’re issues may actually stem from fundamental storytelling problems. How do I know? Well, next to Twitter SnapChat’s unfiltered feel makes it one of the simplest social media platforms to create content for. After all, it doesn’t require technical skills (can you use a camera?), special tools (just a smartphone), or even money. Since there’s nothing difficult about recording temporary, low quality video, the difficulty lies in a fashion house’s ability to develop a clear story they want to communicate to their audience.
Luckily for these brands, fodder for great stories is all around them! Not only is their business visually appealing, it also utilizes the talents of fascinating characters like designers, photographers, models, marketers and more. These are all mini stories that will eagerly be consumed by followers who want an inside look at the brands they love. Short on story ideas? Ask yourself these questions to start the brainstorming:
- Is there a person or team that’s does essential work, but rarely gets recognized?
- Are there any customers or buyers who have an interesting personal relationship with the brand?
- How are individual components of the product or business produced?
- Where could we remove the “movie magic” and give an inside look?
- How is our company doing good for the community or customers?
The best part about Snapchat is that these sneak peeks don’t need to look picture perfect like they do for YouTube and Instagram. If the production value is low that just adds to the authenticity and “behind-the-scenes” feeling that users of this platform love! No, the fashion industry isn’t always full of glamor, but thankfully most snaps and stories don’t need to feature huge, splashy events. Just think of the Devil Wears Prada — people LOVE that movie and it’s really just telling the story of Anne Hathaway’s life as a secretary. But because it’s at a ~fashion magazine~ people think it’s amazing. (Oh, an Meryl Streep. She also makes it fabulous.)
Because people love fashion, they want to watch it, and it’s interesting by default. Fashion brands should use that to their advantage.
If this seems simple, that’s because it is. However, there is one more way for businesses to amp up their Snapchat game and help it become a clear, business-driving channel: Bring in a personality. At it’s core, Snapchat allows its users to see and share personal stories without all the polish of other platforms. That one-on-one connection is what has made the social network compelling and will take a brand’s presence to the next level.
Despite most companies’ gut instinct, this personality doesn’t need to come from Instafamous models who charge $10K a snap. The personality a brand selects just needs to have energy, a persona that’s relatable to the target audience, and clear storytelling abilities. Though this may sound like a rare trifecta, I would guess that most forward-thinking companies already employ a charismatic, tech-savvy teammate who fits the bill. Even if a brand wants to outsource this kind of talent, their salary would still be less than Q1’s budget for influencer posts at many large companies. For real.
One final note — throughout this section we’ve assumed that a brand’s audience is on and engaged with Snapchat. That assumption should be challenged. Although Snapchat grew 27% in 2016, the platform’s demographics still skew young. In fact, almost a quarter of its users haven’t graduated from high school. While it’s a great idea to invest in Gen Z and build that aspirational audience, high-end brands won’t see those eyeballs convert into dollars any time soon.
Rather than attempting to generate awareness with future customers, a more immediate payoff can potentially be found in the nearly identical platform, Instagram Stories. Although Snapchat’s growth numbers seem remarkable, their 59 million-person user base looks unimpressive compared to Instagram’s 600 million. While the platform still has room to mature, advertisers may prefer to invest time in Instagram where superior ad offerings and an algorithmic news feed allow brands like Nike to receive 800,000 views on a story, where similar content on Snapchat only delivers 7,000.
Irrelevant Influencer Bubble
The third challenge plaguing these industry leaders is the “influencer bubble” — a subject that Glossy loves to cover. And I get it. The remarkable influence that influencers have, is truly a phenomenon. The publication is totally right to question whether companies should be paying a premium for an influencer endorsement — especially when prices are at their highest. But the inevitable end of the mega influencer shouldn’t be scary for businesses. In fact, it should be a welcome change.
When the bubble bursts, a lot of the low-value, high-follower count influencers that businesses have to sift through in order to execute an ROI generating influencer strategy will disappear. Of course, the few people who actually bring $30K worth of value to their brand partnerships will keep sitting pretty right on the top, which means people like Leandra Medine are not going anywhere. They still have what every brand wants: a large, valuable audience. If a company wants to get in front of those high quality eyeballs, they’ve got to pay up just like they always have.
Instead, the class of influencers that will be hit hardest are the ones who fall below her: The influencers who seem like they have a huge audience, but are really just being followed by thousands of horny dudes. The “thought leaders” who have a gigantic, spammy list of purchased emails and subscribers who don’t give a damn what they have to say. Once these individuals are pushed out, marketing teams will no longer have to sift through long lists of pretenders who don’t deliver real value. There will be a short list of the best and that’s it.
That doesn’t mean the channel is heading toward a high-cost monopoly though. Micro-influencers will scrape by with minimal damage when this shift happens. After the first spending dip, fashion brands will be forced to focus on quality over quantity and look for influencers who have a smaller bands of passionate followers. Yes, their teams team will have to do A LOT more digging to find these little gems, but it shouldn’t be too difficult for brands who truly understand multi-faceted person that is their ideal customer (back to knowing your audience!). These new opportunities will be lower cost and provide more flexibility, so businesses can communicate their message in the most effective, fun way.
Brands Need to Change Focus
Some of the challenges that fell outside the top five were:
- Future of Retail (#7)
- Consumer Engagement (#9)
- Innovation & New Learning (#10)
What? I know these are still being acknowledged as challenges, but how are they not the definitive top three? The type of attitude that doesn’t consider the “Future of Retail” its #1 challenge is what caused the fashion industry to be laggards in the e-commerce space. Come on, guys. We just went through this. You’re not ahead of the game just because you’ve had an online presence for the last few years. Augmented reality is the future. Interactive dressing rooms are the future. Mobile-only retailers are the future. And in today’s world, the future is barreling toward us at top speed. Fashion executives should be the people who are focused on tomorrow. Let marketing teams deal with the social media platform du jour.