3 Social Trends to Watch in Online Fashion Retailing

BigLive - a Platform used by DKNY2010 was the year that the fashion industry really embraced and found its voice on social media - setting up personas on Facebook and Twitter and gaining phenomenal followings with the lure of exclusive content once only reserved for the elite of the fashion world. Gucci's Facebook following now tops 4 million fans.  Burberry's is almost 5 million.But an industry that relies on constant re-invention isn't going to rest on its laurels - we expect the way the fashion industry uses social media to move on in 2011.  Here are some of the key trends to keep a close eye on.Expect to See Further Innovation in Existing Channels Streaming a live catwalk show and behind the scenes footage is the least social media fashion fans expect these days. 2011 will be a year of further innovations by the fashion industry within existing channels to keep fans engaged, to build communities around brands and also to leverage social media to more overtly drive ecommerce sales.For example, 2011 will see further developments in branded content that connects with customers on different levels and for different reasons than that which is purely product based. Look at Anthropologie's 'The ANTHROPOLiST' or French Connection's 'Manifesto' for different approaches to engaging with potential customers and communicating something of the brand's philosophy in search of kindred spirits.2011 will also see fashion brands do what they do on social media channels better, and with a greater level of involvement for their followers. For example, for AW11 Marc Jacobs Intl streamed both its MJ Collection and MbMJ shows in HD to increase the focus on the quality of Jacob's designs. In addition, social media viewers of the show, which was streamed on the website, via smartphones and iPads and via Facebook, were able to 'Like' and comment upon pieces live both via Facebook and Twitter, with comments on the latter being shared live with the online audience.Brands will also increasingly facilitate the social shopping phenomenon.  Consumers expect to be able to 'share' favoured products on Facebook and Twitter, offer opinions and read the opinions of others. Brands have a vested interest in making these processes easier for their customers because they make commercial sense - Juicy Couture saw an 160% increase in product purchase conversion by adding social sharing and consumer recommendations functionality to their US site.The Increasing Adoption of New Social Media ChannelsMany fashion afficionados are innovators and to be found colonising some of the newer, more niche social media channels.  Fashion brands will increasingly follow them on to those channels.Take Tumblr, a niche blogging platform but a highly visual one that is rapidly growing in popularity.  Tumblr has been adopted by a number of fashion bloggers because it's much better suited to showcasing photography than Twitter or Facebook and better for interacting and sharing than its blogging software rivals. In fact, 180 of Tumblr's top 100 blogs are fashion related. Fashion brands that have adopted the platform - including Oscar de la Renta and Alexander McQueen - have found it a productive platform for sharing their imagery and spreading the word virally via this highly influential audience.Or how about BigLive - a new technology which combines  live streaming with chat room functionality that allows an online audience to be hosted and to participate via their prefered social media channels.  DKNY recently used the platform for a catwalk show and were so pleased with the level of engagement (1,200 participating viewers) they're looking to use it again.But new channels don't necessarily need to be niche, or for that matter, online.  Burberry's Prorsum LFW AW11 catwalk show was screened exclusively on London's Piccadilly Circus sign.Where Crowdsourcing and Social MeetCrowdsourcing and social are being aligned to connect customers directly to designers.  The 'crowdsourcing' element involves 'up and coming' designers pitching their own ideas. The social element involves customers or members of the community voting on the designs that they'd like to see put into production.An example of this is Le Lab from BrandAlley.co.uk.  Each month, designers pitch their ideas for a piece of clothing, be it a summer dress or the perfect summer T-shirt.  Consumers vote on their favourite pieces which are the ones that are produced and sold on the site.Brand Alley's Le LabIn fact some sites, like Garmz, are totally based around this crowdsourcing/social concept, with the high-minded aim of connecting the real talent with the real consumer, without the 'brand' getting in the way.We expect to see this aspect of social commerce grow and become more mainstream as it involves consumers and makes them feel like they have a stake in the brand. And it lessens commercial risk - items are only put into production that already have an audience.Whatever happens in 2011, it's clear now that investment in the realm of social media realises significant returns in this sector.  Companies need to do more than keep their ears to the ground in terms of the latest fashion trends. They clearly need to keep abreast of the latest opportunities in social media too.

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