How Digitally Competent are Europe's Niche Fashion Brands?

Digital_IQ_Index_European_Niche_Fashion'While digital continues to dominate, many of Europe's niche fashion brands remain absent online.'That's the rather damning verdict of Professor Scott Galloway and his team at L2, a thinktank for digital innovation based at NYU Stern, after they turned their Digital IQ lens on to the world of niche fashion in Europe.Digital IQ is a weighted scoring system to assess the digital competence of luxury brands. Brands are rated in 4 categories - their site (40% of the final IQ rating), their digital marketing (search, display and email marketing, 30% of the rating) and their social media (15%) and mobile marketing efforts (15%).Brands are then ranked into 5 categories based on their IQ score - from Genius (140+) and Gifted (110-139) to Challenged (70-89) and Feeble (<70).The reason for Galloway's damning verdict on the sector?  Well, no brand was able to claim 'Genius' status and only 10 of the 46 analysed were rated as 'Gifted'. By contrast, 32 were rated as either 'Challenged' or 'Feeble'.Most niche fashion brands were found to underperform on a range of metrics:- 1/3 were still not selling online.- less than 1/2 were participating in paid search, with only 43% purchasing their own brand terms on Google.- their adoption of the 3 big social media platforms lagged well behind the global fashion players and even those that had adopted them often had rudimentary presences. For example, only 23% of the Facebook pages had a custom landing page.- only 1/3 offered any sort of mobile experience, with 18% of brands in the sample having a mobile site and 17% offering an application. Even for those that did have mobile sites, less than 30% offered a m-commerce option or a store locator.But it wasn't all doom and gloom.Both Vivienne Westwood and Superdry were praised for their Facebook presences - with Superdry in particular held up as a shining example of what can be achieved with regionally focused pages. In addition, both Aubade and Lancel were praised for achieving both significant followings and high levels of engagement on Facebook.Stella McCartney were commended for their successful twitter persona with close to 200,000 followers (as at October 2011 - well ahead of their nearest rival JP Gaultier at 18,000) and for their interactive iPad app.And the crown for most gifted niche fashion brand was scooped by Agent Provocateur, which won praise for the quality of their site experience, particularly their personalisation options, their social media integration across channels and the quality and popularity of their YouTube channel. In addition, Agent Provocateur was one of only 2 brands in the sample to offer both a mobile site and an application.Galloway's contention is that Digital IQ directly relates to shareholder value, and hence luxury brands that fail to embrace it are doing their shareholders a disservice. Given that the consumers of luxury are more likely to consume digital media, and are more likely to consume that media via a range of channels including mobile, he's got a point.Digital innovation is one area where the niche brands can genuinely compete with the global fashion players, unlike traditional media where the winner will always be the brand with the deepest pockets. And examples from the US such as Kate Spade, Tory Burch and Oscar de la Renta show that it can be done. European niche fashion brands need to grasp the digital 'nettle' if they're going to thrive in the competitive world of 21st century fashion.To download the Digital IQ Index for European Niche Fashion, click here.