The Social Network
Social media is revolutionising the ways in which apparel brands are connecting with customers, both old and new. Anurima Das offers a glimpse of this e-trend.
Exploring social media marketing, which is changing the ways in which fashion brands connect with customers
A few decades ago, the idea of shopping was limited to taking a trip to the market and then selecting clothes after lengthy rounds of trial. The traditional shopping experience in India was first altered with the arrival of malls and multi-brand outlets, where you could shop for all your favourite brands, under one roof. In subsequent years, the shopping experience now became as easy as placing an order in just one click.
SOCIAL MEDIA HAS OPENED A NEW ROAD FOR BRANDS TO THINK CREATIVELY, SO THAT THEY COULD REACH A WHOLE NEW HITHERTO UNTOUCHED SEGMENT OF CONSUMERS, AND WIDEN THEIR REACH.
A fairly modern and recent phenomenon, online shopping was given a further boost by a fellow digital ally - Social Media. Various social media platforms have made direct contact with consumers and brought the world closer in every way. Fashion and apparel brands have utilised these online platforms to their advantage to market, promote, connect, and sell their products. Social media has opened a new road for brands to think creatively, so that they could reach a whole new hitherto untouched segment of consumers, and widen their reach.
“I started with my collaborations a year back when I first launched my blog page. Even when I was looking to reach out to brands and consumers using my blog, Instagram and Facebook have been my first priority. After every brand promotion, I gain followers along with customer queries, which I happily pass on to the brands. Social media does help in cross promotion, to a great extent. It can't bring a 100 per cent conversion and we can surely not completely expect it to do so, because ultimately it's a ‘social’ platform and people generally don't come with the mindset to buy all the time. However, social media is very relatable and thus it helps the brand to target the right audience,” explains stylist and blogger, Ingela Biswas of Pretcurry fame. Ingela further adds. “For me, it has just been a little over a year, so it’s hard to give you a proper success or conversion graph. But, so far, things have been only looking up. I have successfully collaborated with brands such as Latasita, Micronesium, Okhai, Suta, and RiniSeal, etc., to name a few and these are some of my favourites too. I have brands such as Niccobar, Doodlage, to name a few, on my wish list. I have definitely learnt a lot. From my personal experience, Instagram is one of the best platforms for a new brand/page to showcase their collections to the world. One more thing that I would like to add here is that managing a social media presence is not easy. It requires lots of follow up work and good strategy to target the correct audience and spread awareness. But social media is definitely a very good platform to connect with prospective clients.” Much like Ingela, many bloggers today collaborate with brands on social media to showcase their new collections. This is a fresher way of giving the customers and brand loyals a real view of the product and how it will look on real people. You can pick and choose based on photographs of real moments. This influences buying decisions and helps us gain awareness about brands that we may not have really known.
Another interesting phenomenon is the use of social media by brands that are less accessible to the middle to lower income categories of consumers. International and designer brands have taken the social media route through celebrities and influence buying choices by appealing to people’s admiration of public figures, and by positioning even regular fashion moments into ‘special attire’ moments.
DESIGNED FOR SUCCESS
Marketing using the conventional route is expensive and focusing ads to a particular target group can sometimes severely backfire, too. But with social media, your target narrows down to the right people browsing and following the pages, brands, bloggers, stylists, and celebrities of their choice. Placing your brand at these points of contact will surely increase visibility, if not account for a direct sale. “We have been active on social media since the last six years, and we are connected with the world on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest,” says designer Nilesh Parashar of Nautanky fame. “Over the years, social media has helped our brand to reach out to a global audience. Our product images are available online on each platform, and are viewed by active users. These potential clients can ask questions regarding the fabric, detailing on cloth, and the price, etc., Social media makes us highly accessible to our global clientele, and not only does it help them to place orders with ease, but they can also instantly resolve their doubts using these platforms, before making a buying decision. Our active presence has increased our sales by up to 30 per cent over the years,” says Parashar.
Like Parashar, many designers ranging from Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Masaba Gupta, Ritu Kumar, Rohit Bal, to the gen next league of designers, are all a part of the social media marketing revolution. They regularly release teaser campaigns of their new collections, post attractive offers on their season’s best, and showcase celebrities wearing their outfits to different events and occasions to let the world know their brand is in vogue and trendy. RISE OF THE UNDERDOGS Apart from the bigger brands coming to prominence, there are the lesser known boutiques and home businesses that have recently gained prominence and visibility, thanks to social media.
Social media platforms are not exclusive – they offer a democratic space to everyone looking to connect with another – all it requires for a brand to demand a place in this e-market is a stable internet connection. Using clever tactics to grab attention, brands can create a positive buzz around their name, even if they are lesser known or relatively new or niche. One such exclusive brand catering to a very particular segment is a sari brand on Instagram and Facebook called Saree Haat. The owner of this brand, Mayurakshi Chatterjee had recently put up a post explaining why she would always want to continue building her base using social media. She said that she feels that the entire online community she has built a connection with through her brand is like a small family. She adds, “Like I tell everyone in my family, I have another virtual family. I know some of the pain points in their lives, their achievements, etc. They too know what I like as a person, what I’m going through, etc. For example, I recently shifted to Bangalore. There were multiple messages sent to me saying ‘Welcome, tell us if you need help, let’s meet’, etc. Isn’t that beautiful? Imagine, you have not met each other, but are still so connected. It also reflects in terms of business. There’s a bond, understanding and commitment that if a product is bought from Saree Haat, it will be of a good standard or pricing. I started this business with the thought that there were people selling simple saris at an unimaginable higher price point, and that I wanted to offer the same piece at a reasonable price. I am happy that today people come to my page as repeat customers just because they value my choice of saris, their quality and, of course, the pricing. I am available on both Instagram and Facebook. But I focus more on Instagram, because the response rate is higher here. Also, the kinds of saris I have chosen to sell (handloom, handwork) enjoy more exclusivity and takers on this platform. My business solely runs through these two channels.”
Whether your brand belongs to the category of luxury, designer, niche or normal, there is no denying that social media offers any clothing brand with plenty of opportunity to reach and connect – to build a social network of consumers across societies.