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Straight off the Catwalk: How Digital Tech is Shaping the Fashion Industry

July 8, 2016

If there’s one legacy industry that’s being forced to adapt to changing digital technologies – and fast – it’s fashion. In the world of bright lights and beautiful clothing, the pressure’s on to create a stunning visual presence and roll out season after season of catwalk-ready clothing.

It’s a cut-throat world, and any fashion house who doesn’t get their designs out there fast enough risks their fickle consumers becoming bored and moving on to the next big thing. Some houses have a massive 52 seasons per year – a far cry from the old-school style of Autumn/Winter and Spring/Summer fashion shows. This fast-paced nature means that designers are rushing to get their designs on the catwalk and inspire their consumers with new styles – and some are struggling to keep up.

To soften the risk, the major houses have turned to technology to get the job done. The latest mobile apps, social platforms and business management tools have shaped the way fashion houses produce and market their wares, and have reduced the time-to-market significantly. They allow the houses to keep the customers happy with new designs, new ways of ordering, and even quicker service.

Luxury consumers – and the brands they’re buying from – are clearly ahead of the pack when it comes to digital technology. According to a study from Deloitte, more than half of UK’s luxury fashion consumers buy products online. An even larger 85% of consumers of luxury fashion regularly turn to social media for a bit of fashion inspiration. It’s clear that the potential for digital marketing for fashion is huge. And it makes sense for the smaller brands to take some tips from the larger houses to create an irresistible digital presence that gets people clicking.

On-demand and in the moment

Now, consumers can watch a show on the catwalk and immediately scroll through Instagram to buy the latest covetable items. They no longer have to wait months for the products to hit the stores – as soon as they see what they want, they’re able to buy it.

The promotional prospects don’t stop with just social media either. British fashion giants Burberry have leveraged Chinese instant messaging app, WeChat, to reach a whole new market. The app, which works in a similar way to WhatsApp, gives consumers access to on-demand fashion shows, which they can then share with their friends via text.

Ecommerce is at its sharpest in the fashion world

High fashion brands have taken to the internet with gusto, creating a visual presence that matches their in-store branding with pinpoint precision. The flexibility afforded through creative web design means the luxury brands are able to create digital experiences that bring the sensory details of the bricks-and-mortar stores to life online.

The lesson here? Invest in quality design that tells a story. On your website and social feeds, it’s not enough to just display your products. You need to show off your brand with a bang and a visual narrative that will turn heads. Put the products in context and show off the wares in use.

Give your loyal followers a behind-the-scenes insight into the backstage of your brand. Your customers will love the intimate, relatable snapshots and will be more inclined to hit the purchase button.

Social influencers

And now for the big one: influencer marketing. Big brands reach out to powerful people on Instagram and pay them to wear their clothes. These people, who boast followings that are thousands of users strong, command great influence in the fashion sphere. When they wear something, people take note, and the clothing flies off the shelves.

The concept isn’t new. For decades, fashionistas have been copying looks straight from the catwalk and scouring fashion magazines to find out how they can adopt the latest looks.

Digital marketing has compressed this process though and, with the rise of influencer marketing, fashion houses are able to promote their brand to anyone, at any time – not just in the monthly magazines. Nowhere is the sway of the celebrity more potent than in the world of fashion.

Creating a space for lesser-known brands

The internet gives brands an all-access pass to the market, free from the high-cost restrictions of a brick and mortar store. On the net, everyone is equal and even the brands that might not have gained much traction on the physical high street are carving up a space in the digital marketplace.

This is especially important for social enterprise brands who are able to find a worldwide audience through the power of digital.

Able to create a website, Kickstarter campaign or Instagram feed with very little economic capital, they can reach lots of new buyers for a fraction of the price that a retail store – with all its overheads – would cost them. In short, the net makes the future of fashion more democratic, and opens up a heap of new doors for the brands that are giving back to society.