So, you’ve found your niche, you’ve named your brand and now you want to get your fashion business started. How should you approach this?
In the past, the big retailers were the gatekeepers to distribution on the high street, but online has changed all that. Today anyone can sell direct, and the new challenge is how to get noticed amongst the online noise, and how to develop a loyal audience. Successful labels attract and nurture a tribe, through great products plus an appealing and authentic brand story.
As a start-up, you have the advantage of starting with a blank slate and being able to focus on your message, unlike big businesses which try to cater to everyone. You have complete creative freedom to grow those all-important messages and relationships from the beginning.
While there are many tried-and-trusted digital marketing techniques, this post will give you a few ideas from our lecturers and experts on how you can cut through the noise.
Ingredients of a successful fashion digital marketing strategy
Take a moment to think about your favourite fashion brands. What do they do that keeps you coming back for more?
Firstly, they create products that give you joy – that’s a given. But what else do they offer? Amazingly aesthetic Instagram posts that you’re compelled to share with your friends? Thought-provoking blog posts? Super friendly customer service on their social channels? Here’s some ideas for how you can create your own unique fashion marketing strategy.
The best way to understand your target customer and develop your audience is to engage in ‘social listening’. One of the biggest opportunities that social platforms present business owners is the opportunity to carry out market research, at no cost.
To ‘social listen’ successfully, first identify your ideal target customer, then look at their activity. Who do they follow, how often do they post, what content do they engage with? These insights are invaluable.
The best brands know their target customer inside-out, including what content they like and how to communicate it to them. In other words, they do their social listening.
At the heart of your strategy should be your target audience. Every person who comes across your social page has the potential to turn into a customer.
Create engaging content for your platforms
Creating high-quality content will help you to attract visitors and grow your tribe. Without a physical shop to showcase your products, investing time and energy into creating engaging content will lead to followers trusting your brand, your story and your product. But what exactly is engaging content? It is:
- Useful to your audience. If your content informs, educates or entertains, it has the potential to engage and be shared
- Aesthetic. This might seem obvious, but you will need to think about how you want to communicate yourself visually. This will be different for every brand, but thinking about how you want people to feel when they land on your page will help you to curate an online identity that reflects your brands personality
- It tells a story. Whether visually or within a caption, you have the opportunity to tell the story behind your brand and make a connection with your audience. If you can use your story to encourage conversation with your followers, even better.
Of course, creating high-quality content requires time, money and skills such as copywriting, photography, and digital media creation. You can outsource this work, but it can save money in the long run to develop your own skills. There are many helpful tools and resources available online, or you could consider online courses in fashion or business skills.
Focus on adding value
Value-added content can be as simple as writing a blog post that is relevant to your customers interests. Again, a sound understanding of your tribe and your USP can help you with this. Is your business trying to source sustainable fabrics? Does your business support a social cause that your target customer will care about? Yes? Then tell them about it!
This is especially powerful once potential customers begin to connect with your brand, as you have an opportunity to further deepen that relationship. Look for ways to sign them up to a monthly newsletter – with the option to ‘opt out’ of course.
Now is the time to send them an update about that social cause you are supporting or that new product made from recycled plastic bottles. Sending them free, valuable content will help to keep you in their mind without feeling ‘salesy’.
Really care about your followers
According to Paul McGregor, founder of Men’s Fashion Magazine, a lot of people miss a trick by not taking advantage of social media engagement. This is an area where fashion start-ups have a particular advantage over established competitors, as direct brand-to-consumer communication is a great way to humanise your brand and show off your personality.
If a follower comments on a post, reply! Nurture your community like you would nurture a house plant – with a bit of time, care and attention, you can grow a fanbase that is invested in your success.
Create a personal brand
Nowadays every person can become a brand, according to fashion designer Julia Bondarenko. Personal brands are perfectly suited to this era of social media, and will allow you to reach your customers and develop meaningful connections with them as well as authentically communicating your label’s authentic values. Of course there are downsides (you must share a lot of your life, and it will be harder to sell your business if you are the brand), but overall it is a great new opportunity for small start ups and young designers.
Strategies to grow your tribe and sales
Pick your channels wisely
It’s not necessary to create a profile on every single social platform, especially in the early days. Paul recommends finding out where your tribe spends their time and focussing your efforts there. Once you’ve established a healthy, engaged following, then you’ve got the go ahead to diversify on to other platforms.
While influencer marketing was once a relatively low-cost way to promote your fashion brand, regulation of the industry has changed the dynamic. By law, influencers are now required to be completely transparent about brand partnerships.
Although followers are aware that influencers have received some form of compensation for their endorsement, there are ways to make influencer marketing work for you in a meaningful way.
While it’s human nature to think that bigger equals better, this isn’t always the case. More often than not, micro-influencers tend to have far higher engagement and are perceived to be more credible.
So, what makes a successful influencer partnership? Fashion buying manager, Eddie Knevett, says, "Influencers must be authentic and provide a bridge that links your values, your product and your target audience."
There are two questions to keep in mind before entering into a potential influencer partnership:
- Does it make sense?
- Is it authentic?
If you can answer ‘yes’ to both questions, then a #ad or #spon won’t matter in the eyes of your target audience. If the influencer shares your brand values, their followers will trust the partnership.
Instagram is levelling up the eCommerce game. The ongoing move to a more streamlined shopping service means there’s now only a few clicks between your Instagram post and a potential sale.
What does this mean? Instagram is literally a virtual shop floor, so you need to treat your page like a bricks and mortar store. If you can give customers the (online) shopping experience they’re looking for, whether that’s something beautiful to look at, something to share with friends, great customer service – or ideally, all of the above – you’re doing social commerce right.
- Focus your attention on doing one social channel really well in the beginning
- Adopt a customer-centric mindset – how can you add value to your customers lives?
- Connect with your tribe by sharing your story and your brand personality
- Engagement is key to building relationships and trust - your biggest assets
- Show your followers that you care about them
- When it comes to influencer marketing, meaningful engagement is worth far more than a large following
- Keep up with and take advantage of social commerce developments
Good luck! And if you want more advice and insights from fashion entrepreneurs about how they developed their business, be sure to check out our Insider’s Guide to Fashion Start-Ups.