These days consumers are online like never before, which means that now is the time for brands to hone their internet-based communications. This requires going beyond traditional email marketing to embrace newer channels that consumers are using, such as video chat and social media. Engagement and availability is key; if your fashion, apparel or accessories brand isn’t utilizing new tools for talking to your customers, you’re probably missing out.
Brands need to meet consumers where they already are. For some, this can seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. First, you need to consider the tools at your disposal. Read on for five often-underutilized communication channels your brand should be using to engage customers.
Many fashion brands have been slow to adopt text messages as a form of communication with their customers, with concerns about being perceived as too pushy. But now that 96% of American adults own a cell phone (according to Pew Research), text messages are increasingly being seen as an excellent way to engage customers. Texts have an average open rate of 93%, compared to emails, which have an average open rate of 25% (according to Inc). With most of us receiving a glut of marketing emails from brands every day, it can be easy to see why texts might be more easily noticed.
The key is to be tactful: provide clear opt-out information from the beginning, and don’t bombard your customers with multiple texts all at once. Try using texts to inform customers about restocks of specific products they’ve expressed interest in, or already purchased, via your website. Send them promotions such as personalized, limited-time discount codes and offers. Brands that are really concerned about coming off as too pushy could try the same approach that Toronto-based jewellery brand Mejuri uses: they don’t initiate any conversations with customers. Instead, they allow consumers to text them with any questions about products, and they respond in a timely manner, so the focus is on the customer’s convenience.
Whether powered by artificial intelligence or human employees, web chat can be another powerful tool for fashion brands. Allowing customers to engage with sales associates or stylists via chat and ask questions about your products in real-time while they browse can be a simple but effective way to drive both engagement and sales. Research from Forrester found that customers who interacted with web chat were 2.8 times more likely to make a purchase.
While AI-powered chatbots can be useful for simple questions and issues, sometimes these services can suffer from their lack of humanity. Web chats with real staff members offer that human element where nuances in language are perhaps more able to be understood, and the personal element of retail shopping is retained. Fashion brands like Modcloth, Nordstrom and Warby Parker all benefit from their live chat services, which provide personalized service that retains the brand’s voice in a way that’s natural and conversational.
One-On-One Video Calls
Styling and wardrobe consulting has always been a huge part of the fashion world—one that will never simply go away overnight, no matter how many apps or algorithms are created. Consumers value the personal human element of fashion retail customer service, which is why it translates so well to the web. Department stores like Nordstrom and independent fashion stylists such as Allison Bornstein and Julia von Boehm are providing styling services via video calls, and now more brands of all sizes are getting on board—and yours should too.
It’s really just about extending your retail experience into your online offering, minus the physical interaction of clothes (or shoes or jewelry) exchanging hands. Video calling is a great way to introduce customers to a collection either pre- or post-purchase. The same demonstrations that are given in-store can now be done online. This allows for more dynamic product demonstrations than simply viewing static product shots on-screen, and enables questions and answers to be delivered in real-time, satisfying customers just as quickly.
Its constantly evolving nature may feel burdensome to learn and incorporate, but social media can be extremely rewarding for fashion brands seeking to engage more with their customers. Apps like Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok enable brands to tell stories in entertaining and exciting ways and bring their products to life in animated videos, slideshows, GIFs, memes and more.
Fashion brands such as Guess and PrettyLittleThing are utilizing TikTok by creating interactive “challenges” where customers interact with and customize their clothing, and by sharing engaging behind-the-scenes content. Instagram is also being embraced in unorthodox ways by brands—even legacy fashion houses such as Chanel, who recently hosted a live-streamed music performance on their Instagram Stories.
Brands who succeed on these channels do so by using them to build community and inspire creativity, not simply push their products. It’s these memorable moments that brands create that make them stand out and gain loyal followers.
Social media and video conferencing services like Zoom are also increasingly being utilized by savvy online fashion brands eager to engage their audiences in real-time conversation. This can mean brands inviting consumers into conversation with them on Instagram Live, or doing live-streamed video conferences with industry peers and collaborators. They can facilitate conversations on everything from brand-specific matters, to broader issues facing the fashion industry.
New York designer Mara Hoffman has hosted some informative conversations about sustainability and new projects and products with her collaborators and partner organizations on her Instagram Live in recent weeks. French luxury brand Chloé has also been hosting discussions with a curated selection of creative women (or “#ChloeGirls”). These kinds of web-based discussions can help to establish your brand as more approachable, engaged and expert in its field. It can also help to introduce your brand to a wider audience.
Whether or not your fashion brand is already using the communication channels above, there’s a good chance your customers already are. Join them and build your community together. If you’d like some guidance on how to effectively build out your communications offering, please reach out to our team today.