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Luxury Society co-founder Imran Amed shares his thoughts on social media: What should luxury companies be doing with it? What is the business benefit? How is it changing society and retail?
This story first appeared in the July 29, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
On how the Internet changes communication:
“The Internet does change the way people communicate, and corporations are beginning to come to terms with the fact that they cannot control everything. The luxury industry always wanted to control the way it communicated about brands. But the way the Internet works is you don’t have control. What you have is a voice.
On why fashion companies are beginning to use social media, such as blogs, Twitter and Facebook:
Part of it is that advertising budgets have been slashed so much they’re looking for ways to communicate more cheaply. This is a moment of turning, a shift in the way people think about mass communications and communicating with the customer. It’s not just one way anymore, it’s a many-to-many conversation.
On the two-way nature of social media:
This is one of the things people are still coming to terms with in the industry. [Social media] is not about broadcasting information. It’s also about social listening: Using the tools to listen to the conversation and take feedback. The real meaning of your brand lives in these conversations. Lots of people think it’s about broadcasting because that’s the way media used to work. In the previous incarnation of media, it was one-way communication. It’s not enough to Tweet once a day about what you’re selling or to put up a Facebook page.
On social media and mass events:
If you looked at Facebook [the day] Michael Jackson died, something like 40 to 50 percent or higher of posts in people’s news feed was people using those platforms to say what they think about Michael Jackson. What you see is a whole bunch of different people’s emotional reactions to an event that everyone is living through together. When Princess Diana died, there were only 10 people I could speak to about it in the period because they were in the same physical space as me. Now I can share an experience like that with literally hundreds, and on Twitter thousands, of people I don’t know. It changes the way people experience mass events. I think the fashion industry can take a big lesson from that — how do you create interest? It’s no longer about keeping people out and creating exclusivity, it’s creating something people want to be part of and enabling them to share it.
On what the luxury industry should do:
Our industry needs to sit up and take note and be open to innovative new things. It’s always scary when things are changing faster than we can understand what’s happening. Ten years ago, everyone was walking around saying there was no way anyone would buy luxury goods on the Internet. Now in 2009, that’s the only segment of the luxury industry that’s rapidly growing. This [economic] crisis has created an opportunity. Fashion companies have started using fashion films on the Internet to share stories and make an emotional connection about their brand. Chanel and Dior are experimenting with short films that get shared and viewed hundreds of thousands of times at no distribution cost to the company.
On the connection between social media and revenue:
If you have an engaged group of fans on a Web site coming regularly to talk to each other, it will probably end up driving further dedication and loyalty to the brand. You’re probably going to create an impact on revenue and sales. People say it’s hard to make a connection between social media and sales. I think that’s true, but it misses the point. It’s not only about the impact on sales. It’s also about engagement. Our industry used to be based on personal, one-to-one relationships between proprietors and customers. As the luxury industry has expanded into a global industry, some of that personal connection has been lost. New technology enables us maybe not to replace [those relationships], but it lets us feel a little closer to the customer. And it lets customers feel closer to us.
On how the Internet has affected the fashion cycle:
The fashion cycle is a little bit of an anachronism. We still show clothes in February and they’re not available until July or August or September. By that point, images of the collection have been seen all over the Internet and discussed ad nauseum on blogs and social networks and on Style.com, and by the time it reaches the store, people are already [tired of it], it’s done. The fashion cycle does not fit with the speed of communication. Instead of showing things on the runway [that won’t be in stores for several months] we should be showing things that can be bought right away. Net-a-porter did this well with Roland Mouret and Halston. Instead of being more responsive, we’re doing more seasons and more collections, and that’s not the solution. The solution is to give people what they want when they want it.