In 2019, succeeding as a brand means succeeding on social media.
“We must start evolving from using 20th-century mediums to talk and connect with 21st-century audiences,” said Karin Tracy, Facebook’s head of industry, fashion, retail and luxury.
Tracy has previously spoken about how technology can help brands avoid revenue loss. Last week, she spoke about how storytelling is the key to winning at social media — and how form is just as important.
The first step to online success is strategizing on how to make your brand discoverable and memorable.
“One of the biggest challenges for marketers today is how you insert yourself into the cultural zeitgeist,” Tracy said. “Can you tell the big dream on such a small screen? I venture to say yes.”
Adidas is one example of a brand producing “fit-for-purpose mobile creative,” Tracy said. Ralph Lauren has also been creating “differentiated experiences through their fashion shows,” connecting with consumers in new ways. The brand had record-breaking engagement on social media for its golden anniversary New York Fashion Week show in 2018.
“This is a 50-year-old brand that is evolving to tell stories in a new and exciting way on mobile,” Tracy said.
During NYFW, Facebook collaborated with the CFDA to help train and guide New York-based fashion designers on how to produce mobile-first campaigns.
“A campaign we created with Alice + Olivia had 5x more conversions and a 72 percent increase in revenue across all channels,” said Tracy, adding, “Creative is the most important lever you have.”
Facebook’s Creative Shop has also been testing out AR and VR formats, most recently via a campaign with Japanese artist Takashi Murakami for the opening of his exhibit at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art.
“We inserted his iconic octopus all around the city and used our new Stories format in order to tell it,” Tracy said. “Then we took his iconic artwork and made it move. This in a feed — a very crowded environment where you’re competing, making it move makes a difference. Little things like that could have a major effect on how you’re telling your story.”
Additionally, Facebook’s Creative Shop used the technology behind Facebook Messenger to create a docent bot that walked guests through Murakami’s art opening in Vancouver.
Using social media to reimagine physical spaces for retail is integral for brands. Tracy named Nike’s concept store as an example of how to do so.
“From the moment you walk in, how the app is connected and personalizes your experience and makes it more convenient, to their backend data and analytics capabilities, Nike has written the playbook of what this immersion of digital and physical looks like in the best way possible,” she said.
Louis Vuitton has also done a great job of rethinking physical retail spaces, as exemplified by Louis Vuitton X, the luxury brand’s pop-up museum in Beverly Hills. The exhibition, which opened over the summer and runs until Nov. 10, includes more than 180 items that highlight Vuitton’s long list of artist collaborations, including ones with Sol LeWitt, Jeff Koons, Karl Lagerfeld and Rei Kawakubo.
Working with Facebook and Instagram, Louis Vuitton incorporated digital into its pop-up museum by way of custom filters.
“When you were in the experience,” said Tracy, “you were able to connect and celebrate Virgil [Abloh’s] and Marc Jacobs’ work through the filter.”
Tracy’s talk concluded with the consideration of how to take advantage of the trend toward mobile commerce.
“How do we take advantage of what’s happening in terms of the compression of the purchase funnel, where someone could go from discovering your brand to buying it in a moment of clicks,” she said.
Online brands, she continued, are venturing into brick-and-mortar, recognizing the convenience and service that they’ve offered online can also happen in-store.
“An amazing example of this is the brand M.Gemi, a footwear label out of Italy founded by Maria Gangemi, who has built the line by social storytelling and leaning in to their Italian heritage to let consumers know how it’s manufactured, why it’s designed and why they should buy it,” Tracy said. “They’ve also put a lot of excitement around offering limited quantities and making every Monday morning a drop. They’re also experimenting with brick-and-mortar, opening a showroom space in Hudson Yards where you can go and try the shoes on and then have them shipped to you the same day. My favorite thing is their mantra, which is to focus on the old way of making it with the new way of selling it.”
Instagram has spent the year rolling out new features that aim to facilitate the purchasing process within its platform. One such feature is Shopping Tags, which can be used by both brands and Creators (influencers). Instagram has also been testing out its Checkout feature, first announced in March. About 20 brands, including Nike, Burberry and Revolve, were members of the original Checkout beta group.
In April, Instagram unveiled Shopping From Creators, a feature that works in tandem with Checkout, allowing influencers and digital content creators to link directly to the products they are wearing in their posts, so long as they are partners of the tagged brands. Among the initial list of brand-approved creators were Aimee Song, Camila Coelho, Chiara Ferragni, Gigi Hadid, Elle USA, Kim Kardashian and Kris and Kylie Jenner.
“Adidas, taking advantage of sneaker culture, is focusing in on drops and collaborations, like with Donald Glover,” said Tracy, referring to the Adidas’ use of Instagram Checkout. “Revolve is doing an incredible job, launching new collections, especially with creators. Beauty companies are creating 24-hour exclusives with stuff that’s selling out, right off their Instagram feed.”
In response to an audience question about brand feedback on Instagram Checkout, and whether the platform will soon widen its beta, Tracy said, “The key here with those beta partners is they are in full experiment mode with us. Everything we build is based on people and how they’re behaving on the platform. We are learning what that experience needs to look like. For sure, we expect that this beta will open up shortly, so more and more of you could be taking advantage of what that experience looks like and how you could start experimenting there. In the meantime, take advantage of Shopping Tags both for your brand and creators you work with. Start gathering insights on what’s working and what’s not so when the beta opens, you can start understanding what from your product catalogue is resonating and why, and focus in on what that looks like to sell things off the platform.”
Asked about Facebook’s recent announcement of its news platform, Tracy said the social network worked closely with the publishing community to create the new feature.
“We believe that journalism is critical to our democracy when it’s well reported and well sourced,” Tracy said. “The goal is to get all of our publishing partners incremental discoverability and incremental distribution over time. Over time, the publisher list will continue to expand.”
A third and final audience question addressed this year’s abbreviated holiday season — the shortest since 2013. The question: what advice or best practices can Facebook give to brands?
“We’ve been guiding clients for the past year on how to prepare for this moment,” Tracy said. “Here are some insights we’re seeing: promotions are starting earlier and we have a strategy that we call ‘every day counts.’ Do not waste all of this time in November when you could be cutting through less clutter and potentially reaching people more efficiently and telling your story early before the influx of Cyber Five is upon us. The other thing I’ll say is that you should be thinking about the flexibility that platforms like Facebook and Instagram will give you in driving your strategy and short term goals. The other thing is do not forget the period after Christmas. Think about what that week looks like when people have lots of gift cards and cash and time on their hands and what story you’re telling there.”