How to engage customers online? How to digitally influence people? What’s the most efficient communication tool?
These are just few of the critical questions the speakers of Decoded Fashion Milan tried to answer during the two-day digital summit organized by Pitti Immagine’s digital division e-Pitti, which closed here on Wednesday.
“The customer is not really engaging with editorial content, they come to e-commerce platforms almost only to buy, which means that brands have to provide a flagship experience to be successful in the digital environment. They have to engage with customers from a product point of view,” said Giorgio Belloli, Farfetch chief commercial officer.
“Retailers and brands have to get closer to customers,” said Zalando fashion director and trend scouter Kasia Luczak. “Once they have edited content they create expectations. At that point, the biggest challenge is to find the way to increase content’s shoppability.”
This is possible, according to Belloli, by offering a wide product assortment.
“Converting traffic on the web site is key and the driver of conversion is product availability,” he said.
To wit, Gabriele Lunati, worldwide digital & e-commerce director at Moncler, revealed during the summit that “Moncler.com has a much bigger product assortment than the brick-and-mortar stores because the online store is an extremely important tool to communicate the collection to potential and final customers.”
“I think that to really close the gap between buyers and online customers everyone has to start thinking about “pull commerce” instead of “push commerce,” which means that the customers have to come to you,” added Belloli, citing VIP programs and CRM tools as strategic initiatives in this perspective.
We are see a shift from “storytelling” to “storyselling,” according to Julie Pellet, Instagram brand development lead for Southern Europe. “Tools have to generate inspiration but also to lead action.”
While a product-oriented approach becomes fundamental for retailers, brands are still extremely focused on developing convincing storytelling.
“Moncler is a huge developer of digital content. For a brand like Moncler, it’s impossible to renounce storytelling because it allows to preserve its heritage,” Lunati said. “Moncler is a brand with a story to tell, the final goal is to develop narrations that move customers and stimulate sales,” he added, also saying that the brand has just inaugurated an in-house multimedia distribution center, which provides the company’s different divisions with images and videos.
But what’s the most efficient way to reach final customers?
Images and videos, said Instagram’s Pellet. “Images vehicle messages in a way that is 60,000 times faster than words. In the online environment, the goal is to capture people’s imagination and then to transfer inspiration to action,” she observed. “Focusing on Instagram specifically, people have to design for the frame, which means thinking how you can develop contents specifically for the platform.”
“Shoppable videos are a fantastic vehicle to transmit and explain emotions. We think they are actually the best media, since the attention span is getting down, down and down,” said Michael Klinger, president of Munich-based online retailer Mytheresa.com. “This is why videos need to be short and emotional. Video content is king – 8 billion videos are viewed on Facebook a day. The goal is to create content which can easily and deeply engage customers and which can be quickly shared.”
“The importance as a brand is that you talk in a way which is extremely authentic and engaging,” said Gucci executive vice president and chief marketing officer Robert Triefus, who also put the focus on the idea of self-expression. “Millennials are deeply characterized by the fact that they have strong opinions and they want to express their personality.”
But communicating on a single channel is not enough according to Triefus, who highlighted the importance of the omni-channel approach in communication. “It’s key to develop liquid contents you can spread across customers’ touchpoints. But be sure to have the rights to use the material you create on the different channels and to optimize it in the best way.”
The relevance of an extended presence on different international media is something crucial for Moncler’s Lunati, who revealed that next month the company is opening its account on Japanese instant messaging application Line and next year on South Korea’s KakaoTalk.
Moncler’s strategy results from a continuous growth of online sales made through mobile devices.
“At Mytheresa we saw a radical increase of mobile sales from April to September and we think this is going to be a ‘Smartphone Christmas,’” Klinger noticed.
With technologies quickly changing the online scene, fashion brands are also pushed to rethink their brick-and-mortar strategies.
“We can now be more intelligent in what we do. We can bring technology into the stores,” Triefus said, citing the introduction of devices for sale associates into the boutiques and the development of technologies for customers to purchase online as the main initiatives approached by Gucci to improve their customer service.
“In the last couple of years, brands asked us how to bring the digital shopping experiences closer to the physical one,” said Paolo Mascio, president of online flagship store at Yoox Net-a-porter Group, which operates e-stores for a range of luxury labels, including Valentino and the firms under the Kering umbrella. “So we worked on developing a range of omnichannel capabilities.”
Citing YNAP data referring to undisclosed brands with online stores operated by the company, Mascio pointed at some of the benefits for brands deriving by omni-channel retail strategies, such as the pick-up in store service.
First of all, they offer the chance to reach customers who never shopped the brand before — “93 percent of pick up in store are made from new customers of the brands” — they push customers to spend more money — “the average ticket of pick up in store orders in 17 percent higher that of home delivered orders” — and they engage a younger target — “40 percent of omnichannel costumers are aged up to 30 years old.”
Phone assistance services also generate interesting results for brands, according to Mascio, who, citing the YNAP research, said that 5 percent of the customers who reach the call center are redirected to brick and mortar and
12.5 percent of the calls generate additional sales.
“Until 2016, the goal was to find turnkey e-commerce solutions, the goal for 2020 and beyond is to fully integrate the online assets into the brand’s retail assets,” he affirmed.
The development of specific strategies is not only crucial for luxury firms, but also for diffusion brands, such as Italian retailer OVS, which made big investments in digital and full-integrated systems over the years. According to Monica Gagliardi, the company’s global e-commerce, CRM, digital and social director, for example, OVS recently introduced “OVS Fashion Messages,” a digital marketing initiative. “When a customer who downloaded the OVS App is close to an OVS store gets messages and push notifications featuring contents developed by fashion bloggers related to the in-store collections,” Gagliardi explained.
The involvement of fashion influencers in the development and promotion of projects by brands was another crucial key point discussed at Decoded Fashion this year.
Influencers are considered a relevant resource for the Tod’s Group SpA, according to Giovanni Micucci, marketing manager at Italiantouch, the digital platform developing and managing the online store of Tod’s, Roger Vivier, Hogan, Fay and The Luxer.
“It’s all about choosing the right influencer,” Micucci explained. “Everything starts with the development of the project, then you decide what you want to communicate and only at that point you select the influencers by scouting in different environments to reach different targets.”
“Brands tend to not really use influencers’ potentials at their best,” noticed Alessandra De Siena, partner at online talent management agency Digital Brand Architects Italy. “They treat them as models, but in that way they are loosing a chance since each influencer should express a specific point of view. Brand should follow and highlight the talents that each of them have.”
Micucci also pointed at the importance of mixing major influencers with upcoming ones who for specific projects can actually talk to future customers.
Asked about the real impact of initiatives in collaboration with influencers, De Siena said “in the beauty sector an Instagram campaign for example can be immediately very successful in terms of sales, while in the luxury market, in-store events with influencers can be very effective.”
Instead of focusing on influencers, Gucci’s Triefus put the accent on “creative pioneers” as useful collaborators to spread the brand’s message. “For Gucci, it’s particularly important to connect with these creative people operating in different fields so they can bring the attention of those interested in a variety of disciplines,” he explained.
Designer Fausto Puglisi, founder of his namesake brand and creative director of Emanuel Ungaro, expressed his skepticism toward the world of digital and fashion influencers.
According to him, social media and influencers are “sometimes people well-known among 15-year-old kids but that the real customers of luxury goods totally ignore” and they help generate a sort of “forced attempt to look young no matter what.”
“Influencers are not relevant, top spenders don’t look at them,” he said, extending the paradigm to celebrity endorsement. “Those of my customers who can spend a lot of money don’t want to see the clothes they buy on celebrities. And it’s one of the reasons why I’m very careful at selecting the right celebrities and projects. I don’t work on one-spot endorsement any more, but I develop continuous collaborations.”
“Generally speaking, I’m not a fan of the web since in a way it deprived fashion of its dreamy and alluring dimension,” he continued expressing his preference for established communication activities. These words sounded quite provocative at a digital summit. “Buyers are more important than celebrities. If buyers and retailers are good, they showcase the product in a way that is so great that it perfectly communicates the message of a brand. My goal is to create the most direct relationship possible with my final customers, I want to understand what they want and I don’t want to deceive them. Today in the stores there is a weird mix of frivolous and authentic products. And customers are kidded. There are also too many new names that are pushed every season — it became a sort of reality show.”
That said, it’s a fact that there are brands developed by online stars which are generating incredible results.
“In 2016, Chiara Ferragni Collection, which is sold in 315 multibrand stores, will report sales of 20 million euros, or $21.4 million,” said the company’s chief executive officer Andrea Lorini. He noted that a flagship in Milan is expected to open by the end of 2017 and 20 stores will debut in China within three or four years. “The brand has been profitable since the first season and we received a lot of interests from investors. We are looking around,” he replied asked about the future of the company.
With the huge amount of data, products and information developed and shared in the digital environment, the definition of an ethical code is crucial, according to Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana’s president Carlo Capasa.
“In order to protect the exclusivity of the brands, there must be an ethic regulating the digital environment and a better control on what is posted and shared. Rules need to be fixed to make these new media projected into the future. Self-regulation is not enough,” he said, noting that the European commission is now working to define specific rules.
The summit closed with the announcement of the winner of start-up contest The Fashion Pitch. XShuun, a company realizing e-paper displays, which can be integrated into accessories, as well as into a series of other items, such as cars, won the opportunity to participate in a mentorship program offered by the Miroglio fashion group.