Denim’s digital evolution is accelerating.
Companies are growing past social-media-only strategies and taking the lead in exploiting technical innovations in research, retail and manufacturing. The Millennial consumer is online and mobile — and denim brands have been out front in their response.
At the start of this year, Calvin Klein expanded its digital outreach with its #mycalvins campaign featuring Justin Bieber, who has 64.4 million followers on Twitter, 28.8 million on Instagram and 72 million likes on Facebook — a significant multiple of what the company could generate in the medium on its own in reaching out to a young demographic.
But visibility via social media is just the first step.
For Levi’s, social media in the form of storytelling campaigns like “Live in Levi’s” was just the start. The company collaborated with mytheresa.com on 501 CT jeans with a customizing function and is designing wearable jeans in collaboration with Google to be released this fall.
They’re just one among many jeans firms that are out to boost their digital profile.
“Jeans are the most personal garments,” said Sue Giers, who is responsible for communications and brand strategy for Hamburg-based denim brand Closed. “They’re emotional and livable — social media is the best channel to reach out to the audience in an adequately personal, authentic and accessible way. It enables us to get into a dialogue with our customers and see their responses. We can tell our heritage, and ask them what their story is.”
The company has actively expanded social media channels: Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr and most recently videos on its Web site and a YouTube channel, creating a “Closed Community.” The newest campaign, “For the Vision of Closed,” tells stories by creatives from the community, but is also further using responses on the different channels.
Customer feedback and comments are registered for market research, making the audience part of the denim story, and, more importantly, part of future product-development processes — a potential that Dutch denim manufacturer G-Star Raw takes even further.
“The idea of mass culture has fractured into a million conversations and media is now multichannel and mobile,” said G-Star brand director Shubhankar Ray. “As a digital denim company, we need to be part of the conversation, part of the new pop culture, and we need to create our own content. Social media has become a dialogue mechanism through which the audience can talk back to you genuinely. It operates as an embassy for a brand where people can flow in and out and get into a dialogue, as a vector for an information board. And with the right technology, algorithms and systems, it’s easier to connect the customers on their terms with our brand. That’s the best market research tool.”
The company’s #tightorwide and “Jeans Matchmaker” campaigns are not only aimed at increasing the digital footprint by reaching out to the audience — as the highly successful “Raw for the Oceans” campaign with Pharrell Williams and Bionic Yarn did — but also function as numerological research tools.
The interface presents looks and tags its Web site, Facebook and Twitter, and works as an interactive survey on the fit preferences of customers — communications designed to help customers find the right match of jeans, Ray noted. At the same time, the Internet is used to monitor manufacturing processes. G-Star’s Web site provides tools to track the product supply chain, an initiative to push for more transparency in a holistic approach to change standards in fashion production.
“Digitization is a lot of trial and error,” said Kellie Friedman, brand manager of DL1961. “The Millennial shopper is always online, but from a denim point of view, the consumer is used to trying on. We work hard to make sure we’re explaining the fabric, fit and feel in a clear and engaging way, being available digitally for customer service, and making sure our customer finds the digital shopping experience easy.”
The company has launched the “Denim Doctor,” an app that recommends jeans based on body types, lifestyle and preferences, with Nordstrom stores this fall, and is working on optimizing fit technology.
“We are looking at companies that design technologies to measure the body in the comfort of their own home, then shop online accordingly,” Friedman said.
At Tommy Hilfiger, digital has become an integral part of retail and will soon be embedded in design processes.
“Digital is the new normal and we have to stay a step ahead,” said Daniel Grieder, chief executive officer of Tommy Hilfiger. “The next generation of customers is changing faster than ever and they expect everything to be digital.”
Hilfiger launched a digital showroom in January and is moving ahead with further digital innovation.
“We’re working to implement a digital consumer experience with e-commerce integration in our brick-and-mortar stores, and in the future I think we will see more customization,” Grieder said. “Customers want to choose their own styles, colors and material, and with new digital technologies they will be able to have their customized product faster than ever.”
According to Michael Wang, ceo of Onestop, a Los Angeles-based agency consulting for companies including AG Jeans, J Brand and Rag & Bone on e-commerce issues, omnichannel will be obligatory.
“For denim customers, the most important matter is the fit,” Wang said. “Having all the inventory available has always been a challenge, and with digitization, brick-and-mortar stores can be linked with e-commerce warehouses as a solution.”