Digital marketing for the fashion industry in a post Covid-19 world: the pandemic has given rise to an unprecedented health crisis and has imposed new and stringent security constraints that companies in the fashion industry are also called upon to measure themselves against. Among these, companies who are successfully riding the wave owe much to their digital know-how, which has been and will be crucial not only to ensure continuity and minimize the consequences of the lockdown, but also to help them emerge from the crisis in a strong position.
Digital marketing in the fashion industry: an opportunity to re-imagine business processes
“Some apparel, fashion, and luxury companies won’t survive the current crisis; others will emerge better positioned for the future. Much will depend on their digital and analytics capabilities.”
This statement opens an May 6 article by McKinsey, Fashion’s digital transformation: Now or never, which reaffirms a concept of digital darwinism that had already been applied to the fashion and luxury markets, even before Covid-19 imposed new urgencies and radically transformed the dynamics at stake (mckinsey.com).
In this context, McKinsey defines digital as a well-established reality to be used to grow brand equity, both from the financial point of view (the brand as an asset) and from the marketing point of view (the brand as a story). Even more than what has happened before the emergency, in a context of consumption irreparably transformed by social distancing and mandatory sanitization, digital will prove even more effective in re-imagining business processes, not only for contingency but rather for the advantages that derive from connectivity, speed, accuracy, flexibility, and dialog.
Digital marketing, today more than ever, intensifies trends already underway:
- It represents a preferential access route to data, which can be used to create an even more intimate and personal relationship with customers, even from a distance,
- It allows a more precise identification of possible prospects’ emerging preferences,
- It simplifies the process of transforming ideas into new products by investing resources that are first and foremost creative.
This is the right time to prioritize the levers of digital marketing
The lockdown has accelerated the adoption of online purchasing practices. According to data released during the digital commerce and retail event Netcomm FORUM 2020, since the beginning of the year, there have been 2 million new online consumers in Italy. Of these, 1.3 million arrived during the Covid-19 health emergency. Until February 2020, 27 million Italians actively used e-commerce; today there are 29 million. In 2019, from January to May, there were 700,000 new digital consumers: in the first five months of 2020, this number nearly tripled.
Web commerce, again according to Netcomm, will continue to grow in the coming months, establishing itself as an exceptional driver in the context of the world economy, with an estimated increase of 55%.
Allocating a more substantial part of the budget for the marketing of digital channels can be a winning strategy that would support organizations in achieving a series of objectives, including:
- A fully multi-channel vision of e-commerce,
- More prompt and careful management of customer relations through social media,
- A redefinition of the profiling logic based on behaviors that emerged during the crisis,
- Conduct more structured “listening” activities to inform the development of new services and offers.
In such a complex period like the one we’re currently experiencing, digital marketing offers a series of possibilities linked to tools, techniques, and methodologies that companies can use to increase their reactivity, resilience, and proactivity. These are just some of the things that brands can use to rebuild post lockdown.
Successful factors and digital marketing opportunities for the fashion industry
In a 2018 report (bcg.com), Boston Consulting Group analyzed the most successful brands of the year in terms of economic performance and the ability to establish a lasting relationship with their consumers, and they identified the three dimensions of digital marketing where these brands are winning:
- Analysis of budget allocation, allocation, and measurement of impact;
- Targeting and personalization;
- Asset production and content strategy.
The study also reveals some best practices that fashion brands can utilize to be more competitive.
Attribution, budget allocation and impact measurement
- Attribution. Dynamic attribution techniques are used to distribute the budget across different media, optimizing allocation throughout the customer journey. It is therefore a matter of dynamically adapting the media mix during marketing campaigns and the different phases of the product life cycle, and using techniques that are appropriate for each stage.
- Predictive analytics. Here, information on customers about previous purchases, for example, provides a wealth of insight from which to segment audiences and deliver targeted marketing campaigns.
- Cross-channel data. By linking data about customers from in-store and e-commerce, brands can have a more comprehensive view of customers and trends. This can be used to optimize supplies and also to provide the most relevant and personalized recommendations for future purchases.
Targeting and Customization
Best practices in targeting and personalization focus on segmenting the audience (sometimes in very specific groups based on the purchasing path or geography) for both advertising and marketing. Here, personalization can be applied to the browsing experience, to the purchasing experience and the convergence of online and offline channels.
Fashion brands must be able to personalize their communications with customers across all channels. Each individual user experience must be tailored to their profile, location and browsing, and purchase history. Personalization should focus on three applications: personalized emails (using a recommendation engine), adaptive web pages (using interactive landing pages), and social media (using personalized ads).
Let’s start from a truth that can hardly be contradicted: the best digital marketing is the one that invests the most in the development of quality content. In this category, brands will want to make the most of content, whether it is made in-house, or created by users or influencers, and get it to the right channels. Creativity and data science tools to analyze performance of content on the different platforms will be essential to optimize performance.
Digital opportunities for fashion marketing
Just after the last edition of fashion week in Milan and before Covid-19 redesigned the sales strategies of the fashion industry, ninjamarketing outlined an overview of the challenges (and opportunities) that digital marketing presents to the fashion industry (ninjamarketing.it). These include:
- Ecommerce. To be able to exploit its potential, companies must start considering it as a different and parallel channel, with its own identity, which therefore travels on platforms and with peculiar dynamics, and is not thought of as simply complementary.
- The omnichannel factor. Even if the logic (and the freedom) of buying in physical places has been upset by the pandemic and the resulting lockdown that many countries have faced, we still have to talk about omnichannel, because brands need to pay attention to both the digital and physical lives of consumers.
- Not only digital, but integrated strategies. The integration of different promotional formats into a unified and coherent communication system is no longer a question of if but how. Consumers in the fashion and luxury sector expect total, fully conversational, personalized shopping experiences.
The advantages of digital marketing for fashion industry businesses
Digital marketing, integrated into a broader communication plan, can increase revenue for fashion brands by up to 15% (according to the Boston Consulting Group). In particular, digital marketing allows you to:
- harmonize brand content on all channels;
- synthesize data coming from different areas of the organization, which can then be entered into marketing automation processes. Thanks to data-driven marketing techniques, brands can now move decisively towards increasingly customer-centric strategies using data and technology to create increasingly segmented and targeted messages, reduce response times to market trends and demands, and offer valuable support to decision makers, who can thus base their strategies on objective data, improving results in terms of CPM but above all ROI;
- make the most of analytical models for budget allocation;
- create a unique profile of each customer to define how they react to or interact with individual marketing initiatives;
- quantify the value of each marketing moment by linking it to subsequent sales and measure it against concrete business results.
Brands also need vertically trained digital marketing specialists, people with specific skills such as data scientists and content managers. This increased focus on skilled employees is a direct consequence of the entry into the fashion market of a new category of consumers: digital natives. These are the Y and Z generations for whom brands are designing ad hoc targeting strategies. Reaching younger consumers obviously responds to economic but also ethical and value reasons: to be able to counter the phenomenon of fast fashion, against which the critical and authoritative voices of sector leaders (including Giorgio Armani) are increasingly expressing themselves, and to integrate their point of view into product creation processes.