Fashion Forward Conference: 5 Key Takeaways

Fashion’s Collective, a digital marketing consultancy group, held its fourth annual Fashion Forward conference last Thursday in New York City. The conference focused on “The Dynamic Consumer in a Digital Marketplace,” which is a key issue for retailers. It’s not easy to win over this fickle and always-evolving customer, but Fashion Forward’s speakers offered great insight on the topic. Here are the top five tips for capturing the dynamic consumer’s attention:

1. Lead with emotion:

Cognitive anthropologist Dr. Bob Deutsch started the day with a talk about the Imaginative Mind (a state of being or feeling that yields new ideas). “Data, facts, and simple notions without feeling will not get you to a truth,” said Deutsch. “We better muster the energy to approach newness with an imaginative mind,” he added.

Melissa Coker, founder and creative director of Wren, an LA-based label, agreed with this notion. Wren found viral success earlier this year by betting on emotion and releasing its First Kiss video, which documented strangers kissing for the first time. Coker explained the video’s goal: “We aimed to make something that took the fashion and content element and added the emotional, shareable element. I think there is an onus on brands to make things that people care about.” As covered in WGSN’s Cannes Lions 2014: big ideas report, human truths is currently a key theme in marketing.

2. But consider data, too:

Communicating to customers through emotion is important, but data has major benefits, especially for Birchbox, a beauty brand that delivers personalized beauty samples to subscribers each month. “Data is our backbone. It allows us to measure and optimize campaign ROI,” said Brad Lande, Birchbox Man’s vice president. This data helps Birchbox subscribers as well as its beauty vendors who use the company’s sampling program as a way to market and test products.

3. Promote sustainability in a holistic way:

New socially conscious fashion brands are moving away from the one-for-one model (by buying an item customers donate an item), and focusing on creating a more sustainable business that creates jobs and puts the money back into the business, which WGSN previously covered in its Forbes Under 30 Summit.

Naadam Cashmere is a luxury knitwear company that sources cashmere from Mongolia, works directly with Nomadic herders, and preserves the culture by purchasing livestock insurance for the herders. “We look at investing in sustainability as a business practice,” said Naadam Cashmere founder Matthew Scanlan. “I found a flaw in giving someone something for free that doesn’t directly contribute to the final product,” he added.

4. Meet them on mobile, but offer something other than product:

Dan Jee, director of International Marketing at Gilt Groupe, an online flash sale site, said that 40% of Gilt Groupe’s sales come from mobile transactions. “If you have a bad mobile experience the first time, 70 percent of customers aren’t going to interact with you again on mobile,” said Jee.

But being on mobile, specifically with apps, is about more than selling. According to Jee, brands need to also have a value proposition and give customers a reason to use its app.

5. Online and offline isn’t an exclusive experience:

Jeremy Bergstein of The Science Project, a retail innovation firm, creates digital experiences in-store. According to Bergstein, it’s important that these experiences seamlessly connect the online and offline experience. Bergstein implemented this last year with Saks Fifth Avenue’s Yeti holiday windows. Shoppers could download an app, create a Yeti name, and pick a snowflake that they could throw at the digital windows. “We didn’t want people to get tangled in touchscreens,” Bergstein said.

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