Traditional retail is dying. And the prognosis is dire for small independent fashion boutiques.
Faced with global competition from e-commerce giants like Alibaba as well as numerous blogshops, traditional fashion retailers find it a struggle to stay afloat.
Unlike online retailing juggernauts, brick-and-mortar boutiques lack the product variety, ease of return, and convenience which e-commerce players could offer.
Consumers are so attuned to the “everyday low price” model of online shopping that they will only open their wallets at a brick and mortar store when an irresistible deal presents itself.
This has resulted in a negative downward spiral for fashion apparel and accessory retailers – especially Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).
Is it all gloom and doom for independent apparel retailers and boutiques?
Fortunately, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
In a world swarming with endless clothing deals and apparel ads, consumers are shutting themselves out from the clamour. Fixated on selling their products, these clothing brands fail to consider what fashion apparel customers need, want or desire.
This is where content marketing comes in.
Content marketing is defined by the Content Marketing Institute as a “marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”
It involves the creation, curation and dissemination of content that provides value to customers throughout their entire life cycle.
The most valuable content helps customers to solve problems, reduce pain or increase pleasure.
So how can a fashion designers, boutique or retailer embark on content marketing?
The first thing you need to do is to tell your story. This involves painting a bigger picture of what your company and brand is all about – its values, beliefs, history and goals.
As an aesthetically focused brand, fashion boutiques need to spin an enchanting brand story infused with their unique heritage, traditions, design inspiration and craftsmanship.
Burberry is a fine example of an iconic fashion brand which has mastered brand storytelling. Back in November 2016, they released a trailer like film which chronicled the epic journey of their founder Thomas Burberry. Have a watch to see brand storytelling at its finest.
To complement your brand story, your boutique needs to have a consistent look and feel. Remember that in the fashion industry, looks are everything.
Engage a designer to create a distinctive yet memorable brand identity. Ensure that you apply this look and feel across all your marketing, distribution and retail channels.
Beyond using the right imagery and designs, do also consider your brand’s tone of voice. Is it rugged and outdoorsy? Urban slick and sophisticated? Or does it convey a raw and underground feel?
A great example of a brand with a consistent brand aesthetics is Uniqlo. You can tell a Uniqlo shop from far without needing to look at their shop signages or logo.
Courtesy of Uniqlo
You may also wish to check out their Instagram page to see how distinctive the visual signature of Uniqlo is.
Courtesy of Uniqlo Instagram
How should I put on a tie? Or mix and match the right jackets with my shirt and pants?
What should I do if I accidentally lose a button from my new blouse?
Trivial though these questions seem, they do represent the real-life dilemmas faced by millions of ordinary folks every day of their lives. Strangely though, few of the fashion or apparel brands make an attempt to help their customers here.
This is why brands like Trunk Club is killing it online. Their blog provides useful tips for men to dress smartly, from how you can find the perfect dress shirt, to the six essential clothing pieces you need in your wardrobe.
Courtesy of Trunk Club
Beyond providing basic styling and grooming tips, you may also wish to share what the reason’s latest looks are like. There are lots of online magazines which provide such resources – Instyle, Vogue, Elle, GQ… Or you can pick your favourite fashion YouTuber and emulate his or her style.
Instead of randomly sharing what catches your fancy, match what you share with what your carry in your store. For instance, if you specialise in denim jeans, it makes sense for you to curate and share ideas of how jeans could be paired with different tops, bags, shoes and accessories.
Courtesy of Michelle Dy
This is probably one of the oldest ideas in the book. Unfortunately, very few fashion brands do it tastefully.
Now why should you feature your customers? Easy…
There are two brands which does it well.
The first is Converse. On their Facebook page, they regularly feature their customers wearing their iconic Chuck Taylor sneakers, complete with the original photographer’s caption and username.
What takes the cake is how they include a “Shop now” link so that potential customers can get right to that product page!
The second brand that is winning it here is ASOS, an online fashion store. The clothing store encourages customers to upload photos of themselves wearing their apparel and to use the hashtag #AsSeenOnMe in order to be featured on their website. This is a clever way to gain visitor traffic and build links to their website.
Have a look at my screenshot to see how it looks like below:
One of the most exciting developments in the fashion industry are apps which allow you to “try on” clothes before you purchase them. Using what we call augmented reality (AR) technologies, they can help shoppers to get a good fit using their mobile phones before going down to the shop.
An example of such an app is Pictofit. The app is really easy to use – all users need to do is upload a photo of themselves, find an outfit which they like online, and use the app to “try on” the look.
See if you can work with the app developers to showcase your products or introduce them to your customers so that they can match and mix before popping down to your store.
One thing you need to know is this. Fashion is big on Instagram. And nobody rules Instagram like fashion influencers.
Here are some of the top style influencers on Instagram. Interestingly, many of them are Asians (which should be good news for Asian fashion retailers and boutiques).
Wendy Nguyen of Wendy’s Lookbook
Here in Singapore, we also have our Instagram fashion influencers. Many of them regularly offer tips on styling and fashion on their blogs and Instagram accounts.
Now there are several ways to work with influencers, depending on their celebrity status and fame. Some may agree to showcase your apparel if you provide them with a free dress or two, while others may require you to invest some sponsorship fees.
(Read more about how you can work with influencers here.)
To trigger greater curiosity while educating your customers, you may consider producing “behind-the-scenes” content pieces which reveals how a piece of apparel was put together.
This helps to stimulate the interest of your prospective customers. At the same time, it allows you to showcase the inspiration behind your designs, demonstrate the quality of your materials, and highlight the care taken to stitch each and every piece.
Here’s an example of a behind-the-scenes story featuring Lara ‘J on Get Fash. Creator of the bestselling bodycon brand, it narrated how the designer creates each individual piece of apparel as well as the inspiration behind them.
Courtesy of Get Fash
As a fashion retailer, you’ll need to be where your buyers are. And that’s where visual social networks Instagram and Pinterest comes in.
One of the fastest growing social networks out there, Instagram is the preferred hangout of the young, hip and trendy. The network now has some 600 million active monthly users – 68 percent of whom are females!
According to Socialbakers, fashion brands are way ahead of all other brands on Instagram. Check how many more follows and engagement they have relative to non-fashion brands:
Courtesy of Socialbakers
Pinterest is also killing it when it comes to fashion and beauty.
Although it has only 150 million users – a quarter of Instagram – Pinterest has the added benefit of driving traffic to your website. Plus, a reported 93% of active pinners said they use Pinterest to plan for purchases while 87% said they’ve purchased something because of Pinterest.
Pinterest is even more heavily skewed to females – 81 percent of Pinterest users are women and girls! Besides, its vertical image format favours fashion photos more than rectangular formats like Facebook or Instagram.
Last, but certainly not least, you’ll need to be a great visual storyteller to succeed in fashion content marketing.
This means that you’ll either need to hire a good portrait photographer or learn how to take beautiful profile shots yourself.
To take great fashion photos with your smartphone, consider the following tips (taken from iPhone photography school):
See how good an iPhone photo can look (courtesy of iPhone Photography School)
Are there other content marketing ideas which fashion boutiques can consider? I’d love to hear your suggestions.
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