Three Key Takeaways from Fashion Digital UK 2014

Posted by James Dunford Wood 14 Apr 14

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The first London Fashion Digital event - brought over here from its inception in New York - was a packed event. The mix was interesting - put fashion and digital together and you get the data literate pioneers, the wannabe start-ups, and a great mass of fashionistas in between, eager to learn where online fashion is going. So for the technically minded, a lot of the talk was talk we've heard before.

The opening address by Justin Opie of IMRG, the retail industry trade body, set the scene in suitably impressive style - the industry generates 90 billion of ecommerce revenues in the UK every year, or which c. 70 billion was down to retail. Growth is in double digits, and fashion is at the forefront. Et cetera. In fact, he had so much to say he was hustled off the stage by the ever efficient Fashion Digital moderator.

The day was mercifully short of sales presentations and long on expert panels, but with the result that knowledge was sometimes repeated from panel to panel. However, some interesting insights surfaced. Here are my takeaways:

1) Storytelling is critical to community development

There was a lot of talk about the intersection of content and commerce. A great example was Rosanna Falconer from Matthew Williamson, whose MW Daily is an object lesson in fresh, engaging content. Rosanna has really done a lot to transform MW's digital footprint, as well as spending time on good old fashioned customer retention strategies - with the aim of replicating the same sort of personal attention to online shoppers as to people who come into the store, many of whom the manager will know by name.

But the point - reiterated by speaker after speaker - was that to succeed online in fashion your brand needs a personality, and the best way to get this across is via content and the development of community.

Net-a-Porter is the benchmark - an online brand that now builds its community offline through a traditional print magazine. For now, there are great opportunities open for brands that do content well. Most are well behind the curve.

2) Leveraging traditional assets is helpful for gaining social traction

Jennifer Roebuck from French Connection revealed how they use their shop staff to tweet and comment on Facebook to help their social media campaigns get traction. After all, she said, they are our perfect social media demographic. This was a great insight - shop floor staff should be social in more ways than one.

3) Many are failing to track data properly

The best quote of the day came from Cindy Lincks from Brooks Brothers 'I love, love, love data'.

Earlier in the day we heard how '99 per cent of fashion brands don't track properly' Wow. We know from our own experience at Ometria that 90 per cent of the retailers we come across don't use their data tools correctly - partly because they aren't trained, but mostly because they don't have the time, since the tools they have require time to get the most out of them (read about how we helped Charlotte Tilbury save 10 hours a week by addressing this issue here.) And the KPIs they track, typically, won't be the rights ones. Three examples: 

a) Conversion rate

We all know what that is, right? Visits divided by transaction. However, so often ecommerce teams will be sent into a tailspin when the conversion rate suddenly dips after a spike in traffic from a piece of press or a social media campaign. But clearly it's not necessarily significant - it is not unusual for bounce rates to skyrocket when a new referrer floods the site with traffic. The conversion rate that retailers should be tracking is on visitors that show an intention to shop - i.e. who reach the commerce funnel. This is a much more stable and significant indicator of the health of the business.

b) View availability

Cindy talked a lot about this, and it's intimately tied to product-level conversion. This is all about understanding the significance and potential lost revenue of 'out of stock' variants or products when matched with views - for example, a retailer needs to be alerted when out of stock items are getting a lot of views, as it may signify money being wasted on a promotion or marketing campaign. 

c) Segmenting for lapsing customers

Most of the better ESPs will have the ability to segment by transactions - but what you also need to know is how engaged these customers are. For example, when sending an email to lapsed customers who may have bought from you three or four months ago but not since, it would be useful to segment further - by those who had browsed and engaged in the intervening period, and those who had not. Most ESPs don't currently enable you to do this - but these are just the kinds of segments Ometria lets retailers create. 

James Dunford Wood

Image courtesy of @KSterneckert

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