Everyone knows that social and shopping go hand in hand, and increasingly we’re finding that there’s so much to learn about. Brands & retailers are looking to explore the online world, while online is increasingly going offline. Things are constantly evolving, and that’s why we attended the Social Retail Summit #4 in Brooklyn, founded and moderated by retail journalist Peter Verkooijen. There were five panels featuring well-known brands as well as fashion tech startups such as Warby Parker and recently featured resale platform, Refashioner.
Here are five things essential to social retail that we took away from the summit:
1) Retailers must become masters of customer engagement.
It’s essential for retailers to utilize all channels of social interaction available to them. It’s not enough to provide a good product, but provide a product that gets everyone talking. As we already know, using email is an effective way to market to consumers, and usually has high conversion rates. Panelist Michael Hershfield, VP of Strategic Partnerships & Legal Affairs at Sailthru, goes on to discuss how email is an interesting vehicle for brands because of its natural engagement. He explained that because of its reach and ease, it’s a fundamental channel for consumer engagement.
2) The line between publishers and retailers is blurring.
More and more emerging designers are looking for platforms to market themselves by producing engaging editorial content in an attempt to target and keep consumers. It’s no secret that it’s more difficult for emerging brands to be featured in major publications. Luckily fledgling brands with modest budgets have realized this void in the market and have found ways to fill it. One example of a panelist that recognized this is Claire Mazur, Co-founder of Of A Kind, a company which provides a platform for new designers wherein they can sell their merchandise while simultaneously receiving editorial exposure. All in all, publishing and retail are no longer mutually exclusive; today, they are seamlessly co-existing.
3) Building a bridge between online and your brick & mortar store is not optional–it’s the new norm.
We all love to shop online–and 2012’s record-breaking online sales were a direct reflection of that. But the reality is that offline retail sales are still dominating. Therefore, building a cohesive and natural connection between online + offline is essential, if not crucial, for your brand. Keith Fiore, Co-founder and CEO of zenplaya, helped build a geo-tagging, mobile app that flags storefronts that carry the products a consumer searches for in their area. Such companies are addressing the niche for online shopping with an optional offline solution for the treasured personal shopping experiences that cannot typically be had online.
4) Creating a unique relationship with your consumer is always key.
Retailers must create a consistent brand that consumers recognize both on and offline. Jen Rubio, Head of Social Media at Warby Parker, used her company as an example. She explains that customers can now go into a physical Warby Parker showroom and can fully experience their eyewear brands. Should they choose to shop them online, they’ll notice that the glasses are merchandised in such a way that the spacing is nearly identical to that on the webpages of the site. There is a common brand experience that customers learn to associate with and this is something retailers should strive for.
5) Independent businesses and big businesses are learning to co-exist.
With the rise of small companies increasingly existing in the same retail space as major retailers, some question how the two worlds would interact. Chelsea Sun of Shoptiques, a startup that brings boutiques shopping online, explained how her company provides product delivery in the same way that Amazon does — with a great focus on customer service. However, she went on to say they don’t look to compete with older, fixed companies, but rather “incorporate what they do as the standard for startup e-commerce companies” by providing a new standard of convenience.
It seems that social media is no longer just an extra arm in an attempt to bolster retail platforms both on and offline. Now we see it has become a necessary extension of a brand.
We enjoyed the evening of speakers and look forward to the next Social Retail Summit as the climate of social continues to evolve.
Melissa Sulewski is the Assistant to the CEO at TWF. Third Wave Fashion has been your fashion tech think tank since 2011. We publish the first ever printed fashion tech magazine, Third Wave. Follow us on Twitter or subscribe to our newsletter to stay on top of the latest in fashion tech + wearables.
Image by us.