Now is a time of exciting change. As we see fashion, retail, and technology evolve, they open our eyes to new possibilities with customer engagement and brand experience. As a testament to this rapid adoption of innovation, last Thursday, Peter Verkoojen hosted the fifth Social Retail Summit at the Dumbo Loft in New York. With a stylish turnout of varying industry professionals, the evening consisted of a series of panels and short demo presentations touching on customer relations strategies for omnichannel retailing.
First panel of the evening was a dedicated discussion about direct-to-consumer brands. Speakers included Jake Bronstein Founder of Flint and Tinder, Erica Birmingham Founder of Canopy, Bob Bland founder of Brooklyn Royalty and Manufacture New York, and Stefan Loble Founder/CEO of Bluff Works. Each panelist showed the audience their company’s campaign video, spoke about what they were trying to achieve with their brands, and how crowdfunding platforms attributed to their success.
Next up was a short demo presentation by Caroline Misan Alvo, founder of Gambita, an online boutique for fashion forward petite women. Caroline spoke about the difficulties of being 4’9 and finding clothes that fit her small frame. Her online marketplace would be the solution for a market encapsulating nearly fifty percent of the female population in America.
Following this presentation was a panel discussion about building brand value with social media. Panelists speaking included Gabe Bevilacqua Cofounder Rallyverse, Ilana Rabinowitz VP of Marketing at Lion Brand Yarn Company, Kevin Lee Founder and CEO of Didit, and Third Wave Fashion client, Veronika Sonsey, CEO and Founder of inSparq. Veronika stood at the helm of the conversation, citing fast trending movement towards social commerce. Gabe Bevulacqua touched on the difficulty of maintaining the right balance of automated versus curated content while Kevin Lee and Ilana Rabinowitz spoke about the importance of keeping social media in house.
The third panel of the evening centered on development of content commerce. Speakers included Rachel Siegel Social Media Director at StyleCaster Media Group, Sumeera Rasul Cofounder of Madesmith, and Kate Sekules Founder and CEO of ReFashioner. Moderated by our very own Liza Kindred, kicking off the discussion she explained how content commerce is not an entirely new business model, referring to the Michelin Guide as a unique way to sell consumers on restaurants (and by association tires) by way of content recommendation, validation, and critique. Next, she turned to the panelists and asked them to explain how they use content to accentuate user experience and generate sales.
Rachel Siegel noted the significance of remaining true to your brand’s voice. Content uploaded, whether it be pictures, video, or recommendations should be genuine and untainted by off brand product endorsements. Becoming an open billboard may bring in short gains, but in the end your brand becomes empty, standing for nothing. She explained how StyleCaster works tirelessly to educate people and make style and fashion something that is attainable. By remaining organic in conversations, even by recommending competitors’ brands, companies can build strong customer relationships that lend themselves to repeat visits and brand loyalty. Using the company’s weekly Twitter Style Chats as an example, Rachel spoke about she tries her best to remain as honest as possible when responding to an influx of customer inquiries about trends, styles, and products. Summing up the purpose of content commerce, she ended with content provides context for shoppers.
When presented with the same question, Sumeera Rasul delved into a short description of her company Madesmith, an online platform assisting designers and makers producing locally sell their products by sharing their stories and building a brand identity. The Madesmith team really gets to know their makers and takes the time to coach them on how best to tell their story. Content should provide customers with rich, immersive, and authentic detail that adds to the brand experience of each designer. Sumeera explained how she has found makers that come up with a mission that is bigger than themselves and their products helps develop memorable, substantive commerce experiences.
Kate Sekules Founder and CEO of ReFashioner, one of the first high-end curated recommerce platforms, focused her attention on how content helps reshape the perception of ethical fashion. As she put it, “ We need to sexy it up with content!” Having come from a journalism background, Kate has always seen content to be a necessary integration with commerce. For ReFashioner, selling pre-owned means selling the stories of items once loved but now passed on. These stories illustrate the deeply personal connections people develop with their clothes, and help to create connections amongst users and build a community. When discussing how content provides inspiration, Kate remarked, “inspiration is education hidden, a lesson on how not to be boring.”
The final panel for the evening made for a great conversation about the reinvention of offline retail. Speakers included Michael Gray head of business development at Storefront (sponsor for the evening), Katharine HIll Director of Offline at BaubleBar, and Edward ‘Tadd’ Spering Founder and CEO of Stylinity. Topics flowed between pop-up touch points and omnichannel retailing. Online retailers are being equipped with new tools to reach consumers on a tangible level unlike ever before.
Wrapping up with another breakout networking session, the room felt alive with new possibilities. Retail whether solely online or offline or somewhere in between is rapidly changing. New technology is allowing consumers and merchants to engage in ways we never thought possible. It is now up to us to find the most creative and effective means of utilizing these tools.
To find out when the next Social Retail Summit will be follow them on Twitter, @socialretailnyc.
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. Christi Reid is an Editorial Intern for TWF.
Images via Social Retail Summit and Christi Reid