Apparel brands wondering whether it’s necessary to keep up with digital trends would do well to take a leaf out of Ana Andjelie’s playbook: “In order to be timeless, you need to be timely,” said the global strategy director at LuxHub, Havas Media’s strategic consulting arm.
Speaking Thursday as part of a panel discussion at Capsule’s New York edition, titled “I Know You: Creating Identity and Voice for Modern Brands,” Andjelie stressed that to be successful today, brands need to remain true to their core promises but how they deliver those messages and experiences needs to evolve with the times.
“Consumers’ emotional connection with brands has become a byproduct of that great experience,” she said, adding, “It’s not about a fantastic ad; if you deliver something seamlessly, conveniently, quickly and [make it] personal, I’m going to love you and I’m going to keep coming back.”
Gabrielle de Papp, senior vice president at Farfetch, an online marketplace that powers e-commerce for independent boutiques and brands, agreed. “The consumer today is very much aware, they’re educated, but they want it now and they want it quickly,” she said. “If you don’t [provide that service], they’re not your customer anymore because they’ve got choice, they’re not loyal, they’ll move on.”
She added, “We’re too busy thinking in channels and the customer is everywhere. They’re using any device and you have to be able to move between channels. And if you’re not nimble and not able to react quickly, it’s tough.”
“Be better with less” is how Yael Aflalo, the founder and CEO of Los Angeles-based conscious-clothing label Reformation, suggested newcomers take on legacy lines. “How are you going to take market share away from big companies? You have to be better than them with fewer resources,” she said, warning, “If you don’t do that, you can stay really small, or go out of business.”
Marrying fashion and data to deliver a curated experience to the consumer
“Brands absolutely know who is just browsing and who is buying,” Andjelie said, noting that it’s time that companies connected the whole eco-system by being obsessed with consumer behavior and staying close to them. She added, “Understand the consumer segmentation: who is the most valuable consumer and what is their lifetime value versus acquisition cost? And then see, can we offer value as an experience even to those who are not buying so they become attached to the brand early on and then drive them to different steps of the cycle for them to convert?”
Aflalo championed the perks of conversational communication. “ It’s about tapping into those sentiments that we all have around shopping and clothes,” she said. “I think it’s cool listening more and having more of a conversation with people.”
Paying attention to what Reformation’s fans wanted resulted in the brand’s “I’m Up Here” collection, a range of styles developed for big-busted women, while taking a look at the data led to free worldwide shipping.
“I was noticing our conversion rate was lower than I wanted so we looked at it by location and we saw that international had a much lower conversion rate than domestic,” she recalled, adding that when the team realized that the big barrier was the shipping cost, they took a look at the average order and decided they wouldn’t pay to acquire customers internationally. “We said would only offer them free shipping. And now the conversion rate of international is on par with domestic. So you just look at the math and if everything makes sense it’s a very simple decision.”
That’s the agility Andjelic was talking about: “With the slowdown of China, luxury brands are figuring out they can’t grow anymore by opening new stores, they overextended themselves, and when a slowdown, like a macroeconomic trend (like a lack of consumer confidence in China) happens they find themselves losing money.”
She added, “So the whole thing about that is, how do you move yourself from growth coupled with production—more, more, more supply—to becoming smarter and providing service and personalization like Farfetch and Reformation does, removing friction from people’s lives, from people’s behaviors. That shift in experiences and behaviors is where the competition is happening.”
What does the store of the future look like?
“It’s a combination, an intersection of technology and brick-and-mortar and customer behavior,” De Papp offered. “It’s going to be interesting as we keep thinking about [brands such as] Bonobos and the different ways of addressing the consumer through not just digital but also brick-and-mortar in a more creative way. Some of these big stores are looking at much smaller footprints.”
“That’s the holistic approach,” Andjelie echoed, “Because that removes [brands] from the confines of just video and print as something they can use to do their storytelling about and push them further to think about themselves as lifestyle experiences. Because integration of technology with strong brand narrative opens up the brand to create an omnichannel experience and adds value at every touch point and every price point. So the brand becomes relevant for those who are shoppers but those who are browsing as well.”