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What High Street Brands Can Learn From Independents


In her latest piece for WhichPLM, regular contributor Dakota Murphey, shares some of the ways and technologies that independent fashion businesses are using to harness new customers, whilst keeping their current ones loyal.

The fashion industry is one that’s centred on change. It’s in a state of constant evolution.No stranger to innovation, in recent years it’s been independent brands that have been leading the shift to a tech-focused sector that utilises digital tools to bring about trends and raise awareness of issues like sustainability.

What sets indie brands apart from high street brands is the way in which they approach engagement with their followers and consumers. Using tools like social media, innovative software and video content to reach audiences, their marketing is far more natural, genuine and accessible. Independents are more likely to work with influencers, respond directly to messages and comments, and are generally seen as more authentic.

The power of influencers in reaching the virtual market

Online influencers have become integral to digital marketing, helping brands advertise their products and services and reach their target market. Apparel brands have seen great success working with influencers to leverage their power and impact. One of the primary reasons why influencer marketing is so powerful is that it increases the level of authenticity for a brand, making promotion and marketing seem more organic and natural and building trust in the process.

There are numerous opportunities available in the influencer sphere, from expanding global markets to increased access via online tools and harnessing the power of influencer culture. Digital isn’t just an important sales channel, it also helps companies adapt to cheaper and faster operations. For example, digitisation can help facilitate quicker logistics and sales fulfilment through the likes of click and collect or drive-through options. It can improve customer acquisition and aid inventory management for a more resilient supply chain.

Why social media is the marketing tool of choice for indie brands

With social channels like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter a part of our daily lives, it’s no surprise that independent brands have turned to social for building engagement and reaching a wider audience. It’s a way of communicating frequently with audiences, building customer loyalty and showcasing the authentic side of your brand. When businesses approach social media with genuine empathy and care, consumers take note. Industry insiders realise that consumers turn to their peers as much, if not more, than they turn to fashion leaders, and social media can play a huge part in that.

When you build a following on social media, it allows you the opportunity to launch new products to a ready-made group of interested customers. Take professional parkour and specialist stunt performance team STORROR as an example. With a following of 975k Instagram followers and 7.3 million YouTube followers (at the time of writing), the team had a loyal fanbase ready and waiting when they decided to launch their apparel range which has been met with huge success. Such measured achievement was partly because they had built a genuine following of interested customers through existing social channels.

As people spend an increasing amount of time online, especially on social channels, it’s only natural that brands will use these platforms more to market their products. In particular, with the pandemic and imposed lockdowns of recent years, social media use has risen exponentially, serving as an opportunity for fashion brands to advertise their products more easily through tools like in-app purchasing.

How to capitalise on fashion eCommerce trends

Brands of all sizes have more options than ever when it comes to marketing and conversions, including the following that look set to take the world of eCommerce by storm in the coming years.

Virtual assistants

As more of us turn to online channels to browse products and make purchases, it’s understandable that we expect customer service to evolve in the same way. AI chatbots and virtual assistants are increasingly the solution that brands can use to deliver a fantastic experience for consumers without a physical presence. It’s a way of providing quick answers and recommendations while also nurturing relationships and engaging potential customers. What’s more, it’s a tool that is available to brands of all sizes, from start-ups and independents through to global brands.

AR and VR

More fashion eCommerce retailers are working hard to not only retain their existing customer base but attract new ones through better customer experiences, and one of the ways they’re doing that is through virtual and augmented reality. Providing so-called ‘dressing room’ experiences, AR and VR are ways of persuading a customer to buy without them needing to try the physical garment on in person. Simply by tapping a button, customers can see how an item will look and fit, all from their device.

Accessible payments

Businesses such as Klarna and Afterpay have partnered with many eCommerce fashion brands to enable consumers to pay for products with instalment plans rather than one upfront cost. It’s a potential solution to the issue of pricier luxury items that run the risk of putting off otherwise interested customers and it’s a form of purchasing that’s being embedded into the sites of many retailers, large and small. As Klarna explain, SMEs understand that “the FOMO generation that live online don’t want to have to wait until payday to buy an item. This is shaping payment choice at the checkout as retailers look at new ways to help customers defer payments, try before they buy and shop more easily on their mobiles”.

Image courtesy of Klarna.

Video content

Something that many smaller retailers appreciate is that video has the potential to create an instant emotional connection between brands and consumers, and imbues everything you do as a brand with authenticity. Brands such as Sani have made excellent use of video content on TikTok to reach out to new customers and build trust. Customers can see products styled by real people, have questions answered in real time by the team and take advantage of a more intimate look at the business. Whether it’s behind the scenes content, unveiling new products and launches, going live for Q&As or providing tutorials for how to style products, video content is a must for the fashion retailers of today.

Fashion has always attempted to conquer new frontiers, and as technology evolves and expands, fashion will no doubt be at the heart of it all. Independent brands have been highly successful in the fashion sector when it comes to engaging new audiences, adapting to the values and ethics of consumers, and offering better, more authentic experiences for customers.

Lydia Mageean Lydia Mageean has been part of the WhichPLM team for eight years now. She has a creative and media background, and is responsible for maintaining and updating our website content, liaising with advertisers, working on special projects like our PLM Project Pack, or our Annual Publications, and more.Joining mid-2013 as our Online Editor, she has since become WhichPLM’s Editor. In addition to taking on writing and interviewing responsibilities, Lydia has also become the primary point of contact for news, events, features and other aspects of our ever-growing online content library and tools.