What Impact Has Social Media Had On The Fashion Industry?

0aaLouise Richardson Mediaworks

We’re all aware that social media is taking over to some extent. And, we’re becoming more influenced by what we see online than ever before — especially when it comes to fashion.

It was once popular for fashion to be presented to us through glossy magazines and catwalk shows. Through these controlled channels, fashion was kept exclusive, determined by designers and magazine editors. Fast-forward to 2018 and it’s a very different story.

Now, with access to platforms such as Instagram, we can choose what content we’re exposed to. While catwalks and glossies still remain a part of today’s fashion sphere, fashion is more fluid and interactive than ever before — changing the way fashion brands connect with their core audience.


Marketing To The New Market

As we said, we don’t rely on the latest issue of Vogue to tell us what’s hot anymore. It’s all about social media — what products are online retailers pushing this season? What dresses are all your friends wearing in their latest tagged photos? And, what’re the bloggers and influencers on your news feed into this month?

Marketers should be aware that Millennials are not very trusting of advertising. They’re often perceived to be over-planned and misleading. In the world of fashion, this means that magazines and advertising campaigns don’t have the influence that they once did — they’re now seen as quite distant from the reader, as many are aware of the editing that goes on behind one shot.

Instead, peer recommendations are more valuable and accessible than they once used to be. Of course, we’ve all heard of the power of word-of-mouth, but with social media and its ability to spread at a rapid speed across countries, it’s more important than ever before. Of Instagram’s total audience, 200 million users follow at least one fashion account; 45% of Instagram users in Britain say they follow these fashion accounts to gain inspiration for looks they can buy or create themselves. Sharing their own looks is a part of this process too, with #fashion mentioned a huge 13 million times a month and #ootd (outfit of the day) featuring in 140 million posts to date.

Many social media users look for peer validation when they post content. Many of us are used to reading user-generated reviews about an experience or product before making a purchase now. In fact, research found that 71% of people are more likely to make an online purchase if the product or service has been recommended by others. In addition to this, 84% of Millennials are likely to be influenced into making a purchase based on the user-generated content by strangers who have experienced the product or service.

Bearing this in mind, it’s not surprising that fashion brands focus on Instagram to reach their market. Even luxury brands that once shunned social media for fear of it cheapening their image are jumping on the digital bandwagon. While 72% of luxury fashion brands’ marketing spend is still attributed to print marketing, digital is quickly gaining pace — reaching a total digital ad spend of $100 billion in 2016.

Customer And Brand Engagement

The use of social media brings brands and customers closer than ever before. Founder and editor in chief of the independent publication Business of Fashion Imran Amed says: “The one thing that has changed dramatically in recent years is the direct relationship brands now have with their consumers. In this new hierarchy, the consumer has the ability to amplify or negatively impact on business, through sharing positive or negative responses.”

This is evident in fashion shows. Once an exclusive event for the elite and top names in fashion, many shows on the catwalk can now be viewed live by millions. Access to the designers’ latest fashion lines was often something that we could only hear about through magazines and the press. Now however, we can keep up with the latest through monitoring the content attached to a hashtag.

The popular platforms used to be Facebook and Twitter. But now there’s a new player on the scene — and it’s taking over. Instagram reached 800 million monthly active users in September 2017 and these users have the highest level of engagement (time spent using the app) compared to other social media sites.

Instagram has bridged the gap between fashion brands and buyers. They connect through shared interests rather than through a catwalk show or print advertising campaign. This encourages brands to think more about ‘real’ people, with different bodies, skin tones and fashion preferences — it’s opened a whole new world for fashion marketers.

Instagram shopping has recently been launched too. Brands are able to tag products in their posts, which can then lead users to a point-of-sale. Early adopters of this, such as Natori and Magnolia Boutique, have already found that traffic and sales from Instagram have increased after implementing the shopping service.

Some brands ask buyers to post images of themselves wearing the products. This is another form of user-generated content and it allows others to see what the outfit looks like on real people. In some cases, users are given the chance to feature on the main social media page.

More Influencers

Creating a conversation around your brand and products is important and one reason why many fashion brands have incorporated influencer marketing into their digital strategies. The influencer economy of Instagram alone is valued at $1 billion and 94% of businesses said influencer marketing was an effective campaign strategy.

The strategy of influencer marketing involves working with influential personas — for example, a blogger or user with a high social following — to increase awareness of a brand or influence the purchasing patterns of a target audience.

One example of this is Adidas and Kendall Jenner. With a total Instagram following of 89.2 million compared to Adidas’ 19.2 million, the partnership will significantly increase Adidas’ social reach and position the brand in front of Jenner’s younger fashion following.

How do consumers view influencer marketing? They often think influencer content is almost like a recommendation from a friend. Seeing the people we admire or look up to wearing a particular outfit or using a certain product is a vote of confidence in a brand that makes us more likely to purchase the particular product or interact with the brand in the future. This sense of community is something that brand accounts struggle to deliver; a third party is needed to validate the products for consumers.

Celebrities don’t have to be involved to make the campaign successful, although their high exposure levels and number of followers will naturally help. It can involve any profile that can add value to a brand, but generally this value is measured in terms of volume of followers.

It’s key when deciding on an influencer to ensure that their followers are aligned with the audience of the brand. Influencer relationships can be expensive, so the associated spend needs to be justifiable — yet doing so can be problematic for fashion brands, when you consider the difficulty surrounding success measurement.

Social media and influencer marketing have definitely changed the fashion world. We’re now more connected with our brands than ever before and are proud to publicly post about the names we love. With the implementation of Instagram shopping already changing the process of fashion retailing, who knows what the future holds?


Louise Richardson has been a copywriter at digital marketing agency Mediaworks, since September 2017. After graduating with a degree in Media Production from University of Sunderland, she completed a post-graduate course in Magazine Journalism at PMA Media Training in London before becoming a freelance writer, where she wrote articles for multiple industries. Prior to her position at Mediaworks, Richardson was a content writer at travel agency Hays Travel and digital marketing company Visualsoft.

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