The gatekeepers of the fashion industry used to be editors, experienced designers and powerful retailers. Ten years ago, magazines were still considered the bible for fashion inspiration and new seasonal must-haves. So much has changed since the launch of Instagram in 2010. The industry has shifted from an exclusive to an inclusive form of fashion : consumers now express their opinions daily through social media. These new voices have entered the fashion game, mainly because of millennial behavior on Instagram.
Social media and millennials are shaking up the fashion industry
Millennials are embracing social media and creating a new paradigm: posting everyday about their life. More than 100 million images are shared daily on Instagram. Can you imagine the power of these images? As a matter of fact, they influence three quarters of purchases and are often driven by brands themselves which collaborate with celebrities and their entourage (ex: Burberry collaborated with 16 years old Brooklyn Beckham to reach millennials and generated 15 millions impressions in just 8 hours). But mostly, these purchases are driven by a myriad of new voices: on Instagram, 46% of influencers have fewer than 10,000 subscribers. And with Instagram, purchasing is just a click away since brands tag their e-shops directly in pictures.
This last decade will be remembered as a time in which consumers became influencers and this is what has changed the game.
How brands can embrace social media ?
Given social media’s major influence on how people shop, brands can no longer ignore the game-changing impact that these new consumers voices have on both their image and their business if they want to stay ahead.
Millennials expect brands to constantly renew themselves with capsule collections, exclusive collaborations and innovative and exciting products. This puts a never-ending pressure on brands to reduce their time-to-market to just a few weeks: Missguided, a French women’s clothing brand, has achieved an impressive time-to-market of just 1 week.
This competitive advantage puts brands in a stronger position to react quickly to emerging trends : with social media, the propagation speed of trends is increasingly accelerating.
Nowadays, some micro trends take just a few months to be adopted by the population vs 1 - 2 years before social media. Not only do brands have to react very quickly to adjust their design and stock, but they also have to learn to anticipate, or they will miss the next big trend. Furthermore, social media has amplified and accelerated the spread of a viral buzz and made it hard for brands to anticipate the lifecycle of a product.
Nobody expected the Balenciaga “Ikea lookalike” shopping tote to last for so many seasons. On the other hand, we see other trends burst onto the Instagram fashion scene and vanish overnight.
At this rate, brands are becoming engaged in an endless race to create more and more - more products, more content, more market share, etc. However, this race damages profitability and threatens the environment.
The solution is: SMARTER vs FASTER.
This means being ahead of your consumer’s preferences in order to launch strong products aligned with your brand’s DNA, but also to anticipating demand in order to reach the right balance between novelty and continuity, trendy and iconic products.
The great news is that if well used, Instagram represents a gold mine of insight allowing brands to be ahead of their market and their consumer preferences. But above all, In fine, Instagram allows brands to create truly relevant stories and unique experiences to connect with customers for the first time ever.
Social media has a powerful predictive capacity
If fashion professionals used to look at what consumers were wearing on the streets to get a sense of the market, “street style” has now taken on an even greater significance online with thousands of consumers wearing products just a click away.
This means much more consumer data to analyze and back ones intuitions with Instagram reflects desirability, the adoption of fashion trends and how they spread from edgy trends to commercial successes. We can see niche trends emerging from fashion-forward people, and closely follow their propagation (or not) to the mass market.
At Heuritech, we have conducted studies showing that certain behaviors on Instagram can be 6 to 12 months ahead of trends. Figures combined with thousands of pictures of people wearing specific products can help fashion experts back their intuitions with strong data.
As Mr. Ghesquière said after the Spring 2019 Vuitton show, “by the nature of fashion, the future is the present, and you always have to project your present into a future you hope will be the present when the time comes”.
Designers have always looked at what's happening today to design for tomorrow. Social media has just changed the way they do it, giving them a window onto the world. Not only do they have their human eye as they have always had, but now technology can save them precious time to concentrate on what they do best: creating.