February 5, 2017, 4:06 PM

Relationship goals: Luxury fashion, meet social media

Social media breaks down the traditional barriers between the average shopper and luxury. But high-end brands are still trying to figure out how to exploit the opportunity.

Lead Photo

Luxury fashion has been defined by a certain inaccessibility to the average shopper. Above all else, these retailers are selling a lifestyle as much as they are a product. However, thanks to social media and the elite superstar influencers it gave rise to, those walls of exclusivity are being swiftly brought down.

Fashionistas are creating top-tier brand access and delivering it to legions of followers right from their smartphones. This dynamic shift doesn’t need to be a relationship killer, however, and with a smart tailored approach there’s potential for social and luxury to become fashion’s “it” couple. Of course, all relationships take work and certain building blocks are going to have to be set in place right from the start. 

Finding the right social #style #OOTD #inspo

Today’s shopper spends more than six hours a week hunting down fashion inspiration on their mobile phone, much of it on social media. Where else can a brand get an audience guarantee like that? Social and mobile content are the driving forces behind the latest fashion trends, luxury or otherwise. 

Many major fashion houses are responding with the expected, curated Instagram feeds and YouTube channels, in an effort to retain control over the brand reputation that has led them this far. Some, like Balmain and Gucci, have taken bold steps in the other direction with Snapchat. The platform’s fast, personal nature is ripe for behind-the-scenes runway content and messages from celebrity ambassadors. Offering a somewhat unfiltered look at the brand completely breaks with the traditional, manufactured approach reserved for the pages of Vogue. The key here is Snapchat’s clever delivery of what seems like a genuine experience without diluting a brand’s image or forfeiting total control to someone with 200,000 followers. That brief, personal glimpse into the “glam life” is sometimes all it takes to bring a fan fully into the path to purchase.

The strength of the social media influencer in all of this also can’t be understated. New names like Chiara Ferragni, Aimee Song and Kristina Bazan are just a few of the well-followed social stars giving traditional brand ambassadors a run for their money. Luxury brands are bringing these pseudo-celebs into the front row with the likes of the Kardashian’s and Posh Spice to livestream, tweet and snap their way into demanding anywhere from $60,000-$300,000 per post. This might seem like a lofty price tag, but loyal followers aren’t looking for one-way inspiration from celebrities anymore. It’s all about the personal experience.

Do it for the “Like”

At the end of the day, luxury retailers still have one ultimate relationship goal, make the sale. For many brands the language of likes, comments, shares and hashtags is still incredibly new. How does that digital footprint lead to sales?

Social media platforms know the primary value they can bring to this relationship is better defining the path to purchase. Twitter briefly trialed a “Buy Button,” and other networks like Pinterest and Facebook quickly followed suit. Most recently, Instagram attempted to make shopping tags a reality in tandem with Warby Parker and Kate Spade. Looking for that #OOTD on sale? Determining the right next step for a shopper here is critical. These initiatives are in some way perpetuating the myth that social media must lead to direct sales, however, when it’s really about storytelling. It’s counterproductive if every #inspo photo comes with a “click to buy” button. For luxury brands in particular, half the battle is selling a certain lifestyle and a permanent “for sale” isn’t exactly selling the big dream.

At the end of the day, that delicate balance between perception and purchase is why Twitter’s flirtation with the “Buy Button” fizzled out. Twitter is absolutely an effective platform to drive sales, the “click to buy” option was just not the right approach. Adidas and Nike have the Twitter-sphere down, pushing everything from new product announcements to run raffles for limited edition sneakers. Nothing feels as luxurious as something that’s a limited edition.

That being said, something like shopping tags may be what the industry needs to keep the influencer relationship an honest one. Accountability to social influencers is difficult and vice versa so only time will tell if doing it for the ‘likes’ is what drives the dollars.

Sliding into your DMs

Finally, it’s worth noting the power of the chat app in this relationship. After all, no relationship can be successful without proper communication. Facebook messenger and WeChat command huge user bases and smart luxury brands are leveraging these platforms to ramp up the special experiences for valuable customers. In fact, it’s reported that ninety-two percent of luxury brands already have a WeChat account, but they’ve only just begun to use it effectively for engaging customers. Luxury brands should take their cue from the likes of Coach and Burberry, both of which have taken tailored steps to transform the average WeChat experience and are live streaming shows, driving loyalty programs and offering limited edition products.

All relationships take work, especially new ones like social media and luxury fashion. Emerging brands have a rare opportunity to jump in no strings attached, while established brands have loyal audiences ready to hear from them on mobile and social platforms. But with the right mix of lifestyle content, paths to purchase and loyalty luxury brands and social media can give everyone in retail some serious relationships goals.

GPShopper is a mobile retail technology vendor that offers a suite of mobile commerce and mobile marketing offerings.

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