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What is Fashion Content Strategy?
A publication of It's A Working Title LLC
This weekly publication focuses on how business and economics trends, technology, and the drive for sustainability impact the global luxury, fashion, and experience economy industries. Prepared by the staff of content strategy agency and think tank It’s a Working Title LLC, each week’s issue provides a summary of recent trends across the globe and a leader that conducts a deeper dive into content strategy.
This week’s contents
Leader: What is Fashion Content Strategy?
Trends—whether they are fashion or content—come and go a mile a second. With fashion and luxury brands already under the gun to produce collections six times a year or more, they are simultaneously feeling the pressures of a constantly-evolving digital marketplace that has forever changed the shape of product development, sales, and marketing.
Brands need to define an authentic digital identity, cultivate a customer-centric online shopping experience, and produce original content around-the-clock across platforms to feed consumers hungry for the latest sensation.
The flow of information and the instant gratification mantra of e-commerce are not going anywhere. So, if you’re a fashion or luxury brand, how do you cope when consumers expect you to be everywhere at once?
The answer lies in the art and science of content strategy.
To pull a standard definition, content strategy deals with:
the planning, creation, delivery, and governance of content. Content not only includes the words on the page but also the images and multimedia that are used… The goal of content strategy is to create meaningful, cohesive, engaging, and sustainable content. (Usability.gov)
As a field, content strategy is relatively new since it is a direct by-product of digital technology. However, its foundational concepts are old and overlap with the basic tenets of good writing and visual design.
Content strategy comes with many misconceptions. It is not the same as an editorial calendar. A well-crafted content strategy usually includes your brand’s content calendar across platforms. But, it is merely one tenet of a larger strategy to identify, organize, create, track, and maintain brand content. If you’re a brand content marketer, content strategy is a great tool to use; but, they are not the same field.
According to a 2018 McKinsey and WWD study, brands that succeed in digital regularly do the following: leverage data analytics to develop concepts and plan products; prioritize speed to market; make use of a variety of data to glean consumer insights, including search data, social media, competitor scans, and product ratings. It should come as no surprise that digital native brands are at the top of the success list when it comes to digital.
The rise of e-commerce platforms like Farfetch and resellers like The RealReal shows the distinct advantages that digital native brands possess. As the McKinsey report authors note, “[t]hese companies have digital platforms and teams of data scientists equipped to optimize a different model. Ultimately, these companies have less to lose [than other fashion brands].”
While digital native brands offer many lessons, even these exclusively e-commerce sites require a solid, differentiated content strategy to make sure that consumers are getting as much out of a brand’s omni-channel content as possible. The growth of user-generated content and click-and-shop capabilities, never mind the explosion of influencer marketing and new social media platforms, make customer experience and personalization more important than ever.
So, how does fashion or luxury brand find the best content strategy solution?
There are different ways to find and implement a content strategy that is right for your brand. For enterprise-level content marketers, there are several pre-packaged content models, like Contently. However, fashion and luxury brands benefit most from working directly with a content strategist to create a bespoke content model that closely meets their specific vision, needs, capabilities, and audiences.
No matter what approach your brand takes, you will reap benefits from thinking about your brand’s current content strategy.
In this light, we are proud to announce the launch of It’s A Working Title, LLC. We are a boutique tech agency and think tank focused on research and full stack content strategy across a number of retail sectors with particular emphasis on luxury, fashion, and the experience economy. We believe in the power of vision-centric, value-driven content strategy to connect the backend, frontend, and the customer across channels from IRL to digital to the metaverse. Content strategy works best when it is bespoke and not one-size-fits-all.
The passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on September 8 has led to an outpouring of condolences from the fashion industry and will lead to changes in the London Fashion Week schedule. Tributes to the Queen have poured in from across the industry since her passing on 8 September. The UK will observe an official period of mourning until 7 days after the Queen’s funeral at Westminster Abbey on 19 September. As this will fall during London Fashion Week, scheduled for 16-20 September, the British Fashion Council issued a statement recommending that all shows due to take place during the day of the funeral be rescheduled and events such as receptions and launches be re-considered:
London Fashion Week is a business-to-business event, and an important moment for designers to show their collections at a specific moment in the fashion calendar, we recognise the work that goes into this moment.
Therefore, shows and presentations of collections can continue, but we are asking that designers respect the mood of the nation and period of national mourning by considering the timing of their image release.
This will likely mean the rescheduling of shows by Roksanda, Christopher Kane, Supriya Lele, Chopova Lowena, Sinead O'Dwyer and Chet Lo. Burberry has announced that will cancel its show fully.
Tommy Hilfiger’s NYFW show was a phygital powerhouse. The brand’s Spring-Summer 2023 collection was its first in New York for 3 years and was displayed in person at the Skyline Drive-In in Brooklyn and through livestream on gaming platform Roblox. The collection modeled in Brooklyn was mirrored by avatars walking in identical creations through a virtual New York City. The collection included exclusive digital products for Roblox users that can be purchased with the physical pieces. This is not Hilfiger’s first web3-powered effort. It partnered with Roblox in 2021 to launch TOMMY PLAY, a digital space for the brand’s community to game and interact
Milanese brand Marni redefined streetwear in an immersive SS2023 show under the Manhattan Bridge at New York Fashion Week. Francesco Risso, creative director of Marni, is never one to shy away getting people to think about fashion—and in different contexts at that. In Marni’s first-ever show at NYFW (the second European brand to cross the Atlantic for fashion week), the audience was part of the show, required to wear the collection and mixed among an ill-defined labyrinth of a runway through which models wandered. With orchestral sounds mingling with the inescapable sounds of New York, the Marni SS2023 collection was a beautiful reinvention of streetwear.
Business & Economics
The re-opening of offices and weakening economic growth are driving up beauty sales. During the 2001 recession, the phenomenon was dubbed the “lipstick index” by the chairman of Estée Lauder. Consumers wanting a bit of luxury but not willing to part with large amounts of disposable income during a time of economic uncertainty shifted spending towards lower priced goods such as make-up. With offices re-opening and social events and travel plans back on, consumers are responding in a similar fashion this year with spending on hair, makeup, fragrance, and skincare care all up in double digits percent during the first 7 months of 2022 even while consumer confidence numbers look increasingly shaky.
Apart from being more financially accessible luxury goods, these products have been able to buck the world-wide inflationary trend. Energy is a relatively small part of producing many beauty products and they take up little room in shipping containers. As a result, prices for premium beauty products rose just 2 percent y/y during January to August as compared to a 5.1 percent inflation rate for apparel and over 10 percent for the general economy in the U.S.
Global economic turbulence is beginning to impact mid-market apparel retailers while luxury brands continue to show resilience for now. With the World Bank warning of a global recession amid rising inflation, many mid-market retailers are signaling their intentions to cut back to weather the storm. Fears of ‘stagflation’, which has historically proved tricky for economic policy-makers to combat, led PVH Corp., the American parent company of Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein, to announce their intention to lay off about 10 percent of their global workforce as consumers cut discretionary spending. After generally weaker than expected H1 2022 results and deteriorating outlooks for H2, similar warnings are emerging from Nordstrom, Macy’s, Kohl’s, Gap, Adidas, and others while big box stores like Walmart and Target are set to follow course. After stronger than expected H1 results (which this periodical reviewed), luxury brands expect sales to remain robust in H2 and into 2023 as higher market segment purchasers tend to be more immune to slowing economic growth, at least at the start, and European-based firms are benefitting from a decades low Euro-Dollar exchange rate. Yet, how long will this continue depends on near-term economic prospects, which are highly uncertain, yet appear particularly grim as interest rates in advanced economies are set to continue to rise to combat inflation.
Mid-market fashion retailers are slashing prices to move mismatched and bloated inventory levels though office work wear is a bright spot. Data released in July revealed that U.S. apparel and accessory retail sales volumes have flatlined over the past year. The premium and luxury end of retail fashion sales have held up well, yet mid- and lower-market segments have struggled overall. Part of the blame may be the impact of inflation and inflation fears. Another part is the residual impact of supply chain disruptions, which has led to inventory mismatches with apparel arriving at the wrong season and a build-up of excess inventory. This is resulting in deep discounting, which is hurting margins. One bright spot is work-ready apparel. For example, while Gap and Old Navy labels have struggled to move inventory without big price cuts, Banana Republic has been able to sell dressy office-wear at regular prices. Macy’s and Kohl’s has also reported solid demand for office wear as more Americans return to in-person work.
What is the future of localization? A CSA survey from several years ago found that over 70 percent of consumers are more likely to purchase a product from a website in their native language. This makes sense and points to the importance of localization strategies that have underpinned many global luxury brands marketing and product development practices over the past decade if not longer. Though globalization has led to quite a bit convergence in consumers’ luxury preferences, the local climate and culture of a region still matter from everything from the use of local language to the production of culturally relevant product descriptions to providing payment and contact options. These things remain important for accessing new markets, reaching consumers through ads and SEO strategies, building loyalty, and making the experience of luxury meaningful across cultures. This vector of strategies will also need to be introduced in web3-powered customer experience strategies in venues like the metaverse. And to the extent that a metaverse presence is merely another channel of distribution, analogous to an in-store or online touch point, that would seem to be strategically straightforward even though it makes the content strategy needs more acute. Yet, to the extent that the metaverse is more than just another one-way road for brands to reach consumers, but a two-way cooperative partnership as many envision, this represents a new challenge to localization. For now, it is not just about getting language and cultural context right but learning how to work interactively and iteratively across cultures. This is a weighter challenge that awaits luxury strategists worldwide.
The RealReal’s annual report shows that resale continues to attract shoppers. The annual report is produced by the world’s largest online marketplace for authenticated, resale luxury goods, backed by more than 28 million members and more than 26 million items sold to date. Some of the report’s major takeaways include:
Awareness of Resale Is Up:
27% more people are familiar with resale than last year
The RealReal (TRR) member base grew by 23% in the first half of the year, adding 5.3 million new shoppers since 2021
Customers are buying more; 44% more items were purchased at TRR over the past year
Engagement with Resale Deepens:
Gamification drives shoppers to use TRR’s smart features more; ‘obsessions’ being used 40% more YoY
Gen Z visits TRR 35% more than they did last year; the greatest growth of any demo
Reconsignment is up more than 3X since 2018; more than 2X as many items originally purchased on TRR were re-sold on TRR since the start of the pandemic
Every Demo Continues to Buy and Sell:
Millennials are the largest resale generation, representing the largest volume of buyers and sellers on TRR
Gen X is most committed to circularity, selling the most items of any demo; consigning 25% more YoY
While Gen Z is spending 186% more on pendants, millennials are spending 107% more on unbranded engagement rings
Shoppers are Exploring Additional Areas of Investments:
Sales growth for collectibles is up 78% in the first half of 2022
Demand for collectible, vintage clothing up 439%, outpacing every other vintage category
Men’s demand for unbranded necklaces is up 33%; outpacing women’s at +29%
Reemerging Styles Rise to the Top
Balenciaga experienced the greatest demand growth (up 41% YoY) of any top ten brand; Gen Z being the primary drivers
Dior landed in the top 10 for the first time since 2019; Gen X and Boomers are responsible for driving demand up 31% YoY
Instagram pulls back from supporting e-commerce by paring its personalized and targeted shopping features. Last week, Meta notified its Instagram staff that the Shopping page will be dropped as the company seeks to prioritize the video-making components of its platform. In its place will be “Tab Lite,” a simpler and less personalized offering. This represents a major adjustment in corporate strategy given that Meta has leaned forward heavily into commerce for the past two years, in part to help the organization replace the data its lost due to Apple’s curb ad tracking option for iPhone and iPad users. But advertising revenues experienced their first ever quarterly decline for Meta in Q2 2022 and its stock price is down around 50 percent year-to-date, clearly prompting this huge shift in corporate strategy for the $430 billion company. Most creators earn revenue by running sponsored posts so, in isolation, it may not appear to be a big hit for creators. A bigger impact may come from the closure of Instagram’s affiliate program, which allows creators to tag products and earn a commission from sales.
Roblox leans heavily into advertising as the traditional sources of its revenue growth slow. With more than 12 million game developers generating well over $500 million in revenue a year, Roblox has become a big source of creator earnings. Yet, like many other pandemic stocks, the platform is searching for new ways to keep revenue growth going. Roblox was massively successful in investors’ eyes during the lockdown years: its market cap hit $80 billion in November 2021 after its March 2021 IPO. Yet, this year its stock price has fallen about 60 percent and its market cap sits below $30 billion.
To right the ship, Roblox has announced that it plans to debut ads in 2023 to try and diversify earnings beyond virtual goods sold in games. Though there is not a standard for how the ads will appear, they are described as “immersive” and potentially 3D. This may involve digital billboards that can be used to purchase goods in the game’s Robux currency. They may also have a portal-like quality where users are transported to a virtual Roblox community. For example, a Vans portal has been used to take users to a Vans-themed world to interact with other users, create, and of course purchase Vans products.