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Catherine is President at Ketner Group Communications, a PR and communications agency working with innovative B2B companies.
One of my favorite movies is The Devil Wears Prada, the 2006 film that gave us an inside look at the fashion magazine world coupled with a ton of laughs. I love the scene in which Meryl Streep’s character, the diabolical editor of Runway magazine, scorches her new and very unfashionable assistant with a killer monologue about how one blue sweater was “selected” for her by those in the room (i.e., the world of fashion).
While the fashion elite continue to focus on next season’s colors and looks, another group of trend makers are creating technologies that could change the future of fashion and ultimately change the way we shop for the things we wear. My agency has been lucky to work with and mentor many different fashion-focused technology companies, from those offering product life cycle management solutions to those involved in apparel e-commerce search and fitting room technologies. Telling their stories to the industry is one of the best parts of my job. After all, we all love to look good in the clothes we wear, and tech companies are helping fashion and apparel brands give us, the consumer, optimal shopping experiences.
The fashion industry certainly took a hit this past year — a report by the Business of Fashion website and McKinsey & Company noted that 2020 was “the worst year on record for the fashion industry.” The tide may be turning, however, as the market is predicted to recover and hit $672.71 billion by 2023.
It seems that fashion technology is leading the way with exciting innovations that have been accelerated by the Covid-19 crisis. Let’s look at two major fashion tech trends that are pushing the industry forward — and how fashion technology companies can take advantage of the current environment by creating high-impact communications programs.
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According to the National Retail Federation, livestream shopping “will take center stage in 2021, with the potential to be one of the fastest-growing categories in the digital one-to-one ecosystem.”
Many fashion brands and retailers like L’Oréal Group and Nordstrom have jumped into the waters of live shopping, allowing them to remain hyper-connected with shoppers during the pandemic. Implementing this technology can help savvy fashion brands keep their shoppers loyal. The popularity of e-commerce skyrocketed in 2020. In fact, consumers spent $861.12 billion online with U.S. retailers last year — an increase of 44% from 2019. The online shopping trend will likely only continue to grow, and the desire for more video content is already here. According to research by Wyzowl,”68% of consumers say the pandemic has impacted the amount of video content they’ve watched online, with the overwhelming majority (96%) saying this has increased.”
Virtual Fit And Inclusivity-Focused Tech
At a high level, virtual fit technology helps e-commerce shoppers make more informed decisions. This technology can provide data-driven style, size and fit recommendations for shoppers, as well as opportunities to “try on” outfits by uploading a photo of themselves. Although virtual fit has been around for a number of years, its use has grown during the pandemic. Virtual fit technology is a great alternative for shoppers who aren’t ready to be back in the store but are ready to update their wardrobes after a long year of staying close to home.
In the same vein as virtual fit, inclusivity-focused technologies allow shoppers to see more variety in the body size and skin color of clothing models to more accurately reflect what shoppers themselves look like. As Kayla Marci, a market analyst at a retail and fashion technology firm, told Retail Dive, “67% of American women are a size 14 and are voicing their need for fashionable products regardless of size.”
Haute Communications Strategies For Fashion Technology In 2021 And Beyond
Spurred on by the Covid-19 pandemic, the rapid changes in the fashion industry represent an opportunity for fashion technology companies to create high-impact communications programs. To take advantage of this moment, develop strong communications strategies that include engaging content that establishes thought leadership, and develop targeted media relations that can drive leads. When it comes to content, it is all about storytelling and creating a content “hub” that is based on long-form content. For example, if you have an e-book that focuses on best practices for engaging shoppers via virtual fit, take the content and break it out into a complete network of smaller content pieces. This could include infographics, proactive media pitches, bylined articles, social media posts and press releases. Content is still king, and fashion tech vendors can benefit from keeping it front and center.
As any good PR practitioner knows, media relations is all about relationships. Fashion tech companies should strive to keep their media relations strategies targeted and, more importantly, more personalized. Newsrooms, including those covering fashion, are understaffed and overwhelmed, which means your pitching strategies need to stand out from the rest. Personalization is the name of the game, as well as treating journalists the same as you would your very best customer. These tactics can help you get the media coverage you want and the new business leads that you need.
I am lucky to be in the world of technology and PR, and even luckier to be supporting clients in fashion technology. We are watching an industry literally transform itself in real time, and the early results are very exciting. Fashion may have had a rough year in 2020, but as legendary New York Times fashion photographer Bill Cunningham once said, “Fashion is the armor to survive the reality of everyday life.” Last year certainly tested that theory, but the combination of technology and fashion will no doubt keep the industry in the headlines for years to come.
Forbes Agency Council is an invitation-only community for executives in successful public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies. Do I qualify?
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Author: Catherine Seeds, Forbes Councils Member
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