Fashion Brands Using Online Images to Drive Local Commerce

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The fashion industry has always been one step ahead of everyone else when it comes to marketing. Having moved seamlessly from Sears catalogs to email blasts to flash sales and mobile geofences, clothing brands know that you need to stay top-of-mind if you’re hoping to get people to pay top dollar for the latest season’s duds.

Major brands have experimented with a wide variety of digital tools to burnish their brand. Gap Stylemixer is building wardrobes, Ralph Lauren is designing customized rugby shirts, and Chanel is showcasing their fashion show — all on apps built for mobile. Meanwhile, location-based apps and social media are starting to filter into digital fashion marketing as well.

For smaller merchants perhaps lessons can be learned from the likes of luxury shoe retailer Bergdorf Goodman.  In September 2011, the brand partnered with Morpheus Media, for its “Shoes About Town” Instagram campaign, which depicted the secret lives of shoes purchased from the luxury retailer.

“Bergdorf Goodman has been using Instagram for quite some time and loves the platform, especially the way the community responds to the retailer’s New York City, fashion-based content,” says Shenan Reed, chief marketing officer at Morpheus Media. “One of the trends that has inspired us most to use APIs is the ability to take existing technologies and build off of them with your own customized spin. … Bergdorf Goodman is very forward thinking in their use of user generated content, especially for a luxury brand. When the time came to celebrate the opening of their new Shoe Salon and their latest Shoe book, Instagram just seemed like a perfect fit. We know the Bergdorf Goodman consumer loves their shoes, and we really wanted to create an interactive program that celebrated the shoe-obsessed.”

The campaign was absolutely charming and addictive for the shoe-obsessed. Photos are submitted through Instagram using the hashtag #BGShoes, and then the image is placed on Bergdorf’s map of Manhattan, depending on the geo-location of the photographer. The map may only represent Manhattan, but the retailer is aggregating content for this campaign from all over the world.

“We definitely wanted it to be a global campaign,” says Reed. “After all, shoe obsession truly knows no bounds. Since there is only one physical store location, the brand holds their NYC roots near and dear to everything they do. Photos taken within Manhattan were placed directly in that location on the map, but any other entries you see scattered around the page are were receive from outside NYC and around the world. The global community and mobile based nature of Instagram was actually part of what made it so compelling.”

In addition to the Instagram API, the campaign to launch Bergdorf’s second floor Shoe Salon included QR codes in print, in store and on store windows driving users to the application. Morpheus Media seeded the content with photos of the latest shoes for their Shoe Book around New York City.

Another example of this is from Toronto-based Shopcastr. The service has been described as a “Pinterest for practical items.” Store owners can feature their products (antiques, art, bikes, fashion, food, and more) for users to “love” and, ultimately, buy in-store. Shopcastr works by having storeowners and users clip or snap photos of compelling products and then upload them to the site. As a result, Shopcastr becomes a kind of Pinterest-style DIY catalogue for retailers, letting stores display their wares in a way that is both novel and easy. A system like this can enable any business, even one without a website to visually share their products and to draw new customers in.  And unlike Pinterest, if you see something you like, you can actually go around the corner and buy it.

Snapette is yet another player in the space.  It’s like the “Foodspotting for fashion” You can snap photos of your favorite bag, top, shoes accessory, pair of jeans or other fashion item, choose your location, comment on where you found the product (i.e. what store), and post this to Snapette. And other users can browse products near their current location or by their favorite store, or brand. You can also see what items are trending globally, or by their specific location. And other users can comment on photos and share tips and recommendations. Each user has a “virtual closet” profile page that collects and showcases photos of items they’ve Snapped, Like and Want, and you can also post your “Snapettes” on Facebook and Tumbler.

All of these platforms demonstrate the power of the picture and can be used by any retailer — big or small — to build awareness around their products and ultimately build both virtual and real customer communities that will result in real revenue. Bottom line: a picture is certainly worth a thousand words — but marry that with social media, location services and smart retailers and you’ve got a powerful platform.

Asif R. Khan is a veteran tech start-up, business development and marketing entrepreneur currently serving the community as founder and president of the Location Based Marketing Association (The LBMA). Weekly podcaster at This Week In Location Based Marketing every Monday. Can be found at @AsifRKhan @TheLBMA on Twitter.


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