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The Next Tech: Maximising and monetising social media

We may not meet up to browse around the shops as much these days, but shopping is as sociable as ever. Drapers looks at the impact of closed communities on social media, shopping apps, short-form video and the rising popularity of mobile commerce in general on fashion retailing. 

A video revolution

Topshop video rgb

Topshop added video to its Instagram feed

The number of Instagram users is expected to hit half a billion in 2016, but the company is hoping to extend its reach still further by putting video firmly at the top of its agenda. Benefitting from improvements in smartphone quality and 4G capacity,  the social media platform last month increased the duration of video from 30 to 60 seconds and reinstated the ability to make a video from multiple clips.

Retailers including Topshop and River Island have all introduced video to their Instagram feeds. New Look recently posted a video showcasing its Sport collection, which gained 7,000 likes in just three days. Users will soon be able to see how many times a clip has been watched, following the launch of a new video view counter.

“Over the past six months the time people spent watching video on Instagram increased by 40%,” says its brand development manager (EMEA) Amy Cole. ‎“The launch of the 60-second video provides another format for brands to communicate. Our range of formats, including landscape, multi-image placements and various video lengths, enables greater creative flexibility. Our research shows that adding video to an existing campaign drives higher favourability compared with static photos only.”

Following hot on Instagram’s heels, Facebook earlier this month rolled out its free ‘Your Business Story’ video tool for small firms. Users can now upload photos from their Facebook page and overlay them with Facebook-licensed music to create a video posted directly on their page. The idea is to tap into the 500 million people who watch a video on Facebook at least once a day. “When it comes to the most impactful content, it’s all about video,” says Facebook’s regional head of small and medium businesses Ciaran Quilty. “With over 100 million hours of video watched on Facebook every day, video is the way people discover and share content.”

Deloitte’s head of technology, media and telecommunications research Paul Lee agrees that the changing way we consume content is driving video demand. “The mass adoption of smartphones is making video even more common. Also the rate at which we renew our smartphones makes viewing video even easier and more compelling. The same way people sent texts 10 years ago, we will be sending more video as we become more sophisticated.”

The rise of mobile commerce

Smartphones are becoming integral to retailing. Mobile now represents 50% of all online traffic at Debenhams and 60% at Asos, to name just two. Around 40% of UK adults have used their mobile to make a purchase, Deloitte’s Mobile Consumer Survey 2015 found. Mobile is also becoming central to the wider interaction with consumers, whether through app-based loyalty schemes or by giving store staff access to data to join up online and offline shopping. “I think that will be far more effective than using beacons,” says Monica Deretich, director of marketing and customer relationship management at online subscription etailer JustFab.

Deloitte predicts mobile transactions will grow “significantly” as payments move towards a single click or ingerprint impression. It suggests retailers should tap into the trend for communicating with images by deconstructing catalogues for smartphones.

Snapchat: social’s rising star

Sophie webster

Sophie Webster

UK consumers collectively look at their smartphones over a billion times a day, Deloitte says, and also predicts that in 2016 we will share 2.5 trillion photos online. Private messaging app Snapchat plays into our connection with our smartphones by allowing users to share pictures without the need to commit to storing large images on their phones, as ‘snaps’ disappear in 24 hours.

In April, tech trailblazer Burberry became the first brand to use Snapchat’s ‘Snapcode’, a scannable code that helps users add friends and share content, by encouraging shoppers to scan the codes on the packaging of its new Mr Burberry fragrance. Scanning the code took shoppers straight to Snapchat, where they could watch the full ad campaign and behind-the-scenes video.

Burberry has a history of successful Snapchat collaboration after live-streaming its London Fashion Week show in September 2015 through the app.

For creative director and founder of eponymous footwear label Sophia Webster, the unedited, transitory nature of Snapchat gives the app an edge over its rivals. “I like that you can’t pre-record anything or overly edit snaps, it has to be authentic. We treat Snapchat as if it’s our own TV channel with regular features such as SW Breaking News, Aunty Liz – our agony aunt – and mini movies, which give our followers a chance to engage with the team.

“As snaps only last 24 hours we love giving sneak peeks and exclusive previews into collections that we normally wouldn’t share on other social platforms. We always get the funniest direct messages, like video snaps asking questions and giving us feedback. It’s great to have such direct interaction with consumers.”

Urban Outfitters social media editor Sarah Satherley is also a fan of Snapchat’s unedited approach. “You get a candid look at the brands which is pretty unique when compared to other social media channels that can feel quite contrived. It’s also great to shoot and share as you go. From a business perspective this makes it relatively low maintenance, which is a huge bonus. We utilise the platform for takeovers, competitions and events mainly aimed at Generation Y, as naturally we see this group as our most socially engaged.”

The apps changing how we shop

Launched by tech entrepreneurs Peter Szulczewski and Danny Zhang in 2013, Wish allows users to save, tag and recommend products to each other, and share their choices on social media. The app then uses advanced algorithms to match users with participating sellers and send them discounts for specific products. It allows people to shop directly from Chinese manufacturers, enabling it to offer eye-watering markdowns (a women’s T-shirt is reduced from £36 to £4, for example). The downside is the delivery time – two to three weeks to Europe and North America. To date, the app has attracted nearly $600m (£420m) from investors.

UK-based Depop is an online marketplace on which users post Instagram-style pictures of items they want to sell or swap. People can like, share or comment on the post or buy the item. In some cases they can haggle on the price. It is free to list an item for sale and, as with many of its rivals, you are only charged a fee if you sell an item. Founded in 2011, Depop received $8m (£5m) in funding last year from Balderton Capital and Holtzbrinck Ventures to help it expand in Europe and the US.

One of many apps to take inspiration from Tinder is Stylect, which claims to be able to help women discover their “perfect shoes”. It aggregates products from multiple websites and recommends better products based on users’ preferences gathered by asking them to swipe photos of products a certain way to indicate if they like them. Stylect features over 50,000 shoes from leading retailers and uses an affiliate model to generate revenue. Launched in late 2014, Stylect raised more than £750,000 via crowdfunding site AngelsDen at the end of 2015. VC Forward Partners is a lead investor.

Drapers Digital Week: The Next Tech

On Thursday follow @drapers and keep an eye on to keep abreast of all the news at it unfolds from Drapers Digital Forum, which brings together the most forward-thinking operators in the digital retail space.

And on Friday morning you can see all the winners and action from the Drapers Digital Awards 2016.






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