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Drapers Debate: Does innovation pay?

Retailers are becoming increasingly innovative with their marketing - but is the buzz actually translating into sales? Drapers Debates

No - Victoria Gallagher

Victoria Gallagher

It’s all well and good using celebrities to drive publicity but does it actually make any money?

This season, we’ve seen retailers push the boat out when it comes to innovative marketing. Last night River Island exclusively streamed a live Rihanna gig through its Facebook page, making it one of the first fashion retailers to do so. In the run-up to the gig, River Island customers were offered exclusive content and even tickets to the gig.

All this has helped create a buzz around both Rihanna’s new album and her forthcoming collection for the high street retailer. Rihanna is undoubtedly one of those acts whose influence spans both music and fashion. But once the costs are taken into account, will River Island actually have made any money?

There are many such examples of eye-catching - and column-generating - innovations this year.

For its Christmas campaign, Asos created “shoppable” videos of British singer Ellie Goulding and US rapper Azealia Banks, where viewers can click the clothes they are wearing and buy directly from the etailer.

Topshop has launched several social media marketing campaigns this year, including its London Fashion Week live stream catwalk and the Halloween special.

However, those inside the businesses have admitted to Drapers that beyond the fanfare, there is little to show for all the fuss.

For the majority of people out there - even those so-called digital natives - shopping is still a traditional experience. Whether it’s on a rack or online, customers want to browse, compare and consider their potential purchase.

That’s not to say we won’t see a shift in buying habits, and perhaps what we are seeing is the beginnings of that change. But as things stand the money being ploughed into the more innovative marketing woos the media far more than it does the customer.

Yes - Ruth Faulkner


In an economic climate where retailers must do their utmost to chase every sale, the idea of creating memorable experiences for consumers, above and beyond the usual shopping experience, is inspired.

Both River Island and Asos - whose original business model was copying celebrity looks - have taken genuinely innovative steps towards attracting new customers and reminding existing customers just why they should buy from them.

The fact they are both working with the hottest acts is no coincidence, and Asos collaborating with both Ellie Goulding and Azealia Banks allows it to win over both the indie and the urban demographics. River Island’s tie-up with mega-star Rihanna surely needs no explanation.

People like to emulate their idols. Who hasn’t, as a teenager, obsessed over looking just like such-and-such a singer? All the retailers are doing is facilitating that.

Arguing against innovation is quite frankly an antiquated view of the fashion industry. Nothing stays still for long and in order to stay on top of their game, retailers must be constantly experimenting. 

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