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Digital Forum: Social media key channel for 'connected' experience

Fashion businesses should engage in social media to offer customers a “connected” shopping experience, rather than obsess with its potential to drive direct sales.

According to digital experts at the Drapers Digital Forum, social media is a vital tool to gather customer data, raise brand awareness and influence sales indirectly.

“With 1.23 bilion monthly active users, it’s very difficult to ignore Facebook,” said Mel Exon, chief digital officer at advertising agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty.

“Social is so influential in other ways [than direct selling] and it has matured now, with mobile enabling lots of platforms to emerge. You can use social at every single point to advance the [purchasing] journey. We talk a lot about connected selling.”

Rosanna Falconer, head of digital at luxury brand Matthew Williamson, agreed. “It’s not like you can go on to your Google analytics [to measure Instagram], but we’ve seen real examples of people writing under a photo saying ‘where can I buy this’, with Matthew himself responding, and then I’ll get the first order.”

Falconer added that personalisation – Matthew Williamson manages his own Instagram page and responds personally to tweets – helps build engagement and, ultimately, drive sales.

Rebecca Glenapp, co-founder of start-up Lux Fix, added that social media is an essential tool to learn about your customer when you are a new business.

“When trying to work out your customer and gather data, Facebook is great for that,” she said. “Using Facebook also helps to build our trust and authority. Twitter is something our 35-55 year old customer base really [engage with too]. They like micro reviews.”

Exon urged business to get “first-mover” advantage by identifying new platforms that could help boost business, including SnapChat, which is still relatively untouched by retailers compared to the US.

When asked about recruitment, all three women insisted that businesses must be inclusive of social roles into their wider culture. “More mainstream companies are needing to muscle up in this area. but I’m very anti silos, with digital in one corner,” said Exon. “The opportunity here is to be rapid and responsive. Hire someone who is deeply, deeply passionate who will be up at midnight replying to things.”

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