Social media is arguably the best thing to have happened to the apparel industry. The network has armed the fashion industry with the ability to reach a large audience with just a single post. Brands and clients now interact genuinely via any of the existing platforms. Word of mouth, which drives the apparel business, also spreads like wildfire through the ever-increasing user base of these platforms. Social media is one major way the internet revolution has had a great impact on the apparel industry.
But what exactly are social media? They are a set of internet-based applications and websites that allow communication between users. Apart from providing an alternative, albeit free or relatively cheap, platform to reach customers and potential ones, it is the fastest. The use of social media by luxury fashion brands surged in 2009, apparently as they sought a cheaper way of recovery following the global economic crisis of 2008. Social media fosters customer interactions, which build the brands increasing awareness, involvement and engagement. The end result is often seen in improved purchases.
Leading e-tailing company in Africa, Jumia, recorded impressive growth in Ivory Coast, West Africa last year. The company sold an average of eight fashion products per hour, mostly apparel. Sheryn Toifl, PR & Communications Manager for Jumia, Ivory Coast could not give Fibre2Fashion exact figures of how social media influenced sales in 2014, but noted that the impact was evident. "What I can tell you is that our social media campaigns are generating and boosting a lot of our sales," she said. "We used to have no offline media at all. We only started recently in November. So our sales were only living from online campaigns during a year and a few months."
In 2012, renowned apparel retailer, Topshop partnered with Facebook to achieve the largest online audience of a live-stream London fashion show. Images and content from the runway served over 200 million audiences. The impact was direct, as the retailer's customers were able to immediately purchase what they see on the runway. The first dress on the catwalk sold out before the end of the show. Such is the power of social media, and the big influence it now wields in the apparel industry.
"People have been trying to figure out for some time, how do you make these Facebook 'likes' into something relevant, how does the social aspect mix with your brand, and I think we are going to be the first brand to unlock that," Justin Cooke, Topshop's chief marketing officer at the time, who has left the company to form his own marketing agency, told Reuters.
The global apparel market is estimated to be worth over US$ 1.7 trillion. Most of the consumers responsible for this huge sum are active on social networks. Apparel brands have therefore created a huge presence across platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest etc, watching out for the next big platform, as the jostle to reach as many potential consumers as possible heats up in the ever-competitive apparel market. The massive consumer response to social media campaigns has made it very essential for any apparel outfit that wants impressive growth to get on the top platforms. More so, 74 per cent of consumers rely on social media to guide purchases, according to American IT research and advisory firm, Gartner.