There was a time when the internet was used to exchange documents and to read up.
As the time passed, it has became a tool to communicate with, shop, influence people and even write online journals. When blogging started as part of an internet activity, it was more of one way communication. Then, interactive features were added making blogs more potent than ever. Readers' comments on blogs helped spread the word from the horse's mouth. Blogging is an important activity now, with popular bloggers influencing politics, fashion and every other sphere of society.
Fashion blogs have especially become a way to increase sales, understand customer sentiment and demand, improve product quality and understand future trends for both the buyers and brands. The addition of facilities like uploading photographs, viewers' comments and queries, as well as expert opinions on a series of topics have opened up a new interactive platform for bloggers.
Strong hold on audience
In the past, fashion magazine editors, super models, designers and movie stars represented and influenced the fashion world. The modern world of fashion has evolved and it takes inspiration from everywhere - from casual street styles to elegant elite designs. Thus, the role of fashion bloggers who have a huge impact on what customers buy has become essential for new and old brands alike. Some fashion bloggers who started blogs as a hobby have made a full-fledged career out of it. It is not the formal degree that makes bloggers prominent, but it is the number of followers who read the blogs and then decide to buy their clothes.
Popular magazines have even carried editorials by bloggers as acceptance to change the scenario. Margaret Zhang of Shine by Three has done an editorial for Elle fashion magazine, while continuing with her blog and attending University lectures in Australia. According to professor of digital media and marketing at Carnegie Mellon University, Ari Lightman, "Some of the most successful bloggers use social channels for outreach and awareness. They understand the notion between popularity and influence - who is influential versus who's popular. They will gauge that accordingly."
Apart from the transition that the fashion industry has gone through, customers have also changed in terms of expectations. Two-way communication is the key to building customer loyalty and bloggers have an advantage of easily building a rapport with their followers. Bloggers, these days, freely post snapshots of events and parties, which help them earn more hits and followers. And though many magazines do not like the presence of bloggers at fashion events, some magazines like Lucky have started embracing the power of the bloggers. During New York Fashion Week September 2014, magazines organised special events for bloggers. Also, several fashion and lifestyle brands favour bloggers over magazines because of higher rates of engagement and buying.
"Magazines are realising we are influencers. Some of us are getting thousands of hits every day on our website and it makes fashion more relatable to everyone. Our followers see us as regular girls mixing things with designers and thrift store jeans," said blogger Kristi Elong, who started Currently Crushing website and Instagram.
Promotion through blogs
The inclination of fashion brands towards bloggers is reasonable. Bloggers have given a chance to luxury brands to understand digital media without any risk. Luxury brands can easily experiment with content and coverage on a digital platform with the help of bloggers. This helps these brands to understand what the prospective customers expect from them and launch their own company blogs in future.
The dependence on conventional media has also reduced for luxury brands, as bloggers have wider reach and often have more followers. Bloggers are seen to be unbiased so it makes it easier for the audience to trust them. While magazines often publish stories or pictures of what will be launched in the next three months or so, bloggers keep the audience posted about what's already in the stores. Approval by bloggers affects apparel sales immediately, which is why promoting newly launched designs via blogs comes in handy for luxury brands.
The customer base of luxury fashion brands is also not limited now, as bloggers reach out to all customers instead of only a few influential ones. Browsing some of the famous fashion blogs gives a clear idea how Chanel, Fendi, Salvatore Ferragamo, Burberry and Gucci have become part of regular blogs. Blogs are updated daily, so the one month wait to advertise or promote clothes via magazines is an obsolete idea for fashion brands.
Blogging is completely different from print journalism, which is bound by many constraints. Thus, luxury fashion brands and regular brands are increasingly collaborating with influential bloggers to put across their message in creative ways. Blogs stand for cost-friendly and low-barrier marketing strategy for luxury brands. It is much easier to create a buzz with blogs that can create heritage stories that do not appear like a complimentary editorial coverage.
On the other hand, it is a perk to have 'regular' people take a stand on luxury apparel and exhibit their value in everyday life, as it makes brands more accessible to customers who were once not included in their activities.
It has been a decade since blogs surfaced and thus, fashion magazines have already started catching up with them. But, the main concern is if the audience still finds famous bloggers reliable and can customers still relate with the images that bloggers project.
Though fashion bloggers have their huge following, magazines have learnt to stay in business alongside blogs. Prof Lightman asserted, "Magazines are irreplaceable because they have the power of name recognition, whereas bloggers must work hard to market their published content."
One of the biggest downsides of blogging is to find out if the followers translate into sales. According to an Intelligence Group study, the audience of fashion blogs comprise 70 per cent females, aged between 15 and 35 years. This generation likes to browse catalogues, read reviews and stay updated regarding fashion, but this does not mean that they are ready to spend money on the apparel recommended on blogs.
The brands have to be cautious in choosing the blogging site, as most bloggers mix high-end brands with fast fashion brands. Not many followers can relate to the blogs that combine Zara and Topshop. Moreover, even if Gens Y and Z readily relate to these blogs, chances are, the older niche customer base might be averse to such an amalgamation.
The influence of blogs which was once calculated on the number of followers, has changed. The brands that collaborate with bloggers want to increase their sales and if the collaboration does not result in sales, it is considered incompetent. Traditional media has also gone online, which is a threat to the influence of social media stars.
Then again, bloggers reach a huge global audience and even if these audiences do not readily spend money on apparel, it gives the much-needed recognition to brands, which is definitely a plus sign. Well known bloggers like Chiara Ferragni of The Blonde Salad, Aimee Song of Song of Style or Wendy Nguyen of Wendy's Lookbook continue to inspire and influence the global audience. As of now, the easy and approachable style of bloggers accompanied by a host of pictures is preferred by audience and companies alike.