Should luxury brands make their presence felt on social media? Can social media work in favour of luxury brands? Fibre2fashion introspects how being on social media can help brands expand reach, forecast trends, and know their customers better.
Time was when a top movie star introduced a luxury fashion trend, and viewers would be in awe about the clothing line. Times have changed. Now, with people having a high disposable income, combined with the expansive use of social media, both the factors have pushed the luxury fashion industry to change its course and become more accessible to the wider, global range of customers. Also, the luxury industry used to have a tighter control of brand image, but as the social media buzz sprang up around the world, they have become more susceptible to customers' voices, trends, opinions and overall outlook. Customers are now controlling online dialogue.
Social media, a threat to luxury brands?
With the advent of social media, we have seen the rise of influencers in different industries who, despite being unknown to the celebrity world, have a swath of followers interested in their reviews of products. This has also given customers confidence of discussing, and even criticising top-notch luxury fashion brands on well-known social platforms with greater outreach, which really sway the choices of their peers who are expecting to buy those brands. According to a Deloitte report, the social media has levelled the playing field, "putting more power in the hands of consumer with a platform that enables them to shop on their terms, when and where they want, while providing price transparency."
The report states that increased available information about brands has boosted expectations of customers regarding price and value, which severely undermines exclusivity. Elizabeth Canon, founder and president of Fashion's Collective, said that luxury brands have been scrutinising the likely impacts of social media. "Should a luxury brand have a Facebook page? How should they collaborate with bloggers? How should brands translate their offline store experience to an immersive web store?" Canon said.
The other side of social media
While the reach of customers around the world has increased due to the presence of social media, luxury brands can use the same channels to roll out new products globally. This can instantly quench the desires of customers, who earlier had to wait for fashion lines to arrive on their market scene. For example, Instagram, which is fully loaded with visuals, makes the social app a great place for luxury brands.
According to the Deloitte report, luxury brand Michael Kors first used Instagram in 2013, and that brand saw its followers increase 16 times. Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Nike all have profiles on Instagram with millions of followers. Other brands that have quickly adapted to use the internet and build social media presence are Coach, Kate Spade and Tory Burch. Also, social media can work in favour of luxury brands, as customers are compelled to share a brand's news with others through online platforms or word of mouth, which ultimately results into evangelism of the brand. Another reason social media cannot be ignored is that people who use social platforms are also inclined to online shopping and luxury brands have to be part of this global phenomenon for future growth and survival.
Increasing market reach
Luxury fashion brands earlier used to make money largely from the North American and European markets, but according to Deloitte, the global middle class in emerging markets has been expanding. Euromonitor data showed the luxury market share of Asia Pacific, Latin America and the Middle East and Africa grew to 19 per cent in 2013. That figure is expected to go up to 25 per cent in 2025 for emerging markets, which is also seeing increase in social media activities. Consultancy firm Ovum says that consumers in the emerging markets focus on social media more for customer service, compared to people in developed countries - the very reason luxury fashion brands need to carve out social media policies, focusing on emerging markets. According to BrandWatch, in the next few years, luxury fashion industry may see greater investment in social intelligence after seeing the influence of online conversations playing a greater role among the customers.
Which luxury brands score high on social media?
A research by BrandWatch shows that Chanel, Dior, Calvin Klein, Louis Vuitton and Ralph Lauren are the top five luxury brands which score high on the parameters of social visibility, reach growth, social engagement and content. Tiffany & Co., Burberry, Gucci, Paul Smith and Rolex round up the top 10 list prepared for the 12-month period ended August 2015. According to BrandWatch, there are many luxury brands that are not heavily active on Twitter and Facebook, but there are brands who are leading the show. Burberry and Tommy Hilfiger are highly active on Twitter, with an average 4.5 Tweets per day. On Facebook, Michael Kors and Christian Louboutin place between seven and 11 posts per day. Another important factor that pulls a customer to a brand's online social profile is the content. Visual content like photos, image links, videos and statuses are said to be the top performing type of content for most brands.
Social media audience
The presence of luxury brands on social media is far more important than what the research says, mostly because luxury fashion audience is largely made up of females, who are said to be highly active on social platforms. They are also the main targets of luxury brands. A survey by EliteDaily showed that young women are often interested in helping companies to develop future products and services, showing their eagerness towards luxury brand participation. The survey also revealed that these women were interested in downloading luxury brand apps. They engage with the brands on social media. Men are not far behind on the social media, but BrandWatch believes they were engaging with different brands from those visited by women. Predictably, men talked about Breitling, Paul Smith, Salvatore Ferragamo more, while women discussed Chloe, DKNY and Tiffany & Co.
How is India faring?
In India, the luxury brand market is estimated to touch US$15 billion by 2015, according to a report by AT Kearney. But the social media frenzy is yet to catch up with the India-focused brands or local players. There are some fashion designers like Gaurav Gupta and Masaba and Pernia Qureshi who have hundreds of followers on social media and provide reactions on every updates.
Where India is falling behind is the lack of a strong luxury blogging community. Bloggers, who eventually become influencers, play an important role in fashion communications in the global scenario. But in India, fashion is still influenced by traditional media like fashion magazines, lifestyle supplements, etc. Also, the market highly depends on celebrity endorsers. However, as social media revs up in the country, it will be not too long when brands start engaging with the Indian audience on social platforms.