INSTAGRAM: SETTING THE NEW FASHION AGENDA

Before the digitalization of our world, fashion magazines were considered the bible; where all fashion enthusiasts went to find out the latest trends in the industry. Today, fashion magazines are replaced by Instagram, the new fashion bible. Instagram, which started in 2010, is an online mobile app that allows users to share Polaroid-style images and 15-second videos, with a network of more than 400 million users worldwide.

Instagram is now overcrowded with fashion labels, aspirational accounts, models, and bloggers. Fashion houses are exploiting every level of the marketplace as an image library, a showcase, and a platform on which to set trends, but most importantly, an entryway into the consumer’s head. With half the users under the age of 25, and its candid visual identity, Instagram is making fashion and trends more accessible. What used to be a very closed and exclusive world has now become democratized and open to the public as a result of Instagram. This topic will be further explored in a following blog post.

It is no longer PFW, NYFW, LFW or the red carpets that set the trends; Instagram is now fashion’s new trendsetter. Brands are seeking out models with a large follower base on social medias, specifically Instagram, and are selecting models with personalities that match the brand’s identity in order for the consumers and followers base to find the brand more relatable.  Models such as Cara Delevingne, Kendall Jenner, Gigi Hadid, Karlie Kloss and Joan Smalls are some of the best examples of this.

Instagram has almost become a brand extension, which invites the interactions of consumers, which directly influence designs and brands’ collections. It is the spontaneous images that give brands insights into the consumer’s lives and allows for a two-way interaction where the consumer is also able to view more of the company values and cultures that they choose to consume. According to a Forrester Research study, Instagram remains the preferred social media platform onto which users interact with brands. In terms of competition, Instagram is more popular than Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest. An L2 study in the New York Times further reinforces this point by showing that Instagram generates 25 times the level of engagement of other social media platforms.

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On Instagram, people are drawn in by eye-catching or seducing images, which are often different than the things they will purchase. Imagery is one of the most crucial part to online shopping and with Instagram’s visual platform, consumers are enticed to purchase what they see. Instagram creates desire; often showing people things they either cannot afford, or have never thought of or seen before. With the slow introduction of “buy now” options and ads, Instagram is a social marketplace that persuades customers to purchase the items they see. For these reasons, brands are now more than ever, investing and interested in their social media presence as it is what creates sales.

To think of it, Instagram is what people used to call ‘window shopping;’ where consumers used to physically go to shopping malls and stores to view collections before deciding to purchase. Now, this is done from the comfort of their homes, on their smartphones, and specifically on Instagram, where they are able to browse virtually any brand they would like. Not only will they find owned media, but also bloggers and aspirational accounts that might further persuade the consumer into turning their ‘window shopping’ to actual sales.

L2 reports that 99% of their top fashion brands are on Instagram, up from 75% in 2013. Luxury brands are predominately the ones with the purchasing power to ad buy on Instagram, as the average monthly cost is between $100,000 and $500,000, according to Digiday Media Company. However, this is quickly changing with the new advertisement options that Instagram has recently introduced. This is a topic that will further be explored in a following blog post.

Now that Instagram has allowed for a dialogue between the brands and the consumers, designers are tuning in to what the consumers is asking for by browsing the immense image library of aspirational content created by the consumers that brands want to use and consumers want to purchase. In an interview in the New York Times, Rebecca Minkoff, one of the most digital-savvy brands is listening to consumer demands made on Instagram, “If a customer tells me, ‘I like a bag with gunmetal hardware, can you include it?’ I might,” Ms. Minkoff said. “If I can get 25 girls to request it, I will do the production.” Minkoff further adds that she wants to make girls feel as though they are part of the creative process; which in turn creates brand loyalty. She further notes that brands want to be where the consumers are and those consumers love Instagram because of its visual and easy-to-consume nature.

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Other brands are also following this trend; high-end fashion brand Christian Louboutin launched#louboutinworld, an image library found on its website that links directly to its Instagram page.

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Instagram’s biggest problem remains the lack of direct path to purchase, but it is being addressed by the company. They have recently introduced clickable ads that link to brands’ e-commerce websites, as an aim to create a direct path to sales. Rumors have it that a ‘buy now’ option will soon follow. For now, Instagram remains a platform for the creation of aspirational content and consumer-brand engagement. Premium brands such as Burberry and Michael Kors are already purchasing ads, but other designers are slow to follow. Internal Marketing Service, Curalate, found that in 2015, only 5 months after fall 2014’s NYFW, there was an increase of 193% in photos shared on Instagram during that week. This is an expression of just how valuable Instagram is to fashion fans.

Brands and fashion houses need to be paying attention and taking advantage of their social media platforms, especially Instagram, or they will most likely be missing out on more than just social engagement. Since Instagram is the major source direction consumers to e-commerce websites, brands may lose out on revenue if they do not have an active and effective social media presence. Instagram is a progressive platform that is a gateway to unique experiences that can be shared to a global audience. Instagram is a global fashion mood board that everyone, anywhere in the world, can contribute to.

References

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/15/fashion/fashions-latest-muse-instagram.html?ref=global-home&_r=1

http://digiday.com/brands/fashion-beauty-brands-instagram/

http://blog.curalate.com/2015/09/21/4-ways-instagram-has-changed-fashion-marketing/

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