Weekly Stories

Going Offline: How Can Fashion Brands Build Physical Communities?

Reported by Grace Howard on Mar 29, 2016 1:06:21 PM


Given that fashion was around way before the dawn of the internet age, creating a physical community around one’s brand should, in theory, be easy. But as technology develops, multiple online stores can be visited in a matter of minutes. Consumers become less engaged, less loyal, and ultimately more reluctant to venture into offline worlds. So, how can fashion brands regain interest by fostering a community feel?

Immersive retail takes the conversation offline

Any fashion brand’s first point of call should rightly be the shop floor; regardless of one’s stellar online presence, a strong, immersive bricks-and-mortar offering is arguably essential for success. The only battle is to stand out, encouraging customers to look up from their mobile phone screens and take the conversation offline.

The Store, nestled below Berlin’s Soho House, serves as a good example of an innovative thinker in the retail set. A multipurpose department store-cum-eatery-cum-salon-cum-hangout, the Store acts as “an open, shoppable private home for everyone to hang out in,” according to Alex Eagle, its creative director. Everything in the space, including the furniture, is available for purchase, and brands like JW Anderson and Jil Sander sit alongside locally sourced product. LA’s Free City Super Shop was founded by Nina Garduno, who wanted to follow similar principles; opened in 2010, the Super Shop spans 3000-square-feet and serves as an artistic gathering space and gallery as well as a shop.

On a single-brand level, canvas shoe brand TOMS has also made a foray into blending shopping and community. Seven TOMS Outposts, which incorporate café culture into the traditional bricks-and-mortar experience, have been opened worldwide with the aim to lure customers with perks like caffeine, local events and free Wifi.

Global brands go local

The concept of community goes hand-in-hand with locality – an idea which has prompted some brands to add an intimate feel to their otherwise global offerings.

Kit and Ace was launched in 2014 and, despite being a relatively new kid on the block, it is pushing its in-store experience to great heights by turning stores into galleries of locally sourced art. What may seem like regular, polished shop floors at first glance actually translate into something much more personalized – part of the interior touches are supplied by local artists in the form of paintings, photographs, lighting and furniture. Not only does this create a unique space, it does well to cement the brand’s relationship with the local community. Furthermore, each of Kit and Ace’s stores features a large table which plays hosts to what the brand calls ‘supper clubs.’ “We invite people from the community who don't know each other, have them in for supper made by a local caterer, and everyone participates in a question game, so things go deeper than typical dinner chitchat,” Shannon Wilson, co-founder of Kit and Ace, told AdWeek.

Online-only brand Everlane is also notable for its efforts in aggregating local businesses and creatives. Last year, Everlane hosted the Transparent City Series, comprising an array of LA-based consumer events that were accessible to both friends and strangers to the brand. From seminars with local artists to a tour of the brand’s LA factory, Everlane has clearly chosen to market its transparent policies, boosting the level of consumer trust.

Online brands test the waters offline

While they may not have chosen to take an approach as extravagant as Everlane’s, other online-only companies have banked on touches of tangible product to continue the story off-screen. ASOS and Net-a-Porter each boast a successful print publication: ASOS Magazine and Porter. ASOS’ eponymous magazine is delivered free of charge to its Premium members; Net-a-Porter’s offering, Porter, is a paid publication and a rather glossier affair, headed up by Lucy Yeomans, former editor of Harper’s Bazaar. With interviews, features and glossy editorials rubbing shoulders with shots of new-season product, these magazines are a great step up from the slews of uninspired catalogues.

Because successful fashion retail now weighs heavily on a seamless blend of ‘bricks and clicks’, both Net-a-Porter and ASOS offer strong online content beyond the product listings, with social shopping apps like Net-a-Porter’s Net Set and ASOS’ new rewards scheme, ASOS A-List, encouraging both conversation and loyalty.

Find out how to create and grow brand communities beyond digital touchpoints at the London Summit on 17-18 May. See more details here.

Reported by Grace Howard

Image Source: The Store

Topics: Online Retail, in store experience, Weekly Stories, ecommerce

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