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.