Looks like Birkenstocks are back, thanks to Instagram. More so than any other social media, the photo sharing app has been cited by multiple retailers as a way to not only gauge consumer interest in upcoming trends, but to see exactly which standout items they’re inclined to buy. And that includes Celine’s take on the flat hippie sandal, remade with fur for Spring 2013.
As retailers from Kirna Zabête to Printemps are learning, consumers want the runway’s wackiest accessories. They’ve received inquiries over Instagrammed items like Chanel’s hula hoop-shaped bag and the aforementioned Celine Birkenstocks. The interest shoppers express via the social platform is significant, because it goes beyond a few pre-orders for stores — it’s actually dictating what buyers are ordering and stocking next season.
But we have to wonder whether an excess of social media attention can burn a trend out before it even arrives in physical form. Sure, pre-orders, via any medium, represent real sales, but isn’t it possible a lot of women are already sick of seeing that Chanel bag everywhere, at least online? We’re reminded of IBM’s “trend-defining” algorithm, which seems more likely to blow up trends too fast than give retailers any real sales edge. Perhaps Instagram’s influence, for both stores and consumers, isn’t exactly defining what’s truly cool. Instead, it’s a tool to show a very few items, of myriad potential “It” accessories, that will have legs for a single season (until the next round of shows, of course). And while that has some obvious utility for retailers, they shouldn’t bet their orders entirely on social media feedback just yet.