At a panel yesterday during Internet Week New York (IWNY), speakers from established retail (Cannon Hodge of Bergdorf Goodman) and fashion tech start-ups (Chris Morton, co-founder and CEO of Lyst, Joshua March, co-founder and CEO of Conversocial, and Tumblr’s “fashion evangelist,” Valentine Uhovski) discussed how to make commerce and content connect in a meaningful way. The group was moderated by Shenan Reed, the Chief Media Officer of Morpheus. From brand story to social customer service, the panel addressed a range of key points:
- First up, products themselves are becoming content — just look at Pinterest. A sofa from West Elm is the post, and the attraction.
- That leads to a product’s back story. In creating content to go with products, Chris Morton pointed out that with fashion and furniture in particular, brand story is very important. “But there’s no cut off; Fiji water’s story is important, too.”
- Of course, this brings us to editorial credibility, which Morton believes all depends on execution. A publisher who is also selling a small number of products will probably experience some editorial conflict. “With a wider pool of goods, the content is less biased.”
- Overall, however, consumers are aware of the prevalent combination of content and commerce, so it’s generally credible as long as it’s done the right way. Uhovski noted that out of so many blogs on Tumblr, “it comes down to quality of content, whether they have that e-commerce button or not.”
- Curating what you put out there is key. Uhovski doesn’t believe every brand should be on every platform, and Morton noted that “you should have a clear goal of what you expect to get out of a social media interaction. Different platforms work differently for these goals.”
- Hodge believes Vine, still new to the social media sphere, has major potential for brands.
AVOIDING THE ECHO CHAMBER:
- With a combination of content and commerce in place, brands need to reach out beyond their super fans. March noted that one of the most “difficult but powerful things is if you can convince customers to create their own content. Nutella has had a massive fan organizing ‘World Nutella Day’ for the past 7 years, and Nutella shut it down [note: it has since been re-instated]. It’s the opposite of what you should be doing.”
- Hodge recommends “tapping into power users and brand evangelists. Send them ‘ingredients’ from your brand and see what they do with them — they’ll spread the word.”
RETURN ON INVESTMENT:
- This one’s still up in the air. March noted that “ROI for social has been fuzzy for a log time. Social customer service was initially seen as necessary to avoid crisis situations. Now you have internal resources being actively put toward social.”
- For Bergdorf’s, Hodge said “there are returns in terms of dollar signs but also in terms of brand advocates. Fan content has its own return.” That said, “if we have a big campaign we put together a full breakdown. We’ll look at how many times a hashtag has been used. You have to look at all elements to see where return is.”
Ultimately, brands need to pick, choose, plan, and track their creation of content. March noted that “whenever you put the two things together, there has to be an end benefit for consumer. Don’t just do it for the sake of it.” Uhovski was succinct: “the same trench coat on seven different platforms isn’t very inspiring.”