A recent study has found that Facebook inspires fashion decisions while Twitter is not among the top five influencers. Fashion blogs and message boards, however, are important influencer and Pinterest and Instagram are the surprise influencers,demonstrating the strength of visual marketing.
As part of the NetBase study “Social Channels of Influence in the Fashion Industry: A Consumer Study”, Edison Research surveyed a representative sample of 1,005 women over 18 years of age in the United States in May 2013 who had a profile on at least one or more social networks, which was usually Facebook (97 percent).
Age wise, 17 percent of the surveyed women fell into the 18-24 age bracket, 23 percent into the 25-34 bracket; 20 percent were between 35-44 years old, 19 percent between 45-54 years old, 12 percent between 55-64 years old and 9 percent of the women surveyed were older than 65 years.
Attitudes important for social media influence on fashion decisions
The survey found though that age or traditional demographics were not deciding factors in terms of social media influence on fashion purchases whereas attitudes were. Accordingly, two “hot consumer segments” were identified among the participants, namely “fashionistas” and “social shoppers”. The former (28 percent) agreed strongly with the statement “Fashion and beauty are extremely important to me” and the latter with the statement “The brands and products my friends use influence my own purchase decisions.”
But, as the study cautions, “just because you have a profile on a social network doesn’t mean that it influences your fashion purchases. In fact, fashion blogs and message boards are the top sources of inspiration for fashionistas across all of the fashion categories; Facebook is a close second. Fashion blogs and message boards inspire fashion decisions in at least one product category for 64 percent of social shoppers and 62 percent of fashionistas, while Facebook inspires fashion decisions in at least one product category for 72 percent of social shoppers and 56 percent of fashionistas. Pinterest and Instagram also have influence with these two segments.”
For fashionistas and social shoppers, Facebook is an important purchase influencer in the categories casual clothing, cosmetics, special occasion clothing, costume jewelry and active/fitness clothing, with social shoppers admitting a larger influence while fashionistas prefer fashion blogs and message boards, especially for the categories cosmetics, special occasion clothing, costume jewelry, casual clothing and special occasion footwear.
Facebook and blogs most influential for fashion purchases
As the key findings, the study sums up the need to know social media channels, fashion blogs and message boards and to join the conversation as a brand or retailer. It also advises to use Facebook for both marketing and social intelligence and to invest in Pinterest, because “it punches beyond its weight”. Last but not least, it is also important to understand the nuances in how different social channels are used in a particular fashion category.
Though the results are by all means positive for brands and retailers that invest in social media and social media undoubtedly plays an important role in marketing fashion today, it may not have reached its full potential. After all, of the 1,005 women sampled across the United States for the survey, only 43 percent fall either in the “Fashionistas” (28 percent) or “Social Shoppers” (15 percent) category, i.e. admitted to being influenced by social media when making fashion purchases.
That means the remaining 57 percent of respondents are not. Apart from the positive findings, the question should also be “why not?”. What could a brand’s or retailer’s social media profile do to engage those consumers as well? It would also be interesting to see a trend in terms of social media usage over the last few years and if it would make sense for fashion brands and retailers to further invests into their social media profiles or their own blogs and websites. Considering the relatively small sample size and the fact that only women were surveyed, further research in this area would certainly be appreciated by fashion brands and retailers.
Image: Netbase study