The fourth Social Retail Summit, a bi-annual event, was held in The Dumbo Spot last Thursday (January 17, 2013). The Summit drew a host of fashion industry participants from graduate students who run fashion blogs to industry professionals looking to expand their knowledge and contacts to new fashion entrepreneurs trying to pick up some tips. The summit touched on what it means to be a “Social Brand” in today’s fashion and technology landscape. With the initial wave of the social media explosion now behind us and with so much information out there, how are companies able to analyze information and use social media to grow their brands and drive sales? These are some of the challenges that the panelists discussed.
The afternoon event was structured into five 30 minute panels on topics ranging from how to engage consumers in the social media age to co-creation of custom ordered high end products and 3D printing. Each panel consisted of the panelists discussing their area of expertise led by the event coordinator, followed by a few minutes of Q & A. The structure of the event was enjoyable and lent itself well to the summit–– five hours breezed by while maintaining audience engagement.
While some of the panels seemed a bit disconnected and the panelists didn’t have a rapport, others were excellent and featured great combinations of individuals who had fantastic insight. The first panel focused on the topic of how to engage consumers with social media and email marketing. An interesting insight here was that the initial wave of social media explosion is now behind us and that brands are trying to sift through the mess to see what works for them. They also discussed how current tracking mechanisms might be inadequate to accurately track what avenue is driving sales as often it can be a mixture of social media and email marketing that gets a customer to purchase on a company’s website. In that instance, who do you attribute the sale to? This was certainly an interesting point worth significant consideration.
Another one of the early panels about merging fashion media and retail had an eclectic group of panelists that included Of A Kind co-founder Claire Mazur and Lucky Magazine digital editor John Jannuzzi. This discussion was particularly interesting as it touched upon the shift in fashion consumption to a more content-based experience, something that piqued the interest of many audience members.
Some of the great moments of the summit (and something I particularly enjoyed) were the case studies delivered by Jenn Rubio of Warby Parker and Abe Burmeister of Outlier. These two brands have really emerged over the past year or two as innovative and disruptive to the existing consumption model, especially Warby Parker. Getting a chance to hear these two discuss their company mentality and the history of their respective companies was truly enthralling. Jen told stories of the early days of Warby, when customers asked to come see product out of their co-founder’s apartment to how they established one of their go to customer service models–– home-made YouTube videos as a response to Twitter based questions. Abe was also fantastic. His story on how he literally stumbled upon how to make a pair of pants and his informal style showed why he has been successful creating a new clothing brand.
Despite all of this interesting information and conversation, the last panel reminded attendees that technology could eventually disrupt the entire fashion landscape–– and change the discourse in this industry. The panelists for this session seemed like a hybrid of scientists and fashion designers, those straddling both the fashion and technology disciplines. The discussion of co-creation and customization of products was nothing short of fascinating. I particularly enjoyed the insights of Rachel Brooks, founder of Citizen Made, Seph Skerritt – founder of Proper Cloth, and Carine Carmy – director of marketing for Shapeways (speaking of Shapeways, if you haven’t heard of 3D printing check them out!). It’s still up in the air what kind of impact this type of technology will have and whether it will displace traditional product design or just open up the market to new types of consumption. But one thing is clear: technology will have an incredible impact on the fashion industry over the next ten years, and I’m excited to see where it takes us!