Many people love fashion. They love reading about it, talking about it and finding a unique look. Think of that creative person you know who always seems to find great combinations of clothes… who scours shops to find items with a slight edge and manages to pull off just the right look. 

What I’m describing is style. Style needn’t be experimental or avant-garde. It isn’t necessarily what you see on the catwalk or the red carpet. It’s more personal. It’s about self-expression. There is an industry built around this, with trend-spotters working for fashion houses and magazines who are on the lookout for the next big craze.

But here’s the thing – the fashion industry is missing a trick.

Many online communities exist in product and service industries. Gaming brands often lead the charge (PlayStation, Xbox) but there are others too. Take for instance beauty brand Sephora, or toy company Lego. These businesses have reaped the benefits of communities and I believe fashion brands could too. And yet, so few have embraced the community approach.

A great example of the power of community within the fashion sector is Threadless, whose designs are created and chosen by its members. Nonetheless, while Threadless proves that a community model works, after 17 years few fashion brands have followed their example.

Why not? There are a number of possible reasons.

First, while consumers are notoriously loyal to fashion brands, this can be a double-edged sword for companies in the industry. Maintaining your customer base means remaining distinctive. For fashion brands, this often translates to retaining creative control over your designs. In addition, the success of the industry is largely built upon a culture of individuality, with famous (often eccentric) designers usually playing a key part in a brand’s marketing.

However, as described, fashion brands seek out  inspiration from the outside world. Now imagine if, instead of going out to look for it, the inspiration came directly to you. Imagine bringing customers into the design process of a new clothing ranges that they’d love to wear.

While few fashion brands currently have their own branded online communities, doing so would offer them a unique place to mine ideas from a thriving base of passionate customers. Customers could show designers how they wear their clothes, which combinations they create, the styles they favour and which other brands they like. What better way to get people excited than by bringing them on board?

I’m not suggesting doing away with traditional design, and fashion brands uncertain about the benefits of this approach needn’t dive in headfirst. But a brand owned community could begin as a source of inspiration for designers and give the company a real way to interact with customers on a daily basis. Now that the shop floor is either online or far from the inner workings of the business there are still great ways to interact with your customer base. Then, when they’re ready, perhaps the brand could allow customers into the design process. The community could submit designs, and through this exchange of ideas, brands could create a unique new clothing line that is even more appealing to their consumers.

Ultimately, I believe the reason many fashion brands are yet to embrace community comes down to culture. Understandably, this is no small barrier. However, by involving customers more profoundly in their business, brands could develop a whole new approach to fashion, one that brings customers – as well as the catwalk – into the process. This could save millions in marketing and create a unique customer connection. A big idea, perhaps, but for those willing to try… the opportunities are ripe for the picking!

 

ALSO READ…

Community Job Descriptions – Community Coordinator

The roles that are described here are an example of a team structure for a large and mature community and can be expanded on, depending on the specific needs of the company. Generally we would expect large Community teams to be structured using the...

CMX Summit 2017 – My top five insights

I am still buzzing after last month’s CMX Summit in Los Angeles - the experience was exhilarating and full of positive energy.  My greatest memory of the event was the scavenger hunt, but I can leave that for another blog post! Instead, I’ll give you my top 5...

How a branded community would have saved Paperchase from a Twitterstorm

Paperchase recently found themselves where no brand wants to be – at the heart of a Twitterstorm. Social media users were quick to express their dismay when the company placed a promotion in the Daily Mail. Paperchase soon withdrew the promotion, apologising and...

Job Vacancy: Pre Sales/Research support to New Business Sales

Applications close: 5 October 2017   We’re growing and we want you to join Standing on Giants! This role requires someone who cares deeply and can view the world from the client’s perspective. Not only will you be researching and identify business opportunities,...

Community Job Descriptions – Head of Community

The roles that are described in this series are an example of a team structure for a large and mature community and can be expanded on, depending on the specific needs of the company. Generally we would expect large Community teams to be structured using...

Voice of the Customer: How to do more with less

I absolutely love to hear businesses talk about their “Voice of the Customer” programs. Whether it’s from incumbents like British Gas or challengers like Atom Bank, it’s heartwarming to hear brands giving their customer an active voice in the company. But I know, like...

Tomorrow’s customer experience requires a reboot of business purpose…now

If I owned a time machine and could zoom back to the beginning of the nineteenth century, I would love to ask an industrialist to join me at the Forrester CX Europe Conference which took place this week. There would be a great deal that would bewilder my nineteenth...

4 Steps To Using Data Driven Strategy For Community Engagement

Most of us have heard the phrase ‘the more the merrier’ and that holds true for our Online Forums. Increasing community engagement leads to heavily involved members that “spend up to ten times more than an average customer.” (How to Increase Sales by Vincent Boon) The...

Your (grand)parents might enjoy a community

When we think about being digital, it can be easy to think it’s a young person’s game. This stems from many people associating digital expertise with a detailed understanding of the technology. This is a mistake. At Standing on Giants we see scores of older people...

The first rule of building communities: Forget about the technology

The biggest, most common mistake made at the beginning of many community-building journeys is to waste time asking “which community platform should I choose?” Why? For this simple reason: The success of your community depends on things that have nothing to...

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Vincent Boon

Vincent Boon

Founder

Vincent is Standing on Giants in-house community guru, futurist and troubleshooter. The source of our methodology he’s a fiery advocate for genuine customer-centric business.