Digital native retailers disrupt the traditional supply chain of the fashion and lifestyle industry. Direct-to-consumer brands are able to offer high-quality products for lower prices. Online and mobile sales are continuously rising. How to engage with consumers and build lasting relationships in the digital sphere? What are the key strategies to reinvent marketing and drive sales today? Fashion journalist Inga Griese spoke with Delia Fischer (Westwing), Frederic Court (Felix Capital), Marina Hoermanseder (Designer) and Ben Fishman (M.Gemi) at DLD Berlin.
In the digital world, competition has multiplied. Online retailers compete with other e-commerce shops and direct-selling brands on a global scale. How to attract consumers' attention and retain customers? It's all about creating emotion, the panelists agree. "We don't sell a need. So we have to create a desire first", young entrepreneur Delia Fischer points out. She founded Westwing, an online store for interior and furniture design, in 2011. Initially, most people would not search for vanilla scented candles or decorative cushions which are typical products of her shop. So she experimented with different ways to approach customers. For instance, Westwing started as an invite-only members club creating the desire to get in. A great curation of products is also crucial to gain and engage customers. Furthermore, Westwing has created shoppable magazines as well as physical pop-up stores, the latter especially for the older customers.
What are the key ingredients you need to build a successful brand today? Is it all about the product or should you focus on customer relations and brand experience? "If you don't have a beautiful product, you won't sell anything", Ben Fishman says. "But the key is to know your customer and build a 1:1 relationship. The reason why we sell our products online is to gain the data of every single customer encounter." His label M.Gemi is build on the idea that luxury doesn't have to be expensive. It sells handmade Italian footwear directly to the consumer at a fraction of the usual price. Aiming to create an obsession rather than a mere desire, they release a new design every week. His team also offers 24/7 customer service and always tries to exceed customer expectations. However, there's no need for a physical retail space with tangible products to engage with customers in a meaningful way, Ben thinks.
Young designer Marina Hoermanseder objects. While she grew up with the Internet and it definitely has helped building her career, she admits to have highly profitted from a recent shop window display of her clothes at a retailer chain. "We gained so many new customers. Instagram couldn't have done this for me." The Berlin-based designer from Vienna is famous for her iconic fashion designs which were very early on worn by Lady Gaga, Peaches and many social media influcencers resulting in a lot of press and traction.
"In the end, the brands need to be where the customer is", Frederic Court sums it up. He is the founder and managing partner at Venture Capital Firm Felix Capital which among others backed Farfetch, the online marketplace for luxury fashion brands. "It's about offering something different than others," he adds. As an example, he names the recent partnership of Gucci and Farfetch offering a 90-minutes delivery service for Gucci products.
As borders seem to vanish in the fashion market, could this trend in lifestyle also help to overcome the rise of nationalism? While Ben is not so sure that this is a problem we can solve by selling shoes, Delia is more hopeful: "There's a big ethno and bohemian trend in interior design right now. You combine Moroccan tea glasses, a rug from Persia with a chair from a New York designer. The young generation loves to travel and feels comfortable to mix things from all over the world and integrate them in their home. I know it's just a lifestyle trend, but still it's a beginning."