CFA Panel Discusses Social-Media Strategies for Retailers

Leveraging the power of social networking can sometimes prove to be a difficult task with the overwhelming amount of social-media platforms on the Internet. Where can retailers and brands begin to execute all the tools out there?

A July 20 panel discussion on “Effective Social Networking for Branding and for Profit” by the California Fashion Association identified some of the Internet’s buying and information-consumption trends and how retailers and brands can apply social-media technologies to their business models. The event took place at the California Market Center in Los Angeles.

The panel of experts included Jen Uner, founder and producer of the L.A. Fashion Awards and; Mark O. Werts Jr., director of imports and international trade for boutique chain American Rag Cie; Macala Wright Lee, founder and editor in chief of fashion marketing blog FashionablyMarketing.Me; and Mitesh Solanki, a partner with digital-advertising firm Creative Intellects.

The panel’s moderator, CFA President Ilse Metchek, opened the panel by discussing how different age groups of women buy online and how each utilizes social media. For example, baby boomers are more highly selective in their online spending process, but Generation Y shoppers consume technology at a much faster and mobilized pace.

With the viral nature of fashion on the Internet, the question was how to keep up with customers’ changing taste using social media and how to make it relevant to a retailer’s products and branding.

“The first misconception of social media has instant traction,” Wright Lee said. “Marketing isn’t a drive-by shooting, a good social media plan takes time to develop; what you put into it is what you get. Brands can reap the benefits from well executed strategies.”

Wright Lee suggested starting with identifying one’s own brand and locating a target market and then understanding their online habits.

Uner emphasized pairing the right message with the right medium. “Use technology in an appropriate way for your brand,” Uner said. Uner reinforced using technology to distinguish a retailer from its peers and competitors by focusing on a brand’s uniqueness rather than forcing a promotional strategy. Both Wright Lee and Uner suggested a way to do so is to go after niche communities that speak to your brand.

In terms of monetizing social-media strategies, Wright Lee and Solanki showed how to attract the right bloggers and blog partnerships. “Start with a strategy that will engage your audience with trust and loyalty,” Solanki said. Both Wright Lee and Solanki discussedleveraging fashion bloggers’ influence and utilizing a loyal blogger audience as a distribution channel. A blogger link back or a review of a product can drive traffic and sales back to a site or to a bricks-and-mortar store, Solanki said.

Social media now introduces a two-way conversation between the customer and the brand. “Mediums like Facebook have allowed us to have a dialogue with our clients and help us maintain a lot of traffic that we could have lost,” Werts said.

It is also important for companies to designate an individual to ensure a brand’s message is being properly executed. “Your marketing plan has to have a common vision,” Werts said. “If you don’t have a person leading that vision, it’s going to be all over the place.”—Connie Cho