The role of social networks as marketplaces in Latin America's fashion industry
The role of social networks as marketplaces in Latin America's fashion industry. Photo: ShutterStock
Technology

The role of social networks as marketplaces in Latin America's fashion industry

C&A revealed to LABS how the brand has reinvented itself to live the digital age of the fashion industry

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“Set of opinions, tastes, as well as collective ways of acting, living and feeling” is the definition of the word “fashion” in the dictionary and it couldn’t be different, as the main role of the fashion industry is to provide a sense of belonging and representativeness to a wide range of different profiles and ideas. Especially for millennials, clothing is much more than just pieces of fabric, it is a way of exposing the world to how each individual would like to be seen and making brands become true communities that bring together customers with similar ideas and causes. 

But while the above definition is perfectly applicable for explaining the sense of fashion, if this text had started by relating the same definition to the term “social networks,” that possibly wouldn’t have been odd, right? And it’s not hard to understand why, social platforms are nothing but a digital way of connecting people according to their opinions, tastes, and lifestyles, giving them a sense of belonging and providing space for the most diverse ideas and profiles to be represented.

Fashion and social networks have much in common in every way, from their missions to how they use visual exposure as a form of collective identification. No wonder the fashion industry was the first to understand the potential of social networks as a way of creating an identity and language with its audience, as well as scaling results and sales. And about 10 years ago, North American Kevin Systrom and Brazilian Mike Krieger were launching the ideal platform for making these missions and goals come together in practice: Instagram.

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The platform that has as its main role the sharing of photos and videos in a few years has gotten rid of the status of “one among so many” to become one of the largest social networks in the world.

Going beyond Instagram’s obvious engagement potential, the social network has also reshaped online shopping behavior, especially when it comes to fashion. Earlier, when talking about digital marketing strategies for large retailers, it was common to consider ad formats like Google Search and Google Shopping as the main tools for generating sales, while social networks worked as a support for generating interest. But this game has completely changed.

Nowadays, the visual stimulation of posts and the impulse buying go hand in hand, and the possibility of starting the purchase journey within the platform itself is the main evidence.

From haute couture to fast fashion

Chanel's runaway
Chanel’s runaway. Photo: ShutterStock

For the haute couture market, the presence on social networks represented a breaking of paradigms, bringing to an open dialogue brand that were always placed on a pedestal and related at a distance with their audience. “The world of Chanel is opening to followers, whether it is through live casual conversations between two brand ambassadors, pictures of a launch party or backstage images of shows. This does not exclude product pictures or official campaign extracts: everything is brought together to convey the brand’s philosophy in the most direct way, and is also very efficient in modernising the brand’s image as well as reaching a young target audience”, revelaram os representantes da marca Andi Bei, Eleonore Bichot, Henrik Johansen, Livia Lima, Mateusz Majka e Max Dante em artigo sobre a estratégia da Chanel no Instagram.

Meanwhile, fast-fashion brands’ strategies have also been put to the test and have to reinvent themselves in order not to lose market share, especially in emerging countries like Latin America, where urban fashion is a very important aspect of retail.

And in the midst of this revolution, brands that could see the potential of social networking beyond just another communication channel, viewing the solution as a sales opportunity until it reached the current status of a true marketplace, moved ahead. Among them, C&A is a great example.

C&A’s physical store in Brazil. Photo: C&A

With a consistent local production strategy in Brazil, C&A was able to offer real fast-fashion to Brazilian customers: collections being constantly updated in affordable prices, since that producing the pieces within the country widely reduces costs and speeds up the process, making the Dutch chain one of the largest fashion retailers in Brazil.

READ ALSO:Fashion retailer C&A goes public on the Brazilian Stock Exchange

Present in the country since the 70s, the brand has felt the impact of consumer behavior shift from offline to online right away and is now one of the great references in omnichannel strategies in the segment.

In an interview with LABS, C&A detailed the brand’s vision of these market changes and how social networks completely shifted its strategies.

LABS: With over 30 years of experience in the Brazilian market, how did C&A perceive the change in Brazilian consumer behavior with the digital revolution? How did social networks influence this process?

C&A: C&A believes in the important role that social networks and digital influencers play, how they can inspire people and their customers, and actively contribute to brand image. Through social networks, it is also possible to have a closer contact with the consumer, analyze how the company is seen by the public, the engagement of the topics posted and even have real-time feedback. But when we think of the new generation of consumers, who are increasingly connected and informed about the world’s major trends, C&A still understands that this new consumer is omni, as is their form of consumption. In other words, besides being online and on social networks continuously, the new consumer values ​​and seeks companies that understand the importance of integrating their channels (online and offline). In this context, C&A’s omnichannel strategy was designed so that customers, besides having contact with the brand through both the physical store and through our e-commerce, are able to choose their preferred means to make the purchase. In addition, they can also do it in an integrated way in both environments, through Click & Pick up – service that allows the customer to make the purchase in e-commerce and pick up it in one of C&A’s physical stores – and other omni options that we are developing or already scaling up to our stores and online customer base.

LABS: Are social networks a major source of sales for the brand currently? How do you define the changing importance of social networks for C&A in recent years?

C&A: Nowadays, social networks can be compared to a store window, where consumers can access the news of each brand wherever they are. As a result, customers are increasingly looking at brand and digital influencer profiles to access the latest in the fashion world. Within this scenario, C&A and several brands have been betting on their official channels and partnerships with digital influencers in order to strengthen the brand’s relationship with the consumer, positively impacting them with their values and collections. This is a natural market move that is part of C&A’s marketing strategy.

C&A’s official Instagram in Brazil. Photo: C&A/Instagram

LABS: In the fashion industry, there is a lot of talk about brands that go beyond clothing but have soul and personality. Do you believe that social networking can be an important channel for building this brand personality that has been attracting more consumers to wear causes while choosing their clothes?

C&A: We believe that for a brand to be successful, it needs to have a defined personality and profile, not just keeping up with market trends to attract consumers. So even before the creation of social networks, C&A already saw fashion as an expression platform where people should feel free to express themselves to the world as they wish. With this, C&A has several initiatives to make the fashion market more representative and inclusive – a trend that has been followed by all brands, which is a gain not only for companies, but also for society as a whole. Social networks have brought brands and consumers closer as dialogue has become more practical, faster and more transparent. Through comments and interactions on the official pages, we can feel if we are on the right track and make adjustments if necessary.

LABS: The offline presence of the brand is one of the main features of C&A. How do you see the role of social networks in the purchase process even in transactions made in physical stores?

C&A: Currently, people consume fashion in a variety of ways through the social media, inspiration profiles, e-commerce and physical stores of their favorite brands. As a result, customers come to our stores for a more defined purpose, as they look for products similar to what they previously seen on social networks and e-commerce. At C&A, for example, about 80% of customers entering our physical stores claim that they have done some prior research on the brand’s e-commerce. C&A also has an omnichannel strategy responsible for integrating the company’s online and offline channels.