Fashion brands around the world have woken up to the influence fashion bloggers have on their readers. Coach engaged them with The Poppy Project, Burberry asked them and other Internet junkies to be part of the Art of The Trench, and Susie Lau and Bryan Boy are frequently seated in close-to-the-best seats at fashion shows, by invite (in fact, Lau's latest post on February 8, 2011, is about being invited by The Outnet, a sister site to Net-a-Porter, for a preview of their collection).
So it isn't surprising when one finally hears of Indian fashion brands and their digital agencies getting into the act, as in the case of Shoppers Stop. The retail player organised a preview of their 'Go Glam' collection for a selected group of Indian fashion bloggers in late December 2010. Nishad Ramachandran, vice president and head of iContract, explained, "We have been seeing the emergence of global blog brands like The Huffington Post, the Gawker Network and such. Many of these brands have been seen as being as influential or probably more trustworthy than brands like CNN, Time and others. So it was only natural that we in India also look to develop such initiatives, and identify people with a very specific passion for the stuff they do, not just reach out to channels that do it as a matter of routine."
Vinay Bhatia, customer care associate and vice president - marketing and loyalty, Shoppers Stop Limited, added, "The fashion industry is highly driven by influence whether it is celebrities, local opinion leaders or peer group. And hence influencer planning is one of the key factors in communicating and connecting with the target groups at Shoppers Stop. We identify social media as an important medium for us to engage and communicate with the youth. Off late we have been leveraging the social media space to create a lot of dialogue with our customers and this has got us closer to them. Another step in this direction is reaching out to bloggers. Given the fact that they are most active on the online space, bloggers are influencing youth in a big way. While some bloggers have been attending our press events for film merchandise, we felt a need to organise a separate meet for bloggers, the citizen journalist, and thus we conducted an offline blogger meet for a preview of one of our new party wear collection ‘Go Glam’."
The fashion bloggers were accessed from a list on the IndiBlogger website. Ramachandran elaborated, "Since we were doing this for the first time, we had restricted it to Mumbai bloggers. We also did not want a jamboree having a ton of bloggers, so we were looking at a small group. Some 10 bloggers were reached out to, 9 of whom agreed to come, finally had four of them landed up for the event."
The event was carried out in a special fashion room in the Shoppers Stop corporate office. "We had the design team at Shoppers Stop present their 'Go Glam' collection to bloggers," said Ramachandran. "However, the outcomes were not too impressive. In the sense, only 4 bloggers came down and we had just 5 posts from these bloggers. So while we reached out to an extended audience of some 2000 people through these blogger impressions, we need to reach out to much wider networks, and funnel it from there on."
Outcome notwithstanding, it is a first step to try something new on the Internet and social media, besides the customary Facebook presence most brands have. Bhatia said, "The learning has been tremendous. We use social media as a key tool to listen into the conversations of youth on the online space. The key inspirations for the 'Go Glam' collection for example were derived out of listening to the conversations on the social media space. Besides, the offline meets have served as an great opportunity for the in-house design team at Shoppers Stop to take feedback in real time from a set of customers who are influencers in their own little way. We have enjoyed listening to them as much as they have enjoyed previewing our collection and passing on their encouraging opinion to their followers. We are looking at planning more of such previews for the fashion bloggers community."
Read blogger Karishma Rajani's posts about the preview on her Purple Peeptoes blog here.