The era of immediacy
Social media has transformed the consumer relation towards information as well as the purchasing journey. With its ever-increasing number of users worldwide, 2.46 billion users in 2017, social media delivers wide reach and immediacy. More and more fashion brands decide to leverage it and broadcast live their fashion shows making them available not only to an exclusive audience but to everyone.
In a context of consumerism and growing demand for immediacy, brands need to adapt to consumer expectations. Some of them started to adopt a new fashion show format, allowing a seamless way to purchase without waiting time, called “See Now Buy Now”.
A direct-to-consumer model
The “See Now Buy Now” experiment is underway. Introduced in 2015 by Burberry at the London Fashion Week, a handful of designers including Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren and Michael Kors started their first shoppable fashion shows, enabling customers to buy the collections immediately after appearing on the runway. By giving up on the traditional calendar consisting in showing a collection six months ahead of the time it is available on shelves, these brands totally disrupted the fashion seasonal calendar and supply chain model.
By embracing this strategy along with the growing use of social media, brands focus their fashion shows on a consumer-oriented approach. Indeed, by cutting waiting time, they offer a direct and immediate connection to demanding consumers and deliver instant gratification with the aim to translate the interest and excitement generated by fashion shows into sales.
Furthermore, middlemen such as editors and stylists are reduced even removed from the retail process. As long as wholesalers don’t improve their operational agility, brands should handle the whole retail process to be able to deliver products on time in their offline and online shops. This is a reason why this model is likely to stick to a brand like Mulberry, that rolled it out in May 2017, as the majority of its sales are made in its own stores and on its site; just 10% of the label’s revenue came from its wholesale accounts.
Four seasons after a few major brands have adopted it, we can wonder if the “See Now Buy Now” model meets all expectations. Is it proving success? Is it driving sales?
A sales driver and a high social media exposure
For most brands and retailers, the shift to the “See Now Buy Now” format shows satisfying results notably in sales. Contemporary label Rebecca Minkoff recorded a large sales rise after its shoppable fashion show in September 2016. In a weekend, online and in-store sales increased by 168% compared to the weekend after its runway show the previous year. (Most of the uplift was driven by sales in physical stores, some of which hosted livestreaming events during the show, but online sales also saw a double-digit increase.). They even beat their best day ever by about 25 percent in only two days.
Similarly, for the e-tailer MyTheresa.com, the Burberry collection showed in September 2016 triggered an instant uplift in sales and three items (a cashmere sweater, a cashmere top and a bowling shirt) from womenswear collection were sold out since the show.
“The immediacy of being able to buy immediately after the show, combined with the impact of seeing the whole collection on the floor at once, gave our customers a sense of urgency to buy now.”
This rise in sales can be explained by the sense of urgency created. Like Joshua Schulman, president of Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus Group International explains typically, these sales would be spread over many weeks as the deliveries arrive piecemeal. The immediacy of being able to buy immediately after the show, combined with the impact of seeing the whole collection on the floor at once, gave our customers a sense of urgency to buy now.
Another benefit brought by the “See Now Buy Now” format is a high social media exposure. Womenswear Buying Manager Heather Gramston at Selfridges confirms that Jeremy Scott -Moschino 2014 AW collection was a success with high impact fashion week spectacle with high demand from an engaged customer looking for immediacy. In addition to a high visibility, there is a strong effect on traffic and search. Indeed, Tommy Hilfiger observed an increase of 900 percent in the first 48 hours after the show as well as a 35 percent increase in search on Lyst e-commerce platform.
An evolving show and sales format not yet for every business
While the “See Now Buy Now” model seems to work well for young designers and premium brands, not all high-end brands have embraced it as fully as Ralph Lauren or Burberry. The main reason would be the creation process of luxury products that is not compatible with this format. Indeed, so far most sales generated by shoppable shows concern accessible product categories such as accessories, eyewear and cosmetics. For Moschino, if “See Now Buy Now” sales make up 10 percent of the business, the brand would never consider moving its entire business over this new and experimental strategy. As brand representative Massimo Ferretti affirms quality ready-to-wear needs time for true creativity and quality to flourish. It is just not conceivable to create and scale collections three months in advance.
When many fashion brands are still not ready to opt for this strategy, other brands like Tom Ford preferred to return to the traditional calendar due to the incompatibility with current fashion retail structure. Tom Ford who was among the first brands to adopt it, decided in March 2017 to give up on this model explaining that the store shipping schedule doesn’t align with the fashion show schedule. We lost a month of selling. We had merchandise sitting in stockrooms.
To conclude, even if the immediacy of social media is challenging the exclusive show format, the “See Now Buy Now” model is not going to replace the traditional fashion buying calendar yet. Instead, it is a new alternative for brands and retailers to reduce even more the gap and reinforce engagement between consumers and the brand. Digital and especially social media continue to change fashion brands’ business model revolutionizing the pace of retail. It remains to be seen whether new business models lead to high sales for the full retail season and in the long term.