SxSW is a breeding ground for new thinking - some pragmatic, some far out, but always interesting. Among the things being reinvisioned this week is the future of fashion and retail. Social media has turned the brand-consumer relationship upside-down: who imagined shopping via tweet, chatting with Diane, or real-time virtual attendance at pretty much any show at Fashion Week. The consumer-brand relationship is fundamentally different now than it was even 2 years ago, and those jumps will happen several times over before we see a new decade, or even a new Creative Director at Dior.
At SxSW, two themes in fashion consumer experience innovation emerged:
(1) Changing the shopping experience, catering to consumers in new ways possible through tech advancements. Think: mirrors that transform into interactive screens (which Burberry's London flagship unveiled last year) and product recommendations for the perfect nail polish shade to match that fab dress you just bought. For customers, it means a more personalized, more interactive and easier shopping experience. For retailers, it means more and better connected data for improved understanding and attribution of the complex cycle of consumer acquisition and engagement.
(2) Changing the paradigm of influence and access within the fashion industry through non-traditional channels. A decade ago the power to define trends and participate in the fashion process was limited to a select few, namely designers, editors and buyers. Today's dynamic grants veritable authority (even the ability to decide what styles go into production, and ) through emerging social-based channels. These new funnels of influence include socia media platforms (Twitter, Facebook and about 13 others), influencers (bloggers and vloggers du jour), and user communities (Nasty Gal's The Click), which clever brands are leveraging to great success. (Note measurement here is far from perfect, but declaring they have no value is akin to denying global warming.) There is an inherent tension between fashion, which gets value from exclusivity, and social media, a democratizing force. But as consumers evolve to view themselves as their own brands - thinking about where and what they share about themselves - they will expect more and more access and involvement within the brands that are marketing to them.
Of the themes shared, it's important to note that there are no hard and fast lines between the two - both are blurred, and in fact are most successful when blurred, providing a connected, omni-channel experience which has advantages for consumer and retailer, alike.
In the coming weeks I will dig into these SxSW trends in more detail and what the next 5 years in fashion may look like. For instant gratification, check out some live tweets from SxSW's fashion-centric panels.