Differentiation

In the Relationship Age, businesses must build relationships with their hidden assets—their customers—through social media (SM) marketing (Galbreath, 2002, p. 9). Both fast fashion retailers, Wet Seal and Forever 21, are utilizing SM to their advantage. And this is no passing fad. As Jim Tobin says on his popular social media marketing website, Mashable, “Sites like Comedy Central, Forever 21 and Etsy are seeing more traffic from social networks than they see from Google” (2010, para. 4). Both Wet Seal and Forever 21 use the standards of the day: Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, but they are also using some different venues on the social media scene to optimize their presence such as Pinterest, iPhone applications (apps), and other interactive media.

Social Media Venues Used by Wet Seal: Facebook (with interactive feature), Twitter, YouTube, interactive website, blogging, iPhone apps, Pinterest, Tumblr

By spreading their message throughout popular venues such as an interactive Facebook page, a model search on YouTube, and Twitter accounts where they can tweet about the latest trends or any specials the stores may be having, Wet Seal helps optimize their exposure leading to increased revenue. Wet Seal’s market is 15- to 35-year-olds, most of which encompass Generation Y. Knowing that this audience’s tastes are influenced by peers and then marketing to them in a venue they populate heavily (Facebook), is brilliant. Supply that audience with a steady stream of new fashion options that they can show off to each other on a venue where they tend to congregate and you’ve set yourself up for success. Because of Generation Y’s innate affinity for new technology and desire to connect, social media marketing works well for them. Wet Seal CEO, Ed Thomas, knows this from first-hand experience. In an article by Amy Roach Partridge for Apparel Marketing (2010), he said, “The true measure of these tools’ usefulness is whether sales increase. And they have.” Their success is due, at least partially, to Wet Seal’s CIO Jon Kubo. He is constantly looking for and finding innovative ways to market using SM. And it’s working. In an article on IndependentRetailer.com, they say,  “Kubo told the (National Retail Federation) conference that Wet Seal’s social media efforts are generating 20 percent of the company’s ecommerce sales” (2011, para. 2). Regarding the company’s Facebook page he said, “There is definitely a social component associated with apparel … it’s about socializing versus buying something” (Partridge, 2010, para. 14).

Social Media Venues Used by Forever 21: Interactive website, blogging, foursquare (offers promotions), Flickr (photos from store events), TwitterCounter (to measure analytics from different venues), Google Alerts (to keep updated on what’s being said about them), Pinterest, Instagram (picture sharing), smart phone application (app)

With 450 locations in the U.S. and nearly 100 international stores, fashion retailer Forever 21 is a force to be reckoned on the fast fashion scene. According to Kim Bhasin (2013), “Forever 21 is growing like crazy, and the fast fashion retailer is becoming a major threat to the rest of the industry” (para.1). So what accounts for this success? Their SM strategy is partially the reason. They’ve created the “F21POP mobile app lets consumers view exclusive videos” of runway shows and other fashion-related content (Kats, 2012, para. 2). The company uses this social media venue (F21POP) to merge the digital age with reality. Forever 21’s global marketing director, Linda Chang, says, “Our customers are digitally savvy and we strive to bring fast technology to fast fashion” (Kats, 2012, para. 13). Forever 21 also posts photo shoots of their new merchandise on Facebook regularly, allowing their followers to check out any new pieces that have become available. Their blog, The Skinny, showcases new arrivals and puts them together to complete an outfit. If the viewer likes what they see, they know they can buy the pieces online or in the store to recreate the outfit or put together their own version of it. The interactivity of the app is why it is very popular with the company’s audience.

Forever 21 is taking full advantage of SM marketing. They have their own YouTube channel called Forever 21 TV and they have even incorporated Instagram into their social media campaign and featured a giveaway through that venue.

Businesses cannot afford to jump on the social media bandwagon for the sake of jumping. They need to do research to find out which of the social media tools will best serve their company. Then they have to devote time, money, and manpower to maintain it. With smart tools and smart people using them, it is possible for a business to increase revenue exponentially. Because these retailers know that social media is essential to their marketing strategy, they are getting in on the act and seeing increased revenue because of it.

Resources

Bhasin, K. (2013, March 11). The Competition Should Be Terrified Of Forever 21. In Business Insider. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/forever-21-dominating-teen-retail-market-2013-3

Galbreath, J. (2002). Success in the Relationship Age: Building quality relationship assets for market value creation. The TQM Magazine, 14.1. 8-24.

Kats, R. (2012, November 12). Forever 21 takes shopping to the next level with augmented reality app. In MobileCommerceDaily.com. Retrieved from http://www.mobilecommercedaily.com/forever-21-takes-shopping-to-the-next-level-with-augmented-reality-app

Tobin. J. (2010, October 22). 4 winning strategies for social media optimization. In Mashable.com. Retrieved from http://mashable.com/2010/10/22/social-media-optimization/

Partridge, A. R. (2010, April 20). Building a Social/Mobile Strategy—One Outfit at a Time. In Apparel Marketing. Retrieved from http://apparel.edgl.com/news/Building-a-Social/Mobile-Strategy—One-Outfit-at-a-Time63557

Social Media Next Logical Marketing Arena For Retailers. (2011, May 1). In IndependentRetailer.com. Retrieved from http://independentretailer.com/2011/05/01/social-media-next-logical-marketing-arena-for-retailers/

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