Social commerce – helping people connect where they buy and buy where they connect – is a natural choice for fashion brands. Why?
Cynics may quip that the reason social commerce and fashion get along so well is that social media and fashion are essentially similar; they are both a relief from boredom, or a distraction from what matters.
But the real reason why social commerce and fashion works is that fashion is an eminently social phenomenon. Fashion is socially constructed through a social dialectic between the runway and street, and fashion spreads socially through a process of social diffusion – powered by imitation and word of mouth.
It’s no mere coincidence then that early social commerce success stories play in the fashion vertical; think member-get-member powered private-sales clubs such as Gilt, Rue La La and Ideeli.
But how can fashion brands and retailers harness the potential of social commerce? A quick primer on the social psychology of fashion reveals some interesting opportunities:
- Fashion as image-management – what we wear influences how we are perceived by others, so a key role of fashion is in image-management; signalling to others our values, beliefs and even personality. Conservative fashion is associated with traits such as reliability and self-control, whilst edgy fashion is associated with charisma and individualism. A key opportunity for social commerce is to add value to the customer proposition by helping people better manage their image using social technology when they shop – going beyond simple social sharing to social recommender systems that help people pro-actively manage their image through fashion.
- Fashion as identity-management – our fashion choices not only influence how others perceive us (our ‘image’), but also how we perceive ourselves – our ‘identity’ (self-image). Wear formal fashion, and we speak, act and react more formally; wear casual fashion and we become more personable and less deferential. Even the colors we wear can influence our moods. The opportunity for social commerce is to help people do what social theorists call ‘bricolage identity construction’; helping people create the self-image they aspire to using social technology – from the simple fashion avatar to fashion-as-smart-drug, helping us not only shop smart, but dress smart and thereby be smart.
- Fashion as alliance-management – our fashion choices foster and reinforce social bonds – they keep outsiders out, and they keep style-tribes together. What we wear says as much about us as members of social groups, our social affiliations and alliances, as it says about us as individuals. The opportunity for fashion in social commerce is to help people manage social alliances better through shared fashion statements, where fashion becomes the social glue that bonds people together. From simple social technology to help us to collectively define ‘our look’ (rather than ‘my look’) to social fashion to help in-clique communication.