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Similar to the way that divisions between online and offline channels have tumbled, the latest developments in fashion-oriented multichannel retailing are eliminating the distinctions between commercial and editorial content. In publications offered both online and off, retailers tout modern trends and cutting-edge fashions, sometimes without any consideration of whether their shopping channels offer those selfsame items.

The European retailer Asos exemplifies this emerging development. Its Fashion Finder site combines new product information with fashion tips and style innovations, presented with a mix of visual content and magazine-like articles and features. In addition, it publishes a glossy paper magazine with a circulation of nearly half a million readers, then also makes this content available as digital versions adapted to U.S., French, German, and Australian markets.

Article 5By integrating retailing, social media, and publishing operations, Primark manifests a unique growth approach. It does not have an online channel, and it does not advertise in a traditional sense. Rather, its Primania social media site is populated by exuberant fans of the retailer’s offerings, who post selfies that feature their recent purchases, along with commentary and price information.

The approximately 300,000 weekly visitors to Primania are mostly young women, who check their social media profiles with remarkable frequency and demand interpersonal interactions with their favorite brands. Furthermore, more than half of this target market initiates a purchase by browsing offerings through a smartphone or other mobile device. Thus the central goal for retailers is to attract their attention, which means giving them interesting content. Even if the retailer does not carry the skirt worn by a popular celebrity to a recent event, it may run a story about her fashion choices, to ensure that potential customers at least stop for a quick read.

Although some more traditional retailers are following suit, their efforts may be less successful, according to the segments of customers they generally attract. For example, Marks & Spencer has expanded its website to include a style and living section that provides magazine-style content and information. But perhaps because most of its clientele tends to be older women, who visit the website to make efficient purchases rather than learn about lip gloss trends, its online sales have lagged.

Discussion Question:

  1. What does social media have that traditional print media doesn’t, when it comes to appealing to young female shoppers?
  2. What retailers are particularly good at reaching these customers? Why?


Source: Sarah Butler, The Observer, June 28, 2014