‘The relationship between brands and consumers has flipped’: Insights from the Glossy Summit

Image result for ‘The relationship between brands and consumers has flipped’: Insights from the Glossy SummitLast week at The Glossy Summit: Future of Fashion and Luxury in Miami, fashion brands, both big and small, came together to speak frankly about the challenges they’re facing and what they are doing to evolve. From the main stage where speakers outlined their companies’ strategies to small working groups where attendees sought guidance from their peers, the event was full of modern retail insight. Here’s what we learned:

The power is with the consumer
On the minds of many of the brands in attendance was how the power to control the fashion conversation has shifted to consumers.

– Consumers, not brands, now dictate trends and have more knowledge than they have ever had before. They also have a huge number of options of where to buy their desired item. This has led to a fundamental shift in how brands engage with their customers, making reactivity and flexibility a core skill for the modern fashion brand.

– Brands like Universal Standard have worked extensively to make sure that their sizes are as comprehensive as possible, ensuring that every customer has a wide array of options. This required a significant amount of rethinking the standard fashion production schedule from design to manufacturing. It also created new ways of manufacturing fabric that could accommodate the brand’s extended sizing.

The bottom line: Brands need to listen to what consumers are saying and react accordingly. Through data collection, direct engagement with customers through social media, and wear testing, the power that consumers hold can be leveraged for a brand’s success.

Convenience is king
As consumers gain more control and power over the fashion industry, one way that brands are catering to them is through an increased focus on convenience.

– Since consumers have many options of where to shop, the slightest bit of friction can send them looking for an alternative. Brands need to make sure that they are digitally savvy and treat customers to the most seamless experience possible in order to lure them away from competitors.

– Charles Gorra, founder of Rebag, spoke about how his resale company courts two different types of customers, buyers and sellers, with opposite interests. Maximizing convenience is the best way to satisfy both.

– This challenge is different for bigger brands than for smaller ones. Large brands have the advantage of scale and resources, yet they also are more complicated and have more moving parts. Smaller brands do not always have the resources for a customer experience with the shiniest bells and whistles, but they are able to react more quickly.

The bottom line: When customers have a hundred shopping options at any given moment, they will take the path of least resistance.

Brands are taking things in-house
Alongside the shift to direct-to-consumer, companies are rethinking big parts of their business and wondering if they can handle them themselves. At the Glossy Summit, attendees at Monday’s town hall expressed doubt that they needed someone else to run things for them.

– One speaker spoke about using the same PR team for nearly 12 years with diminishing returns. When they eventually dropped the PR team and took it in-house, they did not see any noticeable decline in ROI.

– Laura Dowling of Digital Brands Group spoke at length about taking all of their influencer relations in-house. While a few other attendees said that working with an influencer agency affords opportunities and reach that would not be attainable otherwise, Dowling was not the only one in the audience who believed that an influencer agency was increasingly irrelevant.

The bottom line: Brands should not think that they can handle everything themselves, necessarily, but it increasingly seems like companies are feeling more skeptical about middlemen.

Speaker highlights 
Shira Suveyke, Shopbop President 

– Shopbop has fine-tuned its influencer strategy over the last two years — first, by moving the involved duties to a dedicated team versus marketing staffers focused on other responsibilities. “This ‘little thing,’ that was growing super fast and was driving a lot of revenue, was getting ignored,” said Suveyke. The company also started giving influencers “total creative freedom,” which was a difficult adjustment for the in-house creative team, and moved from working with macro-influencers exclusively to micro-influencers and nano-influencers.

– High conversion is not a KPI for influencer campaigns. Instead, the company is looking at engagement, then reach, and it’s weighing campaigns’ effectiveness and efficiency by looking at cost-per-engagement. Influencer marketing is now part of the brand’s marketing budget versus its performance marketing budget. “We see it as an opportunity to build the Shopbop brand on a social platform, and we believe that has a halo effect of downward revenue,” said Suveyke.

– The retailer just launched its  360-degree, content-fueled campaign called “The Summer of Shopbop.” Its brand marketing and creative teams traveled with eight influencers to Lake Como to create content around its travel-inspired story of the season. “It resonates with our customer when they have an affinity with the influencer, rather than Shopbop pushing the product,” said Suveyke.

Laura Dowling, Digital Brands Group CMO
– DSTLD’s (which is part of holding group Digital Brands Group’s portfolio)  millennial customer base values ethical behavior and transparent brand messaging, and DSTLD is an audience-driven brand. The mission of the denim and leather company is to distill its shoppers’ wardrobes down to essentials by updating the quality and consistency of the pieces, said Dowling. Unlike other brands, its sustainability message is not centered on the changeover of styles but rather on the lack of waste the brand is producing. “Quality equates to longevity,” she said.

– In the name of transparency and authenticity, the brand recently made changes: It has moved its production from Asia to Europe to ensure it is using mills that are ethical and sustainable, both in the materials they use and also in the radius in which they operate. “Our carbon footprint is as small as possible,” said Dowling. In addition, it has added a quality control step to production, enabling it to have just 3% waste, when the industry standard is 7%.

– To amplify its message for credibility, Dowling said the brand leans into press, letting industry publications tell its story. It also taps into relevant opportunities to amplify the story. On Earth Day, it launched an education-based marketing campaign for eco-conscious consumers on how best to wash jeans. And because music has been woven into the brand’s marketing since inception, it hosted a sustainability-centered activation at Coachella.

Nate Checketts, Rhone co-founder
– Checketts broke down the company’s data collection process into three steps. “One, you have to gather the data; two, you have to organize the data; and three, you have to take some actionable insight from it,” he said. “Most companies are stuck on part one, and for DTC brands, there are so many ingestion points of data that it can be hard to sort through them all of them.”

– In addition to the regular channels for data collection, like points of purchase either in Rhone’s DTC or wholesale business, the company also collects data from some out-of-the-box, third-party sources. Weather on the day of a purchase, the performance of stocks on a given day and other data points can help paint the picture of what a brand needs to know. According to Checketts, it all comes down to sorting through what’s relevant and what isn’t.

– The data collection and feedback used can also be a selling point for the company. While older generations may be less likely to appreciate how the data collected is used to improve their experiences, Rhone’s younger customers expect it. Whenever the company launches a product that was designed heavily with feedback from consumers, Rhone highlights that in its marketing, said Checketts.

“If your advisers and investors are telling you that it’s too early to be thinking about and using data to improve your business, then you need different advisers and investors.”

“Going direct-to-consumer is definitely about brand control a bit, especially when you’re a new designer. You have a small assortment. On a shelf, you can only tell so much of your story. In pop-ups and on social media, you can speak to your customer a lot more.”

I believe in the power of full-frontal marketing, really thinking about what we need and driving understanding through to conversion. To do that, the best way possible, you have to lean into all the channels available to you.”

“If you look at, like, Marc Jacobs, that kind of old luxury, it used to be that designers did what they wanted and the women followed. What we’re trying to do is the exact opposite. They decide, and we follow.”

“We were able to start our direct business pretty early on, our first website opened in 2003. We’ve been able to go from 100% wholesale to 60% wholesale, 40% direct. Our ideal split is flipped, 40% wholesale and 60% direct. That’s where we are trying to be.”

Challenge Board


9 Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Apps for Small Business

infusionsoft crmCustomer relationship management has always felt like the wrong term to me. You don’t “manage” customers. You don’t “manage” your relationship with a customer. You might nurture it. You might encourage it. You would strive to strengthen it. But manage? No.

However, I understand what a company is aiming for when they say it, and the term has stuck for a long time, so I will get off my soapbox and share nine powerful CRM tools you’ll want to consider for managing your small business.  Each of these tools has a customer database at its core; that’s a given.  How they approach that customer data is what each section explores.

CRM Apps With an E-Mail Focus

Infusionsoft is one of the market leaders when it comes to CRM, e-mail marketing and marketing Automation.  One of their strengths and what makes them different is that, instead of a one-time automatic response, they encourage you to create a robust “follow-up sequence” based on customer behavior—this is the automation engine at work.  For example, if a customer responds to a specific campaign, then phones in a question, you can trigger your Infusionsoft system to automatically respond appropriately — which goes beyond e-mail and includes faxing, voicemails, even letters.  If you’re a small business owner struggling who needs more than a simple e-mail campaign, take a closer look at the Infusionsoft approach.

InTouch CRM promises to make your life with customers easy.   To prove their philosophy, if you only want to store your customer contact information, you can do it for free with InTouch.  If you want to be able to use the powerful customer database and communicate via e-mail or SMS with your customers, then you’ll have to subscribe to a paid plan. I signed up for the free trial and was impressed with the simple dashboards and how quick it was to set up sample templates (you have to pay to start e-mailing) and campaigns for both e-mail and SMS.  Naturally, you can see all your customer data at a glance.

CRM Apps With a Social and Collaborative Focus

According to Gartner, social CRM application spending will grow at a faster rate than traditional CRM spending in the coming years.  Gartner employs the following definition for social CRM: “Social CRM applications encourage many-to-many participation among internal users, as well as customers, partners, affiliates, fans, constituents, donors, members and other external parties, to support sales, customer service and marketing processes. Social CRM works within each of these domains, for example, to provide a social enterprise feedback mechanism in the service domain, or social monitoring or product development in the marketing domain.”

That’s a long definition, but in a nutshell, I liked what Batchblue had to say about social CRM: “Find and join the conversations so you know what’s important to your customers.”  That is the essence of adding “social” to the CRM database.  Tag your customer data so you know what a conversation was about, when it happened and where in the social universe it took place.

Batchbook is a combination of Facebook, Google and contact database rolled up nicely in one.  You can view blog posts, photos, tweets and more alongside contact history, so if part of your customer experience involves knowing what’s going on in your customer’s life, this is a tool worth trying out. Lots of great reporting and integration with many other small business apps like Mailchimp, Shoeboxed and more.

Kickapps has an impressive platform approach to customer relationships and social media.  They explain that they are a “Social Graph Engine” which is generally defined as a look at a person’s online identity, activity, relationship to other people and content.  Kickapps allows you to use that data to inform your marketing and sales functions.  They have a great customer example page here. You can use this tool to build a website and a community.

Rapportive is for the Google Gmail user. If you use Gmail, you’ll love Rapportive.  Right within your inbox, on the right side (replaces where the ads usually run, yay), you’ll see contact information for the person whose message you are reading.  Rapportive scours the social landscape and provides links and details from LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and numerous other sites to give you a fast glance at just who it is you’re corresponding with.  It will also tell you location information, if they are nearby and using such services, of course.


Gist reminds you that your contacts are everywhere.  In e-mail, on social networks, on your mobile phone and many other sources. Gist combines them all into one place to give you a full view of your network,making it easy to find anyone, anytime.  It works with Gmail, with Outlook, with the iPhone and Android phones, with Salesforce.com and even Lotus Notes, to create a powerful listening post.

CRM Apps With a Sales Focus

Smartsheet Sales Pipeline is for the many users who want a powerful database, but with a user-friendly interface like a spreadsheet.  If that’s you, then take a close look at Smartsheet.  Think of this as a spreadsheet on steroids – interactive and collaborative. Stop e-mailing spreadsheets around. Great reporting functions as well as Gantt charts and ways to enhance your sales results presentation.

SalesForce.com is one of the best-known online CRM tools; it was built with sales in mind. SalesForce is one of the companies that defined the software-as-a-service (SaaS) space.  Sales teams can see and access prospect and customer contact information via the Web and mobile devices. Hundreds of applications bolt onto the Salesforce system, and thousands of small business owners use it. The company just purchased Jigsaw to help you find more sales prospects.

Sugar CRM offers several different CRM tools, all of which are open source. While Sugar CRM is not free, it’s extremely adaptable, allowing you to easily create custom modules as well as add external data.  Update & Correction:  SugarCRM does offer a free Community Edition.

There are many CRM applications in the market today. Tell us which ones you’re using and how in the comments.