As the world’s style capitals finish playing host to another round of fashion weeks it’s become undeniable that the days of digital are here to stay. Simply putting together a collection of clothes to be sent down a catwalk is no longer enough as designers decide it’s time to get social. From Twitter to Pinterest, fashion retailers used every platform possible to get people talking about their brands, encouraging the style-savvy to put their fashion fingers forward in order to share, talk and text about their new ranges.
As a member of the self-confessed team of shopaholics at The Market Creative I was instantly intrigued upon receival of an invite to French Connection’s in-store event ‘Sketch to Store Style Challenge’. Over 2,000 lucky participants were invited to 27 stores across the UK for a night of fashion, exclusive discounts and freebies – all they had to do in return was bring their phones/iPads/cameras in order to document the night on a social platform of choice.
It may have been an evening of retail therapy but it was also the perfect opportunity to see the ways in which retailers can use digital innovations to promote a product, have Instagram and Twitter really become the best ways for brands to gain exposure?

What was involved?
The ‘Style Challenge’ was simple: pick out your favourite outfit from the new collection, try it on and have your photo taken by a member of the French Connection team.

So where does social media come in?

Well, seeing as smartphones have become everyone’s favourite accessory we were actively encouraged to Instragram and Tweet our own photos from the event using the hashtags #stylechallenge and #sketchtostore. As revellers uploaded their pictures across the country they were being broadcast live to a screen in French Connection’s Oxford Street store for all to see, and simply searching for the hashtags allowed attendees to keep track of what was going on in all of the other stores involved. The social buzz was set to continue after the event had come to a close as there was a competition involved that was ofcourse based on Facebook. Following the event the photos taken by the in-store photographers were uploaded to French Connection’s page and the one photo from each city with the most ‘likes’ was to be entered into a draw for a generous £1250 FCUK voucher.

What did French Connection get out of it?

French Connection could not be faulted in terms of customer interaction, by carefully inviting their target demographic to stores across the country they were putting the promotion of their new range into the hands of their consumers. What better way to create a positive advertisement than by having your collection modelled by your target audience? The creative brains behind the brand had done their research, by implementing a Facebook competition photos of their range were being ‘shared’ all over the internet as people competed to get the most likes. Whichever outfit was selected as the winner of the ‘style challenge’ was guaranteed to be one of French Connection’s, win-win situation!

Was it worth it?
If the aim of the event was to get people talking about French Connection’s AW13 range then I’d have to say yes. It was the model example of the ways social media can gain exposure for a brand. We’re a nation of over-sharers meaning that a simple nudge in the right direction led to photos being shared across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter of people dressed head to toe in FCUK’s clothes. The event alone may not have led to a dramatic increase in sales, however, it undeniably resulted in a whole lot of exposure. As people become more and more involved with their social networks it’s definitely time for retailers to embrace it.

Sarah Pyatt