Cross-border co-branding, fashion shows, pop-up stores, event sponsorship, fan events … it’s safe to say KOL marketing is both complicated and exhausting for fashion brands. And the truth is that figuring out how to make fashion brands stand out in the eyes of consumers and persuading fans of a KOL to become fans of the brand is a challenging task. But the good news is, using big data analysis, brands can capture insights into user psychology, analyze user preferences and buying habits and filter target groups to refine marketing goals.
How exactly does this work? First, let’s break down the activities that matter to fashion brands at different stages of the life cycle. Among the top priorities for established fashion brands are new product launches, day-to-day sales, promotional events, creating products with celebrity appeal and viral marketing. Generally speaking, for newly launched brands, the key considerations are product positioning, selecting KOLs aligned with the brand’s target audience, online promotions and conversions. So how do brands manage these different scenarios?
Managing New Product Launches
New products naturally lack visibility when they first hit the market, so the first thing for a brand should focus on is when using big data analysis is building a consumer profile and identifying the product’s unique selling point. The brand can then build on this exercise to find compatible KOLs, again using big data analysis for precision targeting. The brand can also use the KOL’s community and influence to carry out product research, which helps the brand to rapidly formulate marketing strategies and optimize the product.
For example, brands promoting new products on Xiaohongshu usually utilize a combination of top-tier, mid-tier and micro-KOLs to make product launch announcements. One or two top-tier influencers will be selected to make video or text-and-post recommendations, then ten to 15 mid-tier influencers will review the product to raise awareness and inform consumers. Finally, the brand will engage 15 to 20 micro-KOLs to share their experiences purchasing and testing the product, which helps leverage up the volume of notes posted about the product and drives further engagement among regular consumers.
The brand should use this process also to gather direct feedback from the influencers themselves, listening carefully to their suggestions and using big data analysis to understand their influencers better to make more informed selections. The KOLs should also invite their fans to share honest feedback on new products, which the brand can then use to tweak and refine the product to better meet the consumers’ needs. By using big data analysis, brands can receive more thorough insights into market activity and consumer behavior.
Case Study: Calzedonia’s “Leg’s Shine” Event
New product releases are often twinned with offline activities, such as pop-up stores and fashion shows. For example, the Italian fashion group Calzedonia recently hired Yang Mi as its spokesperson, and as part of the run-up to Double Eleven, a key period for driving sales of new autumn/winter collections, the brand held a “Leg’s Shine” event in Shanghai on 22 October. The event featured a creative display showcasing Calzedonia’s 2020 autumn/winter series of tights. Yang Mi appeared at the event sporting a pair of Calzedonia stockings from the collection.
The immersive, experiential event attracted a who’s who of fashion KOLs, including @楚月Chen, @徐千金GHOST and @沈韵菲Facy. The brand’s Weibo topic #Leg’sShine# received 22.958 million views and 211,000 comments. The brand’s WeChat index also experienced a day-on-day surge of 114.45 per cent on 23 October.
Promotional Best Practices
After that initial launch phase, the brand needs to engage in a campaign of continuous promotion (“planting grass” in Chinese) in order to ensure consistent exposure for the product. This takes the form of having posts and articles appear on a variety of relevant social media platforms on a daily basis. This diverse spread of content helps introduce the product and brand to new audiences, raises awareness and keeps the product front of mind among existing consumers, fosters word-of-mouth sharing, builds brand image and – most importantly – drives conversions.
So how do promotional tactics differ across specific platforms? On Bilibili, the most common approach is to use video explainers combined with keywords and discussions in the comments section. Conversion rates are typically relatively good on Bilibili. In comparison, brands drive sales up by using KOLs and KOCs to create content highlighting the product and to kick off discussions. On Douyin, brands tend to work effectively with mid-tier KOLs, taking advantage of the high “stickiness” factor of the KOLs’ followers on the short video platform.
Case Study: Jack Jones’ Double Eleven Promotion
Jack Jones used Weibo to release content ahead of Double Eleven, then deployed influencers to maximize the potential for word-of-mouth marketing. With anticipation growing, the brand then tapped into the networks of KOL spokespeople to ignite the excitement. The brand ran a one-day pop-up store to capitalize on the energy created via the Weibo campaign. Consumers were guided to Tmall to pull the trigger on their purchases. Within just 14 minutes and 42 seconds, sales volume broke the 100 million barrier.
Triggering Explosive Sales
According to a big data analysis by Yuzhua, 70.40 per cent of Chinese consumers shopped for clothing online in 2019. That figure shows the clear need for brands to have a strategy not just for promoting their products online, but also for converting interest into sales.
Live-streaming is the most common vehicle that fashion brands use to make sales with the help of KOL partners. Generally, brands use KOL-hosted live-streams to sell directly to specific target audiences. In the first half of 2020, over 8.5 million units of clothing were sold via live-streams, accounting for 37.6 per cent of all live-streamed e-commerce. Over 150 million shoes, hats and knitwear were sold on live-streams.
Fashion live-streams are currently concentrated mainly on platforms such as Taobao, Douyin and Kuaishou. So what does each of these platforms have to offer fashion brands?
As the earliest e-commerce live-streaming platform, Taobao has an advantage over its rivals, with a more mature set of functions and features. According to research from Youdaren, fashion accounted for 23 per cent of all Taobao live-streams. In April this year, fashion live-streamers made up 34 per cent of all live-stream hosts on the platform with an average viewership exceeding 100,000 per broadcast, the largest figure among all categories of live-stream host on Taobao.
Douyin boasts a higher occurrence of live-streamers in specific categories like men’s clothing and sportswear than other platforms, according to a big data analysis by CAAS. Sellers on Douyin also average higher unit prices than those on rival video platform Kuaishou. This is because Douyin live-streamers tend to be more sales-focused. Common brands featured on the platform include Li Ning, Adidas, Peacebird, Fila and more.
Kuaishou has a higher proportion of live-streamers selling children’s clothing, shoes and boots. A large number of Kuaishou hosts were offline fashion retailers who took up live-streaming, such as Xu Xiaomi and “Sister Mi”. These live-streamers often rely less on name brands, offering value-for-money apparel in the RMB 10-50 range.