It’s a question marketing executives who work for a fashion brand or retailer regularly hear from their bosses: “Does social media matter to us, and does it actually drive sales?”
After spending four years watching social strategies mature for hundreds of brands, I believe that it does matter, and it does drives sales. But questions remain about how much it matters, where it matters, and to whom it matters.
So we commissioned a consumer study from Edison Research to look more deeply into how women are influenced by social channels, including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and the plethora of great fashion blogs and message boards that are out there. We surveyed a sample of 1,005 women across the United States who have profiles on at least one social network and asked about how they use social channels to get inspirations when making fashion purchases. We also assessed their attitudes toward fashion itself.
Across the entire survey sample and the 11 fashion subcategories we studied, we found that:
- Facebook matters, especially to certain segments of female social media users who are valuable consumers to own.
- Fashion blogs and message boards turned out to be even more important than we thought.
- Approximately one-quarter of social networking women look to Pinterest for inspiration, demonstrating the promise of visual marketing.
- Twitter is not a major influencer of fashion purchases.
We expected to find demographic differences in how social influences fashion purchases. For the most part, that turned out to not be the case. However, we did identify three behavioral segments where social media plays a much stronger role.
1. Fashionistas Tap Into The Expertise In Social Channels To Look Their Best
“Fashionistas” (28 percent of respondents) are women who strongly agree with the statement, “Fashion and beauty are extremely important to me.” Although Facebook is the 800-pound gorilla in terms of where these women have profiles, they look first to fashion blogs and message boards when they want inspiration. Sixty-two percent of fashionistas are influenced by fashion blogs and message boards in at least one category, while 56 percent are influenced by Facebook in at least one fashion category. In most categories, they also index higher than female social media users overall with respect to their use of Pinterest and Instagram.
2. Social Shoppers Trust Their Friends
“Social shoppers” (15 percent of respondents) are women who strongly agree with the statement, “The brands and products my friends use influence my own purchase decisions.” Facebook is most influential to the social shopper; 72 percent of them are influenced by Facebook in at least one fashion category. However, these women also look to fashion blogs and message boards for inspiration (64 percent are influenced in at least one fashion category), as well as Pinterest and Instagram. Seventy-five percent of social shoppers have Twitter profiles, but Twitter did not emerge as a top four influencer of fashion decisions in any fashion category except active/fitness footwear.
To summarize our insights into these two hot consumer segments, we created an infographic.
3. Celebrity Followers Find Inspiration In Social In Certain Fashion Categories
“Celebrity followers” (12 percent of respondents) are female social media users who agree strongly with the statement, “You are more likely to use brands or products associated with celebrities you like.” These women tend to index high for social in a number of categories, but two areas stood out: apparel and cosmetics.
- Forty-four percent of celebrity followers look to Facebook and to fashion blogs and message boards for inspiration when purchasing cosmetics.
- Facebook, fashion blogs and message boards, and Pinterest (29 percent) are all cited as sources of inspiration more often than celebrity gossip sites (29 percent).
Demographic Differences Emerge In A Few Niches
Millennials (social networking users in the 18- to 24-year age group) exhibit a number of differences, and we’ll be exploring them in detail in an upcoming report scheduled to be released in November. In addition, we found that:
- Hispanic female social media users index high for social influence in several fashion categories. This especially holds true in the visual channels. In the casual clothing subcategory, 24 percent of Hispanic female social media users look to Pinterest for inspiration, compared to 14 percent of female social media users overall. Sixteen percent of them look to Instagram, compared to 8 percent of female social media users overall.
- With respect to cosmetics purchases, a higher percentage of African-American and Hispanic women look to social channels than their Caucasian counterparts, across all social channels and age groups. For example:
- 19 percent of African-Americans and 25 percent of Hispanics look to fashion blogs and message boards for cosmetics inspiration, compared to 14 percent of Caucasians.
- 17 percent of African-Americans and 20 percent of Hispanics look to Facebook for cosmetics inspiration, compared to 5 percent of Caucasians.
- 10 percent of African-Americans and 15 percent of Hispanics look to Instagram for cosmetics inspiration, compared to 14 percent of Caucasians.
- On the other hand, just 6 percent of African-Americans look to Pinterest for cosmetics inspiration, compared to 11 percent of Caucasians and 21 percent of Hispanics.
The women’s wear study provides a pretty clear answer to the all-important question, “Does social media matter?” In fact, it goes a step further to inform marketers about who is influenced, where, and in what fashion categories. The big, broader takeaway is that you need to be using social intelligence to help focus your strategy. You can use it to identify the key blogs and message boards that influence your shoppers and integrate them into all facets of your digital marketing plan. You need to listen to the conversations about your brand and category across Facebook as well as the conversation with you on your brand pages. These insights can help you point your team to the strategies that will deliver the biggest impact for your brand.