When a retail legend Solomon Lew describes the market as being the worst he has ever seen, you have to wonder what hope there is for the smaller independents. Topshop has failed in Australia. Strip malls have been ravaged by online and consumer uncertainty remains the prevailing sentiment a decade after the GFC first darkened the global economy. This uncertainty has kept purse strings tight. So the question remains, how do we inspire customers into spending again?
Instagram & Facebook have proven very successful for some brands and retailers, however many brands and retailers still aren’t getting it right. Some of the most successful brands have built a strong following through visual content that inspires and excites the customer. This isn’t theory. Customers can be inspired by creating a narrative. Country Road’s digital campaign of 2015 is a perfect example and remains the benchmark.
The Country Road campaign’s creative assets told the story of a modern Australian summertime road trip with family and friends. Visual assets highlighted full lifestyle product edits, positioning Country Road as a one-stop destination for holiday gifting and fashion for women, men, child and home. The full suite of products. The Facebook digital strategy was so successful that for every $1 spent in Facebook advertising, Country Road generated an additional $18.20 in revenue, of which $15.40 was attributed to bricks and mortar stores, according to Ad News.
Facebook Australia head of retail Kate Box attributes the success to reaching real people with the right message and leverage moments throughout the day.
While this may be mind boggling for smaller independents and brands with a much smaller budget than Country Road, there is hope for any retailer and brands willing to tell their story in a unique way. Lifestyle content is a key player to digital retail success in driving sales. For Country Road, it wasn’t simply wasn’t just spruiking their wares via a series of product shots, but curating them to inspire the customer which related to a particular lifestyle. And they aren’t the only ones with Tony Bianco and 2XU also following suit and are finding it pays dividends through Facebook & Instagram advertising.
Tony Bianco digital marketing manager Beth Auty agrees simple product images don’t resonate, however informational content, such as ‘how to’s’ and styling images do, she revealed in article in Ragtrader.
“The posts that work are absolutely lifestyle imagery. You know products that are in the moment, that are on the person or flat-lay imagery, which works more for us. It is definitely that just flat plain product shot, that doesn’t sell the product. It has to be something that is styled and is on the foot, with an outfit that goes with the shoe. That certainly works better. We find that just as someone is scrolling through the feed, it looks like it a part of his or her feed it. It doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb; it is something that actually looks native to their feed itself.
While digital content remains an important tool for retailers, there is one company that is also inspiring shoppers to go back to strip shops through imagery and quality content through another digital outlet.
I recently spoke with Renee Lodens, founder of Travelshopa, at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia of her passion to bring back the shopping strips as key destinations and to promote brands and regional shopping strips to the world. Not just another shopping destination guide, Travelshopa plans to partner with major corporate players and is passionate about retail.
Tell me about Travelshopa and what you were wanting to achieve when launching it?
Travelshopa was born from my love of travel and shopping. I wanted to help shoppers have better shopping experiences. I identified a gap in the market for a go-to guide for local shopping around the world. For me there was a clear opportunity to help shoppers find out where, when and what to shop, and to help local designers and retailers to promote their businesses. Four years in and Travelshopa is a curated guide for local shopping around the world. I love bringing together style conscious shoppers, emerging designers and independent retailers as well as industry professionals across Asia, the Americas and Australia.
With Instagram full of travel content and aspiration, many brands and retailers still fail to excite their customer through content. How would you work with them?
Many of the brands are amazing at what they do but when it comes to promoting themselves it can be a challenge. Great content goes beyond a nice picture. Travelshopa started out with a blog and city shopping guides. I took great interest in profiling lesser-known brands and I wanted to give these brands a voice. The content was delivered in my personal style, which seemed to be well received by shoppers and brands alike. From there things grew organically and we systemised and started to rollout the approach. The blog has now turned into a global online platform that creates unique guides and exclusive interviews. Today it promotes brand profiles and shopping experiences to a global audience. This content is unique and focused on telling their brand story first and foremost. We love championing these brands and telling their story in their own unique way.
How would this work for independent retailers who aren’t that technically advanced but need to get more visitors?
Travelshopa is all about helping shoppers have better shopping experiences. That means making it easy for brands to connect in a simple, informative and effective way with shoppers. For brands, it is about offering them access to a platform that enables them to create and manage their online profile as well as speak directly to shoppers. The registration process is very easy, much like setting up a Facebook profile page. There is minimal technical know how required and it’s really fast to create a basic profile.
Down the track would you like to have Travelshopa making retail strips great again with more destination shopping?
My love for strip shopping was one of the reasons I started Travelshopa. I’m probably even more motivated now with the retail industry undergoing dramatic shift: in-store foot traffic is down and online shopping is up. Shoppers now also want more information and customised experiences during their shopping journey. Digital is a powerful way to connect shoppers with stores. Travelshopa is in a strong position to help bridge the divide between shoppers and stores. We are already seeing more brands embrace Omni-channel strategies, in-store experiences, curated shopping precincts and multi-label popup stores. However, the experience economy, coupled with rising retail rents, social media algorithms and online competition, presents a greater opportunity for brands to come up with accelerated ways to entice shoppers back into retail stores. I’d like to see more brands, shopping strips and destinations focus on customer experience and bridging the gap between digital and bricks-and-mortar.
What are the advantages brands and retailers can experience with Travelshopa?
Travelshopa is a unique platform as it focuses purely on local shopping experiences. In connecting style-conscious shoppers, emerging designers and independent retailers as well as industry professionals, Travelshopa is the fastest growing directory of local brands across fashion, furniture and homewares. We know that shoppers are more inspired to visit a store after finding out information such as brand story, store location and hours or pricing. Travelshopa is free and a great place for potential shoppers to discover brands. Our online information can propel shoppers to shop in-store or online.
Tell us about the strategic partnerships you have with major companies?
While the global retail landscape is currently undergoing enormous change, and consumer expectations are also shifting, more than ever before travellers are looking to have bespoke, memorable experiences. This presents us with a unique opportunity to help promote local shopping experiences and ensure that shoppers can access curated local knowledge on where, when and what to shop. We work with key verticals such as financial services, travel and tourism, hospitality and media to amplify the distribution of our content and knowledge about local shopping.
You are rolling out individual locations including rural areas in Australia, how do you plan to do this?
There is a lot of research that goes into each destination before we start planning and curating brands. I analyse industry reports and our own website data as well as seek feedback from our readers and brands on where to next. From 2015 to 2016, the Australian tourism industry grew by 9% total visitor spend (and domestic travel grew by 6.4% total visitor spend. These numbers show that now is the right time to launch Travelshopa in Australia. Travelshopa presents the best of the best of each destination so shoppers have the best possible shopping experiences. We have started researching tourist regions in NSW such as the South Coast, the Southern Highlands, the Hunter and Byron Bay, as well as some country NSW destinations such as Orange, Bathurst and Wagga Wagga. We are looking for the best local brands in each destination and will reach out to designers and retailers across fashion, furniture and homewares to be part of Travelshopa. I find trade shows, industry events, walking the streets and word of mouth are a great starting point. We also welcome brands that represent the local shopping scene to proactively reach out to us. Having said that, if we get great interest and demand for a specific destination, we can prioritise its launch.
Can you offer services to help retailers get great content to inspire shopping again?
The goal is to ensure our audience can find local brands on Travelshopa and then takes action like visiting in-store or online. The first step is to create a great brand profile that is complete. Brands can also add editorial and product images to appear in our product search tool. We use these images in our editorial and marketing. Brands can also promote new collections, sales, offers and in-store events in our new experiences area. Our in-house editorial team published original content every week, set to a specific theme with a unique point of view. We share this content across our social channel, in search and our newsletter. We also offer brands with the opportunity to work with us to create bespoke content that drive brand awareness.
How many countries are on board and how many cities and areas?
Travelshopa currently covers 18 destinations in Asia, the Americas and Australia. We have world-class shopping destinations like Hong Kong, Singapore, Los Angeles and San Francisco as well as more tourist destinations like Bali, Bangkok, Phuket and Ho Chi Minh. In Australia, we are starting with Sydney and Melbourne. We will then expand into country/regional destinations, before expanding into other capital cites.
What are the packages offered?
While Travelshopa is free for brands to join, we have a tiered subscription model with pay-per-click functionality. We also work with brands on bespoke content, advertising and partnership opportunities. We have worked with regionals partners such as MasterCard and PayPal to amplify our content to shoppers. We also work closely with industry leaders to develop bespoke shopping content to enhance their current content offering.
Is your intention for Travelshopa to drive sales for retailers and brands?
It is important how a brand is presented on Travelshopa. The better presentation, the more coverage and hence the more traffic and sales it drives for brands. The premium tiers can access a detailed dashboard and monitor their success on Travelshopa, as well as access exclusive features that boost their promotion and sales. For example, we have a weekly shopping edit that mixes editorial with ecommerce. Each edit has the look and feel of a digital magazine with dynamic content that helps brands sell more products.
About the Author, Phoebes Garland
Phoebes Garland is the Co-founder & Co-owner of Garland & Garland Fashion, a fashion & consultancy agency based in Sydney, and founder of Fashion Initiative. Between the two of them, Phoebes & Robert Garland have over 60 years’ sales experience in fashion, publishing and advertising. Phoebes is an industry mentor to designers with Australian fashion industry body, Australian Fashion Chamber and is on the Advisory Board for Fashion Design Studio (TAFE NSW). Phoebes Garland is also an ambassador to Shake it up Australia Foundation and contributes articles to Australian Fashion industry magazine, Ragtrader.