By Mika Uehara, co-founder, SFFT
We’ve seen a lot happen at the intersection of fashion, apparel, and technology in 2011…and things are only getting better. So we’ve put some Vegas size bets in place for 2012 on what will be hot and trending. Okay, maybe not Vegas size, but if we had the money…
1. The Golden Age of style bloggers and publishers is here
Listen to the press and one might think the golden age for fashion bloggers and their cousins was already here. But it’s not. Anyone familiar with the sports blogger world knows there’s a lot more to come in the areas of monetization, tracking, display networks, and affiliate programs, to name a few. But 2011 did mark the year of the fashion, style, and beauty blogger in the fashion industry. From the launch of superblogger platform NowManifest to the rise of instablogging tools via Tumblr and Pinterest, bloggers are creating new styles and trends. Fashion brands and retailers jumped on the wagon and have seen the influence of bloggers in creating brand equity and, of course, sales.
Going forward, the influencer-driven commerce trend will maintain it’s momentum, and much of it will be driven by tools and services aimed at helping publishers and bloggers enhance, monetize, and track their online presence. With the launch of white label shopping platforms such as 72Lux and StyleOwner, platforms such as Krux to help publishers identify their demographic “sweet spot”, tools such as Comp.ly to simplify compliance and disclosure for contests and sweepstakes, and important shifts in the ad space, namely Glam Media’s acquisition of Ning, publishers and bloggers will have more access to (and influence over) brands, retailers, and readers than ever before.
Bloggers and publishers, take advantage of the tools at your disposal, and don’t be afraid to test or ask for more. Brands and advertisers, this will give you more targeted exposure and drive more sales, but publishers will have the insights to ask for more. Continue to include affiliate commissions, display advertising, and sponsorship in your marketing budgets.
2. Fragmented markets will drive increased need for relevance and personalization
2011 changed the way consumers interact with products, brands, and retailers. Discovery and social curation were the words du jour and large drivers for fashion and lifestyle companies (Lyst, Svpply, and Pinterest come to mind). As ecommerce continues to grow, the space will continue to be fragmented with an abundance of style-based websites and stores, and there will continue to be an emergence of services and companies looking to address the issue of relevance. At the core of this movement is not only the drive towards personalization, but conversions. The more targeted products are made to your tastes, the more likely you are to purchase and share with your friends. And, as individual social graphs continue to be developed, analyzed, and targeted, there will be a lot more in terms of recommendations, discovery, and customization.
Investors, take note. We think several players will emerge with some sort of recommendation system. Don’t get caught up in traction but in the technology powering it. Stylemakers, you’ll be sharing a lot more information to create in-depth profiles based on your preferences, friends, shared items, and more.
3. Data is King
With the growing adoption of social media, mobile, video, and other consumer touch points, the amount of data generated is vast. And let’s be honest, the fashion and apparel sector generates tons of it. From point-of-sale (POS) information to fashion trends and media analytics, the industry offers endless data points for analysis and insight.
2011 marked an important year for data. Predictive merchandising and recommendations were key to eBay’s acquisition of Hunch in late November. The fashion insights company Stylitics launched a brand marketing and analytics platform. Polyvore released their Intelligence Report to offer retailers, brands, and editors access to engagement data. And, brand advertisers’ backlash for the lack of marketing analytics on Tumblr sent a shockwave through the company.
Predictive and real-time capabilities are equally important in 2012. We will continue to see platforms and services addressing audience segmentation, advertising effectiveness, style trends, influencers, relevance, and more.
4. Photos are so 2011. In 2012, the popular kids will push video.
Analysts have been talking about the emergence of video formats and video advertising for a few years now, but we believe the real gains will begin to emerge in 2012.
In 2011, we witnessed the launch of Haulerdeals and Joyus, and various fashion brands embraced online videos as part of their commerce strategies. According to eMarketer, more than 50% of Americans currently watch video online. This number is projected to increase to 60% for the general population and 76% for all Internet users by 2015.
Video content continues to grow and the convergence of content, advertising, and commerce is a juggernaut. Key to this growth are the number of online video platforms catering to vertical-specific communities, and style and fashion will continue to grow.
From vbloggers and haulers to Joyus and other stealth startups we’ve talked to, video is the thing. Fashtech ecosystem, take note.
5. True disruption will occur in the backend…and it’s finally on its way
Those that know us know that we’re crazy advocates for tools and services that change how the fashion and apparel industries function and run. It’s all about the supply chain. We’ve been watching the disappearance of the middleman for a few years now and, fortunately, things don’t look to be easing up. Companies have cropped up to tackle inefficiencies in the supply chain and are essentially disrupting traditional models of business. Companies like Everlane, Warby Parker, StitchLabs, and Fitiquette take distributors out of the picture, place manufacturing into the hands of consumers, make selling and inventory management easier, and offer data-driven solutions to find the perfect fit.
We’ll continue to see changes at all levels of the industry (e.g., fabrication, merchandising, and buying) and in companies of all sizes. ModCloth is helping set the pace with the recently launched Be The Buyer Program, where shoppers have the opportunity to be a virtual fashion buyer.
Investors should keep their eyes open for opportunities with these types of companies. They address true pain points and offer long-term solutions. Brands and retailers should adopt similar strategies where they can, and/or be open to acquiring companies that offer the best solution for their consumers.
BONUS PREDICTION: Wearable technology, sooner than you think
Is it 2012 or 2013? Honestly, we don’t know yet. But if you want to know where to get in now to lead tomorrow, it’s all about wearable technology. Wearable technology is the true disrupter (so much to talk about we need 10 separate posts) and we can’t wait to share what the industry movers and shakers have told us….but for the skeptics, hear us out.
There are a couple trends that we see are making a huge impact. First, and the most obvious, is the emergence of mobile devices for health and fitness (e.g., FitBit and JawBone Up) and the (cool) rumors of what’s going on at Apple and Google. These technologies (and rumors) increase the awareness and adoption of wearable devices. Second, the DIY and maker community have seen great growth last year. The increased adoption of LilyPad Arduino and conductive threads, the lowered cost of 3-D printing technologies, and infrastructure such as TechShop and Maker Faire, make it much more accessible for designers and enthusiasts to create accessories, jewelry, and clothing.
We’re not saying this is the natural course of evolution for wearable technologies, but as innovation swings from a top-down to bottom-up approach, we believe demand will help drive the production of fashionable technology. Innovators as we speak are working on fashion and apparel-specific technologies to prepare for and fuel this demand.
We know that the wearable device market for health, wellness, and lifestyle will grow, and we know that they will converge with design and fashion. But which will be the key driver? The US has more focus (and money) in health and wellness, whereas Europe strongly advocates aesthetics, design, and fashion. Either way, designers and engineers will come together in more ways, and brands will incorporate more technologies in their bags, shoes, and apparel.
Questions, comments? You can contact Mika: mika [at] sffashionandtech [dot] com