Category Archives: Digital

Introducing the Fashion Tech Tribes

Here’s a little collaboration between myself and the very talented Alexis Cuddyre of OMG Im Getting Married blog. We decided to take a satirical look at the way fashionistas are using social media. We hold our hands up and admit to a few of the behaviours ourselves…

The piece was recently published in the Silicon Roundabout newspaper Can’t Understand New Technology , edited by our friend and Miss Internet herself Camilla Grey. Since Can’t is currently a print only affair – it’s more exclusive and post-digital that way, geddit? – here are the tribes in all their digital glory. Watch this space for the second set of tribes, coming soon!

Which one are you??…

FashionTechTribes_LauraTan_AlexisCuddyre-2

 

Burberry, a lesson in customer service: Part 2

For those of you who read my previous post on Burberry, here comes part two in the case of the missing button.

Having published my post on Sunday afternoon,  I received another e-mail from Burberry on Monday morning. They’d picked up on my blog post (wow, they’re fast) and got in touch to try to “restore my faith”.  I was intrigued and agreed to have a chat.

Screen shot 2013-05-14 at 20.01.10

I have to say I was very impressed with how they dealt with me on the call. It wasn’t just that the lady I spoke to was incredibly friendly and apologetic  (as you’d expect), but it was also that she was open and honest about their internal processes and how she wanted to make sure they did better next time. She took the time to address some of the specific concerns I mentioned in my post, for example explaining to me how the social media team connects with the customer service team and so on.

I was left convinced that Burberry really is heading towards being a seamless back-end operation when it comes to joining the dots between customer service and marketing. This is the key first step for a brand to get right, to then deliver an equally seamless experience externally to customers. It’s all the more important when, like Burberry, you offer the option of customers being able to get in touch with your company via (very public) social media channels.

Even though, in my case, Burberry admitted they hadn’t followed the right course of action first time round (apparently, they shouldn’t have charged me for the button without a proper enquiry into any quality issues), the way they subsequently dealt with the problem struck a a good balance between attentiveness and humility.

In my day job as a brand strategist, we talk a lot about how ‘responsiveness’ is a defining quality of the most successful brands today and Burberry’s reaction to my expressed disappointment was a great example of this in action.

On my call with customer services, Burberry also talked to me about their ambition for customers to “have the same feeling in every channel” and this is a spot on strategy. It’s often the little things, the minute interactions – like replacing a missing button free of charge – that make the difference when it comes to how you feel about a brand, particularly one that promises luxury.

Best of all, my shiny new buttons arrived in the post this morning, in a lovely Burberry package and with a personal letter. Nice.

photo (30)

Well done Burberry. You have now given me a new story to tell. And a lesson in how you can change consumer perception  of  brand with a little bit of love.

Burberry and the case of the £35 button: A lesson in customer service.

Just when the weather finally started getting warm enough to get out my beloved Burberry trench, a button fell off. Not the pulled-together look I was planning for the transition into Spring. Thankfully, it didn’t take long to find out that – being the digitally savvy sort of company that it is – Burberry has a specific Twitter feed for these sort of #firstworldproblems.

So I tweeted @burberryservice and they impressively replied (within an hour) to say they were ‘sorry to hear’ about my missing button, along with some suggestions for how I could get it fixed. So far, so good…

Screen shot 2013-05-12 at 15.53.01

Being a dutiful and trusting customer, I took @burberryservice’s advice and sent in a picture of my sad little buttonless trench to the twitter@burberry.com team. Again, not as quickly as the Twitter team, but still more swiftly than you could ever get through to your bank, Wendy from customer service e-mailed me with the following message…

Screen shot 2013-05-12 at 15.53.33

Now, on reading the first line, I was just as ‘delighted’ as Wendy to find out they had managed to track down a matching button to replace mine. It was only when I read the next paragraph stating the cost of said button that my delight turned into disbelief. £25 for a button plus £10 shipping??! Are they serious? That’s £35 in total – I could get a brand new trench from M&S for that price. And I’ve actually seen some nice ones this season. Via a very nicely shot Vogue promotion. Not that that’s the point. But still.

In a matter of minutes, I’d gone from feeling like a valued customer and, I’ll admit, part of an exclusive club of trench owners, to feeling like I was being ripped off and taken for a ride. Or worse still, that perhaps I didn’t deserve to be part of the  luxury world of Burberry because if I did, I should be the sort of person that doesn’t question spending £35 on a replacement button and probably hasn’t ever needed to sew on a button themselves in their entire life. There’s staff for that.

Maybe I was being naive but I sort of expected, that having spent so much on their trench coat, Burberry might have been generous enough to provide a replacement button free of charge, or at least for a nominal fee. After all, they themselves are the ones that sell these things on the basis of them being a ‘lifetime investment’, something to cherish forever etc.

Anyway, it so happens that ebay has a great selection of genuine Burberry buttons for sale at a more palatable price of £6.50 so that’s where I’ll be going.

But I can’t help feeling let down by this brand which is so applauded for it’s innovation and responsiveness online, yet simply didn’t deliver when it came down to making me feel special. I don’t want to be cynical but I wonder if the swift response on the (very public) customer service Twitter feed was purely another part of the slick Burberry PR machine. But when it came down to the private interaction with a customer, their ruthless, profit-driven side came out. It’s as if the responsibility for the customer experience moved away from being controlled by marketing (the Twitter bit) to the finance department (the £35 bit).

It’s a real case of showing the importance of the entire experience of the brand and customer journey. To me, it proves that those responsible for the ‘brand’ and customer experience need to be involved at all stages of customer interaction, not just the big, flashy ad campaigns.

It wouldn’t have costed Burberry much to send me that button, but you can’t put a price on how I’d have felt about the company if they’d done it differently. It would definitely have left me even more positively disposed towards a brand I already admire and have already bought into. And it would have given me a different story to tell.

 

Fashion week’s gone digital, so what?

As someone who works in a digital agency by day and blogs about fashion by night, I can’t not comment on this season’s fashion weeks, arguably the most ‘digital’ yet.

On the one hand, this is exciting and something to applaud – I’ve been banging on about fashion and digital technology being natural bedfellows for some time. They’re both highly creative, fast-moving and innovative and although many fashionistas would be horrified at the thought, their love of all things glossy and new isn’t too dissimilar to the technology geeks’ love of shiny metal objects.

This season, even the fashion editors from the most traditional of papers have felt compelled to write about the use of digital by fashion labels, indicating how mainstream the idea of adding an interactive element to a show has become. It seems every label – from the youthful Topshop Unique to the classic Diane Von Furstenberg – is trying to ‘do a Burberry.’ And for the time being, this is still enough to grab the attention of the media.

But what happens next season when simply trying out some cool digital stuff isn’t PR-worthy anymore?

And herein lies the problem.

Burberry aside, I would question what are the business and brand objectives behind many of these digital activities? Burberry – as the innovator in this space – was smart enough to make its investment in digital part of its brand DNA way ahead of its competitors. So much so that even if not all of Burberry’s digital ideas are good ones (and I’m not convinced they are), it doesn’t matter as they have positioned themselves as experimenters and pioneers.

Digital is now so integrated into the Burberry business, they make everyone else look like they’re playing catch up. And since few can match Burberry in terms of investment in this area, it’s never going to be a very fair or interesting race.

From what I’ve seen at fashion week, many of the labels that are using new technology seem to be taking a scattergun approach, trying out whatever technology they can get their hands on or whatever technology company approaches them first.

It feels a bit like the fashion world is going into “sample sale” mode, grabbing any and every piece of new technology just because it is there for the taking (I’m hoping this analogy may be enough to horrify some labels into thinking about their digital strategy!).

Now, this is all very disappointing as I strongly believe that integrating more digital technology into the fashion industry has the potential to grow the kind of businesses that are set to thrive in the future.

But this can only happen if fashion labels take it as seriously as they would their new collection.  Imagine for a minute if fashion labels asked the same questions about their digital technology as they do about their collections?

  • What do these clothes communicate about the brand?
  • Which of these clothes will my customers really want to wear?
  • How do my clothes answer a customer need or desire?
  • Which piece of clothing is going to be the stand out piece that will make the label famous?

Just replace the word ‘clothes’ with technology and you have the starting point of a more business-centred, rather than column inches driven, digital strategy.

It would be wonderful to see more fashion labels using digital technology to service and communicate with their customers better; being more thoughtful about what they share rather simply setting up a live stream of their show, as seems to be the default digital activity du jour.

Indeed, who really has time to watch these live streams other than those that work in fashion for a living? Wouldn’t it be better if designers created online content that felt a bit more personal and a bit easier to digest for their fans? Simple stuff that is thoughtful and centred on what it is about the brand that makes it so special.

I, for one, would trade a grainy live stream any day for some ‘making of’ content from designers like the Mary Katrantzou and Erdem. Revealing the amount of work that goes into creating those prints and that embellishment would surely be more brand-building that simply live-streaming a show just like everyone else?

Injecting some personality into digital activities is equally vital for these brands. I’ve bemoaned the lack of personality in the Stella McCartney twitter feed before but it really bothers me. It’s a missed opportunity for a brand whose designer is such a strong personality to use twitter merely as a bland PR stream. They could learn a lot from Victoria Beckham who uses Twitter to show her sense of humour, her unquestionable love of fashion, and her own fabulous lifestyle. Yes it is vain and self-indulgent but that’s what brand Beckham is about.  So it works.

Anyway, this post is fast becoming an essay but I’ll be looking more into this area. So watch this space and I’d love to hear your thoughts too!

A slightly reworked version of this post also featured on The Guardian media network hub here.