A Passion For Fashion With A Marketing Flair™

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Bluefly.Com – An Amazing Fashion 2.0 Success Story

Founded in 1998, Bluefly, Inc. is a leading online retailer of designer brands, fashion trends and superior value.  The foremost online shopping destination features clothing and accessories from over 350 top European and American designers – all at amazing discounts.  Bluefly is “the ultimate hookup for the fashion obsessed.”

Under the leadership of chief marketing office Bradford Matson, Bluefly is increasing their brand value by engaging people in new forms of communication, collaboration, education and entertainment.  Matson understands fashion 2.0 and knows how to use it to attract new visitors to the Bluefly website.  Bluefly also knows how to engage those visitors and ultimately how to convert them into customers.

When I visited bluefly.com, among the first things that I noticed  were the variety of media  and social channels available to site visitors.   There were FLYPAPER and FLYTV.  Then as I scrolled down the page, there were invitations to watch Closet Confessions videos, to sign up for Bluefly emails and to play FLY or BYE?.  Near the bottom of the web page were Facebook and Twitter icons.  The things that I noticed on the website are tools of the “Bluefly marketing strategy, broken into three sectors: marketing programs, social media and offline.”

Bluefly website

“The company has also found success in television advertising on the Bravo network, an ideal vehicle for reaching its target ‘fashionista’ demographic,” Matson said, and in social media where it recently rolled out the Closet Confessions campaign.

“The goal is to drive new visitors to the site and increase the engagement of existing customers with videos,” said Bluefly chief marketing officer Bradford Matson. “People like Christian Siriano and Kelly Cutrone have become new-media celebrities. They have fans on Facebook and Twitter, they’re on reality TV; it’s a new world of style celebrities and we wanted to bring out their humanity.”  Bluefly ran online ads and video about the site on Condé Nast magazine sites including: Allure, Vogue, Lucky, W and Glamour; Glam’s network, WatchMojo.com and YouTube.

Blue Tube – Kelly Osbourne, posted with vodpod

Bluefly Closet Confessions - Kelly Osbourne

Bluefly also has a blog, a Twitter account and a Facebook page, not to mention prominent promotions with reality TV shows Project Runway and  America’s Next Top Model as well as the movie Sex and the City 2.

FLYPAPER - Blog

Bluefly Facebook page

Bluefly Twitter network

Bluefly Project Runway

“While one-third of Bluefly’s traffic comes from search and another third from e-mail, social media has been ‘very useful,’ said Matson. “It’s deepened our relationship to customers, increased spikes in traffic, and it catches the interest we create with off-line advertising.”

According to a recent article in Direct Marketing News, “Turning to social media is one way that Matson addresses the challenge of consumers who have snapped their wallets shut over the past few years, in the face of an increasingly painful recession and rising unemployment. In 2009, Bluefly’s revenues fell about 15% year over year to $81.2 million. It cut the marketing budget by about $6 million last year.”

“We stepped back and cut off offline advertising and spent our energies on learning about social and working with the marketing programs,” Matson said.

Bluefly was the first national retailer to use bar codes in its television commercials.  Last month, according to a New York Times article, “From the comfort of their sofas, mobile-phone users can scan a bar code embedded in commercials on certain evening shows on Bravo and instantly obtain additional information about a product and a discount to buy it.  The 45-second commercials by the online fashion retailer Bluefly show snippets of its Closet Confessions interviews with designers and celebrities like Bethenny Frankel, who appeared on The Real Housewives of New York City and the Olympic figure skater Johnny Weir … The commercials were seen on Top Chef, The Real Housewives of Atlanta, The Real Housewives of D.C., Flipping Out, Top Chef Just Desserts and The Rachel Zoe Project through the fall season.”

Screenshot of TV commercial with bar code

“When the cellphone is pointed at the on-screen bar code, the user is linked to a complete closet-baring episode, which can run as long as five minutes, and offered a $30 discount on a $150 purchase at bluefly.com”

Bluefly hopes that the ease and convenience of clicking on a bar code will encourage more viewers to learn about their website.  Online Closet Confessions fans, Mr. Matson said, have increased their shopping orders an average of 50 percent, from $300 to $450.  “We have added new style stars after the Web video series was so successful … We got a half-million page views the first month we launched it.  Closet Confessions, Mr. Matson said, “is custom-made for the fashion obsessed.”

Blue Tube – Christian Siriano, posted with vodpod

The Bluefly website is a delight to visit.  It is not just because of the great values offered on designer fashions.  Besides, there are numerous, discounted luxury brand websites on the Internet.   Bluefly leads the pack due to their creative CMO, Bradford Matson.  His integrated, multichannel marketing approach combines the fundamentals of a successful social media strategy with traditional marketing tactics.

Bluefly learned the basic rules of social media for business well by facilitating communication (i.e., email, Twitter, Facebook. iPhone app), collaboration (i.e., Facebook, FLY or BYE?Closet Confessions) , education (i.e., website, Twitter, Facebook) and entertainment (i.e., FLYTV, Closet Confessions) as engagement strategies to enable conversation and influence conversations.

FLY or BYE?

Bluefly iPhone app

In the end, it’s all about engagement.  Bluefly succeeded at collaborating with and entertaining their fan base.  They found their niche and used a blue ocean strategy that took them to the next level, well above the others that sell designer clothing at discount prices online.

“We all spent years trying to build this perfect mousetrap. We figured that you would just go there, but that’s never going to work,” Bluefly CMO, Bradford Matson says. “What we have to do is know enough about you, so when you land there we can show you paths of shopping to get to where you want. It’s a combination of personalization and customization.”


Fashion 2.0 And The Plus-Size Fashion Revolution

For the first time, New York Fall Fashion Week will include a plus-size only, runway show.  OneStopPlus.com, the premiere online high-fashion destination for curvy, voluptuous women, will produce the show that is set for September 15, 2010 at The Atrium in Frederick P. Rose Hall (home of Jazz at Lincoln Center).  The curvy, Belle Épogue-themed catwalk will reportedly feature plus-size models like Lizzie Miller and Toccara Jones in Spring 2011 collections.  OneStopPlus brand evangelist Emme will also be on hand to host the red carpet.  Brands to be featured will include the best in American and European plus-size designs.

A plus-size runway show coinciding with the high-fashion shows for NYC Fashion Week at Lincoln Center is major.   As a result, I was curious about what the plus-size fashion niche is doing to join the online conversation and fashion 2.0 explosion.  When I Googled “plus-size fashion websites,” I was amazed to find 7.1 million results.

There are many more plus-size fashion websites, blogs, Facebook pages, Twitter networks and online communities than I can write about in this post.  The following are a sampling of the ones that stood out because of their engaging fashion 2.0 marketing tactics:

OneStopPlus.com

(Website, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, online community)

OSP Website

Positioned as “Your Online Fashion Mall for Sizes 12W to 44W, ”  OSP (OneStopPlus.com) is more than just an e-commerce website.  It is an online community for curvy women.  There is the OSP Shopper’s Club, OSPMag, Facebook page, YouTube Channel and Twitter network.  The entire OSP online community is easily accessible from the website.  Visitors are invited to share and enjoy their OSP experience.

OSP - Twitter

Lane Bryant

(Website, Facebook, Twitter, online community, mobile marketing)

The plus-size market giant, joins the fashion 2.0 arena with Inside Curve.  The web community invites plus-size women to join  Inside Curve – a trilogy for girlfriends of fashion, fun, and friends. It is a new community where trendsetting, plus-size women hang out to celebrate all things fashionable – including themselves!

Lane Bryant embraces fashion 2.0 for most of their online brands with Facebook and Twitter. In addition, Lane Bryant Internet shoppers can get coupons sent directly to their cellphones  as well as be the first to hear about new fashion arrivals and special store events in their area with MSG ME – Lane Bryant’s text messaging program.

Lane Bryant - Facebook

Igigi

(Website, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube)

Igigi website

Igigi (pronounced ee zhee zhee) began in 2000.  Plus-size women used to be relegated to wearing caftan-like dresses.  Well, no more!  Igigi is a plus-size clothing retailer that offers dresses for plus-size women in sizes 14 to 32. You will not find any caftan type dresses at Igigi. Their dresses cling to all the right curves and are cut to accentuate the positive.

Igigi does carry other items like tops and pants since their niche is definitely dresses (including bridal). Their clothing are comfortable, flattering and fashionable.  Plus-size woman visit the Igigi site because it has one of the best online selections of dresses for work, play and special occasions.

Size Appeal

(Website, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube)

Clothes should enhance and not inhibit curvy women. Size Appeal breaks the stereotype of traditional plus-size clothing, like the boxy styles that make women look bigger and older.   Instead, Size Appeal follows the curve in body and style.   They strive to achieve the perfect cut and style every time.

Size Appeal - YouTube

Plus-Size Fashion  Moving To Luxury Brands

There is definitely a market for large, lovely women worldwide. Smart designers, retailers and marketers recognize that there is a void to fill.  According to a 2008 survey conducted by Mintel, a marketing research firm, the most frequently worn size in America is a 14.  Furthermore, government statistics show that 64%  of American women are overweight (the average woman weighs 164.7 pounds).   More than one-third are obese. Yet plus-size clothing (typically size 14 and above) represents only 18% of total revenue in the women’s clothing industry. In addition,  a quarter of women are size 18 or bigger – up 45% in five years.   The Mintel Study also shows that the UK market for plus-size clothing has never been bigger, with 45%  growth in the plus-size, women’s wear market over the past five years.

Reflecting the trend, top designers are producing collections for bigger women.   Marc Jacobs is rumored to be entering plus-size fashions.   The Marc Jacobs fashion house is in talks about producing a range in size 14 and up.  Designer Mark Fast made waves when he sent size 12 and 14 models down his catwalk during London Fashion Week and size 16 model Crystal Renn, who has a huge effect in the industry.

Saks Fifth Avenue in NYC will soon add plus-sized garments to its high-end, designer department. While clothes from most luxury labels were previously sold only up to a size 10, size 14 will hit the racks from Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, Toula, Akris, Armani, Carolina Herrera, Escada, Donna Karan, St. John, Oscar de la Renta, Max Mara, Valentino, Michael Kors, Yves Saint Laurent, Alexander McQueen, Fendi and Roberto Cavalli.   Some pieces will be available in sizes 16 to 20.  Saks will stock everything from pantsuits to evening wear.  However, there is a catch.   For most items, you’ll find only one of each size.  In addition, if the initiative is successful in Manhattan,  then Saks will stock the plus-size clothes in stores around the country.

Last summer, Target began carrying a line called Pure Energy that translated young, trendy clothes to larger sizes, adding to its more mature plus-size offerings.  “We definitely view this category as a growth opportunity,” said Target spokeswoman, Katie Heinze. After testing Pure Energy in some stores, Target decided to carry it in all 1,740 outlets.  Elie Tahari, the high-end designer, began selling a plus-size line this year and at Full-Figured Fashion Week, more than 25 other designers showed their plus-size clothes to an audience of retail buyers and plus-size women.

The plus-size fashion revolution is here and plus-size fashion 2.0 is in full force.  More brands are adding plus-sizes, curvaceous models are walking the Fashion Week runway and fashion websites, blogs and social networks are embracing plus-sizes.  It appears the fashion industry is finally recognizing the opportunities that exist in a market segment that was not considered very glamorous.  The changing demographics are making a big difference, no pun intended!


Fashion 2.0 Thought Leaders – Fashion’s Collective

This week 4Fashionistas recognizes Fashion’s Collective as our next social fashion thought leader and its founder/strategist – Elizabeth Schofield as well as digital strategists Tamar Shamir Koifman and Agata Seidel.  Fashion’s Collective is a resource in digital and social media marketing for fashion and luxury brands.

One of my favorite places online for fashion 2.0 vision is Fashion’s Collective.  Visiting the website is like taking a tour of a museum where knowledgeable curators guide you through the collection of brand profiles and fashion 2.0-related articles.  Everywhere visitors to the site can easily navigate the various sections and also share their findings with friends on Twitter and Facebook.

Website - Brand Profiles

I especially enjoyed the Fashion’s Collective, three-part series (The Facebook Dilemma) about Facebook marketing for luxury brands.  Part I discusses whether to use Facebook or not because the audience interacting with a luxury brand does not always align with the brand’s target demographic.   Part II is about being strategic in finding your brand voice, how should the brand interact and determining what is the  actual audience the luxury brand reaches on Facebook.   Part III, the last in the series,  takes luxury brands into thinking long-term and to always have an exit plan.   In addition, Part III in the series encourages luxury brands to decide if  they have the resources in personnel and budget to maintain a social media campaign on Facebook.

Website

The Facebook Dilemma series provides an astute analysis of how luxury brands can strategically approach Facebook and decide if it is a good fit for them.   What I particularly like about Fashion’s Collective is that the marketing insights are also transferable to other industries and disciplines giving social media marketing a try.

Check out the Fashion’s Collective website and CLICK HERE.