I have always found American Apparel to be a fascinating brand that has been willing to push the boundaries of advertising to create their brand image. They have been rattling around in my mind again lately because I read an article the other morning about their recent financial performance since fighting back from the edge of bankruptcy they just reported their in-store sales were flat in the second quarter of 2011 versus a decline of 16% for the same quarter last year. What I found even more interesting was that their online sales increased 19% when compared to the same quarter last year. I went onto store.americanapparel.net to see how they were selling their clothes online. The site was every bit as boring as I feared it would be and showed none of the risks the brand was willing to take in their advertising and brand positioning. So it got me thinking about the fashion in luxury spaces in general and how American Apparel could make their online sales strategy as differentiated as their advertising.
If you look at the historical adoption of technology in the luxury and fashion industries you will it has been pitiful. Time after time the technology adoption curve is led by early adopter brands, then big brands, then small brands, then mom and pop brands and then luxury and fashion brands pulling up the rear. This trend continues with the adoption of social media in the space where they are just starting to dip their toe in the water after only recently figuring out how to sell products online once they were forced into it by competition like Gilt.com. I have never understood this trend because you have these high-end brands that set the standard for design, fashion and even culture across the world yet they aren’t able to bring any of that innovation or design leadership into the digital space.
So American Apparel if you are paying attention here is the two-step plan to make your online brand as strong as your advertising brand.
1 – Lose the web site
99% of it is just a boring e-commerce site with some forgettable brand content sprinkled in. Plus americanapparel.net – really?
2 – Sell everything through Facebook (f-commerce)
Stop screwing around with ‘Like’ buttons and be the first fashion brand to really embrace f-commerce so you online presence, like your ads, become a category buster.
You just have to read my article What Britney Spears can teach you about modern experiential branding to see how the social media has changed inter-personal dynamics and overlay that with the technology adoption insight you see that they could have an IMMENSE opportunity to something really unique. Their competitive set that isn’t doing anything more than ‘Like Us for a Discount” and your core customer is probably the purest expression of someone who truly lives in the social media space. Take advantage of the fact that every teenager in the world would love to be able to buy your product through Facebook and then tell all their friends about it. Finally being able to figure out how to turn your product into branded social media content is the holy grail of every company out there.
Hopefully someone out there is listening – if you are all I want is a credit in the case study and a small royalty from f-commerce sales wouldn’t hurt…