But most of the mass retailers have been slow to pick up and embrace the new breed of micro-celebrities and tech-savvy fashionistas. From teen fashion bloggers to YouTube "haul" stars to girls taking camera phone pics of outfits from the dressing rooms and sending to friends, technology is playing a huge role in fashion, and retailers need to start tuning in.
Retailers often fall victim to the "insert celebrity here"-type of mentality to spark up a conversation with teens during the back to school season. Buy a bunch of print and TV spots with the celebrity shilling their wares and hope teens take notice. But with teen magazines going out of business left and right, and TV ad consumption on the decline, retailers need to re-think their strategies to engage teens during key retailer seasons.
A tremendous amount of teen shopping consideration is happening across content and community sites. An excellent example of fashion blending with social content is a site called Polyvore, which allows people to create their own fashion "sets" and share them with others online.
The Gap and other brands have been early collaborators on the site, allowing consumers to assemble looks from the retailer and have other community members like and comment on the looks.
A few years back we came across a rising YouTube comedian named Liam Sullivan, whose Kelly character was widely popular amongst the teen crowd. You may have seen his widely popular music video, "Shoes," which to date has over 40 million views.
Our insight was to engage the star's online audience by producing a custom music video sponsored by a major retailer to promote its new store. A "prequel" video was produced and debuted on YouTube, featuring the Kelly character and shooting footage in-store to display the line in a fun, relatable way.
Fast-forward to 2010 and "haul videos" have allowed a new crop of young teen celebs to enter the YouTube-sphere. The videos highlight teen girls touting their latest purchases from the likes of Abercrombie, Hollister, Target and other teen retailers.
The video hosts show off their latest purchases and essentially become small promotional ads for the retailers, detailing the item, price and the retailer. Videos range in views from a few hundred up to more popular ones from bloggers such as the Fowler sisters, who can command up to a million views on a single video.
With virtually every cell phone having a camera, teens are taking tech to the dressing rooms, snapping pictures of their fashionable finds and texting to their friends for instant advice. For teens unsure of their next fashion purchase, it's easy to post a quick photo via Facebook mobile and upload it to your wall for your friends to comment on. Understanding these habits and the ways teens are sharing fashion through technology is key for retailers.
So what does this mean for retailers this upcoming back-to-school season? Celebrity collaborations will generate PR, but what's generating online chatter across the social channels amongst the teen crowds?
Forget about hitting teens with circulars and brochures, and start thinking about ways to engage teens through leveraging content channels and embracing technology to make your products stand out. Creating a dialogue with teens is essential, and the last time I checked, you still can't talk to a print ad and get a response back.