The future of fashion might be smart textiles or shopping just by thinking about a product but some of the most pressing conversations of the present are still: Can fashion brands nail it online? For an industry that’s always obsessed with the new and the next, it is shocking that news about Chanel opening an ecommerce store make headlines.
Establishing an online presence shouldn’t be daunting. At least not in this day and age. To help demystify some of the worries around this as well as the benefits that come with an ‘always on’ web portal, we recently spoke to Kinjil Mathur, CMO of website building company Squarespace.
As the Chief Marketing Officer of Squarespace, Kinjil leads the company’s world-class marketing team. Before her time with the company, Kinjil spent years building technology competencies for retail giants, most notably as Vice President of Digital Marketing for Saks Fifth Avenue. Here she shares tips on building an impactful web presence, hints on trends in the ecommerce space and highlights some of Squarespace’s star fashion clients.
You have a lot of experience in luxury fashion and e-commerce. How can fashion brands’ online presence deliver the higher personal experience of shopping in a brick-and-mortar store?
A lot of what is interesting about fashion is the story behind the brand. One of our fashion fashion customers here in the UK is a designer called Sadie Williams. If you get to look to her products in store you wouldn’t appreciate the story behind it as much. Online allows her to have that deep interaction with the customers and fully tell her story. So, as you navigate through the site you find out more about the history of the brand and the values but you also get to discover the collection at a pace that suits you. I think enabling the designer to tell their story, have their aesthetic front and centre, and showcase the whole collection simultaneously allows the customer to have a deeper experience to what they would have in store.
What are your tips for retailers trying to elevate their presence within the digital landscape?
We believe that if you want to be digital you should be everywhere. By that I mean you should be on Instagram, Facebook, etc. Brands can now get in front of the right customer at the right time but ultimately, you want to own that first Google result. You know, what about if someone’s heard about your brand? The first thing people do is go and Google you.
So while it matters how you’re representing your brand outside of your site, you should still own the first Google result. My advice for any brand that wants to enter the digital space is not only to make sure they own the first touch point, but to also make sure it represents them in the best possible way. I think that’s really important, especially for fashion brands. When I was advising clients on how to get online 10 years ago it was so expensive to have a really good looking website. Now you are able to do that for much less.
What are the trends in e-commerce when it comes to fashion and retail (for example, shoppable content)?
Shoppable content is amazing and a way that’s really helping brands and consumers interact with their products.
I think that augmented reality will really be a big part of online fashion. When you talk about what is the experience that people can have online vs in-store, sometimes it’s exhausting to go in and try all products that you like. So I think AR is really going to help people understand how an item fits and looks on them without having to go into store. We’re really excited about developments in that space. Obivously, beauty is doing great in that area and I hope fashion brands will pick up on it too.
The other thing I’m really excited about is ‘always on the go’ way of thinking. You hear brands talking about it but fashion is a bit slow on the uptake. This is about starting with a mobile-first type of selling. If you’re going to show your products on a mobile screen, how do you do this in the best possible way so that people immediaely get it. It’s important for brands to think about this.
I know the templates that Squarespace offers are optimised for mobile but when you talk about AR, do you work in that area?
We are constantly innovating our templates and we are playing with AR and VR right now, so look out for what we’re going to bring in the future! That’s our value proposition: we want to make sure that, as the world is changing your website is changing with it. So, if VR and 360 photos are what people need for their online presence, we’re going to make sure that we are the first ones to put that template out before anybody else.
Tell me about the range of clients that you have.
About 70% of our customers worldwide identify themselves as small businesses so we like to think that we are helping this independent workforce and the new generation of businesses to get online. From sole traders and freelancers, to startups. We do have established brands as clients too but the majority are entrepreneurs.
Do you have any examples where Squarespace helped a fashion brand established its online presence? What did you do and do?
Rodarte is a great example. They are two amazing and talented sisters in LA who had no funding, no help, but a really incredible story. They started their fashion line in their mother’s basement and did their website on Squarespace. It has grown so much since then.
They have been a long time Squarespace customer and we have been supporting them with any type of technical help they need from our side. But the most exciting thing for me is that we helped them tell their story to the world. That’s what I love about working at Squarespace – we tell our story through the stories of our customers.
We just did an ad with Sadie Williams, who I mentioned before, which features her and her line. So not only do we help fashion brands get online but often times we also feature them on our channels and in our advertising. And that really helps get them further.
Most recently, you collaborated with actor and fashion designer John Malkovich to launch his online store. Could you tell me the thinking behind that? How did the partnership come about?
He’s such an interesting character. We had worked with him on a project before and we just established a great relationship. So, when he was launching his fashion line, he came to us. We were thinking of doing something for the Super Bowl around that time so it all came together perfectly.
Most recently, we won an Emmy for the film, so that was a wonderful experience. It’s exactly what we like to do – to cultivate relationships and empower people. We could easily be just a software company at the core but we go way beyond that. We want to make sure that we are pushing for our customers first and foremost and we’re helping their businesses. Everything comes from asking ourselves ‘If we were a small business, what would we need to operate online to the best of our abilities?’
Anything else you’d like to share? Perhaps what are your plans for the UK?
We’re very excited to be in the UK. It’s our second biggest market after the US. It’s really interesting because, going back to that independent generation that I mentioned, people here are doing less the traditional 9 to 5 and really going after their passion projects. Until now we have been here very organicly but we are really looking forward to spending sincere time building the community and be part of it, so expect to hear much more from us!
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