Fashion Chooses Chat Apps: Organic Communication, Endless Potential
The fashion industry is driven by quickly-changing trends — but one of the latest trends has nothing to do with color or cut, but instead with communication. Chat-based commerce is growing: more and more companies are choosing to use messaging apps for both marketing and customer service, and two prominent fashion retailers are leading the way.
Threads, a London-based luxury fashion retailer, is showing the fashion world a completely new way to operate: they sell exclusively over WhatsApp and WeChat. They have no stores, online or offline. TechStyle Fashion Group, parent company of Kate Hudson’s Fabletics, among others, has also set upon mobile messaging as the way to connect with today’s consumers, even discontinuing e-mail to focus on more customer-friendly options.
Threads Styling was ranked as one of the most disruptive digital tech companies of 2017, and has been written about in publications from Vogue to Financial Times. Why? Because their business model is in stark contrast to all pre-conceived retail ideas. They sell luxury items solely over WhatsApp and WeChat. Their website offers company information and press releases, but no products. Instead, the Threads team displays new couture lines and features products on Instagram and Snapchat. Potential customers scroll through stories and posts to see the latest fashions and can write to Threads shoppers in 1:1 chats over WeChat or WhatsApp to make a purchase.
This new way of selling has proven itself to be successful. Londoner Sophie Hill founded Threads in 2009, but in 2017 the company really took off and landed in place 32 of London’s Sunday Times Tech Track 100: Britain’s Fastest-Growing Private Technology Companies. In August 2018, Threads received $20 million of funding. Their Instagram channel currently boasts 298 thousand followers, their WeChat id, and a direct link that starts a conversation on their WhatsApp channel. Threads is an example of chat-based commerce at its most literal.
Their website explains their customer-centric point of view: “We engage our clients through WhatsApp & WeChat and transact directly on those platforms, which means we can deliver the Threads customer experience where-ever our clients are in the world.” From personal styling and sales consulting, to finding the right colors and sizes, to taking care of order details, all communication is handled over messaging.
Rachel Reavley, their president of brand strategy, told the Financial Times that “Threads Styling puts your personal shopper in your pocket,” explaining why smartphones are the obvious way to reach out to younger consumers:
“Messaging [is] how millennials communicate with their friends, so it’s a really natural flow of communication. It feels totally organic. We’re not asking them to download an app or come to a website.”
TechStyle Fashion Group has made a similar choice to move to the customers’ favorite channel: messaging apps. They did what most companies would consider practically impossible. In 2017, they stopped using email for North American customers and switched to Facebook Messenger. Anna Pettus, the Vice President of Strategic Operations for Global Member Services, stresses in an interview with Forbes that this choice was a clear prediction of the future of customer service: “We are only building ourselves up for the future evolution of service… our consumers were evolving, and so were their “channels of choice”.”
With the Apple Business Chat and WhatsApp Business API launches earlier this year, messenger customer service has become a big topic for 2018. TechStyle was ahead of the curve. Pettus describes their Facebook Messenger customer service as already fully developed. They’ve successfully implemented one of the most important trends in customer experience, which we’ve discussed previously in our magazine: customer service automation. Pettus explains that they use Chatbots for shipping and tracking notifications and first-level support, but also in creative ways that span the entire customer journey:
“We have the ability to showcase our spring and fall catalogs in the bot, and can focus on raising average order value, brand loyalty and engagement. We’re far along and mature on the service side, but we have not even begun to develop what we can do from the “return on investment” perspective in terms of commerce.”
She cites their success as a 90% bot containment rate, showing how customer service with automation can save resources. Her conviction that messaging apps can offer quantifiable ROI highlights their potential. Just like Threads, TechStyle sees messaging apps as a key channel for the future:
“For Messenger specifically, once you have an engaged audience on this channel, the opportunities are endless.”
We at MessengerPeople have been convinced of the potential that messaging apps hold for fashion for a long time. The marriage of speed and convenience is perfect for an industry where sneaker releases can sell out in minutes and people scroll through sales on their daily commutes. For trend-savvy consumers, fashion and smartphones are both key parts of daily life. By using messaging to contact these customers, brands can safely position themselves in their customers’ back pocket, with them at each step of their day.
If you’re interested in learning more about using messaging apps for customer communication, take a look at our new Customer Service Platform. Our product introduction video takes you on a quick tour of the tool, ending with a sample conversation of how it can work in real life:
For more information, we recommend our UK-focused Fashion Whitepaper:
- statistics about messaging app usage
- content marketing strategies
- messenger customer service tips
- use cases from PrettyLittleThing, Missguided, and more
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