In the extremely competitive fashion market, more brands are looking to in-person events, often with an educational or community-building tilt. The reason: They see it as an opportunity to forge deeper connections with shoppers. 

This concept has been part of certain subsets of the fashion industry for years. Streetwear especially comes to mind, with retail stores within this niche often serving as community hubs, event spaces, and places to see and be seen with like-minded individuals. Bobby Kim, co-founder of streetwear brand The Hundreds, recently touched on this in a discussion about the physical store his clothing company maintains in Los Angeles.

But today, the trend is growing—and more fashion brands are experimenting with events and educational experiences as a way to bond with their target demographics, to capitalize on physical retail spaces, and to educate their potential buyers. 

Psychological studies prove this is an effective approach. Functional magnetic resonance imaging shows that consumers primarily use emotions when evaluating brands, while data also shows that positive feelings serve as a powerful influence factor when it comes to brand loyalty.

But that’s not all. Brand strategist and sociology expert Ana Andjelic says the trend is also on the rise because modern shoppers need a strong motivator to visit a physical shopping environment. With the ease of ordering online and millions of products just a few clicks away, she believes there has to be a bigger draw than a mere shopping experience in order to drive foot traffic.

Andjelic went on to say that the quick and easy solution for this (like installing an Instagrammable wall, for example) isn’t enough though, and often ultimately falls flat. Rather than a quick, one-off photo opportunity, she sees the real benefits come when brands put together connection-building experiences that allow shoppers to build rapport with a retailer.

Not all fashion brands have looked for the easy option, however. Andjelic said she has seen a few brands create events that reinforce personal connections while providing an environment in which they can share more about the company’s background, production process, and its values.

A few contextual examples of this executed well come to mind. Positive clothing brand Madhappy, for example, recently held a panel discussion at its Melrose retail location on the topic of social media and mental health.

Founder Peiman Raf brought in speakers from industries ranging from entertainment to meditation and online support groups for a discussion and candid conversation about how the impact of the social media manifests itself in different ways. 

Women’s clothing company SHEER, known for its patent-pending shapewear dresses, does something similar with its free events called “SHEER IRL.”

During these educational events, the brand’s founder Sheer Sebag leads a conversation with a guest partner (most recently a fashion stylist) on themes of female empowerment, body image, and positivity in a fireside chat style format, while also providing a chance for attendees to get hands-on with products later in the evening.

“We hope that by doing these events we’re able to connect with the women who attend,  regardless of whether they shopped that night or later will,” said Sebag. “From there, we hope they go into their communities and tell our story to their friends, family, etc.”

For Andjelic, in-person events are indeed a brand-building exercise that can open the doors to future conversations, brand evangelism, and positive social chatter, just as Sebag explained. But she also believes they’re good for customer retention when leveraged as insider-only opportunities.

“In the context of customer retention, educational events should be private, exclusive, and members-only so they feel special and value-adding to the VIPs invited,” Andjelic said.

When it comes to driving sales, however, events don’t always convert into bottom-line results—at least not right away. Andjelic shared that in her experience, sales around educational events can be slim, as these events are seen as a chance for community-building—not necessarily shopping. 

Translation: Educational events are a long-term play for brands who want to build lasting relationships with their audience. 

Will they be a quick driver of sales? Maybe not. But they will present a unique opportunity for brands to connect with its audience, to position themselves as community hubs, and to build a lasting, meaningful relationship with supporters and fans.

Original Source:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/kaleighmoore/2019/07/24/why-more-fashion-brands-are-leveraging-educational-events-for-community-building/#70ddccc63217

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