Digital marketing is the key to growth in this day and age
Which are the fastest growing apparel brands in the world?
Among them are certainly Asos (9.5 million Instagram followers), Prettylittlething (11.4 million followers) and Boohoo (6.1 million followers).
The common denominator with these brands is that they operate solely via online mediums. They have grown their respective brands via brilliant use of social media, which in turn has led to growth through word of mouth among today’s young consumers.
In years gone by, growing a brand from scratch to become a leading international player in such a short space of time simply would not have been possible. But social media and the opportunities it affords has changed all of that.
In the meantime, traditional bricks and mortar apparel brands and retailers struggle and lose market share to their more nimble, online operators which are more social media savvy and better connected to a younger audience.
Now look at the ready-made garment (RMG) industry in Bangladesh and ask yourself this – how many factories have a significant digital presence? How many are using the vast opportunities afforded by social media channels such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to grow their business?
Let’s be clear here, we are not just talking about having a website. Many factories do have websites but, in most cases, this is for information purposes only. A website is nothing without promotion. Promotion drives traffic and traffic, in a roundabout way, drives business.
Factory owners, then, are missing a trick. That’s the bad news. The good news, however, is that for those factories which have yet to explore the opportunities afforded by digital marketing, there has never been a better time to start. What’s more, promotion via digital channels is not expensive. In fact, it is highly cost effective, especially compared with traditional advertising via printed materials, for instance.
So what does going digital mean for a RMG factory? Firstly, it means, having a website, but more importantly, it means promoting that website. A factory might want its website to carry its latest lines or look-book, which is great. But how can it encourage potential customers to view these? One way is to provide links to this look-book on its social media channels such as Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.
One thing to consider here is the importance of choosing the right channel. For business to business, LinkedIn is probably the channel of choice but professional advice should be sought when developing this strategy.
All of the social media channels operate in essentially the same way. A user sets up an account and then connects with other users on that account. Users follow each other, which means that information about a company’s business will come up in the ‘feed’ of its followers.
More followers obviously means that more people will be able to see and read posts about a business. This, in turn, means more people will click on stories about a business, which in turn sends potential traffic back to the website of that business.
None of this is an exact science. There is no formula, for instance, which says that a sale will be achieved for every 100 new followers. We simply don’t know, as this is in many ways what the experts know as soft marketing.
However, from observing the success of online only brands is that there is clear link between number of social media users – social media presence – and business success.
Think about this another way. British retailer, Marks & Spencer has been around for more than 100 years, yet has just1.2 million followers on Instagram. Is it a coincidence that this retailer has struggled to remain relevant in the digital world? One would think not.
Millennials, remember, have been brought up with social media. It is all they know, and it isn’t going away. So RMG factories have to think about how they can make use of it.
Now, one might argue that social media and digital has more relevance to consumer facing brands and retailers than it does to supply chain factories. There is no doubt some truth in this, and it is highly unlikely that any RMG factory will ever end up with millions of Instagram followers.
But this is where the power of understanding different social media audiences comes in. LinkedIn is brilliant as it enables you to connect with like-minded individuals and organisations. A factory owner could join LinkedIn and very quickly connect to hundreds or even thousands of relevant contacts, the kind of people who he or she might be likely to do business with. These contacts will then see any updates which the factory owner chooses to post, whether it is telling people about a new line that has been launched, a new look-book or an opportunity tell contacts about a new sustainable production technique. People love hearing about these kinds of things.
What does this do for the factory owner? The key word here is engagement. Any business wants to engage with its potential buyers and social media offers them the chance to do this – for free.
This engagement might not immediately lead to a sale but what it does do is break down a few barriers and bring all-important visibility. Factories, just like brands and retailers, need to be visible in the online world. By being visible, their brand and name becomes more widely known. This, in turn, means that when they approach a potential customer, that potential customer is more likely to have heard the name, and this brings trust and credibility.
The beauty of digital marketing is that any RMG factory can do it. Factory owners does not need a budget of millions. They just need to get on a computer, join social media channels and start talking about their business. That really is how simple it is.
We all know many RMG factories in Bangladesh are doing some great things, in terms of products, sustainable techniques, and innovation. But we can’t afford to keep these things secret. It’s time to tell the world about them. And the quickest, most cost-effective means of doing this is by going digital.
Mostafiz Uddin is the Managing Director of Denim Expert Limited. He is also the Founder and CEO of Bangladesh Denim Expo and Bangladesh Apparel Exchange (BAE). He can be reached at [email protected]