Fashion's Next Frontier for Social Media

Industry is quickly learning that men and women engage and shop differently in the digital sphere.

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The Gilt Manuel Web site.

Photo By Courtesy Photo

The fashion industry is quickly learning that men and women engage and shop differently in the digital sphere.

Brands and retailers such as Coach, Mr Porter, Gilt Man, Ben Minkoff, John Varvatos and Ermenegildo Zegna have spent a lot of time studying the differences between the ways men and women approach fashion, tapping into their male audiences with a host of initiatives they feel will resonate best with their target consumer.

Whether ingesting rich editorial content from Net-a-porter’s men’s e-commerce counterpart, Mr Porter; interacting with Coach’s new men’s Facebook page, or tapping into Ben Minkoff’s expertise in gender-specific online shopping habits, one thing is clear: Men are as into fashion as ever, and brands need to find innovative ways to engage the male audience.

For women, Coach is one of the industry’s leaders in the social media game — boasting more than 2 million fans on Facebook and several successful blogger projects. But for the past few months, it has decided to focus on its male consumers, according to David Duplantis, the brand’s senior voice president of global Web and digital media, who believes that when it comes to reaching men, creating a digital message that focuses on reinforcing heritage and lifestyle is key.

“Our female customers want to be digitally engaged with more frequency and are more interested in new products, value, celebrity and blogger fashion trends. Men, on the other hand, prefer their engagement with us to be more focused on increasing their knowledge of the product,” Duplantis said.

Coach launched a male-specific Facebook page five months ago that now has almost 14,000 fans. Features such as “Product of the Week” and “Did You Know?” have populated the page, which highlights interesting facts about Coach’s product quality and brand history, such as how the inspiration for the first briefcase came from a baseball glove. Recent “Product of the Week” items have included the Exotic Slim Billfold in shocking blue alligator skin and the Bleecker Leather Electronic Cord Zip Pouch (because “Coach understands that guys can never have too many gadgets, and they all come with cords.”)

Duplantis said the brand also likes to share photos of fashionable male celebrities such as Sean Avery, Kellan Lutz and Penn Badgley from Coach Men’s events. In April, guest blogger Danny Chung of The Modman gave customers access to his “work to weekend” approach to fashion.

But in addition to feeding the customer with knowledge, men, as a gender, are fiercely brand loyal, and creators of digital media need to play to that, said Oliver Walsh, founder and chief executive officer of Wednesday London, a digital agency that has worked with Mr Porter, J. Crew, Alexander McQueen, Giorgio Armani and Moncler.

“You look at superstylish guys, and they often just wear the same thing every day. Most guys tend to have their uniform, because they’re very brand loyal and they know what fits them. They trust an online shop, and they’ve taken that risk and ordered that item, so they get site loyal, too,” Walsh said, “The initial barrier to men’s shopping is greater, but once you’ve converted them, they have a greater sense of loyalty.”

Walsh believes the men’s category is the future of social media and has been quite untapped until now.

“I think that the male psychology actually resonates better with the digital space than the female one. From a commercial perspective, a lot of guys don’t really like [brick-and-mortar] shopping,” Walsh said.

This was the mind-set when laying the infrastructure for Mr Porter, which Wednesday London helped build from concept to completion.

Even before the site launched in February, the social media minds behind the project managed to build buzz through a campaign that invited consumers to become a “founding member of Mr Porter,” allowing them access to benefits both pre- and post-launch. These members were then encouraged to share invitations to others through e-mail, Facebook and Twitter. The result: 70,000 founding members before Mr Porter actually made its official debut to the public.

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