How Kate Spade Succeeds on Social and Under Armour Goes All-In on Apps

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How Kate Spade Succeeds on Social and Under Armour Goes All-In on Apps

By Jessica Binns, Apparel Senior Editor - 05/24/2017

Have you figured out a social media strategy or mastered the art of the app? If not, chances are you're not alone. Hear from Kate Spade on what does and doesn't work on today's biggest social platforms, while Under Armour reveals its approach to mobile and more.

Why Under Armour is all-in on apps
Despite all of the recent emphasis on designing responsive websites that provide a consistent user experience across devices and form factors, it's "symbolic," Under Armour's vice president of omnichannel digital Sid Jatia said at the Retail Innovation Lounge at SXSW, that apps don't seem to be going away anytime soon. Though Jatia's team faced "suspicion" for the amount of money it wanted to invest in building out the app experience, ultimately the app has been worth it. The bottom line: Under Armour's mobile app is key in attracting new customers, whose engagement with the brand is significantly higher than consumers who haven't downloaded the application.

"It's not so much about the first experience but the rest of the experience when customers download the app," Jatia explains, "because you don't want to have a ‘one night stand.'"

Indeed, the "rest of the experience" often means Under Armour app-using customers have bigger cart sizes. That's likely driven in part by the company's "surgical" use of push notifications. Rather than blanketing all customers with generic messages and offers — 10 percent off on all bottoms, for example — Under Armour aims to tailor notifications to the customer's interests and preferences. "For us, it's not about taking our agenda and pushing it onto the customer," explains Jatia. "So if you're into Steph Curry and basketball, if there's a new shoe drop, you should have the right to have first access to that."

The goal, to hear Jatia tell it, is to find mutual value for the customer, which often manifests as exclusive content only available through the app. "We believe promotional activity only drives short-term gains," he says, adding that the company wants to change the app name from "UA Shop" to simply "Under Armour" as the current title is "biased toward commerce."

As many of Under Armour's retail partners are shutting down, the company is focusing on its own brick-and-mortar locations. "Building stores is extremely important — not just as a transaction vehicle but an experience center," says Jatia. He envisions, for example, a Notre Dame fan being greeted by the school's famous fight song upon entering the fitting room.

"If you're going into a store, we need to make it worth it for you," Jatia adds.

Going forward, products in the future will be much more connected than they are today as consumers demand digital connectivity in every aspect of their lives. "There's a lot of progress that needs to be made," Jatia says, "but we're spending a lot of R&D on connected apparel." Though Under Armour doesn't currently "get a lot of recognition as an athleisure brand" like some of its competitors, the company is working diligently to change that — and capture new customers and market share in one of the hottest areas in apparel.

TB12, the pajamas — correction: Athlete Recovery Sleepwear featuring a bioceramic print — that New England Patriots star Tom Brady repped in a product launch at the CES show in January remains one of Under Armour's best-selling items online. "Customers are smart, they aren't going to buy your $200 pajamas if the product doesn't work," adds Jatia.

That's why the mobile app is so critical. "Our apps are a great feedback loop," he notes. "We use that to design better products, merchandise better and sell better."

Solving social selling — and quickly
The reason people won't stop talking about how to monetize social media and launch successful strategies on sites ranging from Facebook to Snapchat is because very few in fashion have figured out the secret. And the secret is that there is no secret. The real trick, to hear companies from Curalate to Kate Spade tell it, is simply to try, try again.

Instead of treating social media like an entirely new arena, many believe the most sensible strategy is to approach influencer partnerships as you would any other digital campaign: by establishing clear KPIs and determining what success looks like for your brand. And it's okay to put aside pure traffic-to-website numbers, says Kate Spade director of global digital marketing and social media Krista Neuhaus, if your social efforts "create an interesting brand moment."

But the flipside is failing to properly position your brand with the right blogger or other influencer. "You don't want consumers to click through and be shocked by what they find," Neuhaus notes. "The influencer's following should be aligned with your brand and your price point."

While social platforms today are very interested in monetizing their audiences for brands (after some initial resistance), most consumers aren't yet accustomed to one-click purchasing and have been slow to adopt this new "all-in" approach to buying. The challenge? Figuring out which products — at a lower price point, perhaps? — can drive the kinds of impulse purchasing that makes sense with the one-click instant buy.

Trickier still, for the moment, is the widespread lack of tracking capabilities that could monitor the consumer's path — which ideally leads to a purchase. If she returns to your site to buy a month after clicking through on social, is there any concrete way of knowing that?

Today the most in-demand influencer is the "triple threat": someone who not only blogs and has an engaged and sizeable following, but has mastered the nuances of social media and kills not just on video, but live video — given the rise of Snapchat, Instagram Stories and Facebook Live. Even better is the influencer who can take a unique spin on your brand and cultivate a new audience, providing a compelling alternative to the dominant perception that most consumers might have of your brand.

Many fashion brands have fully embraced the "every man" as an influencer, says Curalate's Olivia Herron, vice president of brand strategy, of the enthusiasm for user-generated content. "The age of the white-background product shot inspiring anyone to buy your product is over," she says. Using real-life customers to show off how they style your fashions can make a lasting impact on impressionable consumers. Says Herron, "If you have 10 different black t-shirts, how does the consumer decide which one fits her life? Which ones are other moms wearing? Which one is good for clubbing? Which one is for going to SXSW when it's freezing?"