Snapchat is “a phenomenon with momentum” while “Pinterest is less intuitive” to the needs of fast-fashion brands, according to the customer director at River Island following experiments with its media mix over the past two years.
The retailer is in what, until lately, has been the rare position of having a strong in-house creative and marketing team. Since 2009 it has grown from around 12 people to in excess of 80, with dedicated divisions to tackle digital media buying and content creation.
With this autonomy has come the ability to experiment with channels such as Snapchat and this recently saw it run a ‘Snap & Share’ in-store campaign where a number of bespoke branded filters could be activated in certain stores and were designed to highlight key brand and cultural messages.
It still has a month to go before it comes to an end and so, speaking to The Drum, River Island’s Josie Cartridge declined to go into detail about its performance but did state that “the engagement, traffic, and reach has all been very successful”.
“We observed how quickly Snapchat was growing and how quickly [our customers] understood the benefits and wanted to make it their own. It allows them to be broadcasters. It’s a phenomena that as soon as we could see the momentum we were able to do something interesting,” Cartridge explained.
Snapchat has been on the radar for considerably less time than other social networks but it has managed to established itself firmly among brand advertisers looking to engage its millennial audience, something rival Pinterest has arguably struggled with.
Pinterest’s US operation is more advanced when it comes to formats that brands can play with, and is only really six months into plans to bring those same tools to UK advertisers. However, the main challenge it faces is its historical positioning as a place for inspiration, rather than purchase. UK bosses have been trying to shift this view, and it has been snapping up a raft of start-ups to build shoppable technology into its platform.
But, as Cartridge points out, it’s a “fast fashion” market that River Island plays in, rather than considered purchases.
“In terms of a wishlist and consideration platform it’s highly effective. We see it being used for occasion dress shopping or things like Christmas so there are times of the year and wardrobe moments where it is relevant. We’re waiting with interest [to see how Pinterest will evolve], it has potential,” she explained.
“But it’s just not been as quick – the way the platform works has been less intuitive and immediate as some of the other media platforms.”
Playing with the media mix
In addition to its social plays, River Island has been investing more in its above-the-line communications. Since 2014, TV and cinema have played a greater role on media plans and going into 2017 this looks set to continue following the appointment of a new lead global creative agency in ODD London.
While a self-described ‘DIY company’ that tends to hire resource internally, River Island will work with a number of external partners on larger projects. With ODD, Cartridge said that it’s beneficial “to have that external view sometimes and not become totally internally focused”.
ODD has plotted its SS17 campaign, which few details have been given on but it will offer a “stronger and more differentiating campaign message” than previous work.
“We were looking for creative that would work with us on building brand identity and creating cut through. The market is increasingly competitive and everyone is getting better and better at making content. All of our competition – from value through to pure play – has upped the quality and quantity [of their content],” she added.
“We needed [an agency] to create something visually amazing but also communicate an idea that we could execute through our daily and weekly content. It’s a way of working that will help up deliver a more meaningful idea throughout next year.”
TV and cinema executions will form the backbone of the campaign but River Island will also bring online video further into the mix.
Like many high-street retailers, River Island has been seduced by the tech available to better align the off and online shopping experience. Being a private and family-run business has its upsides when getting behind such experiments, with Cartridge explaining that it takes little effort to convince bosses to try something new.
This year, that has seen it run mobile point of sale trials in a select number of stores, allowing people to check out on the shop floor.
“It has been quite successful,” revealed Cartridge. “Particularly in fitting rooms and footwear. We’re looking at the development of that for next year.”
It has also teamed up with Google on trials to integrate its stock data into search so that when people are hunting for an item they can see availability at their nearest store.