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David v Goliath: sustainable brands have found the weak spots of fast fashion giants

By Jo Melvin | Junior Copywriter

Tug Agency

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The Drum Network article

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December 5, 2022 | 7 min read

Jo Melvin and Monet Blake of Tug Agency look at the rise of sustainable fashion and its battle against the industry’s fast fashion 'Goliaths'. Melvin roots for small and sustainable e-commerce brands.

Clothing rail

Tug's Jo Melvin debates: slow v fast fashion / Clark Street Mercantile via Unsplash

Fast fashion companies mass-produce clothing, offering it to consumers at an inconceivably low price point. Clothes are made quickly by staff, many of whom have been reported to earn less than the minimum wage and work in unacceptable conditions.

Not only are these companies unethical; they’re bad for the planet. They produce huge amounts of clothing in short time frames, all while the fashion industry is already known as a significant contributor to global carbon emissions.

Fast fashion giants

Typically, fast fashion companies have the largest online presence. They truly are giants. Like any giant, they usually make the most noise. But smaller independent companies who are truly sustainable, despite the obvious difference in size, can challenge these looming behemoths. In fact, size might be the very reason these sustainable brands can stand out against the relentless fast fashion giants.

Consumers are wising up to greenwashing and want to understand what brands are actually doing to become more sustainable. Sustainability in search is rising; the term ‘sustainable fashion’ is expected to grow by 66% this year. Searchers want information about what sustainable fashion is and will want to know how fashion companies are following through with their promises.

Sustainability-first search

It’s not just the customer; Google is also on board. The search engine will soon start highlighting pre-owned items in its search results.

Features like this are Google’s way of empowering the shopper. By combining other updates like the Helpful Content Update that prioritize high-value content, users will continue to become better-informed. This inclusion by Google will ultimately help smaller, more sustainable brands stand up to their fast fashion competitors.

Small brand power

So, what tactics can a David use to beat a Goliath? As with the original David, it’s all about targeting weaknesses.

Fast fashion Goliaths have been around for a while. They have huge teams and dominate keyword rankings. However, with such scale comes sizable issues. Goliaths have, and are constantly producing, a lot of products, and therefore a lot of URLs. This can exceed the crawl budget of these sites and impact the indexing of pages.

The sheer volume of pages also makes it hard for Goliaths to keep up with their content creation. The result? Thin, poor quality content across these larger sites. This reduces the value of pages, how they inform the user, and how useful Google deems them to be. These are just a few of the areas of fragility that our Davids can expose and work around.

Smaller brands, our potential Davids, can target the Goliaths’ vulnerable areas. Filling out pages with informative content can help to one-up fast fashion rivals. While adding content above the fold isn’t ideal, Davids can work around this by adding a small paragraph at the top of the page followed by more detailed copy further down.

Sitemaps help Google to understand site structure. Goliaths aren’t making the most of them. Sample data shows that Goliaths’ sitemaps have a higher number of orphan URLs and broken links. Smaller brands can work on keeping their sitemap up-to-date to find their edge.

Bigger isn't necessarily better

Managing out-of-stock products can reduce broken links. Meanwhile, examining orphan pages will help to identify whether they still belong on the site. Davids can try to include these back into the site structure (if they do belong). If the pages aren’t critical, they can be removed.

While the size of Goliaths can be intimidating, it’s the very thing causing many of their weaknesses. By working on these areas, it’s possible for Davids to make a big impact, and succeed where fast fashion will likely fail.

Modern Marketing Brand Strategy SEO

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Tug Agency

Tug is a performance driven, global digital marketing agency, optimised to grow ambitious brands, through the smart combination of data, media, content and technology.

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