How 300+ Fashion Marketers Use Content Marketing & Social Media To Drive Traffic And Create Sales
Fashion Marketing: Here is the full research report with all the results from interviewing over 300 marketers in the fashion business.
By Bart De Pelsmaeker
Get answers to these questions:
90%
of fashion marketers consider content marketing to be critical to the success of their organization.
49%
of fashion marketers consider their content marketing to be successful
  • Is content marketing and social media relevant in fashion marketing?
  • What do people who are successful with content marketing and social media do different?
  • Many experts say that having a strategy and documenting it is important. But is it?
  • Should I produce a lookbook or start working on launching a blog?
  • Yes, I am on Instagram, but should I do Youtube or Twitter?
  • Should I do paid social media or not?
  • What other best practices should I do?
Want to know what the successful marketers are doing?
It is no secret that if you want to build out a fashion brand today, then content marketing and social media are critical elements to your success. Over 90% of fashion marketers consider content marketing to be critical for the success of their organization. Yet, only 49% considers their content marketing activities to be successful. 1 out of 2! No panic, we are going to share with you exactly what successful marketing pros revealed about what they do to make them successful. Also, we decided to make this research really actionable. So we went beyond the traditional high-level questions and got seriously nitty-gritty about it, and asked questions to the level of formats (lookbooks, blogs, ..), research tactics (keywords, ..) and more.
Fashion is extremely visual. So we figured that the tools used in the fashion industry would be significantly different from the blog-driven business-to-business marketing. And indeed, our research confirmed that fashion content marketing has (or should have) its own set of tools.
Apart from product pages and product descriptions, social media is by far the #1 tool used by fashion content marketers. Other widely used tactics are online lookbooks, video, blogs and newsletters. However, because a tactic is widely used does not always mean it is the right one to use. So we asked people who were using a specific content tactic, if that tactic was working for them or not. Who wins? Again, the clear #1 winner is social media. 83% of marketers indicated that this tactics was working for them! Other tactics seemed harder to master, as the success rate of the next content tactic immediately drops below 50%. Nevertheless, these might be worthwhile to try: newsletters, online catalogues, online lookbooks and print catalogues all have a success rate between 45 and 50%. There is a lot of information in these statistics. But before we jump into our recommendations, let’s quickly talk about why we would recommend or not recommend certain tools. It is about beating the odds. The way we see it, if 29% of marketers say that blogs are successful for them, then you have a ⅓ chance of being successful too. Probably even less, since you are starting out and you have to go through a learning curve. Unless of course… you have an “unfair” advantage which will help you beat the odds. The advantage does not have to be that unfair. In the case of blogs, it is possible that you previously created a blog already, with success. So you might feel that you can be better than the average. If this is so, feel free to ignore our recommendations and follow your instincts. But don’t blame us if your instincts were wrong :-).
How good are your content marketing plans? 
In the previous chapter we looked at what tools content marketers in fashion use, and which of these tools generally brings them success.
How do content marketers utilize paid social media?
Again, social media is obviously a fashion marketing favorite. Out of the few (13%) people who do not use this tactic yet, 50% is planning to start using it in the next 12 months. We will also see more and more lookbooks popping up, as 44% of people who are not doing lookbooks currently, are planning to start producing them.
We also wanted to see where content marketing was going to evolve to in the next year. So we asked marketers who were not using a specific content tool if they were planning on starting to use that tactic in the next 12 months.
What works?
However, 1 out of 3 content marketing plans contains a plan to include blogs or videos, and the chances that content marketers will be successful with those do not look very promising. So all in all a mixed bag. Let’s say an A for choosing social media, a B+ for choosing online lookbooks and newsletters, and a C+ for blogs ad video. What’s next? Now we know what we should produce, but another question is to make content shoppable or not.
So what should you stop doing and what should you start doing? Here is our recommendation: for every content marketing tactic that you currently use or plan to use, do the following: look at how many people use it successfully. For tactics that you use, if you feel that you are not being successful today, evaluate sincerely if you have what it takes to beat the odds in the next 12 to 18 months. If not, we think you should seriously consider putting your investment in other types of content where your chances of success are higher. For tactics that you plan to use, think twice if that success rate does not look so attractive. Do you have what it takes or do you plan to get what it takes to beat the odds? If not, maybe you want to consider another tactic? Compared to what works in reality for most content marketers, the plans for content marketing seem to be rather off track. Social media is the number one tool that people plan to adapt, ad it works great for most people. Secondly, many people are planning to do lookbooks and newsletters, and they have a good shot at getting those tactics working successfully for them.
If you want to know more about creating successful lookbooks, read "How To Create A Powerful Lookbook And Get More Customers."
Should you make your content 'shoppable'?
Looking back at the most common objectives for content, we know that the top ranking goals are brand awareness (46%), product sales (26%), higher engagement (19%) and customer loyalty (8%). And in the end, the purpose of your content, heck of your whole company, is to sell. So we wondered what is the relationship between content being successful and content being shoppable.  Let’s have a look which content tools are directly shoppable.
Content that is mostly shoppable is social media, digital magazines, lookbooks, catalogues, blogs and newsletters. We can immediately see that many of these tools also ranked high when asked if they were being deployed successfully. Social media, online lookbooks and online catalogues ranked all in the Top 5 of successful content marketing tools. And when we looked closer at the successfully deployed tools, we saw that 70% of them were directly shoppable. Looking at all the content tactics that were unsuccessfully deployed, we saw that only 27% of them were directly shoppable. Looking even deeper, comparing per content tactic if successful ones were on average more directly shoppable than unsuccessful ones, we indeed found a strong correlation between ‘success’ and being directly shoppable. Social media, online lookbooks, newsletters, catalogues and digital magazines that were successful were in most cases (around 75-80%) also directly shoppable. Content tactics were we saw a low correlation, and so where being shoppable or not did not seem to influence success, were video, blogs and moodboards.
Key Take-Away:
As a general rule, you should always consider making your content directly shoppable. We only saw a positive correlation between success and being directly shoppable. Especially for Social media, online lookbooks, newsletters, catalogues and digital magazines there is an strong relation between success and being shoppable. It seems most fashion marketers do not make their newsletters shoppable - only 49% does, but they should. Successful newsletters are 78% of the time directly shoppable. For video and moodboards you might consider making them shoppable, but the positive effect is likely to be much less. And lastly, for blogs, there is almost no positive correlation: almost as many blogs are shoppable in the successful and unsuccessful categories. Read on - we are getting into the best parts now.
The two main ways for distributing content are organic search (68%), email newsletters (65%) and paid social media (61%). What? We counted the responses here several times, just to make sure. The number one way that marketers in fashion rely on to have their content delivered to the right audience is organic search. We were quite surprised that only 45% of marketers use keyword research, yet so many more trust in organic search to bring them traffic.
We also asked which of these content tools were successful for them. Top earners were paid strategies: both paid search and paid social media got A-ratings for being successful. In a second place we saw (still) organic search and email newsletters.
In social media, it is pretty clear who the big beneficiary of the fashion industry’s hard-earned advertising money is. Facebook & Instagram (wait, that is Facebook as well) are by far the two most utilized channels for paid promotion. However, a solid 56% of fashion marketers using social media indicates they do spend any budget on paid promotion. If we look at the organizations who are successful with content marketing, this number is higher: 65% engages in paid social media.
Key Take-Away:
Paid tactics are rated absolute number one by content marketers. So if you have the budget available, it is likely worth your effort to explore these tactics. Organic search and email newsletters are favorites for content marketers as well. Organic search is an important tactic for fashion marketers - it is surprising that less than half of content marketers does not do keyword research tough. This seems like a straightforward win. But here it is, in a nutshell: In fashion marketing, the highest success factors for distribution were for:
  • Paid search
  • Paid social media
  • Email newsletters
  • Organic Search

Which Distribution Should You Use For Your Content?
Social Media: Fashion Marketers Favorite Tool
Social media is obviously a fashion marketer’s go-to content marketing tactic. So we delved a bit deeper into how fashion marketers are using social media. First question we wanted to see answered: which social media channels are fashion marketers using?
Facebook and Instagram are the absolute two favorites. These are used by over 90% of fashion marketers. Somewhat surprisingly (at least for us) was that Twitter is used by more marketers than Pinterest. However, when we asked content marketers which of the used platforms they considered critical to their company, we got an answer more in line with our expectations. Instagram, Facebook, Youtube and Pinterest as visual social media platforms came out nicely on top.
If we look at the data per social media platform, then we see that the percentage of successful organizations utilizing paid strategies is higher for Instagram (57% vs 46%) and Facebook (71% vs 63%). For other platforms, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Youtube, the number is lower. However, less successful organizations do spend on paid social media for these latter platforms.
Key Take-Away:
Almost every marketer in fashion believes in the power of social media. The platforms that are deemed the most critical to their business are unsurprisingly the visual ones: Instagram, Facebook, Youtube and Pinterest. It is interesting that Youtube is ranked as critical by only 30% of the marketers who are using it. So safe bets would be Facebook and Instagram. Successful content marketers also use paid social media on Facebook and Instagram more than their unsuccessful counterparts. If your content marketing is not delivering what you expect from it, you might want to try giving it a bit of boost using paid tactics on these two platforms.
The Core Of Success: Quality Content
If you are reading this, chances are that you are one of the growing numbers of marketers who are adopting content as a strategy to boost their marketing. Content marketing & social media are extremely relevant and important in the fashion industry.
However, only 49% considers their content marketing to be successful. We are hopeful to see a better number next year. It seems we’re on the right track and improving, since 63% of interviewed fashion marketers said they were more successful with content marketing now compared to last year. For this improvement to happen, marketers plan to do the following:
  • More content marketing (94%)
  • Higher quality content (93%), and
  • Increased budget for content marketing (58%)
Why do companies and marketers engage in content marketing?
Top ranking goals are
  • brand awareness (46%),
  • product sales (26%),
  • higher engagement (19%) and
  • customer loyalty (8%).
What did marketers who saw their content marketing efforts become more successful do to create that change?
The number one reason for increased success is not surprisingly producing a higher quality of content (75%). Other really important reasons are producing more content (41%), better audience definition (41%) and strategy changes (37%).Looking at the other side of the coin, what happened to marketers who saw their content marketing success decline in the last year.
Lack of time and money are the two most cited reasons why content marketing did not improve in the last year, and 1 out of 3 marketers also indicates having trouble creating good visual content.
Key Take-Away:
Quality content is crucial. 3 out of 4 marketers indicate it is the reason for their content marketing to be more effective. 93% of marketers indicates they will be working on creating better quality going forward. If your content marketing activities today are not successful, you should first make sure that you offer solid quality content. So no big surprises, right? Content marketing is a crucial element of fashion marketing strategy, and quality content is the key to success.
How Do Successful Content Marketers Find The Right Content?
The number one source used by content marketers in fashion to find the right content is customer feedback. Secondly, marketers tend to study their competitors, likely to see what they are doing. The percentages for these two factors are not very different between successful and unsuccessful organizations, so we could not find a distinguishing factor. However, when we looked at keyword research, we saw that 54% of successful organizations used this to determine the right content, while only 33% of unsuccessful used this. So it does seem that keyword research is linked to being successful in content marketing, even in fashion.
How many tactics should you use to determine the right content?
When we look at the number of tactics used to determine the right content, we see that successful organizations spend more attention to this. On average, successful organizations use on average 2.4 tactics, while unsuccessful ones utilize on average 1.9.
Key Take-Away:
We always believed that audience research can help marketers significantly with creating success. And research shows us we are right to believe so. Successful content marketers tend to use more tactics to do research. So make sure to use 2 or 3 different ways to research your content. Noteworthy is keyword research. While more than half of content marketers do not perform keyword research, and only ⅓ of unsuccessful ones, it seems very worthwhile to start engaging in this.
The Impact Of Strategy & Organizational Commitment
OK, budget and money is important, but how about having the company’s commitment and support, and having a documented strategy and KPIs?
85% of interviewed marketers said there was a strong sense of commitment to content marketing. If we look at the difference between successful and unsuccessful, we see a clear difference. 98% of successful marketers says there is a strong sense of commitment for content marketing, compared to only 50% of unsuccessful content marketers.
However, we once more see a clear difference between the successful and unsuccessful content marketers. It is almost a black & white contrast: 72% of successful marketers agree with having a documented strategy and KPIs, while only 13% of unsuccessful marketers say they have a strategy in place.
It seems there is still some work to do on the strategy and KPI-setting part though: Only 45% would agree with the fact that there is a documented strategy and KPIs in place.
Key Take-Away:
About company commitment. 
While having the company’s (and management) support behind you does not seem to be a guarantee for success, since about 50% of unsuccessful content marketers indicate that they do enjoy their company’s support. However, it does seem that is a necessary condition for success. There are almost no marketers who indicate success in content marketing without having the company’s support. About having a documented strategy and measurable KPIs in place. 
Here we have almost a 1:1 correlation. Marketers who have a documented strategy in place are mostly successful, and marketers who do not have a documented content strategy in place are almost always unsuccessful. In other words: if you do NOT have your company’s support, and you do not have a strategy in place, you FIRST job is to build that strategy and KPIs, build a strategy and rally your organization up to support it. Now, you might say that this sounds all great, but that you need a (winning) pilot, to totally convince all the stakeholders in your company. Or maybe you’re asking: “Great, but what should I put in that strategy?” So how do successful marketers execute their content strategy? Let’s have a look!
How Much Budget Do You Need?
One of the tricky parts of marketing is always a correct budget allocation. So we asked folks about their experiences.
Successful content marketers tend to spend significantly more, especially if we compare it to people who said they were unsuccessful. The large majority of successful content marketers spends over 10% on content marketing, and most spend between 25 to 50% on content marketing. In contrast, when we look at the budget allocation from unsuccessful content marketers, we see that most spend less than 10%, and few spend over 25% of their total budget.
We see that most marketers content marketing budgets are in the 10-25% of total budget range, and the 25-50% and 1-10% ranges. However, if we look at how much the marketers who achieved success with content marketing spend, we see a notable difference.
Key Take-Away:
Content marketing might be very effective, but it is not free. If you want to succeed, you should be prepared to spend a good chunk of your marketing budget on content marketing. Successful content marketers spend mostly somewhere between 25 to 50% of their budget on content marketing.
The Amazing Importance Of Measuring ROI
The question we wanted to confirm last was “Should you measure content marketing?” We all instinctively believe and hear from many sources that one should measure. But being the skeptical human beings that we are, we felt the need for some data to prove that measuring data is valuable. I know, this is getting quite esoteric.
So is there a relationship between gathering data and creating success?
Wow. An incredible 36% of marketers does not measure the ROI of their content marketing. And 24% is unsure. Meaning that there is only 39% of marketers who measure ROI and communicate about it. There is work to be done here.
But more importantly, does measuring ROI give you a better chance at being successful? The numbers would indicate so. 49% of successful marketers indicates that they measure ROI, while only 8% of unsuccessful ones do so. Across the board though, communication about ROI is quite poor. 1 out of 4 marketers does not even know if anything is being measured.
So if measuring ROI is important, what KPI should marketers measure?
Traffic and product sales are the two most common KPIs measured, with social sharing in third place. Interestingly, we see that both soft or vanity metrics like traffic, social sharing, and community growth are measured together with hard metrics like product sales and conversion rates. Do we see a difference between successful and unsuccessful content marketers?
As expected, successful marketers do more measurement. KPIs that are more measured by successful marketers are website traffic, social sharing, and also product sales, conversion rates and time spent on website. Community growth and inbound links is used about the same by both groups, and SEO rankings is actually more used by the unsuccessful content marketing group.
Key Take-Away:
Our most important advice to the 36% of marketers who are not measuring ROI is to START measuring! Successful marketers measure! And they measure a lot. We see that the areas most measured by successful marketers are not only vanity metrics like website traffic, social sharing, time spent on website, but also the ‘harder’ KPIs like product sales and conversion rates. Secondly, we were quite surprised that so many marketers (24%) were out of the loop with regards to content marketing ROI. more communication and sharing about the ROI results will more than likely result in greater commitment and involvement of the team.
Full Summary
In a hurry? Here is a summary of our key findings: What do the successful content marketers do that others don’t? 
Here is the difference we found between successful and unsuccessful content marketers:
  • Success was achieved in the past through a higher quality of content (75%), better audience definition (41%) and more content (41%).
  • Success was prevented in the past by budget issues (55%), not enough time (45%), and lack of good visual content (33%).

We revealed statistics showing the effect of organizational hurdles for success: Underspending, lack of organizational support and having no documented strategy Budgets.
  • 63% of successful content marketers spend over 10% of their budget or more on content marketing-related activities.
  • Unsuccessful organizations spend mostly (58% of them) less than 10% on content marketing.
Organizational commitment to content marketing.
  • Virtually all successful content marketers (98%) confirm that there is a general sense of commitment to content marketing in the company.
  • Only 50% of unsuccessful content marketers said there was a commitment to content marketing.

Content marketing strategy/KPIs for content success.
  • 72% of successful marketers have a documented content marketing strategy/KPIs for content success.
  • 4% of unsuccessful content marketers have a documented strategy

We learned which content formats work great: social media, newsletters and online lookbooks/catalogues. And that having that content shoppable is likely to increase success.
  • The most successful content formats were social media, newsletters, and online catalogues/lookbooks.
  • The most unsuccessful content formats video, blog, how-to videos, moodboards and content aggregation.

Shoppable Content.
  • Having content available that is shoppable helps for social media, online lookbooks, newsletters, catalogues and digital magazines.
  • Being shoppable did not influence success for video, blogs and moodboards.

We also learned that many content marketers are planning investment in formats that are unlikely to bring success:
  • Social media, online lookbooks and newsletters are the top content formats that marketers plan to add.
  • But about 1 in 3 wants to add video or blogs, which have a low chance of success

We learned that visual content marketing platforms work best, and that paid social media is a tactic deployed by successful content marketers.
  • Facebook and Instagram, with Youtube and Pinterest in a second place, are the critical tools for social media.
  • Facebook and Instagram are used by a large majority (over 90%) of content marketers, with most of them confirming these platforms are critical (Instagram: 86% and Facebook: 78%)
  • Pinterest and especially Youtube could be used by more, and Twitter is used by 61% although only 38% says it is critical.

Paid social media. Successful content marketers spend money on paid social media, mostly on Instagram and Facebook.

The statistics also show that successful content marketers do more research to determine the right content than unsuccessful ones.
  • On average, successful content marketers use 2.4 tactics, and do more keyword research (54%).
  • Unsuccessful content marketers do about a quarter less research, they use on average 1.9 tactic and only 33% does keyword research.

We found that content marketers are under-utilizing paid distribution strategies. Organic search and email newsletters are the most widely used tools, and they are quite effective. Most successful tools for distribution were paid social media and paid search. But many are not using these tools: 41% for paid search and 61% for paid social media. And, we also learned that most content marketers don’t measure ROI or don’t know if they do, but they should. And successful content marketers use more KPIs to measure success.
  • 49% of successful content marketers measures ROI on content marketing activities
  • 8% of unsuccessful content marketers measures ROI on content marketing activities
In Conclusion
Content marketing & social media are so important for fashion marketing. We hope that you found our research and conclusions interesting and useful. We certainly had good fun doing this research!
What Works And What Doesn't? Social Media, Email, Lookbooks, Blogs?
Contents:
By looking at our findings, and seeing what works for other marketers, you can make your own roadmap of what you should do or not do. It is perfectly ok not to do what brings success for others, as long as you know why you are doing it different and if doing things different works for you.

Click on the section you want to visit!
1. Content Formats And Tactics: What Works And What Doesn't?
2. Should You Make Your Content Shoppable?
3. How To Optimize Your Content Distribution?
4. Social Media: Fashion Marketers Favorite Tool
5. The Core Of Success: Quality Content
6. How Do Successful Content Marketers Find The Right Content?
7. The Impact Of Strategy & Organizational Commitment
8. How Much Budget Do You need?
9. The Surprising Importance Of Measuring ROI
10. The FULL Summary
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