Over the past few years, bloggers have been very influential for many shoppers, especially if said blogger is a similar size. Many stores have embraced online comments (Anthropologie, the US Gap Inc. sites (now when will the Canadian sites add this feature?), etc…) and others are getting in on photo sharing. Canadian footwear chain, Town Shoes, for example, is currently running a contest where people can take pictures of their favourite shoes from the store for the chance to win them. This is all and good as it helps shoppers and builds fans and publicity. However, not all stores like this sort of thing.
A few days ago, I came across a post in J.Crew Aficionada about another style blogger who was told by sales associates at a J.Crew store to stop taking photos. While this is a rule at many stores, including ones that have embraced customer comments, J.Crew seems to be stuck in 2006 when it comes to social media. Their Facebook page does not allow fans to leave wall messages and their last tweet was made nearly one year ago. Why bother having Twitter in this case? Their two main competitors, Ann Taylor and Banana Republic, tweet regularly – several times a week or even daily – and definitely reply to people who tweet them. J.Crew, on the other hand, has not only not been very active on Twitter, but rarely replies to fans’ comments on Facebook. They also only have eight photos on Instagram compared to over 1,000 for Banana Republic and just under 500 with Ann Taylor. When a company is engaging and interactive with the customers on social media, it shows that they care about what we think and work hard to make improvements (e.g. Anthropologie now has an expanded petite collection. However, petite sizes are still not available in stores). Despite not being social media savvy, there are many style blogs who frequently review J.Crew. It would, however, be better if reviews (or at least ratings) were enabled on their site, especially for people who don’t hunt down blogs. In fact, user content will generate more fans.
As for user-generated images, I like it. While I’m not a big fan of fitting room photos (though I have to admit that I have done this in the past, mostly to illustrate how badly fitted something is) – usually very poor quality thanks to awkward posing – I do like seeing regular people, especially people who are roughly my size, wearing clothes from my favourite stores. It better helps me see what things look like on me when the “model” is similarly sized. I also like seeing people who don’t have salon-styled hair and professional make-up when it comes to reviewing work wear because that’s much more realistic. Plain hair with a skirt and sweater is much more common than an old school secretary coif – in 2012, anyway. However, I would much rather see properly posed and style pictures taken with a better camera at home or on location than in a dressing room. Again, it has to do with realism. That dressing room look is just as fake as photos for style guides/catalogues.
Reviews are also a big help for many people. Reading a description of how something fits, the kind of material it’s made out of and so forth are great at helping someone decide whether it’s worth the purchase – especially if said item is going to be purchased online. This is the case of many people who are specialty-sized as some brick-and-mortar stores don’t bother carrying petites, plus and/or talls. Reading about how something fits on someone similarly sized is just as helpful as seeing the images. Comments from people who have made purchases, whether it be on blogs, social media or on the company’s own website do help.