Using Fan Fashion to Build Customer Loyalty

BY Ava DeMarco

Building customer loyalty is key for retailers and, while part of that is obviously offering desirable, high-quality products, consumers in today’s world want something more — they want to be a part of something larger than themselves – a community they can engage with.

One category that is unique in its ability to build community is team fan fashion, bringing together fans of sports teams and giving them a way of expressing their team spirit, having fun and being fashionable at the same time. These fans want all of the staples – hats and jerseys – but they also want an assortment of stylish product options that let them show their connection to the teams they love every day.

Having been in the business of licensed sports team fashions for nearly ten years, we’ve found that, regardless of the market or industry, capitalizing on community and providing unique, fun products that people are going to talk about to their friends and family is one of the more crucial elements in building brands and customer loyalty.

How can retailers, who sell thousands of different brands, capitalize on the excitement of a strong, dedicated, pre-existing fan community?

Connect with the community.
Chain retailers have the advantage of being top of mind in the communities they’re located in. When shopping for everyday items for their everyday lives, customers tend to turn to chains first, because they expect them to have exactly what they need.

In many communities, rooting for the local team is more than a leisure activity – it’s a passion. Sports is something that unifies people, something that people talk about, that the media covers – and that everyone in the community has in common. These teams are staples of everyday life and carrying team merchandise makes a retailer part of that package. In a sense, not carrying fan fashion items in-store would mean missing out on a huge market that’s good for steady incremental sales and impulse buys.

Carry a combination of traditional, trendy and edgy products.
Traditional items are good to have handy, because while everyone has them, customers will incrementally keep buying them to replace their worn out products. But the real value comes with the addition of trendy and edgy products, which make customers smile, that freshen up the display, get people excited and result in impulse purchases.

Integrate fan fashion into regular fashion and accessory displays.
Sports culture is strong when fans begin integrating their favorite teams into their everyday fashion. Long gone are the days when traditional game day fashion – jerseys, hats, gloves, and face paint – are enough to keep the avid fan happy. People now look for ways they can express themselves and their team spirit in high-quality, stylish fashions appropriate for work and outings with friends.

Consider this: Customers looking to buy a new handbag will typically go to the handbag aisle, not the licensed product section. While browsing the totes, the clutches and the carry-all bags, their favorite team logo catches their eye and triggers that warm feeling unique to fandom. Drawn in by their attachment to the team, they pick it up, get excited and impulse buy, because they have to have it or have to give it as a gift. The customer wouldn’t have found that bag if it had been in the sports section.

Be flexible and budget open to buy dollars for each month.
Retailers need to keep a monthly open to buy budget so as not to miss out on golden opportunities. In the sports industry, wins and losses dictate fan fever and it’s important to be flexible and have money set aside to purchase new fan products each month. That way when the Royals won the World Series, retailers in the Kansas City region could stock up on more Royals fan fashions to prepare for the fan frenzy.

Know the manufacturer.
Anyone who is focused on the fan fashion category knows that there’s a wide disparity among manufacturers. Are their products well-made? Is the design unique? Is it versatile? Does it inspire excitement? Would it make a great gift? Will a customer’s friends ask them where they bought it? Are the products still going to be relevant a year later when the merchandise finally hits the sales floor?

The manufacturer’s track record is also essential. What’s their history with other stores? What are the rankings of their products online? Are their products carried in team stores?

Whether a retailer carries fan fashions already, carries a limited amount or carries nothing at all, they have to ask whether or not they are meeting all the needs of their market. Having the right approach and the right strategy for fan fashion will build on existing community good will and make customers feel more connected – which is something all brands aspire to.

Rob Brandegee is CEO, and Ava DeMarco is president, of Little Earth Productions.


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Consumers can join the Twitter brand conversation

BY Dan Berthiaume

A new feature on Twitter will let advertisers engage consumers more directly than ever before.

For many years, Twitter has offered advertisers a service called Promoted Tweets that puts their tweets at the top of users’ content stream with images, videos and/or hashtags encouraging retweets, likes and follows. Now, Twitter is expanding the capability it gives advertisers to directly engage consumers with an offering called “conversational ads.”

Conversational ads include a call to action buttons with customizable hashtags that encourage consumer engagement. When a call to action button is tapped, the user sees a brand message accompanied by the creative and hashtag buttons. The consumer can then personalize the tweet and share it with his or her followers. As a thank you, the consumer then receives a message from the brand for having engaged with the tweet.

Finally, the new tweet appears to the consumer’s followers in their timelines, including the brand’s original photo or video. Each shared tweet can drive earned media for the advertiser at no extra cost.

Twitter continues to attempt to transfer itself into a commerce platform. While conversational ads do not drive purchases as directly as the “Buy Now” button Twitter released in fall 2015, they are still another step in the evolution of Twitter, and social media in general, into a full-fledged omnichannel retail touchpoint.

Conversational ads are currently available in beta for select advertisers in all markets. Samsung Canada is among the advertisers publicly identified as testing the offering.

Media reports also indicate Twitter is considering significantly expanding the character length restriction on tweets from 140 to 10,000 by the end of first quarter 2016.


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Holiday Recap: Top Five Customer-Engaging Omnichannel Campaigns

BY Dan Berthiaume

As we wrap up another holiday season, it’s time to review some of the most innovative and successful omnichannel promotions launched by retailers.

Some of these promotions were brand new, some were updated versions of established favorites. And some directly drove purchases while others built brand awareness and general holiday goodwill. But all five of the selected campaigns engaged customers in ways that should help boost loyalty long after holiday cheer fades.

Harry & David

Harry & David hosted an interactive social media campaign called #TastetheHolidays. Consumers who signed up for the campaign online and followed Harry & David on Instagram and/or Twitter could win a variety of prizes.

To register, customers posted a photo of holiday flavors or foods on Instagram and/or Twitter and tagged their post using hashtags #TasteTheHolidays and #Sweepstakes, and also mentioned Harry & David in the post.

Harry & David shared favorite photos from the entries throughout the duration of the sweepstakes and randomly selected four grand winners. Harry & David intelligently leveraged the increasingly popular visual aspect of social media in this campaign, using technology from digital marketing solutions provider HelloWorld. Consumers are more likely to post or look at images, rather than text, on social platforms.

eBay/Westfield – Pop-up stations

eBay came up with a clever solution to help Americans solve a common dilemma: what to do about unwanted holiday gifts.

The online marketplace retailer operated pop-up selling stations in three select Westfield shopping centers across the country during “Boxing Weekend” from Dec. 26 (Boxing Day) to Dec. 27.

eBay and Westfield’s partnership recognized that the holiday shopping period does not end Dec. 25. It also includes post-holiday returns and exchanges, which are perfect opportunities to make additional new sales.

Allowing consumers to use eBay to help sell unwanted gifts to each other reduced the volume of returns for Westfield tenants while also providing a new revenue stream from consumer sales and driving additional traffic to malls.

Lowe’s – Santa Tracker

Lowe’s introduced a new mobile holiday app to help consumers prove that Santa is in fact real and visiting their homes. The retailer included a “Santa Tracker” feature on its Iris by Lowe’s app that connected to the retailer’s Iris automated “smart home” system.

Free for existing Iris customers, the app prompted a series of questions that, once answered, allowed the physical Iris devices in a consumer’s home to sync with the Santa Tracker. The app also offered new virtual invisible "Santa sensors" and a "Santa camera." On Christmas morning, the app revealed when, where and how Santa visited. There was also a Santa Tracker app for non-Iris users.

Users could check the app before Christmas to make sure the sensors are working and open the app Christmas morning to confirm when Santa visited the home and how he moved around inside. Santa Tracker did not directly result in any additional sales or revenue for Lowe’s, but is a good example of using digital customer engagement for “soft” ROI.

Belk – Santa Baby

Regional department store retailer Belk Inc. used social media to make the holidays a little more fun and rewarding for its shoppers, while also boosting its social following and brand awareness.

North Carolina-based Belk, which operates about 300 stores, teamed up with digital marketing solutions provider HelloWorld for the return of the Santa Baby sweepstakes, now in its second year. In an effort to increase mobile opt-ins and ultimately boost brand awareness and consumer engagement, Belk and HelloWorld allowed customers to create personalized e-cards, gifs, and TV spots.

Participants were able to enter the sweepstakes via the revamped mobile-optimized Santa Baby site, and earn additional entries by sharing the campaign on social networks, following Belk’s social media channels and referring friends to enter the sweepstakes. Additionally, entrants were able to personalize and share Santa Baby gifs as well as customize e-cards, which had the chance to be featured on the official sweepstakes site.

Office Depot – Elf Yourself

Office Depot re-released its Elf Yourself mobile app. The app, which Office Depot has offered every holiday season since 2012 and launched as an online platform in 2006, is a prime example of how retailers are using apps to build positive consumer sentiment and brand awareness.

Elf Yourself allows consumers to make funny videos of themselves and their friends dancing as elves. One billion elves have been created on the platform since its launch in 2006, by 480 million users in 215 countries.

This year, Office Depot also allowed consumers to make Hanukkah videos featuring “Moshe the Mensch” or dancing cats.

Elf Yourself does not directly drive sales, although there is a link to the Office Depot e-commerce site, and the “Moshe the Mensch” feature promotes the “Mensch on a Bench” product. But it definitely places the Office Depot brand in the middle of consumer holiday fun, which is one heck of a “soft” ROI.


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