What SMEs can learn from London Fashion Week

IN: Business news

With the fashion industry contributing billions to the UK economy each year, Aldermore takes a reflective look at last month’s events to see what insights SMEs could gain from London Fashion Week.

London Fashion Week is one of the key events in the fashion industry’s calendar, with over 170 UK and international emerging and established designers taking part, attendees of the event exceeding 5000 and numerous orders being placed with a net worth of over £100 million. Aside from being a unique platform for small retail enterprises to showcase their designs on the world stage, there are a few other key business insights SMEs could take from the illustrious event.

The importance of social media

The modern phenomenon of social media has permanently changed the way businesses market their products; from targeted advertising to developing a strong brand identity, it has the potential to be a lucrative marketing tool. As of June 2015, Facebook had 1.49 billion active monthly users, which indicates the vast range of potential customers that businesses could reach via social media. Looking at the AW15 London Fashion Week, the event’s social media hype played a key part in its success.

Despite social media’s rising importance, SMEs seem to have fallen behind when it comes to their digital presence, with 42 per cent of small businesses not yet using social media to support their marketing efforts. Without making use of the pre-existing social media platforms readily available to them, SMEs could be losing customers to their more digital savvy competitors.

The need to make use of available technology

Research conducted by BT this year highlighted that almost three quarters (72 per cent) of UK businesses believe it is very important to keep up with technological advances. Technological innovations were rife at London Fashion Week, showing directly how technology can lead to a quick sale.

In a report analysing ‘The Internet Economy in the G-20’, conducted by global management and consultant firm, The Boston Consulting Group, the opportunities presented by harnessing technology are clearly depicted:

“[The Internet] has reached a scale and level of impact that no business, industry, or government can ignore. And like any technological phenomenon with its scale and speed, it presents myriad opportunities, which consumers have been quick and enthusiastic to grasp.”

The report also highlights that by 2016, there will be 3 billion internet users globally; a possible customer base that some SMEs are yet to tap in to.

Developing brand identity

Competition is a constant threat to SMEs, with 13 per cent of SMEs identifying competition as a main obstacle to the success of their business. One way to tackle this issue is by developing a strong brand identity.

Standing out from the crowd can often be difficult for SMEs due to limited budgets. However, focussing on building an identifiable brand targeted at specific consumers can put a business on the map. The benefits of having a strong, recognisable brand identity are invaluable and clearly highlighted in marketing consultants, Clarity’s paper, ‘A Strong Brand’:

“By pressing the emotional buttons that appeal to your target customers, a strong, recognisable brand will act as a ‘short cut’ in their decision making process.”

Making use of business mentors

Despite many SMEs recognising that external advice could play a key part in helping their business to succeed, many are failing to reap the possible benefits from business mentors. In fact, while 93 per cent of mid-sized firms agreed that business mentoring was helpful or useful to their organisation, on average just a third (33 per cent) actually make use of a business mentor. Prior to the AW15 London Fashion Week, mentoring played a substantial role in many designers’ preparation for the event.

As well as making use of mentors’ fresh ideas and advice on addressing weaknesses, mentors could provide SMEs with the opportunity to develop new skills and enhance their industry knowledge.

Delivering excellent customer service

Providing an excellent customer service is fundamental to business growth, and with 73 per cent of SME employers aiming to grow their business over the next two to three years, it’s a key area that needs to be targeted. This was clearly demonstrated at London Fashion Week, with organisers quite literally going the extra mile for their clients.

In a report on The Future of Customer Service by management consulting firm, Bain & Company, the importance of retaining existing customers was reiterated:

“In a competitive business environment where it can cost 10 times more to acquire a customer than to keep one, it pays handsome profits to pay close attention to customer service.”



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