Confessions of an Online Shopaholic.

Confessions of an Online Shopaholic.

‘Your order has been shipped’. If I had to choose five words which kept me going during during lockdown it would be these.

 In a world where every social media site or news source was flooded with the latest Covid-19 statistic or isolation horror story the home pages of my shopping apps felt like a safe haven with the only reminder of reality being a patterened face mask. My frequent shopping habit was problem enough as it was before lockdown but the pairing of hours spent scrolling through ASOS and Zara’s ‘New-In’ section along with increased disposable income now there was no outtings and you had yourself a dangerous combination.

What doesn’t help is that we live in a generation where looks and aesthetics are more important than ever before and especially among young women; being seen as fashionable can be viewed as a very valuable currency. A largely followed Instagram page for girls these days can be the goose that lays the golden egg, because along with clout comes opportunity and even more conveted is the seemingly endless stream of free stuff. While ‘OOTDs’ and ‘Look Books’ were previously confined to Instagram and Youtube the spillage onto TikTok was detrimental to my bank account. Every third video seemed to be a different variation of the same types of outfit, flared trousers with chucky trainers and an oversized jumper, a tennis skirt with a sweater vest and collar and then a strappy mini dress with a leather jacket and Doc Martins. Despite everyone seemingly having the same rotation of outfits, this new style seemed to require a lot more items and therefore more shopping. ‘Basic’ style is basically blasphemy in todays world of online fashion, long gone is the reign of the old faithful skinny jean and nice top combo, and the irony of it is, is that standing out has never looked more like fitting in. Unknowningly once again it seems, it is the same outfits just in different fonts.

There is comfort however in knowing that there’s many of us in the same boat, even if it is one that’s sinking. A common trend on twitter during lockdown did seem to be the on-going joke that many people started to get on first name basis with their delivery drivers. It’s hard not to love seeing them coming when it was one of the few things to look forward to during lockdown. While buying something physical instore is a rush, there has to be something said for the process of online shopping and how each stage provides its own release of satisfaction; ‘Your order has been processed’, ‘Your order has been shipped’, ‘Your order is out for delivery’ and then waiting feverishly for the driver to arrive only brings greater enjoyment to finally having the parcel in your hands.

One of the worst parts of online shopping however is how easy they make it to buy things you know you shouldn’t. Buy Now Pay Later is a cruel mistress and one not to be played with. Students are typically well used living beyond their means ‘loans in, wits out’ a phrase used far too often by people living large during freshers week and then scraping by until the next payment comes in, but now with the likes of Klarna this doesn’t apply to online shopping. Klarna is just one of many online financing services which allow you to pay in installments or at a later stage. While it’s well and good to use it once in a while when you’re short on cash and need something for an emergency it should be used with caution. All too often I have had friends become trigger happy with it and then been hit with reality when a hefty bill eventually comes through.

Unfortunately it seems that 2021 will mostly be a case of ‘all dressed up and got no where to go’ so here’s to hoping for the health of our finances that the fashion gurus won’t go changing up styles anytime soon.

Sophie Fox is studying BSc Hons Communication Management and Public Relations at Ulster University. You can contact her on Twitter and LinkedIn

HOW FASHION COMPANIES EVOLVED THEIR BRAND TO SUIT DEMAND

HOW FASHION COMPANIES EVOLVED THEIR BRAND TO SUIT DEMAND

Fashion is a market that thrives on evolution. Every season, we explore a new trend, influenced by ever-changing pop culture, runway design and brand marketing. The fashion industry is equipped to deal with fast paced universal change.

Although, I am not so sure they had anticipated a global pandemic that would overturn the world. 

COVID-19 was completely unprecedented (a word we hear all too much, I know, I know), hijacking the fashion industry in a matter of weeks. Many retailers struggled to sustain their business, resulting in a decline in revenue, staff layoffs and company closures.

We often hear the term ‘we are worlds apart’ being used to describe the differences between cultures and countries. Depending on where you are in the world, fashion is different. This is due to diverse trends, lifestyles and inspirations. It could be argued that this is no longer the case and for the first time ever, the world has never been so comparable.

Thanks to mandatory lockdown which strained to all corners of the world, our new daily routines are surprisingly similar. We are all staying at home, working remotely and finding ways and means to entertain ourselves in our free time (which there is noticeably a lot more of… so long social life). 

Although this situation is far from ideal, I think it is extremely important that we realise how lucky we are to have social media, allowing us to remain together, in a time when it is so important to remain apart. Not only does social media help us to keep in touch with our families and friends, it allows us to connect and share our experience worldwide. The pandemic has evolved consumer behaviour considerably, leading to unique global trends that suit our new ‘at home’ lifestyles.

Have you baked banana bread, learned Tik-Tok dances or completed a Chloe Ting workout?

No? Why lie? Of course you have.

The fashion industry has particularly benefited from this ‘global connection’ and has found itself amongst some of the most popular lockdown trends. In order to maintain sales, it is important that fashion companies place a high focus on monitoring these trends, evolving their brand to suit the demand.

Quick-thinking companies jumped at the opportunity to transform their brand into COVID-19 Chic. With the world now working from home, gone were the days of office dress codes, smart shoes and warm coats. The trend of 2020 quickly became driven by comfort dictated consumer spending, with loungewear coming out on top, with the slight exception of a smart shirt for a zoom meeting.

MODELS AT HOME

An area that was hugely impacted for the fashion industry was modelling opportunities. E-commerce fashion brands rely on models and clothing shoots to advertise their pieces online. Regrettably, like everything else, this could not happen, as these shoots involve a huge entourage of professionals in a studio to get the perfect shot.

Fashion brands have had to once again get creative, asking their models to style their new-in looks at home. This strategy proved very effective for brands, especially ASOS who have launched their ‘Models at Home’ campaign. Seeing clothes being styled at home by models of all different shapes and sizes, allows consumers an insight never seen before.

This ‘Models at Home’ strategy has created a refreshing change, removing the robotic, studio environment, allowing consumers to see how ‘normal’ people style outfits in their own environment.

FACE COVERINGS

Face coverings have quickly become an essential accessory during this crisis and in some cases have been a lifeline for fashion companies. The demand for face coverings was immediately colossal, becoming a wardrobe staple overnight.

Brands have been quick to avail of this demand, creating fashionable masks to allow consumers to replace their disposable, unflattering versions with trendy and exciting creations.

This trend was valuable for fashion brands in several ways. It has created a new design path to go down, generating product sales to make up for those that they will have lost. It has also created a demand for work within companies, saving jobs and creating new trends.

Face coverings have created a new way for fashion brands to increase their sustainability, allowing them to use their material offcuts, reducing waste. This is beneficial for their environmental reputation, something that often has negative connotations for fashion companies.

These companies can create positive media exposure for their brand by utilising the sustainable approach and showcasing this on social media. This will benefit them in several ways, promoting their desire to contribute to the fight against COVID-19 and creating an effective sustainability PR campaign, presenting their drive to increase sustainability within the fashion industry.

Social media influencers have embraced the fashionable face coverings. With lockdown restrictions easing slightly, there is a desire to dress up when we are finally getting out and about again. To keep up with this evolving trend, it is important that fashion brands not only create pretty face coverings but also create co-ordinating versions, to allow consumers to match with their clothing. This links with the sustainable approach, using patterned offcuts as well as generating further sales.

Matching your mask to your dress? That’s so fetch.

LOUNGEWEAR

A ground-breaking trend during lockdown has been loungewear. Wardrobes once overcrowded with uncomfortable jeans and stiff blazers are now significantly softer, showcasing comfortable, yet respectable transitional pieces. Although we were all advised to ‘stick to our work routine’ when at home, I think we can all agree that the work uniform was the first thing to go.

The demand for loungewear had already increased pre-lockdown, with social media influencers showing off their casual outfits of the day (#OOTD) for their workout routines and online meetings. It could be argued that many influencers already lived that ‘Working from Home’ lifestyle due to their workload being predominantly online.

However, this could not have prepared the fashion industry for the immense appeal for matching gym sets and velour tracksuit bottoms. Like all of us, fashion companies were unsure how long this pandemic would last and therefore did not know the longevity of demand for loungewear. It was important for brands to create something that would be comfortable yet functional and versatile, ensuring the pieces could be used both lounging at home but also could be dressed up for a socially distanced lunch date in town. 

Brands such as ASOS, Pretty Little Thing and Topshop utilised the ‘comfortable yet functional’ ideology when creating their loungewear pieces, ensuring they looked stylish, steering clear of the dreaded ‘is that loungewear or pyjamas?’ question.

With most of the world working from home, it can be agreed that the office dress code has been long forgotten. This begs the question, ‘will it ever return?’ After spending months curled up on the sofa with our laptop, in our cosy, yet oh so stylish loungewear, will we be itching to get back into our blazers for a sense of normality, or have our priorities permanently shifted?

The fashion industry has so far excelled throughout the pandemic, adapting to a huge change in trends, assisting in the making of personal protective equipment (PPE), maintaining a presence on social media, without the help of fashion shows/runways and using their imagination in order to fulfil tasks.

At this stage, we cannot be sure when this will all come to an end but one thing, we can be sure of is… WE HAVE CHANGED.

Will we ever return to our office uniform?

Will we ever put ourselves through the torture of high heels in a nightclub again?

Will face coverings ever go away?

Who knows?

But one thing is certain, COVID-19 has changed the fashion industry forever and companies have evolved their brand to suit demand.

Ellen Turbett is a final year BSc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram and LinkedIn.

The Online Shopping Revolution

As many of you have seen, ASOS have launched a new trial tool on its site called ‘See My Fit’ and personally I think its genius…

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See My Fit

This tool lets shoppers see what an item of clothing would look like on 16 different body shapes ranging from sizes 4-18 and heights 5’1” to 5’9”. According to Tim Carey, senior content manager at ASOS Studios: “the tool uses AR technology to put the power in our customers’ hands, so they can choose to view a dress on the model that they most identify with in a way that wouldn’t be possible using traditional model-shooting techniques”.

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An example of the ‘See My Fit’ app

Can’t please em’ all

ASOS are always one step ahead and the product that it built will change our shopping experience for the better. However a lot of people have made comment on the fact that the model isn’t actually wearing the item. Step into the 21st century hun….imagine how long it would take if ASOS was to shoot every item of clothing on its website onto 16 different models (eye-roll)

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My view on ASOS

DISCLOSURE: In 2019 I paid a £9.99 one off payment to avail of ASOS’s free next day delivery for a year. Yes this investment was great value for money as next day delivery usually costs £4.99 per transaction. But, believe it or not there are pros and cons.

A major CON being the fact that I get an ASOS parcel delivered to my work every other day if not every day. Due to the fact that it’s free delivery, I hold the mindset that “Oh well, I may as well order it, sure I’ll probably send it back” (truth be told I usually don’t)

(9 times out of 10 I return things that I don’t like- I do however return things a lot more for a different size or if it doesn’t fit properly, even if I LOVE the item)

Have you noticed that I’ve began with the cons…

I usually do so as by the time that I’ve listed the positives I have forgotten the cons, selected my size, moved the items from my wish list to my bag, pay now…you get where this is going.

There are major pros to ASOS, the main one being that if I have last minute plans and it’s raining outside I can order an outfit or 2 or 3 (for selection purposes…obvs) from the comfort of my bed and it will be there the very next day. ASOS are miles ahead of the game when it comes to time management and selection. It really is like walking into a huge shopping centre with a shop just for you filled with your favourite brands in your size.

BACK TO THE POINT…

Like many people I am not ‘textbook size’. I take a different size in tops than in bottoms and I am usually tripping over the mile trail left on the floor when I put on my jeans. I am what many websites brand petite and as a result I have in many situations been the perfect example of #ExpectationVSReality.

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Expectation vs Reality

ASOS do have a pretty good petite range, but it is what I would describe as ‘the best of a bad bunch’.
They still fall guilty of one size fits all shapes in many of their products.

The Revolution

The new tool ‘See My Fit’ could possibly revolutionise the future of online shopping. This tool allows shoppers to see what the item of clothing would look like on various different shapes. In my case I could select a small petite girl with my build.
This would have many benefits for ASOS and of course its shoppers. I may be pleasantly surprised with how an item of clothing looks on someone my height and purchase, where as before I would have never considered buying it. This could lead to a lot more sales for ASOS eliminating the self doubt aspect or it could do the opposite and prove that they need to up their game and provide more size variations in their products.

Returns

Simple online returns are a major part of any consumers shopping experience as it gives them a choice, however it costs the industry BILLIONS! This year on Black Friday returns alone predicted to cost UK fashion retailers 1.6 billion pounds , according to returns management platform ReBound Returns. With returns predicted to rise by 27.3% in the next 5 years, this could have a catastrophic impact on our favourite brands.

Could ASOS’s new app be the solution?

Well if customers can see what the product would look like on someone like them, they are more likely to be confident with their purchase. The fact that ASOS are being upfront with its customer again may affect sales but it should definitely have an impact in reducing the quantity of returns.

ASOS have set the standards as far as online shopping goes and it wont be long before the other large retail competitors are forced to keep up. Even though this tool is seen as a unique selling point for ASOS in a few years time we will see this level of customer service as an essential, something we expect.

So for that …THANK YOU ASOS!

 

Kayleigh Tinney is a 3rd year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University, currently doing a placement year at The Irish News. She can be found on: Instagram – @Kayleightinney and LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/kayleigh-tinney-76b240161/.

My top PR Campaigns of 2019

Creating an eye-catching PR campaign for your business can be the key to increasing brand audience, sales or fuelling  conversation. Our world is now saturated with creative people, coming up with innovative ways to promote themselves and their business. In order to stand out from the crowd, PR companies are being pushed to the limits to think of something unique and creative that will grab the audience’s attention and direct them towards your brand. Thats why, when a particular campaign stands out from the rest, you know that it’s done the job! I have compiled a list of four of my favourite PR campaigns of 2019.

  1. Cadbury Loneliness Campaign

One of the inevitable things that is set out for us within our lives is that we will continue to grow older. It is commonly known that elderly people constantly feel a sense of loneliness and as if they are cut off from society. This year, Cadbury’s teamed up with Age UK to combat the loneliness and isolation amongst our older generation. They came up with the “donating words campaign,” in which they removed all the lettering on their chocolate bar packaging to reveal a blank package. These limited edition bars where being sold in supermarkets nationwide, with 30p of every bar being donated towards Age UK, to help tackle their mission of reducing loneliness. This campaign was an incredible way to not only raise funds for Age UK, but show how a few words or a conversation can mean so much to the older generation. The campaign sparked a lot of conversation online, encouraging people to reach out to their grandparents. So not only did Cadbury’s effectively raise money for the charity, they also increased awareness on loneliness in the older generation and made people more aware of trying to reduce this.

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  1. Tinder bully = ASOS Model

Tinder. A perfect depiction of modern day dating. What more could you want than a complete stranger deciding whether you are worthy of them, based solely on your physical appearance. Thea, who had been using the site like most people, received a message from a boy who believed it was his right to inform her that her picture was awful and her dress looked like something for a ‘charity shop,’ the perfect way to charm a woman, don’t you think? After being shocked by the comments this stranger made to her, Thea decided to share her story online, and encourage people to be less cruel online.

Well, ASOS took part in an incredible piece of reactive PR, by taking this horrible experience Thea endured, and making her an official model for that particular dress on their website. They used the image of her in a beautiful purple dress, which was on her Tinder profile and used it as the promotional picture for that dress of their website. Not only was this extremely effective at communicating and empowering woman, but it also garnered a lot of supporting from the public online.

  1. Ikea furniture or historical exhibits?

The dreaded phrase, “can you build this Ikea desk for me.” Sure, we may need a degree in product design and engineering to understand the instruction, but for the quality and the price we always go back. To try and combat the “Ikea haters”, as they are better known online, Ikea came up with a new interactive PR campaign to show how their furniture could blend in with high class, expensive furniture. They decided to partner with the Museum of Romanticism in Madrid, and strategically placed their furniture amongst the 18th Century furniture that existed in the exhibit. They then challenged their fans online to pick out what pieces where Ikea, and what were historical pieces. This campaign garnered a lot of support at the museum its self and online. More than 70% of people were unable to differentiate the Ikea pieces from the history pieces. This allowed them to creatively show their customers that their products are great value for money, but can also fit in to the most fancy . They have since went on to win many awards for this campaign. Could you spot the Ikea furniture, or did you just feel nauseous at the thought of building it all?

4. Master-cards “Acceptance Matters” Initatives

Just recently Master-card in the US ran their acceptance matters campaign, which ran to celebrate Pride Month in America, to support the LGBTQIA+ community. Their campaign called the “True Name” campaign which allowed individuals to use their true names on their credit/debit cards, without the need for a legal name change. Mastercard and undertaken a study and found that nearly one in three individuals ID’s names or gender do match with what the identify as and therefore reported having a negative experience. They realised how complex and expensive it can be to legally change their name or gender, so they wanted to find a way that they could improve their customers experience.

They wanted to promote personal identification for trans and non binary people to let their bank cards truly reflect them. With the way that our current society is, especially in America, this was an incredible way to promote inclusion and acceptance for everyone in their daily lives. This campaign received a lot of support, not only from the LGBTQIA+ community, but also from the rest of the public who are aware of the inequality the people face on a daily basis, due to the political environment in America- and want to support a cause that can improve peoples lives.

In conclusion, it is clear to see that to stand out from the crowd, a well formulated, innovative PR campaign is needed. Sometimes this may be well planned, carefully crafted campaigns such as IKEA’s, or it can be the case of reactive PR just as ASOS where able to achieve. A good campaign can not only benefit the business and increase sales/reputation, but it can always promote an important message within society and hopefully move towards and better and more inclusive world.

Meabh McMahon is a final year Bsc Communication Management and Public Relations student at ulster University. She can be found at: LinkedIn – Meabh McMahon https://www.linkedin.com/in/meabh-mcmahon-a89b25156/  Twitter: @meabhm6

A/W Fashion – Belfast Fashion Week 18-19

Those of you who know me, know that I’m a little fashion obsessed! So when I heard about the Ulster PR Student Blog, I couldn’t help but want to inject a few fashion and style posts into the blogosphere. I have previously enjoyed writing posts for my own blog & thought what better way to ignite the old writing flame inside me than to write a few posts for our own student blog!

I hope you enjoy! Dearbhail (@dervbrogan) xx

Belfast Fashion Week – The Runway Edit

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A/W Fashion Week in Belfast could not have come at a better time following the recent  fire at Belfast’s beloved Primark. The fire has produced a devastating impact on the footfall of shoppers in the surrounding area.

The fabulous spectacle that was ‘The Runway Edit’ took place in the beautiful St Anne’s Cathedral, right in the heart of Cathedral Quarter and showcased some beautiful on-trend pieces from both global and local retailers and was just what Belfast needed to encourage locals to ‘stay shopping’.

#OOTN (What I Wore):

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As it was my first Belfast Fashion Week you can imagine how hard it was for me to decide what to wear. Do I go ‘classic and chic’ or just plain ‘all out there’? I’ll let you decide on that one. My top, skirt and bag are all from Topshop, which I paired with with this AMAZING trucker jacket from Boohoo & these slick boots that I picked up on sale in Primark for £3 a few years back!

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What THEY (the gorgeous models) Wore:

The show, hosted by Cathy Martin (CMPR) & Tiffany Brien (Influencer), kicked off with a fabulous directors cut showcasing all of Cathy’s (@cathymartin10) top picks for this A/W season including pieces from River Island, M&S and one of my all time favourites Stradivarius.

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Left: Cathy Martin & Tiffany Brien host the Runway Edit

Right: Joy modelling Red Tartan Trench Coat – Stradivarius £69.99

 

 

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Left: Veronica modelling Topshop fuscia velvet suit jacket £49 & trousers £39

Right: Sophie modelling Lazy Oaf yellow fur coat £150 with ASOS yellow scarf

 

 

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Left: Rebecca modelling ASOS green puffa jacket, ASOS green scarf, Topshop tapered green trousers

Right: Nuala modelling ASOS lilac corduroy trousers £45, jacket £60, lilac pussy bow blouse

 

Some for the party girls (or boys, whatever tickles your fancy):

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Left: Joy modelling ASOS metallic pink trousers, Zara sequin top

Right: Ellen modelling Missi paillette body suit £26.99 DV8, River Island rose gold pencil skirt

 

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Left: Stefania modelling ASOS pink skirt, River Island pink faux fur jacket £85

Right: Maria modelling River Island floral pant suit

 

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Left: Thandi models ASOS fringe beaded sequin mini dress 3150, New Look faux fur jacket £49.99

Right: Rebecca models ASOS purple/silver paillette jumper and Topshop silver trouser

 

George @ Asda:

George at Asda surprised me so much this year as they are KILLING IT with their A/W pieces. Heres a round up of my favourites:

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Other retailers involved in the fabulous show included Debenhams, Oasis and New Look, along with pieces from local boutiques such as Blush (Lisburn Road), Serenity Ten (Maghera) and Lily Rose Boutique (Moria). If I could sum up what I’ve learnt about the coming A/W trends from this years BFW in three words, they would HAVE to be; blocks (colours), prints and sequins! 

I hope you’ve enjoyed my fashion favs from the show and hopefully it inspires you to  go and treat yourself (or that special someone) with something fresh and fabulous this season. So go on! Go out and support your local highstreet and boutiques this Christmas, it couldn’t be a better time to go shopping!

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Lots of love, Dearbhail (CAM Student UUJ / Wannabe Blogger) xoxo

P.S: If you love fashion as much as me, be sure to follow me on Instagram @dervbrogan where I post outfit photos daily!

 

Photo Credit: Brendan Gallagher (Photographer)

Event Credit: Cathy Martin (CMPR)

Dearbhail Brogan is a Second Year BSC in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on: Instagram – @dervbrogan ; Twitter – @dailydeeblog