Opportunities in online fashion marketing proliferate

Nov 15

The online fashion space continues to develop and diversify offering more opportunities for fashion brands and retailers to not only reach new consumers, but to do so in an ever more targeted way.

Itochu-backed fashion coordination site, iQon, unveiled its own advertising service last month. Vasily, the operator of iQon, says it will be asking advertisers to create highly targeted ads to suit specific content within iQon in order to improve the response rate to ads, and make readers more interested in the content of ads. It will use analysis of the user content within iQon to generate trends and pass this data to advertisers to make it easier for them to quickly create highly targeted banner ads to display within its app on pages that show either the advertised product itself, the brand or similar types of product. Vasily claims that the targeted ads mean a 50% reduction in conversion costs over typical mobile ads.

This is the first in a series of advertising initiatives that Vasily is planning, with the aim to create a new form of advertising business specifically targeting young women, all within mobile apps. iQon now boasts more than 1.3 million users, almost all 18-34 year old women who have put up fashion boards that in total consist of nearly 5 million fashion items. This in itself is a compelling database for brand marketers, but iQon also has transaction values reaching more than ¥1 billion per month as of October. With competition from Start Today’s Wear, which uses TV ads to boost downloads, iQon has begun TV spots for its own service fronted by actress Fumino Kimura. Vasily also recently raised ¥1 billion in funding from KDDI.

Vasily is now working with mainstream media partners too to boost content. It has just tied up with Kodansha to deliver content from Kodansha’s fashion magazines to smartphones. Earlier in the year, the two firms trialled tying together content for smartphone consumption from Kodansha’s Vivi magazine with affiliate and direct e-commerce links. They will now formalise the tie up and aim to start packaging content for both the domestic market and other Asian countries. Vasily will deliver ads from its network through both magazine websites and smartphone apps. It also plans to link up with other publishers to offer the same service. All these ad services should provide useful ways to reach young women consumers for fashion, cosmetics and lifestyle brands and retailers alike.

The increase in tie-ups and the blurring of boundaries between content, ads, and e-commerce has led to a spate of acquisitions as the major online players attempt to consolidate share and hoover up innovators before competitors. DeNA in particular has been on the acquisition trail recently, buying young women’s site Mery last month as well as home interiors site Iemo.

Mery.jp was launched in 2012 by Peroli and has grown to more than 1 million unique users, making it an important online channel for fashion brands, with 90% of sales from mobile devices. What is distinctive about Mery and separates it from competitors like Zozotown and DeNA’s own fashion shopping site, is that it is organised as a magazine-like discovery shopping site rather than simply organised by product category and colour, i.e. curated media. In this way it lends itself to mobile phone casual browsing and reading entertainment, and more akin to a magazine than a catalogue. Topics range beyond fashion to travel, romance and lifestyle too, although there is a serious product promotion message in the majority of stories. Photos include street snaps, look-at-my-new-outfit home photos from Wear, model shots, shop staff uploads as well as product images. In essence, Mery users pull together photos and themes from across the fashion web to create stories with links to its shopping pages.

DeNA also acquired Iemo.jp recently, another curated media site very similar in layout to Mery but in this case focused on the home. Users create pages using images from its database supplied by brands and house builders. DeNA is believed to have been the main investor in Iemo since being founded by Mary Murata, one of the first staffers at CyberAgent who, of note to Abe, moved her base to Singapore because of the difficulties of running a business while raising small children in Japan. Iemo was launched in December last year with 90% of users being women using mobiles.