The fashion industry is changing. Over the past decade, fast fashion retailers like H&M, Zara, and Forever 21 have slowly shifted consumers’ shopping preferences. Mainstream consumers now want almost instant access to affordable new designs. This trend has broadly impacted smaller ready-to-wear (RTW) and independent brands.


However, the news isn’t all bad. In fact, in the past several years a bright spot has emerged which promises to turn the tide, giving advantage back to more specialized fashion brands. What’s the bright spot? Social media, which has begun transforming the fashion landscape. The popularity of Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook means that RTW and independent brands with a strong online presence can suddenly find themselves in the spotlight.


In this new environment, New York City-based designers have a huge advantage. After all, NYC is the fashion capital of the world, home to more than 900 fashion companies’ headquarters. People come to NYC to shop. If they’ve already seen your designs online they’re almost guaranteed to want to shop in your store.


Let’s take a closer look at why building a strong online, local NYC presence gives RTW and independent designers a huge advantage over any fast fashion retailer.


Raise awareness around your brand


It goes without saying that if you run a business and you don’t have a website, the only person who is going to find you is your next door neighbor. While websites used to function primarily as a virtual yellow pages, social media has exponentially multiplied a business website’s importance. If a social media influencer “likes” or “pins” your designs, you can go from obscure to wildly popular overnight.


The great part about social media is that you don’t have to wait around to be discovered. Many emerging designers are harnessing its power to actively market their brands at every opportunity. Not only is it possible to demonstrate your brand’s personality and unique identity, social media also makes it possible to drive traffic back to your online storefront. That way, customers get to know your designs and learn to care about your brand’s success.


Create an emotional bond with your customers


Your online presence is an opportunity to distinguish your brand in the marketplace. Tell customers why they should care about you. Small designers and RTW brands have a lot to be proud of. Share behind-the-scenes stories. Let customers see the faces behind your brand. Give them information about the creation process and how your products are made. Give them insights into what it’s like being a designer in NYC.


Make shopping at your store about being part of something good. Small and local is a new type of shopping for some customers. They should be proud of their contribution. This soft yet powerful engaging factor can keep customers loyal and even turn them into strong advocates for what your brand stands for in the industry. It will make them and their friends look forward to visiting your store when they travel to NYC.


Make sure customers know you’re an NYC local!


It’s easy for customers traveling to NYC to find the big brands. That’s why it’s so important for smaller designers and RTW brands to emphasize their location. One of the best ways to do that is by having a website domain/URL that is only available to locals.


Just like with area codes a decade ago, the Internet’s best unique “.com” URLs are getting filled up. Location-based URLs are the latest trend. By having a URL that ends with “.nyc” Google knows where to find you. That way, shoppers who are visiting NYC and searching the Internet for local designers will be able to find you. It’s still early enough to find some really excellent web addresses, so don’t miss out. 


Keep a pulse on customers’ preferences


Today there are so many avenues for engaging with your customers. You can write a blog and post a link on Twitter to take people back to your website. You can post photos of your newest designs on Instagram and ask for feedback and comments. There are many ways to learn your customers’ preferences and to communicate that you’re interested in giving them what they want.


Ask them what styles get them excited. Which products do they like? What do they want to see more of or less of? You have a fantastic opportunity to be on the cutting edge of where fashion is going and to deliver exactly what your customers want. By keeping a pulse on your customers’ preferences and tastes, you can experiment with new products, markets, and even business models.


Demonstrate you’re innovative by releasing new designs frequently


Besides learning about new trends by interacting with customers, designers can also monitor social media and draw inspiration from the photos of what's happening in the world. Some smaller designers are even using fast fashion tricks to beat them at their own game. After finding new ideas on social media, they’re sending designs to factories abroad and putting new designs out in as little as 3-4 weeks, providing customers with instant gratification. One of the best parts about owning a small brand is that you have so much flexibility and can take advantage of economic and social opportunities as they arise.


This approach gives you off-calendar opportunities for fashion media publishers looking for a good story and it also keeps your customers engaged. If you’re frequently releasing new products or updates, they’ll be back to your website often to see what’s new. And if it’s really unique, as most NYC fashions are, you can bet they’ll be sharing what they find on social media, which will drive traffic back to your store.


Small and local will overturn fast fashion


For the new generation of social media savvy designers, a strong online presence is their secret weapon to success when competing with fast fashion retailers and industry giants. Thanks to social media, small independent designers are on the cusp of a new era of social media dominance. Don’t miss out on this revolution. Start by building your website and promoting it every way you can.