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INTEGRATED MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS FOR A RESPONSIBLE ONLINE AND OFFLINE RETAIL STRATEGY

24 Apr 2024,6:51 PM

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Executive Summary

La Garde is a new and sustainable fashion brand seeking to launch the La Garde circular and recyclable jacket through a responsible retail strategy during the upcoming winter/autumn fashion season. La Garde targets the UK market of eco-conscious women aged 25 to 35 through a responsible retail strategy that includes positioning the brand for sustainability-associated brand equity through a 100% eco-friendly product and other sustainable practices. The retail strategy described herein also emphasises a unique omnichannel retail experience underpinned by a robust marketing campaign, leveraging social media collaborations and additional elements to amplify La Grand’s sustainability credentials and overall brand equity.

 

 

1. Introduction and Background

A UK fashion industry report by Passport (2023) established that the ethical fashion consumer’s rise is driving a concomitant rise in sustainable fashion brands, which incorporate sustainability throughout their operations to satisfy the ethical consumer’s evolving values regarding environmental protection (Castro-López, Iglesias, and Puente, (2021). Sustainable fashion retail strategies include ethical sourcing, supply chain management, and environmentally friendly products and operations (Farías, Reyes, and Peláez, 2022). Moreover, integrated marketing communication (IMC) conveys the fashion brand’s sustainability position, supporting the responsible retail strategy (Šerić, Gil-Saura, and Ruiz-Molina, 2014). This report designs a responsible retail strategy for the new, UK-based, sustainable fashion brand, La Garde, which will launch the circular and recyclable leather jacket for the 2024/2025 Autumn/Winter fashion season targeted at UK women aged 25 to 35.

2. Marketing Strategy

a) Consumer Segmentation Profile

La Garde segments its target customers to match the brand's unwavering commitment to eco-friendly and ethical business practices (Kumari, 2023). Table 1 below applies the STP segmentation theory to develop a viable target customer profile (Manley et al., 2023; Gajanova et al., 2019).

Table 1: Target Market for the La Garde Sustainable Brand

Segment

Characteristics

Geographic

The UK, Cosmopolitan,

Demographic

Younger, aged between 25 and 35, high-income, female

Psychographic

Passion for unique styles and sustainability-focused fashion preferences are influenced significantly by social media.

Behavioural

Student or working professional, highly educated, pays a premium for quality, strong connection to digital channels.

UK fashion industry research by BoF and McKinsey (2023) classifies the consumer segment above as the ‘undaunted striver.’ She is a young, ethical consumer who is a highly educated woman in school or with a young career, given that she is aged between 25 and 35 and earns between £50,000 and £80,000 (BoF & McKinsey, 2023). She is sustainability-focused and fashion-forward and is, therefore, willing to pay a premium for exclusive, high-quality fashion and retail experiences matching her values around sustainability and fashion style expectations, as informed primarily by her social media ecosystem and other digital channels (Passport, 2023).

b) Current and Future Marketing Trends

According to Manley et al. (2023), younger consumers are the ideal target market for sustainable fashion brands like La Garde, with Millennials (42%) and Gen Z (39%) more likely to spend more on sustainable products compared to Gen X (31%) and Baby Boomers (26%). This consumer behaviour trend toward sustainability justifies La Garde’s focus on the undaunted striver customer segment in the UK (BoF & McKinsey, 2023). Castro-López et al. (2021) also confirmed that consumers are moving toward slow fashion brands integrating several sustainable practices, identified by Granskog et al. (2020) as 67% preference for the use of sustainable materials and 63% for sustainable brand promotion, as shown in Figures 1 & 2 below (Granskog et al., 2020). This evidence suggests that La Garde's retail and IMC strategies should emphasise sustainable operations and business practices.

 

Figure 1: Consumers' Sustainable Expectations. Source: Granskog et al. (2020)

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Figure 2: Fashion Conversation Trends. Source: Huff (2022).   

Rising omnichannel preferences constitute another notable fashion industry trend affecting La Garde (Chang et al., 2015). Today’s consumer expects e-commerce and social media integration into their unique consumption experience, with Granskog et al. (2020) showing that these fashion trends will endure, as illustrated in Figure 3 below.

 

Figure 3: Trends toward Online Shopping. Copyright Granskog et al. (2020)

Still, offline retail is a significant component of the modern fashion customer's consumer experience, indicating the need to implement omnichannel retail models to meet customers' expectations of an integrated digital and physical consumption experience.

c) Responsible Online and Offline Retail Strategy

Positioning

In the retail strategy, La Garde will position itself as a sustainable fashion brand committed to environmental protection and ethical business practices. The brand emphasises the fusion of style and sustainability, targeting eco-conscious consumers who seek exclusive, high-quality fashion aligned with their sustainability values (Ruff, 2019). La Garde, French for guardianship or custody, communicates the brand's empowering customers to guard their fashion styles and the environment.

 

Figure 4: The La Garde Renewable Jacket

The La Garde recyclable jacket (Figures 4 and 5) for the Autumn/Winter fashion season reinforces this sustainable brand position. All product components are produced from eco-friendly materials sourced from third-party verified manufacturers, including 100% recyclable leather, recycled PET fabric, recyclable metal and zinc, and recyclable cotton (Nayak et al., 2020). Using 100% recyclable products positions La Garde as a responsible fashion retailer with minimal environmental impact because of the proposed product’s landfill waste redirection, energy efficiency in raw material production, and a lower carbon footprint overall (Athalye, 2022; Islam, 2020).

 

Figure 5: La Garde’s Proposed Circular Product

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La Grande’s sustainability brand positioning credentials are further reinforced by its responsible sourcing and supply chain operations integrated within its retail strategy.

 

Figure 6: La Garde’s Responsible Sourcing

Responsible Supply Chain

Figure 7: La Garde’s Supply Chain

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As Figures 6 and 7 above illustrate, La Garde sources only from responsible and third-party certified suppliers whose ethical and sustainable practices meet the requisite industry standards in producing eco-friendly materials (Islam, 2020). Transportation operations optimised for environmental sustainability and embedded into retail operations to enhance the brand's environmental responsibility and sustainable brand positioning. However, La Grande still has to compete with Diesel, Allsaints, Diesel, and Enfants Riche as the primary providers in the UK's sustainable jacket market. La Garde must adopt a middle-of-the-market position illustrated in the brand positioning map below to compete effectively.

 

Figure 8: The Ideal Brand Position for La Garde

Price

Based on the competition La Garde currently faces from established market players to excel as a new entrant in this market, the retail strategy La Garde will implement will include a value-based pricing strategy. Yet, implementing a competitive strategy with lower prices to undercut the competition could compromise La Garde’s appeal to the target customers' need for exclusivity. At the same time, luxury pricing could go beyond the target market's disposable income, given that their average income ranges between 50,000 and 80,000 pounds (BoF and McKinsey, 2023). In contrast, value-based pricing supports the brand’s implementation of a £ 409 price tag for a standard leather jacket, striking a balance between the most expensive product in the market (Enfants Riche £838) and the cheapest alternative available (All Saints £209), as illustrated in Figure 9 below.

 

Figure 9: Pricing strategies

Moreover, to be more flexible to consumers’ diverse purchasing power, La Garde’s retail strategy will expand its pricing architecture depending on a particular product’s aesthetics and features (better, best, and ultimate product options), illustrated below:

 

Fig 10: La Garde’s Price Architecture

Place and Sustainable Store Environment Design

The previous STP customer segmentation findings will guide the retail strategy's physical store location decisions. The segmentation insights generated by the current industry research indicated that the target customer is more likely cosmopolitan and, therefore, located in the UK's urban areas (Passport, 2023). Therefore, the offline retail strategy will account for these demographic insights by strategically locating brick-and-mortar stores across the UK's cosmopolitan areas to reach the target demographic more effectively. Examples of notable locations that La Garde is considering for the initial brick-and-mortar physical store launches include Oxford Street in London, the Northern Quarter in Manchester, and George Stree in Edinburgh (Passport, 2023). These three locations share the appealing characteristics of being some of the business fashion shopping streets in the UK and globally, often attracting high traffic of younger and high-income consumers fitting La Garde's target customer demographic.

 

Fig. 11: Model of Sustainable Store Design. Source: tips: 5 key takeaways when designing sustainable retail stores | The design story

The internal store environment will be designed to reflect and resonate with La Garde's sustainable brand identity and positioning. This sustainable store environment design will be achieved by integrating sustainable or eco-friendly materials throughout the interior and exterior. The store design will incorporate a wide range of eco-friendly materials without compromising a desirable eco-conscious and welcoming atmosphere for customers with natural light maximisation and sufficient space and ventilation (Fig. 11). The eco-friendly materials to be incorporated throughout the store's design include recycled foam, paper waste, bamboo, and reclaimed wood.

E-Commerce Platform

La Garde's online retail strategy designed for its e-commerce platform will deliberately target seamless integration of the physical store experience with the immersive digital shopping experience for customers, achieving these desired outcomes by adhering to the principles of user experience design in digital platforms' creation. As Chang et al. (2015) advise, these critical design factors include providing superior website features, ensuring high-resolution imagery, supporting detailed product descriptions, and facilitating interactive e-commerce platform features that allow users to explore each garment's sustainability attributes. Additionally, to amplify user-centricity, La Garde will provide a platform supported across multiple web and mobile devices, accommodating user-generated content, customer reviews, and social proof elements to build trust and credibility with online shoppers, cumulatively achieving an e-commerce platform that prioritises user experience elements, including intuitive navigation, mobile responsiveness, and secure payment options. These efforts will ensure a convenient and enjoyable shopping journey from browsing to checkout.

Unique Customer Experience

La Garde's will offer a unique customer experience by implementing an omnichannel strategy, seamlessly integrating online and offline retail channels through various modalities, including allowing users to pre-order their jackets and other items online and test and collect them in-store, allowing a more efficient customer journey and experience, hence greater customer satisfaction (Huff, 2022). Engaging online by connecting with customers through social media platforms will allow deeper brand connections and meaningful conversations about fashion and sustainability with customers. Moreover, La Grande will emphasise the continuous improvement of high-quality, in-store customer experiences, leveraging a well-trained and competent customer service team who will provide customers with personalised styling advice, relevant information to enhance the customer experience, and information about the brand's sustainability efforts. The store will also emphasise a unique phygital (physical+digital) experience by integrating technologies throughout the retail experience, including interactive displays, virtual reality, and extended reality.

Timeline

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Table 2: Retail Strategy Timeline

 Table 2 below illustrates an implementation timeline of the retail strategy.

Timeline

Activity

April 2024

Development of online and offline retail strategy

April 2024

Site selection for brick-and-mortar stores, e-commerce platform development

May 2024

Recruitment of store personnel

May 2024

Staff training on sustainability practices and customer service

June 2024

Development and launch of La Garde's website and social media pages

Top of Form

 

d) IMC Campaign

Despite the multiple channels that will be integrated into La Garde’s campaign, all communications and messaging will build on and reinforce a common story, slogan, and vision for the future focused on La Garde’s sustainable brand position as detailed below:

Brand Story: Earth is green, and so are we. The fashion industry has been a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and eco-toxicity. We believe it is time we change this alarming trajectory. With our 100% circularity and 100% use of natural and recycled materials, we believe we can reverse these negative trends by guaranteeing zero emissions from our products. We will never waver from our commitment to ethical and sustainable fashion, but never will we compromise on empowering our customers with stylish, vintage, innovative, effortless, and fashion-forward products. Join us as we break the traditional chains and venture into the future, where sustainability is also fashionable! The future is now, and the future is the US!

Brand Slogan: Build by the environment, for the environment, to make sustainable fashionable and fashionable sustainable!

Brand Vision for the Future: We strive to be the leading producer of sustainable and 100% circular fashion products. We have placed our employees and the community at the centre of our corporate strategy to generate value for all our stakeholders and the environment. We can achieve 100% green production, quality, and satisfaction!

Social Media Marketing Strategy

La Garde’s IMC plan will also incorporate a deployment of a social media presence across all social media platforms, including Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and X. La Garde will leverage these innovative social media tools as the key avenues to implement the brand strategy, communicate the brand value, and provide crucial information about the brand sustainability values (Joshi et al., 2023). The use of social media will help the brand implement a diverse content strategy linked to the brand’s website, allowing La Garde to create diverse content spanning from video clips to images and blogs that appeal to the target consumer demographic (Cao and Bertoni, 2023). Incorporating social media will also be instrumental in powerful public and customer relations or service channels, supporting the development of a strong connection with consumers through interactive platforms responding to consumer queries while providing brand information (Mathur, 2018).

However, social media collaborations are critical to achieving greater effect from the social media aspect of the IMC campaign. Koay et al. (2020) and Zollo et al. (2020) acknowledge the effect of previous emotional and rational brand experiences on brand loyalty, perceived quality, and brand loyalty through social media influence. These effects are likely to be more pronounced for La Garde’s target market, whose fashion information and preferences are influenced significantly by social media influencers (CBI, 2022; Fass, 2023).

Therefore, Lagarde will collaborate with key social media influencers who are reputable and have a significant following within the sustainable fashion social media ecosystem (Dhun and Dangi, 2023). La Garde will select social media influencers primarily guided by the recommendations and best practices of choosing partners for social media collaborations (Huff, 2022). Consistent with this guiding theory and literature, La Garde will establish collaborations based on the following seven selection criteria: audience alignment, relevance and authenticity, engagement and influence, content quality, brand fit, track record and reputation, and long-term potential (Zollo et al., 2020). La Garde's collaborating influencers will align with the brand's target audience demographically, psychographically, and behaviourally, as guided by the developed STP segmentation (Joshi et al., 2023). The brand will also emphasise collaborations with key influencers within the sustainable fashion niche, considering their influence and engagement rates, the quality of their content, their fit with the sustainable La Grande brand identity, their reputation, and the potential to establish long-term collaborations. The selected influencers will communicate La Garde’s proposed brand story, slogan, and corporate vision.

In this regard, the potential choices for La Garde include Emma Chamberlain, a major sustainable fashion influencer, with an online following of 28 million and an average engagement of 6.25% across her social media presence (Cao and Bertoni, 2023). Other potential choices of leading sustainable fashion influencers with comparatively sizable influence on social media whom La Garde can collaborate with to support the brand include Livia Firth, Venetia La Manna, Aja Barber, and Sarah Butler (Zollo et al., 2020). The engagement of influencers will help penetrate different markets by riding on the influencers' market dominance, reputation, and perceived emotional and trust connection with the consumers. Also, influencers play a vital role in promoting electronic WOM, which is vital in building brand credibility, congruence in brand attitude, and brand patronage (Dhun and Dangi, 2023). However, the organisation must be careful when selecting influencers since their behaviour can affect the overall corporate image.

e) Impact of Integrated Marketing Communication Campaign and Retail Strategy on Brand Equity

The IMC and retail strategies can enhance La Garde's brand equity in three ways. The values-based branding theory by Urde (2003) emphasises that brand equity is maximised when a brand's values align with the customer's. By achieving a retail strategy that addresses the target ethical customer's sustainable consumption values, the proposed retail strategy achieves the sought-after values' alignment, enhancing brand equity. Secondly, having a clear and consistent brand story, slogan, and mission to cut across the entire IMC provides the consistency, coherence, and channel integration shown in the literature to deliver superior marketing outcomes, including fortified brand equity (Farías, Reyes, and Peláez, 2022). Thirdly, integrating social media marketing into the IMC is associated with personal integrative, social integrative, and cognitive benefits, ultimately affecting consumer-based brand equity (Šerić et al., 2014; Zollo et al., 2020). Moreover, the positive brand equity effects of the proposed social media collaboration strategy for La Garde are supported by Joshi et al. (2023), who emphasise social media's ability to develop parasocial interactions and relationships that strengthen consumer engagement, identification, and loyalty with the brand. These three reasons demonstrate the IMC campaign and retail strategy are best positioned to enhance La Garde's brand equity.

f) Project Timeline

The table below summarises the timeline for the different activities done by the entity.

 

Table 3: Timeline of Marketing Strategy

 

April to June 2024

June 2024

July 2024

August 2024

September 2024

October 2024

November 2024

December 2024

Develop an online and offline retail strategy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recruitment of online and offline store personnel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Development of website

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Development of social media pages

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Planning of integrated marketing communication

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Integrated marketing communication on social media and in-store marketing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Integrated marketing communication using social media influencer collaborations

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tracking consumer engagement and website traffic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Conclusion

As positioned in this analysis, the La Garde brand is a sustainable fashion brand with the potential to revolutionise the fashion industry by demonstrating the feasibility of a fully sustainable and profitable product and business model. The brand's retail strategy's emphasis on sustainability and unique omnichannel customer journeys and experiences can allow the brand to successfully carve out a profitable niche of sustainable UK women consumers aged 25 to 35. The retail strategy will likely succeed because of its alignment with the prevailing values and expectations of La Garde’s target market. The IMC plan also incorporates various relevant and evidence-based approaches and interventions, elevating La Garde’s likelihood of building fortified and long-lasting brand equity in the target market.

 

 

https://apaxresearchers.com/storage/files/2024/04/24/9667-vaG_18_46_57_integrated-marketing-communications-for-a-responsible-online-and-offline-retail-strategy.docx

 

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