Topshop’s Success: A Collaborative Journey

by Sean Ogino |

Topshop’s Success: A Collaborative Journey

The journey of Topshop, a British multinational fashion retailer, from a humble beginning as an extension of the department store Peter Robinson in the 1960s to the current valuation of more than £2 billion with 500 shops worldwide is absolutely fascinating. It was really beyond anybody’s thought that one high street fashion retailer will cast such an everlasting and all-encompassing spell on fashionistas all across the globe. Here’s our take on Topshop’s success through marketing with tech, social media, and, of course, Beyonce.

Critics have tried to mar Topshop’s success by saying that it’s all about copying runway designs and offering them in a low-cost alternative. But one has to understand that if fashion is a form of art, it will naturally have the power to influence the imagination. Besides, even if we concede to what critics are saying, there are many other brands who have been doing what Topshop is being accused of. But not all of them have become Topshop. It’s evidently clear that there is something more and different than others that has constituted Topshop’s success. We will try to figure out those “more and different” elements.

Topshop’s Success: The Y Quotient

Topshop has always been a brand full of youthfulness. It was of a paramount importance not to lose that youth quotient. Consequently, they undertook few initiatives which in hindsight can be considered as masterstrokes. In 2002, they began sponsoring the British Fashion Council’s Newgen initiative. The idea was to enable young and budding designers with financial support to both produce and show their collections.

A handful of Topshop's Newgen collaborators.
A handful of Topshop’s Newgen collaborators.

Furthermore, in 2003, it began sponsoring Fashion East, a nonprofit initiative that acts as something of an unofficial link between London’s famous fashion colleges and the Newgen scheme. Topshop developed strong relationships with these young and talented designers. It slowly took the form of designer collaborations as Topshop began working with them professionally. Being young, those designers understood accurately what catches the pulse of young people…and soon they began to design what resonated perfectly well with a hip, young crowd. The logic behind these collaborations became clear when Sheena Sauvaire, the then-chief marketing officer of Topshop, said,

“We thought we could partner designers, and they could design for us, producing collections that are going to resonate with our customers. We can provide a platform through our many, many stores to raise their brand awareness, as well as helping them with the cost of producing their own-label collections.”

Topshop supported the now-renowned designer Christopher Kane when he was just getting started, producing several lines of clothing with him.
Topshop supported the now-renowned designer Christopher Kane when he was just getting started, producing several lines of clothing with him.

Indeed, it was a clear cut win-win situation. Various young designers got a chance to showcase their talent and Topshop got its way through that talent to cater to what the youth of the day demanded.

Speaking of marketing to young shoppers, check out this blog: I’m a Female Millennial and This is How eCommerce Sites Should Market to Me!

Topshop’s Success: An Emphasis on Omni-Channel and In-Store Differentiation

Compared to competitors like ASOS, Topshop doesn’t dominate the online sphere. It’s been relatively slow to enhance its site and it simply doesn’t have the sort of fulfillment capabilities that ASOS has. It’s likely that this digital lag is part of the reason why Topshop has focused more heavily on its omni-channel and in-store capabilities. Read our breakdown of ASOS’s success here! The truth is, even though omni-channel is the buzzword today and everyone knows what it means, very few businesses have been able to implement it with a real killer effect. Topshop was certainly one among those rare businesses. And a surprising fact is they began with an old-school method: tri-weekly. topshop tri Topshop’s success here was dependent on its huge customer base that’s always ready to pounce upon the cutting edge retail and beauty trends. Through its tri-weekly, Topshop began to send out emails, which had the right amount of clear, beautifully visual information along with the direction of the website via some clearly sign-posted call-to-actions. Customers just had to go through the enormous collection of fashion items. Topshop enabled its users to save their selections on the wish list section of the website. Those online offerings were efficiently backed up by the live experience of the physical store. If Marketing Magazine is to be believed, this omnichannel strategy was also one of the main reasons why Topshop reported a doubling of digital sales between 2014 and 2015. We don’t have to scratch our heads why Topshop was voted the UK’s best omnichannel retailer last year.

One of Topshop's in-store photo booths.
One of Topshop’s in-store photo booths.

Furthermore, Topshop’s team has been effective at turning their stores into more than just places to buy clothing and accessories. Through tactics like in-store photo booths, DJs, and personal shoppers, Topshop has turned their properties into places to socialize and discover new things.

Topshop’s Success: Marketing Through Tech

Those who work in the field of digital marketing will realize that all their marketing efforts must lead to a campaign which is immersive, impactful and novel. That’s where virtual reality (VR) steps in to fill that glaring gap between exception and actual execution. Topshop presented a unique front-row view of their exclusive fashion runway show during London Fashion Week in autumn of 2014 using a 360 panoramic video stream. Very few, who were lucky enough, had the opportunity of experiencing this in a special pop-up space in Topshop’s flagship London store. To heighten the excitement of people, Topshop also added behind the scenes footage.

Indeed, it was a great example of how technology can be used to give one-of-its-kind experiences to the people coupled with substantial buzz about it in the market. The results of this noteworthy campaign just proved that!

Topshop’s success in the experimental tech space has continued afterwards. Most recently, their team has started experimenting with wearables and smart clothing.

Topshop’s Success: A Pioneering Use of Pinterest

Even today, for most brands, making Pinterest shoppable equals to integrating a ‘Pin It’ button. Topshop was the pioneer in breaking that cocoon of old thought with its in-house developers by creating a “Pinterest Palette”.  Due to this, Pinterest users now can sign into and see their boards and pinned items to create a color palette based on them. Topsho’s website then will recommend ranges of clothes based on the colors people prefer. Clearly, it is addressing the valid issue that color does play a huge role in people’s choice of a particular item.  People pin without thinking about color trends in what they are sharing. But this palette will allow customers to make decisions as per their personal style and taste. It works in three simple steps…

topshop pinterest

Topshop’s Success: Hashtags, #Obviously

Of course, the use of hashtags is so commonplace nowadays that it cannot be called something new and revolutionary. But what you do with them and how you implement them can be a real differentiator. Along with the fact that Topshop was the only high street brand to show at London Fashion Week, the show was notable due to Topshop’s clever use of the hashtag.

During London Fashion Week 2015, Topshop joined hands with Twitter and launched the #LIVETRENDS real-time campaign where billboards were set up in major UK cities, each near a Topshop store. Based on the plethora of tweets, Topshop pinpointed which trends were most popular and it recommended collections available in stores that customers could purchase right away. This was the first time a brand had used real-time trends data to inspire and curate a customer’s shopping journey using outdoor digital media.

As TopShop captured the basic need of urgency, which people often display when it comes to buying fashion, by telling them about new trends and making them available immediately. With this, the time gap between desire and its fulfillment was ridiculously narrowed down. Naturally, results were spectacular. RESULTS:

  • 3.8 + million customers engaged using #LIVETRENDS
  • 75% sales uplift on featured products
  • 11:1 return on its investment
  • Awarded the Out of Home and Integrated Campaign at the 2015 CLIO Image Awards
  • Awarded Digital Marketing Campaign of the Year at the 2015 B&T Retail Week Tech & eComm Awards

Topshop’s Success: Celebrity Collaborations

Topshop’s success in recent years has been linked to a handful of extremely high-profile celebrity collaborations. From Kate Moss to Kendall and Kylie Jenner, these varying global personalities have brought new shoppers into Topshop’s fray.

One notable example was Beyoncé’ and her Ivy Park line of athletic apparel. After weeks of promotions, the debut of the line broke Topshop’s website and sold out rapidly. In the teaser video, one can clearly see that Topshop gave full creative freedom to Beyoncé and it has paid off!


Topshop’s Success: Making Instagram Shoppable 

500 million users, and with 1.6 billion likes and 95 million photos and videos shared every day! And now think about how beautiful imagery is, in many ways, the lifeblood of successful e-commerce. There is hardly any doubt that fashion retailers and Instagram were destined to be besties.

But before tools like, Instagram was much more difficult to sell from due to its one-link-only policy. That’s why even if you saw a shirt that you wanted to buy in your Instagram Feed, the only way to buy it was to go to that brand’s website and look for that shirt. Too time-consuming! But Topshop knew the harm of ignoring the potential of Instagram. It found a simple solution. It included product reference numbers in any posts that feature products available on the site.

topshop instagram
Without a doubt, it made it easier for people to discover the products on the website that they want to buy. Needless to say, it generated enough talks on Topshop’s Instagram account. It was a bonus…an added benefit!

In A Nutshell- If you look closely at all the points that I have discussed, you will realize that there is hardly anything that is really innovative apart from its use. Pinterest was always there. Businesses’ thoughts never went beyond integrating its Pin button to make it shoppable. But Topshop came up with its Palette. The same can be said about hashtags. People have been using them for a long time. But Topshop saw an opportunity in it to convert it into real-time trend data. Similarly with Topshop’s celebrity and designer collaborations, these talents existed before, but Topshop had the foresight, network, and resources to help everyone profit. It’s a valuable lesson…if you can’t innovate anything on your own, at least find innovative ways to make better use of other people’s innovation!

Note: Topshop is not the only major retailer whose success story we have chronicled. Click here for our dissection of ASOS’s strategies, and don’t forget to read about Michael Kors’ successful marketing tactics either!

[White Paper]
[White Paper]