H&M pursues digital relationships with customers

H&M’s new goal: to invest in relationships with customers.

The Swedish fashion firm has decided to eschew the traditional format of a stagnant Internet site and instead, aims to engage in dialogue with its patrons through the Web, reported WWD. And H&M, whose full name is Hennes & Mauritz AB, is making great strides in this endeavor, having an excess of 7 million Facebook fans and 7 million YouTube views, plus more than 350,000 Twitter followers.

The man behind these numbers is Jordan Nasser, global head of digital media for H&M, who came on board in 1999 to help launch the company’s Manhattan store. After bouncing around in a couple of divisions, Nasser was given the chance to manage the company’s Web initiatives.

He soon realized that most companies generally did little to digitally engage their customers. While firms dropped vast sums on online advertising, they also left their Web pages to “slowly sit there and die.” He vowed this would not happen at H&M.

“It was so simple, I thought I was missing something,” Nasser said to WWD.

The first project he tackled was a Facebook page. A simple question from a visitor, asking when the company was planning to expand into Florida, led to hundreds of comments. Nasser quickly grasped the marketing potential of such interaction.

He added digital look books that allowed visitors to vote for their favorite ensembles, and offered several online contests. Soon, the company had 135,000 Facebook fans.

“At the time,” he said laughing, “I thought I was the king of the world.”

Fast forward another two years, and the site was up to 1 million fans; by December 2010, it had bumped that number to 6 million. Today the figure is an impressive 7.4 million.

But H&M’s main digital focus is on its website, and not its Facebook page. is, said Nasser, “at the heart of everything we do.”

The company, which ventured into e-commerce in 1998, started out with two sites, one for inspiration and one for commerce. Its current Web page has melded those two sites into one and facilitates consumer interaction. Visitors, for instance, can explore a virtual dressing room or search for promotions offered in their local markets.

“Everything we do should be interactive in some way,” he said. “This increases the time spent online and our sales.”

The company has also undertaken mobile commerce, unveiling in the last few years iPhone, iPad and Android applications, which have resulted in 4 million downloads. Next on the horizon for the company is a foray into e-commerce in the U.S.

“Inform, inspire and interact,” Nasser said. “That’s the key to everything we do in digital media. You can’t do just one. It’s all about finding the balance among all three.”

H&M will also release in October a fashionable children’s clothing line to benefit All for Children, a charity initiative with UNICEF, said another WWD article. Twenty-five percent of sales will fund UNICEF’s efforts to support children’s rights to education and protection. Founded in 2009, All for Children assists children in some of the poorest regions around the globe, especially in areas where H&M clothes are produced. The clothing line, featuring versatile pieces that are timeless yet playful, will be offered online and in 160 stores internationally.

“We believe that children who learn how to read and write are better equipped to make informed choices about their future,” a company press release said.

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Purple Neon/LadyLUX via WWD, H&M

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