From science and tech to politics, education, and entertainment, seemingly every sector today is engaged in some form of the same discussion: How can we embrace the principles of diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) to better serve the diverse communities that make up society?
For the fashion industry — which has long grappled with issues around access, representation, and racism — the conversation is not new. However, it’s one that is more urgent today than ever before.
We recently caught up with Carmen Chu, ShopStyle’s Senior Director of Marketing, to hear how the fashion and lifestyle shopping platform (and Rakuten Group company), is prioritizing DE&I in all aspects of its business and what marketers can learn about creating more inclusive campaigns and creative.
In your own words, what makes ShopStyle stand out in the industry?
ShopStyle is a shopping platform that allows you to search thousands of brands and retailers, compare prices to get the best deal, get sale alerts when your favorited brands and products go on sale and offers Rakuten Cash Back as a member benefit so you always get the best price. We also provide discovery and shopping inspiration via trending search data on top brands, products, looks and categories so you can stay on top of the most popular styles.
What does DE&I mean to you?
DE&I means being inclusive in everything we do. It means taking action within our purview to make an impact, whether that’s amplifying underrepresented voices in the industry, ensuring our marketing collateral reflects diverse communities or striving towards diversity of talent within our organization.
On a personal level, as an API woman in leadership who is a mom of two kids of multicultural descent, I believe it’s pivotal to talk about DE&I and to work at a company that cares about DE&I, both internally and externally.
What role does it play when you’re considering a new campaign or project?
DE&I has become part of our scope and business practice. When we’re planning marketing campaigns, we consider creative and model imagery that maximizes inclusivity. Our business development teams push our retailers for more diverse model imagery that we can integrate into our creative strategies and we have a spotlight series that amplifies brands and designers led by Black, Asian & Pacific Islander, Latin X and LGTBQIA+ individuals.
How has the industry’s understanding of — and relationship with — DE&I evolved over the last few years?
Recent social justice events surrounding racism, violence and inequality really thrust DE&I into the spotlight and pushed businesses in all industries to have a point of view. Social communities and consumers wanted to know what stance companies were taking on diversity and inclusion. Brand values, company mission statements and business strategies also came under focus. Silence and passive stances were viewed by many as complicity.
“DE&I means being inclusive in everything we do. It means taking action within our purview to make an impact, whether that’s amplifying underrepresented voices in the industry, ensuring our marketing collateral reflects diverse communities or striving towards diversity of talent within our organization.”Carmen Chu, Senior Director of Marketing, ShopStyle
Companies have had to decide on their DE&I stance, identify areas of external, internal and partnership opportunities and put that plan into action with accountability. Our consumers and partners are watching — everyone is more aware than ever. People are making buying decisions based on the stances taken by companies. It’s an interesting time, and a very important one for the industry.
How is ShopStyle working to improve representation and diversity on its platform?
ShopStyle has defined a multi-prong approach to improve representation and diversity, and our leaders and employees are fully supportive of these initiatives:
We set a goal last year to maintain at least 50% model diversity in our marketing collateral.
We also created a new campaign series where we introduce and spotlight trailblazers, emerging designers and diverse-led brands from underrepresented groups, such as:
- BIPOC designers who stole the show at NY Fashion Week
- The API-Led Brands to Shop for Wedding Season
- Six LatinX Designers to Know Now
- 5 LGBT+ Designers Who Are Changing The Game
We’re partnering with other Rakuten businesses to do cross-brand integrated D&I marketing. Most recently, we partnered with Rakuten Viki.
Retailers and Brands:
Our business development teams are doing active outreach to brands and businesses that are Black, API, LGTBQIA+, Latin X and Women-led and have launched initiatives that empower these brands and fuel their growth through increased distribution, attracting new audiences, driving sales, and boosting traffic. Some of these include waiving integration fees that can be costly to smaller businesses and providing education around how to incorporate an affiliate program in their business strategy.
Users and members love this content, and it shows in our DE&I content engagement across marketing channels and platforms. Emails have a 15-20% higher engagement rate than other editorial content, social media stories have a +30% higher than average completion rate and the cross-business collabs have generated new audience interest and have increased average daily follower acquisition considerably.
“I’m optimistic and encouraged that DE&I efforts have been such an active and consistent topic over the past year across all Rakuten businesses. It’s such a monumentally important initiative and conversation and I love being at a company that doesn’t shy away from the topic.”Carmen Chu, Senior Director of Marketing, ShopStyle
How can investing in DE&I affect a company’s bottom line?
There are many facets to this. If you invest in DE&I, it means that your team, your partners (be it retailers, designers, brands, influencers, etc.) and your business strategy represents many voices, thereby broadening your aperture. If this is reflected in your communications and branding, other audiences become interested in what your company has to offer, so you’re diversifying your audience footprint as well. Having an active DE&I stance reflects in your business. This leads to acquisition of new users, and increasing engagement among established users, which typically leads to increases in lifetime value and retention.
What is ShopStyle’s DE&I vision moving ahead?
We want to be inclusive and represent inclusivity in everything that we do. To accomplish this goal, we will continue to evolve and optimize our approach, onboarding more retailers and brands, ensuring that we have a cross-platform experience and marketing strategy that supports them, and working on talent acquisition.
Are there any examples from other companies that have inspired you as a marketer?
- Nike, for launching modest swimwear and running hijabs as options.
- Christian Siriano, for designing for women of all sizes and groups – his high fashion, luxury designs are iconic.
- Dior, for recently casting Jin Xing, a Chinese transgender star, as the face of their J’Adore fragrance.
These brands and designers are paving the way to greater inclusivity, and that inspires me!
What should marketers keep in mind when trying to create more diverse and inclusive campaigns?
- Be genuine and authentic: Align with your brand values and missions, otherwise your marketing communications will come off as insincere and users will see through it and call you out for it.
- Amplify and support underrepresented voices first, don’t only think about monetization: You’ll have to establish a different set of metrics, or initially change how you define success with these campaigns, retailers and brands.
- Do proper vetting: When we identify diverse-led brands and businesses to spotlight under a certain campaign strategy, we also research their brand values, their DE&I stance and their PR and social statements to ensure alignment with our own brand values.
“Consumers and partners are watching… People are making buying decisions based on the stances taken by companies. It’s an interesting time, and a very important one for the industry.”Carmen Chu, Senior Director of Marketing, ShopStyle
Rakuten means Optimism in Japanese, what are you optimistic about?
I’m optimistic and encouraged that DE&I efforts have been such an active and consistent topic over the past year across all Rakuten businesses. It’s such a monumentally important initiative and conversation and I love being at a company that doesn’t shy away from the topic.
Learn more about ShopStyle’s DE&I efforts here.