Why French Connection's Youtique is at the Forefront of Fashion E-Commerce

Last Updated Oct 6, 2010 3:01 PM EDT

In the annals of e-commerce, originality is often relegated to a slim chapter. That hasn't deterred some retailers from seeking innovative ways to engage customers while getting them to open their wallets wide enough to let the moths fly out. French Connection (FCCN) just launched such an example of click-to-buy brilliance â€" on YouTube. French Connection's "Youtique" has arrived at precisely the right time.

French Connection is still trying hard to regain the relevance its brand enjoyed back in the late 80s and early 90s when billboards splashed with the letters FCUK were all it took to lure hipster fashionistas into its togs. The rise of fast fashion changed all that and consequently left French Connection to eat the dust off speedily selling stilettos. That is, until earlier this year when the British brand invested heavily in social media and saw it pay off with a pre-tax profit of £200,000 ($310,000) for the six months ending in July, mostly driven by e-commerce and men's wear.

A ChatRoulette contest was one of the company's smarter initiatives, as evidenced by the boost to men's wear sales. Unfortunately, that was followed up by a strange alliance with Sears (SHLD) in which French Connection would create an exclusive collection for the discount chain, despite the fact that Sears is nowhere near realizing the fruits of its alleged labor to make itself over as a destination for trendy threads.

Now the Sears/FC partnership seems less like a serious management misstep than a temporary roll in the sheets with a strange bedfellow. French Connection wisely struck a deal with the video-sharing juggernaut to allow viewers to click through its pop-ups and on to the French Connection shopping site.

Taking the recent rash of celebrity stylist tips on e-commerce sites one step further, French Connection (under the creative direction of Poke, London) stylists' offers Louise Roe (fashion journalist and, you guessed it, stylist) dishing all sorts of tips for making the French Connection assortment work for situations as tame as a wedding or as wild as a wannabe rock star's guitar smashing rampage.

The latter, "How to look sexy whilst smashing stuff," is just an extension of French Connection's quirky blog on the carefully designed brand channel. Taken together, French Connection's branding makes a seamless leap from static social media, to engaging video, and on to its product pages.

As for timing, I'm sure launching just before big seasonal spending is no coincidence. Let's just hope French Connection's Youtique has enough juice to help pump up those tepid retail numbers.

Image via French Connection on YouTube

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