Published December 1, 2022
UNIQLO marketing strategy
Did you know that UNIQLO’s humble beginnings date back to over 30 years ago?
Here’s a bit of history to give you some context: UNIQLO, together with clothing companies J Brand, Comptoir des Cotonniers, GU (and more) are subsidiaries of Fast Retailing, a Japanese retail holding company founded in 1949. At that time, the company originally operated men’s clothing shops also known as Men's Shop Ogori Shoji.
In 1984, the company opened its Fukuromachi Store in Hiroshima under the name Unique Clothing Warehouse.
Source: UNIQLO company website
According to the retail giant’s Wikipedia page, during some early administration work, an employee in charge of registering the company in Hong Kong misread the “C” as “Q”, which in turn gave birth to the name “UNIQLO”. By 2000, UNIQLO’s headquarters moved to Tokyo “to promote merchandising and marketing” and later that year, the company’s online store opened for business.
UNIQLO opened its first overseas store in London in 2001 signaling the beginning of the company’s global expansion, which would continue over two decades. Today, UNIQLO’s parent company, Fast Retailing, is the biggest clothing retailer in Asia (and third largest in the world), with founder Tadashi Yanai officially becoming the richest man in Japan according to the Forbes 2019 list.
UNIQLO brand mentions all around the world. Source: Talkwalker Quick Search
UNIQLO marketing strategy
Everything happens fast in the fashion world. New trends keep popping in, and there are easily hundreds and thousands of fashion companies that are trying to capture the consumers’ interest. So, what sets UNIQLO apart?
“We don’t chase trends. People mistakenly say that UNIQLO is a fast-fashion brand. We’re not. We are about clothing that’s made for everyone.” - CEO Tadashi Yanai UNIQLO | Source: Business Insider
While other brands are competing to catch on with the latest fashion trends faster than ever, UNIQLO’s strategy has always been about investing in product development – leveraging technology and advanced materials – even if it takes long cycles of iteration.
The company sees its brand as all-inclusive, with a clear purpose that is to create new and innovative clothing that is accessible to everyone.
UNIQLO brand mentions in the last 6 months
Here are some examples of what makes the UNIQLO marketing strategy so successful.
1. Using the product as a platform for marketing and raising brand awareness
In 2003, UNIQLO introduced its flagship heat-generating clothing line we all know now as HEATTECH. How this ‘heat technology’ works is that “its fibers absorb moisture that the body emits, and the fabric itself generates heat.”
HEATTECH was the first product UNIQLO released resulting from a collaboration with Japanese chemical company, Toray Industries. The materials were supposedly developed from scratch and over 10,000 prototypes were made to get the intended outcome.
Over the years, the company continued to iterate on their flagship HEATTECH line, releasing ‘warmer versions’ of the product allowing consumers “to transform winter from a cold, heavy clothes season to a warm, lightweight dress season.”
2. Investing in experiential marketing and in-store training to deliver customer experience (CX) excellence
The company doesn’t seem to only invest in technology for product development but also for digital marketing campaigns. A few years back, UNIQLO launched the world’s first ‘fast-moving images’ campaign to further spread awareness for the HEATTECH range.
During this campaign, a number of digital billboards were activated across high-traffic locations in Australia and online, which flashed images with unique codes that were impossible to read – the only way to capture the code was by taking a photo. People who then take a photo could ‘uncover a code’ online where they could watch a short video about the benefits of the HEATTECH clothing range and receive a discount voucher or free UNIQLO clothing piece.
The brand also incorporated a social media element to the campaign, encouraging participants to share this experience with their friends via social networks – inviting them to uncover their own codes. In the end, the campaign reached over 4M people and over 35,000 new customers, which won UNIQLO the Shorty Awards for Best in Retail and E-Commerce in Social Media - highlighting the effectiveness of the UNIQLO marketing strategy.
The company certainly puts a lot of importance on customer experience. If you’ve been to a UNIQLO store, you’ve probably heard the infamous “Welcome to UNIQLO!” greeting and noticed that the retail experience is somewhat consistent regardless of the city or country you are in.
This is not by chance. There’s a carefully designed process behind this. To ensure that the retail experience stays consistent, staff undergo training from how they interact with shoppers to how they should return the credit cards to customers with both hands and full eye contact, as well as greeting all customers “Welcome to UNIQLO” as they enter the store.
"At UNIQLO, we believe that our greatest asset is our people. So, to our dear team members who enthusiastically greet our customers (“Welcome to UNIQLO!”) and who work tirelessly to create the perfect shopping experience - thank you for making UNIQLO the No.1* place to work for.
*Based on Singapore’s Best Employers 2020 Ranking by @straits_times and Market Research firm Statista. This photo was taken on 7 August, 2019."
3. Marketing sustainability in a fast-fashion world. For UNIQLO, LifeWear = Sustainability
UNIQLO introduced the concept of LifeWear clothing, which according to the company is reasonably priced clothing, designed for the long term. Through this philosophy, UNIQLO has attracted customers who advocate the use of responsible materials and manufacturing processes.
The LifeWear concept symbolizes the company’s commitment to “achieving a sustainable society”, which certainly helps foster this connection with the customer who cares for the same cause.
To further extend the life cycle of their clothing, UNIQLO offers repair services to customers at a reasonable price, as part of the brand’s RE.UNIQLO program. Through this initiative, UNIQLO customers are encouraged to Repair, Reuse and Recycle their UNIQLO apparel by simply bringing in their damaged garments to a RE.UNIQLO studio to get them fixed.
The clothing brand also launched ECO Bags to further promote global sustainability through a lifestyle that does not create plastic waste.
4. Seeing e-commerce as not just a new format for doing business but also a marketing channel to boost in-store sales
While some companies might see e-commerce stores as competition to the physical stores, UNIQLO understands today, customers' touch points have become more mixed than ever.
“We have noticed that the more our e-commerce services expand, the more often customers tend to purchase items from our physical stores,” shares Yanai. “For example, rather than go to stores to search, our Chinese customers tend to select products they think sound most attractive based on information they found online. When we launch a new UNIQLO product, customers actively share information about the product on social media, spurring sales both online and in our stores.”
The customer behavior is constantly shifting. People expect more and more to be able to buy what they want, when they want it – and e-commerce is definitely the way forward. UNIQLO believes to be successful, retail brands need to learn to run e-commerce and physical stores in synergy.
5. Collaborations with top influencers help take the UNIQLO brand to the next level
Yanai’s aggressive expansion strategy is no secret in the industry. His ultimate vision is for the company to be no. 1 in the world. And one of the ways UNIQLO has been growing over the years is through their countless collaborations.
Firstly, they work with global ambassadors like tennis world-champion Roger Federer and world-class, pro golfer Adam Scott.
Source: Uniqlo ambassadors page
Second, the brand has also pioneered design collaborations with different groups and designers all around the world, creating something for different audience segments.
UNIQLO x MARNI
With British fashion label JW Anderson
UNIQLO X Theory
UNIQLO understands that its product is one of the most powerful marketing tools for its brand. The company puts a lot of emphasis on delivering great customer experience and communicating on causes that their customers care about. The company is also embracing e-commerce to further boost awareness and purchases, and it is always looking for opportunities to reach more people through collaborations with key personalities and designers globally.
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