WINSER LONDON & STOKE PARK EMBRACE THE DIGITAL FUTURE

Picture the scene: a select group of elegantly-dressed women gather on the sun-drenched balcony of Stoke Park’s Pennsylvania Suite – better known as the scene of Bridget Jones’ infamous mini-break with Daniel Cleaver – as they sip chilled Champagne, gaze out over the 27-hole Championship golf course below and swap views on follower numbers, affiliate schemes and integrity.

These women are some of the country’s top micro-influencers – lifestyle and fashion bloggers with a focused audience – invited by womenswear brand, Winser London, to spend the day with founder and CEO, Kim Winser OBE and her team at Stoke Park last month to discover the brand’s summer collection of high quality, sensibly-priced clothes and to enjoy the exquisite hotel and spa and its glorious grounds. 

With e-commerce at its heart, Winser London is a modern luxury womenswear brand that offers women what they really want to wear. Kim Winser was clear from the start that “digital had to be at the core of the business to ensure that it was future-proof”.  With her marketing team, Kim has ensured that influencers such as these are fundamental to the development of winserlondon.com.  “For me, it’s all about the customer – and our customers are looking for authenticity, for views and recommendations from women they relate to.  The best bloggers and Instagrammers have integrity and therefore edit their way through the many brands on offer, providing honest and valuable recommendations for their followers.”

Consumers are increasingly rejecting traditional marketing and turning to social media as their resource for all types of information, including trends, products and reviews. In fact, data from influencer marketing platform MuseFind shows that 92% of consumers trust an influencer more than an advert or celebrity endorsement.  According to a study from influencer site Bloglovin, influencers have inspired six in ten digitally savvy women to use a new product and 55% of them buy products after seeing them in an influencer’s post.  Forbes.com reports that with 47% of customers using Adblock technology, traditional digital advertising channels often have limited effectiveness.  As such, increasing numbers of lifestyle brands are turning to influencers to broaden their customer base and to deliver engagement and loyalty.

An avid fan of Winser London since its early days, and a guest at Stoke Park that day, fashion blogger Lisa Lennkh of The Sequinist has a loyal audience: “The trust and honesty that many bloggers build up with their readers translates to better sales and more targeted branding than traditional print media.  People would rather see things on a relatable person than on a perfect and heavily-retouched model in a magazine.”  Lisa started blogging after a 20-year career in Wall Street and finance and then solo travel adventures that took her eventually to London where she married and now has a young son.  “I started The Sequinist so I could write about whatever makes my heart race, be it a beauty product, a designer, a pair of shoes or a fashion trend that I find particularly age-friendly.” 

On that sunny day in late May, Lisa and her fellow bloggers spent the morning at Stoke Park in professional make-up thanks to Linda Brown of delilah cosmetics, they then went on to model and be photographed for their blogs in Winser London outfits that they had chosen and styled themselves, attend tutored flower arranging with Stoke Park’s house florist, Lily’s Flowers, and finally enjoyed a proper English afternoon tea in the Polo Lounge before heading to the spa to relax.  

Donna Blower of I Won’t Wear Sludge Brown believes that to be successful, a blogger needs to have a point of difference, much like a successful brand: “Some say that the blogging sphere is saturated. I think that there’s always room for one more, but in order to achieve success and longevity, new bloggers should have a unique selling point to make them stand out from the crowd.”  Donna started blogging nearly four years ago and made her specialist subjects her unique selling point: “My readers are very interested in colour and body shape and I’m always inundated with emails after I publish a post covering these topics.”

Post-shoot and pre-afternoon tea, Donna’s views were echoed by former hair and make-up artist, Michelle Tyler of Retro Chic Mama,who started her blog two years ago.  She provides her audience with honest advice: “Grown up women also need style inspiration and like the fact that we're just like them, relatable and even accessible. They only have to leave a comment on the blog to ask a question about a certain look and they'll get an answer straight away. It's personalised service on an intimate level.” 

Mother/daughter influencer team, Maxine and Carlie Tasker work separately but often travel together on luxury influencer trips. Carlie’s blog features beautiful photography and engaging stories of her travels and luxury finds, while Maxine writes her blog in tandem with her role as an editor of South County Magazine to provide content “for real women and real life”. 

Rebecca Ellis, founder of Stoke Park’s house florist, Lily’s Flowers, regularly posts on social media to ensure her brand “stays in the forefront of people's minds”.  She and her colleague Clare gave demonstrations to the guest bloggers and helped them create an informal flower arrangement.  While she crafted hers, Corporate Style Story’s Cyran Bampton explained how she sees the future of blogging: “Consumers are sophisticated and in my opinion, they won't be fooled or engaged by overtly positive blogger reviews of a product. The collaboration has to fit – so emphasis on careful blogger engagement and content marketing will always be key”. 

Over an indulgent and beautifully staged afternoon tea for the group in the Polo Lounge, Cyran explained how she believes the rapidly increasing pace of modern life “will drive more interest in video and on-demand audio” as consumers have less time to read wordy blogs. 

Back on Bridget Jones’ balcony at sunset, and Stoke Park’s Head of Communications, Nick Downie, raised a glass to Winser London’s crack team for their “meticulous attention to detail” in the design and management of what was a successful and hugely enjoyable influencer event.  Nick is clear about the future: “Social media now crosses all generations, is visual and targeted, and the joy of it is you can reach consumers globally.  I believe it is the future and luxury brands very much need to embrace it.”  

As two authentic British luxury brands, Stoke Park and Winser London have not just embraced it, they’ve embraced it confidently, hand in hand.