The Coachella Effect: How Retailers Can Take Advantage of Festival Season

Festival season for retailers | Shopify Retail blog

For two weekends in April, all eyes are fixated on Indio, California, where Coachella dominates social media and entertainment news. Thanks to its impact on fashion trends, Coachella is more than a music festival — it has become a veritable fashion moment, along with New York Fashion Week, the Met Gala and the Oscars. The same is true for festival season in general. These multi-day outdoor events are sparking retailers to create a variety of boho-chic merchandise to cater to the festival-loving masses.

In a Business of Fashion article called “At Festivals, Fashion Taps the 'Currency of Cool',” Deborah Yeh, senior vice president of marketing at Sephora, says it all:

Festivals are huge moments in the cultural calendar… [They’ve become] to fashion and beauty brands what the Super Bowl is to other consumer product categories.

It’s safe to say that the celebrity sightings and fashion trends overshadow the performances. It’s also the unofficial kickoff to summer fashion, as bloggers and A-listers flock to the desert in their best festival looks, while avid fashion watchers follow the Coachella hashtags on social media to peep the trends and take cues from festival-goers and headliners.

Tip: Mark the dates on your calendars and plan accordingly. This year Coachella takes place on the weekends of April 14th-16th and April 21st-23rd; it’s always the second and third consecutive weekends in April.

There is no denying Coachella’s importance as a calendar event — take note of these other facts to understand its impact:

  • Beyonce practically broke the Internet when she announced that she was one of the headliners (her headlining gig has since been postponed to 2018 as she is currently pregnant with twins; Lady Gaga is now replacing Queen Bey).
  • According to the 2016 Business of Fashion article, 33 million people in the U.S. attend music festivals every year. In the UK, the number is about 14 million.
  • With onsite sponsors like H&M (and the creation of an official line (see #HMLoveCoachella), Hunter boots and Tag Heuer, Coachella offers endless opportunities for brand partnerships and IRL activations.
  • Instagram reported to Mashable that the social network recorded approximately 83 million interactions on Instagram related to Coachella 2015 in its first weekend in April alone (the top liked post was Beyonce in her ‘Chella glory, with 895K likes).

Coachella 🌺🌸🌼🌻🐝

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So, if your retail brand targets millennials and Generation Z, knowing how to attract festival-goers can be music to your ears. (According to Millennial Marketing, music festivals are a key way to connect with millennials, which is no surprise!)

Learn the trends for this year’s festival season and brush up on some key marketing tactics to know how to reach this key demographic, courtesy of a handful of Shopify merchants who sell festival-friendly merchandise. Even if you can't sell your wares directly from a stall at the festival, learning from these example can help you prep your brand to get a share of this growing market in the leadup to this year's festival season.

The Trends: Apparel and Accessories

To get a sense of the trends during festival season, make sure to follow celebrities like Katy Perry, Kendall and Kylie Jenner, Taylor Swift (and her squad), Selena Gomez, Justin Bieber, as well as top bloggers like Chiara Ferragni (a.k.a. “The Blonde Salad”), Aimee Song (@SongofStyle), Danielle Bernstein (@WeWoreWhat), and Julie Sarinana (@SincerelyJules).

Retro Hits

We spoke with Sonja Rasula, Founder and Creative Director of Unique Markets, about the trends that are sure to be seen and on the scene:

“The nostalgia for all things ’90s is still going strong this year, so expect to see lots of ‘90s-inspired styles (baggy logo tees, high-waisted jeans, pants and shorts that are pleated at the waist, vintage Levi's, baby doll dresses, crop tops...), as well as the ever-present California dreamer/explorer look (floral anything, fringe vests/boots, floral crowns, braided hair, feather accessories, moccasins, jean shorts).”

Off-the-Shoulder Looks

Anything off-the-shoulder or shoulder-baring (i.e. “cold shoulder” styles that feature cutouts) also lends itself to the boho vibe of Coachella. It’s feminine, easy-breezy, and perfect for the desert heat.

loving this chic shoulder play 💕 @camilacoelho in the Zayn top ✨ available exclusively at @revolve

A post shared by Lovers and Friends (@loversfriendsla) on


While aviators are still popular, some other styles of shades are enjoying their time in the spotlight this year. Chase Elliott, Marketing Director of Crap Eyewear, gave us the sunglasses scoop:

“This year, we've seen an incredible response to our sunglasses that feature color-tinted lenses such as Gold, Light Blue or Pink. Their popularity comes as no surprise as they offer 100% UV protection against the sun during the day, but become a strong fashion move after the sun sets — we all need a sunglass that can do both.” (Preach!)

Elliott continues: “A few other festival trends we're on top of are classic aviator-style wire frames, zero base (flat) and colored mirror lenses. This spring, we're offering three styles with flat or near flat lenses, that provide a modern look with just the right balance of fashion, function and edge. We've also seen no change in the widespread popularity of rose gold mirror lenses and just released an exciting new style that combines all three of these looks in our Crap® fave, The Tuff Safari."

Festival season, Crap Eyewear | Shopify Retail blog

Image Credit: Crap Eyewear


When it comes to trendy jewelry, everything from statement-making pieces and chokers, to layered boho and delicate styles, is making waves.

Jenn Low, Founder of Wanderlust + Co. (“a jewelry label for dreamers and lovers”) gave us the scoop on the jewelry trends:

“Festivals are where we all get to have fun with fashion and express ourselves freely, so layering jewelry is always the way to go. Statement pieces are a great anchor to start with, before layering more delicate pieces to complete the look. It’s clear that the choker hasn’t said its last word yet and will continue to be big for SS17. Silk and velvet ribbons that were spotted on off-duty models last season have now evolved into statement chokers with different materials, such as leather accented with raw minerals and layers of draped metal chains, as seen on our Aella Choker and Tristen Choker.

Low continues: “When in doubt, opt for jewelry pieces with fringing, tassels and braided detailing, as they are festival staples. When the temperature rises in the desert, wear your hair up with shoulder-skimming statement earrings like our Take Flight Earrings. This look will work a treat with off-the-shoulder tops that are on-trend right now.”

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go? #WCOgirlgang @theruecollective spreading that travel bug 🛫

A post shared by Wanderlust + Co™ 💎 (@wanderlustandco) on

iPhone Cases

Part of the allure of music festivals is what happens on social media, so if you’re not experiencing the vibes IRL, then following along to the magic is second best (especially on platforms like Snapchat, Facebook Live and Instagram Stories, where you can actually hear the live music and witness the action.)

Jennie Yoon, Director of Business Development at Casetify, purveyor of on-trend phone and tech accessories, explains:

“People are becoming more open to the idea of expressing their style through tech accessories, mainly through phone cases. We started to see some bold prints in FW16, and we're starting to see tropical patterns and exotic animals in full swing for SS17. The jungle is very much alive with elements of giraffes, elephants, tigers with dark ground florals. This year seems to be a bit darker with autumnal inspired hues from forest greens, to rich navy. And this year's new palm tree seems to be the cactus. Of course, we'll continue to see boho and lace for the festival season — maybe with some rich twists.”

The daily companion. Link in bio to shop the exclusive #casetifyxlucyhale collection.⠀

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The Marketing Tools

Don’t be intimidated by the international fashion chains if you’re a smaller retailer, as you can still enjoy a piece of the festival season pie and join in on the action by being part of the conversation.

According to the aforementioned Business of Fashion article, “A strong digital content strategy can mean the difference between ‘not only reaching the thousands of people who came to the event, but also the hundreds of thousands of people who follow the people who came to the event,” says Jaclyn Johnson, chief executive at digital marketing and events agency No Subject. “Now, the ROI on events is not just who attended or how many eyeballs were on the product, but what online content was driven.”

Here are some ways you can promote your brand during festival season.

Social Media

One of Coachella’s biggest content distribution channels is social media: for starters, in 2014, Coachella literally broke Instagram when the platform was down the first Saturday of the festival, likely due to an overload of users (note: this was never officially confirmed by Instagram, but the correlation is too strong to dismiss).

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From the minute the headliners are announced to the posts throughout those two weekends in April, if it’s not on social media, then it didn’t happen, as far as Coachella is concerned.

Rasula of Unique Markets elaborates: “Using [your] online and social media audience is a great way to gather content and spread excitement. Retailers can ask people to take photos of their festival looks and share them, they can have contests where people submit the five items they would want to win to 'make their festival look', etc.”

Low of Wanderlust + Co. agrees:During key events, there is always plenty of noise in the social media and marketing realm. Creating visibility is crucial but offering festival-goers an honest experience is equally important in order to stand out and create sincere engagement. Social media is an instant and relatively unedited way to connect with an audience. We love speaking directly to festival-goers via our Instagram account @wanderlustandco.

Influencer Partnerships

Keep in mind, social media and influencer activations go hand-in-hand, as Rasula explains: “Utilizing influencers is a great way to reach new audiences. For example, each influencer can post their festival look and tag the brands.” A popular tactic when partnering with influencers is making them your “festival spokesperson” while on-site, and giving potential shoppers backstage access by sharing behind-the-scenes footage on Snapchat and Instagram Stories, as suggested by Rasula.

Key takeaway: When it comes to influencer outreach, authenticity is key. It needs to look like the blogger or influencer you’re working with is a fan of your brand.

Low of Wanderlust + Co. elaborates: “We enjoy collaborating with specific key influencers and celebrities during festival season, to convey real life on-ground stylistic content. Having said that, retailers have to choose collaborations with care to ensure the awareness and key messaging that is created and conveyed, genuinely matches the brand's aesthetic.”

The same rule of authenticity applies for tech, as Yoon of Casetify explains: “You see tons of clothing brands that do fittings with influencers. For tech accessories, we see it the same way — they're an accessory, so we like to 'dress' our influencers' tech — from phones, laptops, wires, and even headphones. We believe in keeping things as organic as possible for marketing. Nowadays, followers all know when someone is paid to do something, so one way to stand out is keeping things authentic. And at the end of the day, have fun because that will naturally attract people.”

Crap Eyewear leverages Instagram as its weapon of choice, especially when it comes to growing awareness and attracting new festival goers. And it helps that the brand has honed in on its target audience.

“We support a year-round, eclectic roster of full-time skateboarders, surfers, musicians and artists we call the Crap Family, that continually have our back through wearing and tagging our sunglasses on their own personal accounts,” Elliott explains. “On top of that, we're always sending new shades to a range of outside influencers that we feel identify with the counterculture voice of our brand. We'd much rather see our sunglasses on an individual with their own authentic and unique voice than worn by the sea of sameness perfecting their pose in front of a ferris wheel.”

Before launching your brand's strategy for festival season, it's worth it to consider making influencer marketing part of the equation. Read up on influencer outreach on Instagram and engaging micro-influencers for more information to help you get started.

Contests and Giveaways

As mentioned above, retail brands can draw attention to their festival-friendly products via contests and giveaways. Engaging festival goers and fans through online contests exposes a new audience to your brand.

Jessica Hendricks Yee, founder of The Brave Collection (a jewelry line handmade in Cambodia to support local artisans and empower girls against human trafficking), explains: "Last year we did an Instagram giveaway contest, asking our followers to show their festival style for a chance to win a free Brave Collection Bracelet. We also worked with some amazing publications such as Who What Wear, contributing to their roundups on Coachella style. This year, we are planning on releasing some festival-inspired mood shots to help connect the dots for our audience between their festival style and our colorful, bohemian pieces!"

May my heart be kind, my mind fierce and my spirit BRAVE. ⚡️#WovenNecklaces

A post shared by The Brave Collection (@thebravecollection) on

And remember, even if your brand isn’t attending one of these fests as a sponsor, you can still partake in the action by way of giveaways.

Low of Wanderlust + Co. explains: “Giveaways and interactive contests are also fun ways to include non-festival goers and interact with a global audience, who might be keen trend-followers of the festival and are unable to make it to the festival itself. This encourages global traffic to site, growth of following and heightened awareness of particular products.”

This scenario is a win-win for all.

How Will You Get Your Brand Ready for Festival Season?

If your key demographic includes millennials and Generation Z, then staying up to date with the key festival and summer trends will help you attract festival-goers. But having festival-friendly items is half the battle — marketing them and promoting your brand accordingly will help you ring in sales. Start looking at your calendar as early as possible, and consider how you can leverage the power of social media, influencers, and giveaways to make this festival season a smash hit.