Over the first half of 2020, the Clothing and Accessories industry — like many others has been on a rollercoaster from the shock of the coronavirus pandemic. The disruption to supply chains, store openings, and demand has been well documented — but what comes next?
All strategies and projections for 2020 fell flat because of the raging pandemic, with a breakdown of traditional business models, giving rise to what is now commonly called the new normal. And in this new normal, a set of fresh trends have emerged in all sectors born from the results of the crisis. The major impact of the pandemic has been on how people and businesses see the future. From a change in customer preferences to a yearning for a more sustainable future.
As consumers and industries navigate the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are new looks for the industry to try on.
- Sustainable, yet affordable clothing is on the rise
- The e-commerce industry is booming with grounds to flourish further in the wake of global economic changes
- A growing market for seasonless items as consumers look to make the most out of each purchase
SUSTAINABILITY: The New Consumer Mindset
The clothing and accessories industry has long been criticized for its detrimental effects on the environment and hailed as one of the most pollutive industries in the world. There are signs emerging that suggest the interest in sustainable and ethical fashion is now a steadily rising upward trend. The quarantine has accelerated trends like intolerance for wasteful business practices and expectations for companies to be more purpose-driven and sustainable in their approach.
Consumers are more interested in the sustainability of the products they purchase, and it’s affecting their decision process. The consumers are willing to pay more for products from a sustainable brand over a non-sustainable competitor brand. Generally, customers are very concerned about how their providers are affecting the world around them. Brands have fallen victim to their own unethical behaviors being brought to light. Fast fashion clothing brands like Forever21 and Urban Outfitters have also been criticized for their hostility to workers and harmful clothing material.
An analysis of the search and purchase trends by Bewgle indicates an increase in the search for sustainable clothing as well as sales of brands focused on sustainability.
Remaining committed to sustainability goals, even amid COVID-19, might bode particularly well with younger shoppers. Gen Z, which tends to favour more environmentally conscious brands, also is the demographic most eager to return to stores once they reopen.
The new buying calendar reflects the amount of choice and access to information that consumers now have. Forward-thinking brands and designers have taken this shift in seasonality to think about a more sustainable future, launching timeless items that aren’t designed to be “in” one season and “out” the next. Many of the biggest brands like Michael Kors and Saint Laurent have removed themselves from the traditional seasonal calendar. Others, like Gucci and Prada, have decided that they would be going seasonless and reducing the number of shows and collections. The seasonless fashion trend is introducing slow fashion. Fashionable wear that lasts longer than one season and can be recycled or reused through as many different seasons or styles as possible.
The Fast Fashion trend has also led to environmental concerns. Every year, the clothing industry produces 2 million tons of waste, emits 2.1 million tons of carbon dioxide, and uses 70 million tons of water; these figures have significantly risen in the years since Fast Fashion became a retailing standard. To make matters worse, the quality of these garments is typically so low that most are discarded or donated to charity by the wearer within two years of the original purchase.
According to our research, over 80% of consumers intend to purchase from a DTC brand by 2023. As a fast-growing business model, DTC businesses will heavily influence future brands.
The following are the driving factors behind successful DTC businesses, these kinds of brands focus on:
- Being completely digital
- Personalizing their products on a large scale
- Proving their brand values as being authentic, consistent, and meaningful
- Exploiting the weaknesses of traditional brands and distribution models
- Advocating for the needs of their target audience
DTC BRANDS CONSUMERS
If we look at today’s millennial consumers, they are very engaged in what we would call digital-native brands, the Warby Parkers of the world, or Glossier. The DTC brands are building better relationships with customers and meeting their rising expectations directly. The digital brand might have some retail stores but they’re not retail stores in the traditional sense, with a massive distribution channel. They are selling directly to the consumer. Their primary channel is online, digital, and if they have stores, they are experience centres — experiential, premium showrooms where they’re not necessarily interested in selling you something
With most shops closed more than they have been open this year, it is no surprise we’ve seen a step-change in e-commerce. Many of the top retailers are focusing on combining their digital and physical store offerings to stand out and succeed in a competitive market. Retailers have adopted different fulfilment strategies to adapt to their customer needs and existing store estate. Pure players like Asos have developed innovative automated warehouses, placing technology innovation at the heart of their fulfilment operations. Luxury retailers are evolving interactive experiences to create high-quality personalized brand-building experiences that also support sales, such as Harrods VIP personal shopping service powered by online messaging services.
These DTC brands at their core are focused on bringing a curated shopping experience to their customers with every purchase. They’ve built a strong, loyal customer base, largely using data to ensure each visit is unique and personalized. Shifting to physical retail is another way these brands might adapt to evolving consumer preferences – including those who still prefer the in-store experience over an online one.
DTC brands in particular have a ton of insight into consumer behaviour based on their online profiles. By pairing that with real-world location-based insights, they can continue to add experiential value for consumers in-store and find increasing success both on and offline.
As the digital world continues to grow and change, more and more fashion e-commerce retailers are attempting to retain existing customers, and attract new ones through the use of Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality experiences. Retailers say they are planning to deploy either AR or VR solutions to meet customer experience requirements. One avenue that fashion retailers are focusing on especially is the use of AR and VR dressing room experiences. These experiences allow visitors to see themselves in a brand’s clothing, without necessarily needing to visit the store, in a persuasive attempt to buy.
Well-known brands such as IKEA, Sephora, ZARA, etc have already leveraged AR tools. IKEA used AR to allow users to visualize the position of furniture in their homes or offices. AR/VR has increased relatability to the content displayed by brands. Thereby the specifications are well understood and customers are also clear about what they want. Relatability increases purchases which, in turn, pushes up the brand’s RoI.
Here is why brands should leverage an AR/VR strategy for their business.
- Improved user experience
- Remove the language barrier
- Understand user behaviour
- Relatable content
- Increased brand awareness
- Enhanced customer engagement
As consumer mindsets shift, so does the e-commerce landscape. The industry pivot toward seasonless fashion blends with growing consumer demand around sustainability. To make meaningful change, the industry and the people who buy clothing need to use this moment to completely overhaul the system and go seasonless. We’re confident that direct-to-consumer brands and all their associated trends will continue to disrupt the online marketing space and as time goes on, they’ll only become more influential.
Value and ease of purchase are still the main drivers of purchase decisions, but sustainability is becoming a bigger factor. Digital transformation is forcing companies to change their business models and adapt to the new market reality. Reach out to us at email@example.com to get data- rich with insights about customer wants, needs and desires.