For consumers, there has never been so much choice when it comes to working out what to buy and how, but this represents a real challenge for retailers. In the past, competing with your rivals generally took place on the high street, and the market was dominated by established brands and department stores, but technology has been changing consumer behaviour in the fashion industry recently.
Staying ahead of the latest trends is the key to survival, and we have already seen some big changes as famous names have disappeared from the high street thanks to disruptive activities from up-and-coming brands like Boohoo, MissGuided and Pretty Little Thing. This is because they’ve found ways to engage the modern fashion consumer and benefit from the stay-at-home economy.
How Has The Stay-At-Home Economy Changed Fashion?
The stay-at-home economy has seen consumers increasingly steering clear of the high street and using digital devices to buy food, clothes, etc. The ability to skip the shops and stay at home to browse the bargains and latest trends on your phone has revolutionised the fashion world, despite the obvious drawback of not being able to try clothes on when you’re at home and they’re in a warehouse.
So far, retailers have simply had to make their returns policy as easy as possible so that customers don’t feel like they’re taking much of a risk when purchasing, but Amazon is aiming to take that even further with the launch of its Amazon Prime Wardrobe option. This Wardrobe is designed not to store your clothes but to help you try on new clothes without going into a store.
Customers can select at least three items of clothing (up to a maximum of 15), which will be delivered in a resealable, returnable box, meaning that once they’ve tried the clothes on, they can send back any that they don’t want, with a courier picking the box up. The concept is clearly to go the extra mile to encourage customers to feel like they’re getting the same benefits from shopping at home as they would in a store.
At the moment Wardrobe is only in beta and will be available to Prime members alone, but if Amazon makes it a success, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see more online retailers following suit. What’s more, it isn’t Amazon’s first attempt to position itself at the heart of the stay-at-home economy for fashion, as it launched the Echo Look earlier this year, an AI-style assistant designed to help customers choose what to wear from their own wardrobes.
Which Trends Are Coming Next?
With consumers happy to stay at home and browse, getting them engaged with your brand is becoming ever more essential and the possibilities are growing. Some brands are crowdsourcing designs, as adidas recently did with Manchester United’s third kit, giving football fans the chance to design a kit that will be worn by the stars (and of course be available to purchase). Meanwhile, crowdfunding is growing in popularity for designers looking to get their products to market. The two may be at opposite ends of the scale in terms of size, but both are using digital to get consumers invested in their products.
Adidas has also embraced technology in its fast fashion NEO stores, with several of them having interactive mirrors that allow consumers to get their social media friends involved in the decision process before buying a new outfit. They just snap the photo, post it to their feeds and their mates can chip in with their thoughts. This approach makes digital a fundamental part of the in-store experience, combining elements of what Amazon is trying to bring to the stay-at-home market.
If the high street wants to fight back, this kind of technological innovation is what it needs to embrace, bringing social and digital interactivity into the process of actually visiting the shops. Burberry has equipped its store staff with iPads to help make the experience of shopping there more like online shopping in terms of what can be offered, ordered and customised, and already 10% of orders in the London store are made via the devices.
There are still some elements of the market that are as yet small in terms of footprint, but which could see dramatic growth as trends shift, like subscription fashion, which takes the personalisation to the next level by getting consumers to sign up, like they would to Netflix or Spotify. The most famous of these is Rent The Runway, which had over 6m subscribers by October 2016, and allows them to rent designer dresses for four days or eight days for a greatly reduced price.
However, in a twist to the general trends on display here, Rent The Runway has actually opened physical stores to offer customers the kind of personal assistance in the flesh that remains impossible online. That demonstrates the contradiction that remains in this area, which is that all of the digital personalisation currently available still doesn’t replace the personal approach of seeing, touching and trying on clothes in a store or getting advice from a shop assistant or personal stylist or even friends or family.
Nor does it yet replace the ability to go into a physical shop at the last minute needing an item of clothing for that very evening with the confidence that it will fit. Technology is changing the way we do many things, including the way we behave as fashion consumers, but there’s certainly still a place for the high street, with perhaps a blend of offline and online being the way forward.
What do you think about the changing consumer habits in the fashion industry? Tweet us your thoughts at @mporiumgroup!