Whether it’s that 70s velour tracksuit reimagined on the catwalk, or a punk-era leather jacket making a comeback as a vintage item, fashion is undeniably cyclical; old trends reappear constantly in new, innovative ways. But whilst fashion has changed with the decades, the traditional sales model for the industry has by and large stayed the same — until now.
By: Sarah Anderson
With the rise of social media and e-commerce over the last decade, the almost instantaneous nature of the digital world has disrupted the marketing status quo, forcing the way fashion brands connect with consumers to alter in tandem.
In today’s world, consumers have a wealth of channels available at their fingertips, from fashion house Instagram feeds and influencer content to Twitter trends and targeted online advertising. With this new plethora of channels, brands need to keep their finger on the pulse to ensure a luxury, high-end experience is felt across each touchpoint; this is known as the omnichannel imperative.
The Omnichannel Imperative Challenge
The current demands of e-commerce, along with a retail landscape reshaped by the pandemic and thousands of store closures, has presented problems for many brands — especially luxury retailers that differentiate themselves by offering a high level of service.
Over half (55.7%) of fashion sales over the past year were online, according to ONS, signifying a new style of customer journey that can begin anywhere: on social media, on an app or via a digital ad. As a brand, how do you engage with customers across all those touchpoints? And how do you meet the demands of the “new luxury shopper”?
We believe there are three approaches fashion brands and merchants should consider. Tapping into the mindset of the new luxury shopper is crucial, as is being able to tune into every customer touchpoint. Having the capability to create an exclusive and personalised digital shopping experience that feels on par with the level of service luxury shoppers are used to in store, will also be essential to securing those sales.
Identifying the luxury shopper mindset
So, who exactly is the “new luxury” customer? Well, they’re multigenerational, stretching from Millennials and Generation Z to Generation X and older. But it’s the younger generations driving spend. According to McKinsey, Generation Z and Millennials represent around $350 billion of spending power in the United States alone. Additionally, Gen Z will account for 40% of global consumers by 2020.
While older generations have entered a whole new paradigm of online shopping and experiences, younger generations have also changed their habits and expectations in the wake of the pandemic. Infobip research shows nearly a quarter of Brits aged 18-24 (24%) are more likely to engage with a business if they receive information on how it’s giving back to society through sustainable, environmental, or charitable initiatives. A fifth of 25–34-year-olds felt the same, compared to just 13% of those aged 55+.
Identifying shopper preferences in terms of brand accountability and sustainability helps refine marketing and image.
Tapping into engagement touchpoints
Investing in digitalisation and tapping into new touchpoints is key to engaging today’s consumer. McKinsey’s recent report, ‘The State of Fashion 2021’, revealed that “Digital is seen by a third of executives as the biggest opportunity in 2021.”
According to Infobip research, the vast majority of UK consumers (79%) reported experiencing bad customer service during the first lockdown, with the biggest frustrations including waiting to speak with an organisation’s customer service team (35%), limited ways and times to contact a company (31%), and repeating details to a customer service agent (20%). What’s more, almost a third (32%) said that they will not spend with the business that provided that poor service again. Ignoring digitalisation and providing limited ways to interact with a brand will only frustrate shoppers and encourage them to look elsewhere.
Fashion retailers need to deliver personalised engagement at every stage of the customer journey — from the moment of inspiration to product discovery, brand engagement, sales conversion, fulfillment, and returns. It’s about meeting the luxury customer where they are, which could be on a website with an AI chatbot, through an email, or a text message. The key is knowing that luxury shoppers demand exclusive, attentive, and personalised experiences every step of the way — and having the digital solutions in place to deliver.
Bringing exclusivity to the digital experience
The loss of retail tourism and in-person experiences has been a serious blow to fashion retail. Overseas customers previously drove huge amounts of revenue for brands. Luxury retailers have had to pivot to ensure they remain top of mind for consumers — and digital has been key.
In 2020, the British Fashion Council (BFC) announced that its show would become a digital-only event for the first time in its 40-year history. Similarly, Gucci wagered a new tech gamble with its personalised video shopping experience ‘Gucci Live’, connecting store staff with consumers via mobile phones or computers.
And it goes wider than test projects. LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH Group) recently appointed a ‘Chief Omnichannel Officer’ to help grow online retail. Toni Belloni, Managing Director, LVMH Group said, “developing infrastructure of remote customer service of high quality” will be a focus for the group.
It’s important to remember that prior to the pandemic, the consumer’s experience with a luxury brand occurred mostly in stores, on a sales floor and with a store associate — all bolstered by the media. But the pandemic has changed the boundaries of engagement, meaning brands must invest in bringing the same customer exclusivity and creativity to their online estate as they have done previously in their flagship stores.
The future of fashion
As time goes on, and the habits of the pandemic remain engrained, luxury retailers have realised that the traditional focus on the instore experience must evolve.
Digital is the new frontier and this isn’t a passing trend. For brands to replicate that special customer experience in a digital setting, a strategic approach that builds a meaningful customer relationship across all channels, is the real imperative.
Sarah Anderson is Head of Marketing Europe at Infobip.