The fashion industry is turbulent. Even to professionals, trends seem to appear and disappear within a matter of minutes. The lack of proper information and/or preparation could easily lead to misdirection and a long, difficult recovery in the online space.
Despite the speed at which the industry is moving, decision-makers don’t have to remain in the dark. At G & Co., we uncover some of the biggest fashion and apparel industry insights – namely digital strength, social consciousness, and opportunistic investments – to better understand emerging trends in this space. Moreover, these fashion and apparel DTC strategies will be beneficial beyond 2021 as we begin to see more drastic changes within the digital landscape.
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Fashion and Apparel Brands’ eCommerce and Digital Strength Efforts
Improving online competencies allows brands to reach more consumers and identify better ways of engagement not available to this extent before. Effective omnichannel media planning is a key digital strategy for fashion and apparel brands. Consumers demand a deeper level of engagement from brands and consistency in their messaging across all platforms. Before, fashion and apparel brands primarily treated their offline and digital strategies as segregated channels—each with their own message and approach. The present-day, however, calls for brands to reach consumers beyond superficial efforts. Now, the fashion executives from the best-performing fashion and apparel brands understand that in today’s proliferated media landscape, consumers demand an enriched eCommerce experience that demonstrates the best of what fashion brands have to offer online and off.
In the last few years, the brands who grasp the significance of messaging and demonstrating their esteem for cherished values have seen the biggest share of consumer appeal. What that directly translates into is the increase of online investments, specifically, the integration of online and offline channels that carry a cohesive experience while thoroughly engaging consumers no matter the platform.
Traditional luxury powerhouses had been somewhat unenthusiastic about shifting into the digital space and expanding their eCommerce efforts out of fear of losing long-term consumers. And despite the long-held hesitation, the extraordinary circumstances of the last year have pushed most of the digitally averse names into the online sphere. Still, some brands continue to miss the opportunity to provide a space for engagement. This space evolves into an entrance into the consumer’s psyche: not only does it help consumers decide who to give their trust and loyalty to, but it also provides proof of whether or not the brand is conveying itself as intended.
A brand is not what they say they are, but what their consumers and competitors say they are.
The way others perceive the organization is the most authentic portrayal of brand identity. Without this information, brands will struggle to develop powerful messages, improve interactive experiences and imagery, and strategize for improvement amongst their online communities. Moreover, this may reduce the brand’s ability to integrate online and offline channels for optimal results.
The Rise of Social Consciousness in Fashion and Apparel Strategy
Much like the general components of online branding, consumers also expect brands to prioritize and communicate their social consciousness. For one, sustainability efforts; information about sourcing, material use, manufacturing, design, and delivery are critical touchpoints for attracting and retaining consumers. And though one could be forgiven for thinking these concerns were ephemeral focuses, the truth is that social consciousness is far more than a trend. Rather, it is a genuine issue that has been proven to be of utmost importance to consumers, time and time again. Large-scale trends indicate consumers spend their dollars with brands that incorporate intelligent, long-term decisions that lessen the industry’s negative impacts as part of a fashion brand’s strategy.
The fashion space, in particular, has changed dramatically due to an increase in widespread social consciousness. Fast fashion, human rights, labor rights, and animal rights have gained attention from audiences across various sectors. Other changes for high fashion brands involve the jettison of fur and leather products. Once regarded as luxury items, these materials are now considered a violation of moral and ethical practices, and have faded in popularity in favor of faux fur.
What Championing Consumer Values Mean for Fashion Brand Strategies
Such a shift in a more commiserating tone in fashion has mission-driven and purposeful brands in finding themselves one step ahead of their competitors. Their ability to demonstrate equity allows them to provide value to their audience displaying how they care for their issues, thus aligning themselves and gaining their trust. A visual promotion of a brand’s values and commitment to more sustainable resourcing, manufacturing, and production also makes it easier to demonstrate that these more socially aligned brands listen, research, and take action against practices that may harm the planet.
In addition to adopting sustainable measures among the fashion industry, the present-day context reveals institutional sentiment much more willing to accept the realities of climate change and commit to necessary action. Already, shifts in political and social dynamics indicate more stringent policies to be realized in the coming years, all but certainly alter essential business functions across the global ecosystem. Fashion executives would be wise to anticipate seismic shifts in operational challenges and consumer behaviors that will change as a result of more sustainable strategies outlined across the globe.
Perhaps most notable in terms of social consciousness, though, is the level at which brands have responded to the social movements that gained much attention over the last year. Conflicts in which there is a clear aggressor have compelled companies to stand up and commit to action rather than toe the line of commonplace platitudes that did little to spur change. From celebrating pride to engaging in activism in response to institutional racism, sexism, and xenophobia, fashion and apparel brands have integrated corporate responsibility as part of their overall strategies. The most inescapable lesson from recent months demonstrates that brands can no longer remain impartial when consumers today refuse to enable the injustices of the world through complacency.
The Prevalence of Opportunistic Investments in a Growing Fashion Industry
The last of the fashion and apparel industry insights consist of opportunistic investments – otherwise known as intelligently investing capital in promising spaces. Recognizing an effective fashion and apparel DTC strategy before it becomes orthodox can put companies ahead of their competition and grant them a larger share of the ever-growing market. Most poignantly, we’ve seen larger fashion conglomerates buy into smaller companies to assert dominance; take LVMH’s numerous acquisitions over the years of Loro Piana, Rimowa, and most recently, Tiffany. Such an organization with incredibly diverse portfolios operating in multiple verticals have been able to stave off the calamities experienced in the market throughout 2020, and have weathered far better than those relying on a single category or name brand. Put simply, the organizations large enough to absorb smaller players have carried into more prosperous quarters ahead where others have economically languished and have solicited assistance in the face of financial distress.
In other cases, some fashion and apparel brands have found it more beneficial to reinvest their cash reserves into their own digital strategies. When done carefully, these actions start to create a domino effect. Calculated business maneuvers lead to more profit, more profit leads to reinvestments, and reinvestments in digital strategies for fashion brands typically lead to more online visibility. These components contribute to visible and marketable progress between different entities, fostering excitement around the brand and its future prospects. The fashion executives making educated business decisions at relatively untapped potential are reaping the benefits of such decisions and publicly receiving their flowers for doing so.
Of course, the fashion and apparel brands astute enough to see beyond the initial disorder and identify growth prospects are the same fashion and apparel brands with the capital and resources to deploy and implement long-term digital strategies. Of these, we can only expect to see their social cachet increase as they continue to benefit from the unique opportunities stemming from the worldwide disruption of the last year. We should also anticipate these companies to weaponize these advantages against competitors, and the gap between conglomerates and smaller fashion and apparel companies widen.
If the large-scale adoption of digital technologies, implementation of social consciousness in a brand’s press and media strategies, and continued development of opportunistic investments demonstrate anything, it is that the top-performing fashion and apparel brands now have full confidence in their approach given the tumultuous yet furnishing events that transpired in the last year. Now more than ever, fashion and apparel brands understand the necessity of an online approach and the expediency it provides its customers, the importance of putting action behind words rather than the hackneyed corporate reaction to global events, and the cursory moment of rousing opportunity in the market. However, at the core of all of these prevalent themes lies the value of a consumer-centric approach. Whether fashion and apparel brands can pursue their strategies now acknowledging these themes depends on their recognition of the all-important detail that consumers are the foundation of any process.
What’s the most significant takeaway from these 3 key themes that fashion and apparel brands can incorporate into their eCommerce and direct-to-consumer (DTC) strategies?
The most significant takeaway from these 3 key themes is that the fashion landscape has shifted considerably in the last year. For one, the unmistakable power of eCommerce has only pushed once-reticent brands into the online mold. It would be self-destructive for any one brand to not take the initiative to become more digitally present. On top of the need for fashion brands to advance their eCommerce efforts, the call for social responsibility defines just how much consumers wish to see brands take an active role in improving upon the status quo. The fashion brands who articulate and formulate a plan to deliver resonating change are the same ones that will seize the message consumers want to hear from brands.
Additionally, the fashion brands large enough to double down on their omnichannel strategies exert enough capital to absorb smaller, languishing brands into their portfolio. These are also the same organizations that can weather the intense unpredictability of the sort that we’ve seen in the past year. Already, we see a resurgence of fashion growth and unsurprisingly find the largest brands by market value at the top.
How does the pandemic shift or outright transform any fashion brand’s digital and omnichannel strategy?
The pandemic increasingly accelerated the adoption of digital strategies and the importance of eCommerce. That has specifically led to recognizing the utility and untapped potential of the online landscape beyond the superficial website, acting as a de facto online window into a brand. We are set to witness the most immersive and engaging experiences offered online that will define the benefit of a digital transformation and an embrace of eCommerce for fashion brands.
What was already quintessential to a fashion and apparel brand’s digital strategy, and what’s only now just becoming necessary?
By far, the most essential characteristic of any fashion and apparel brand is its ability to be flexible and sustain incredible pressure in the face of unfathomable uncertainty. The prevalence of opportunistic investments were numerous even before the pandemic, but only now can we see just how much this will contribute to the driving wedge between the largest, top-performing fashion brands and those who have endured troubled years and an even more agitating past twelve months. What has always been quintessential to a fashion and apparel brand’s strategy and will only become much more important is creating a consumer-centric experience. We’ve come to know by now that consumers want to buy from brands that can appeal to them in a personal way and deliver an unparalleled shopping experience. Such demands only reinforce the exigency for fashion executives to pursue a digital and omnichannel strategy suitable for the years ahead.
Why is it important for fashion, apparel, and luxury brands to invest in their eCommerce strategies?
It is not optional for fashion, apparel, and luxury brands to have a strong eCommerce presence. Consumer behaviors have indicated a pivot towards online shopping in the last few years and show no signs of slowing. Market analysis shows that brands that invest in their eCommerce strategies and consider them integral to their overall approach in engaging consumers have a clear advantage over their digitally feeble counterparts.
To best engage with consumers today, eCommerce strategy for fashion brands must adapt their current methods for a more immersive omnichannel approach. The tide of digital innovation does not mean the extinction of in-store experiences. On the contrary, a brand must leverage the accessibility and convenience found in eCommerce approaches with that of the in-person interactions that build up consumer sentiment and affinity to a brand.
What should CMOs and other c-level executives consider as part of their fashion playbook regarding direct-to-consumer (DTC) and eCommerce strategies moving forward?
Fashion executive and CMO surveys, core research insight reports, and global fashion indexes done in the last few months point to a few key things: consumers want brands that work to provide a state-of-the-art shopping experience both through eCommerce and in-person, take an active role in social causes and put action behind words, and better connect with them in more relevant ways. In sum, consumers expect fashion brands to personalize their DTC and eCommerce approach for an optimal shopping experience, be it online or offline.
If you’d like to learn more about what a comprehensive approach to your fashion brand strategy looks like, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.