Consumer trends impact fashion brands by driving changes in product offerings, marketing strategies, emphasis on brand values, customer experience, and collaboration opportunities.
Adapting to these trends is crucial for brands in fashion industry to stay relevant and meet the evolving demands of their customers.
Consumers are more empowered to choose products that resonate with their own personal values, making brands more accountable for their business decisions.The fashion brands that can adapt most effectively to an ever-changing environment will be best positioned to maintain a great brand image.
This article delves into the prevailing consumer trends that influence the selling and promotion strategies of fashion brands, encompassing the rising demand for diversity and inclusivity, the expectation for exceptional digital experiences, the transition towards sustainability and slow fashion, as well as the active engagement of influencers in clothing production and marketing campaigns.
Diversity and inclusivity
In the context of fashion, diversity entails incorporating a broad range of individuals who possess visible differences, including factors like age, skin color, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and body shape.
The advent of social media and the digital era has played a vital role in holding brands accountable and pushing them to adapt to the changing times, particularly in terms of size, inclusivity, and racial representation.
Consumers are demanding greater diversity and inclusivity in the fashion industry, both in terms of the models used in advertising and the clothing sizes offered by brands. Customers expect fashion brands to offer products that cater to a diverse range of body types, sizes, and skin tones. Brands that fail to do so may face backlash from customers who feel excluded.
The study conducted by GWI shows that more than a third of UK consumers indicate that they are inclined to purchase from a brand when they see someone of their body type featured in an advertisement. 57% of women in the UK now believe that fashion retailers are improving in their efforts to cater to diverse body sizes, compared to previous years. Additionally, 42% agree that brands are making strides towards promoting inclusivity in terms of body image.
How do brands respond to customer expectations?
Over the last decade, some advancements have been witnessed in the fashion and beauty sectors concerning inclusivity.
Designer Becca McCharen-Tran already made a significant impact in 2014 when she showcased her collection at New York Fashion Week, leading the change. Since then, Chromat has grown into a platform that emphasizes diversity in terms of race, ethnicity, size, height, disabilities, and other aspects.
Universal Standard aims to challenge the standard size range. In May 2019, they announced that all of their clothing would be available in sizes 00 to 40, establishing themselves as the most size-inclusive brand these days. They firmly believe that true inclusivity means providing options for all and show the directions other fashion companies should be moving in.
Image source: Universal Standard
Good American: The company has emerged as a strong advocate for inclusivity, making it their mission to ensure that every woman feels recognized and valued. The brand holds a yearly casting call across the nation, inviting diverse women to model in their seasonal ad campaigns. Additionally, they feature models of all sizes, ranging from 00 to 24, emphasizing their commitment to representing a wide range of body types.
Image source: Good American
Nike’s “ Until We All Win” focus on equality. The brand released the statement: “Nike believes in the power of sport to unite and inspire people to take action in their communities. Equality isn’t a game. But achieving it will be our greatest victory. Until we all win.” Nike also goes beyond a campaign with expanded product offerings as well, such as its full-coverage swimsuits.
Consumers seek novel and interactive digital experiences with fashion brands, and augmented reality (AR) offers a range of possibilities for these brands to create distinctive encounters and adjust to new shopping habits.
When fully utilized, augmented reality has the potential to not only provide an exceptional shopping experience but also significantly boost sales and help retailers achieve their business goals.
According to the Deloitte report, 71% of shoppers express a likelihood of increasing their shopping frequency when using AR-powered apps, while 40% of consumers state that they would be willing to pay a higher price for a product if they can test it using AR technology.
In January 2022, H&M launched its first-ever virtual collection through a competition where participants were encouraged to suggest imaginative and creative names for the showcased outfits.
These virtual garments were exclusively offered as prizes without physical production or in-store availability. Winners had the unique opportunity to virtually "try on" the clothing by submitting a photo of themselves, which was subsequently transformed into an animated image by 3D graphic designers, allowing for easy sharing on various social media platforms.
Image source: H&M
Burberry actively embraces augmented reality (AR) and incorporates it into multiple virtual stores. They consistently experiment with AR in global marketing campaigns.Their collaboration with Google brings the immersive in-store shopping experience directly to the digital devices of online shoppers. As an illustration, users searching for products like the Black TB bag and Arthur Check Sneaker on Google can now visualize these items in 3D.
Prada offers customers virtual try-on on their website through augmented reality and computer vision technologies. Their advanced computer vision algorithm measures customers’ faces or bodies to ensure the product is accurately positioned on them. Customers can use the feature to test different sunglasses and accessories before purchasing.
This innovative experience takes users on a captivating and thrilling journey that triggers their senses and emotions. It transcends physical barriers and bridges distances, creating a connection that is simultaneously familiar and remarkably distinct.
Image source: Prada
Phygital shopping experience
Here comes the concept of "Phygital" that refers to the integration of the physical and digital worlds. In the context of fashion, it entails incorporating digital elements into the traditional fashion environment. This fusion has the potential to elevate the fashion industry, enabling fashion designers, next-generation creators, and brands to have better control over the ownership of their creations and to bring digital-only items to life in order to engaging shopping experience.
The essence of the phygital experience lies in real-time interaction. The line between what is perceived as physical and virtual becomes blurred, giving rise to new categories of experiences.
This is facilitated by the use of augmented reality and virtual reality technologies, creating a more convenient and immersive experience for the next generation of customers. Millennials, Gen Z, and younger generations particularly favor personalized shopping experiences that seamlessly integrate online and offline elements.
The recent Klarna study on trends in retail shows that 53% of the surveyed Generation Z believe that in the future they will try on clothes as they do today. Yet, 48% of respondents expressed their preference to use virtual try on. Moreover, 43% of respondents believe that a virtual try on shopping experience will replace the traditional way of trying clothes.
Brick and mortar stores as community space
No longer being the go-to place to spend money, brick and mortar stores will slowly shift to become more of a community space. The primary purpose of brick and mortar stores is to now provide an experience of the brand rather than sell items.
Experiential marketing is the secret weapon of the brick and mortar outlet, with a recent survey finding that 74% of event attendees ended the day with a more positive experience about the company. A study from Harris Group also found that 72% of millennials preferred to spend money on experiences rather than material things.
Pradasphere: a collection of Prada's archival objects as well as a shopping space. Image source: Harper's Bazaar.
This altered purpose means that stores no longer need to stock every single color and size of every item they advertise in their catalogs. They need to instead concentrate on providing a positive brand experience by hosting special events and unique, ever-changing experiences, such as brand story-telling, pop-ups or influencer visits.
The future appears promising for this trend, as retailers, particularly fashion brands, recognize the growing importance of bricks-and-clicks strategies and the need to engage customers in-store.
Virtual and robo-assistants
Being an innovative brand with forward-thinking strategies, you can gain additional recognition by incorporating a virtual assistant to assist customers in their shopping experience and help them choose the perfect style for an evening with friends.
This trend is particularly intriguing for physical stores facing challenges with foot traffic and providing accurate fashion advice. Robotic assistants have the potential to understand customers' preferences exceptionally well.
By engaging in a brief conversation and considering style preferences and the occasion, customers will receive personalized recommendations. These suggestions can be conveniently delivered to their doorstep either the following day or even on the same day.
Influencer culture and social media impact
Influencer marketing is a social media marketing strategy that incorporates product placements and endorsements from online creators. The industry leaders know that In the contemporary digital landscape, social media influencers exert substantial influence on fashion brands. Through consistent posts, reviews, stories, and videos, influencers possess the ability to capture the attention necessary for fashion brands to drive sales.
In 2019, the global influencer marketing platform market was valued at 148 million U.S. dollars. It was expected to further grow and surpass 337 million dollars in 2027.
During the third quarter of 2021, major luxury fashion brands in Europe spent around 1.4 billion U.S. dollars on influencer marketing.These brands collaborated primarily with top-tier influencers, who have over two million followers, and these influencers generated 1.13 million U.S. dollars or 80% of the total influencer marketing Media Impact Value (MIV®).
Influencers, who are closer to the consumer than traditional celebrities, effectively promote a lifestyle that aligns naturally with fashion and luxury brands. With consumers becoming resistant to traditional marketing campaigns, influencers serve as an ideal means to meet consumer demand and communicate effectively with them.
The trend entails fashion brands collaborating with significant influencers, as well as with micro-influencers, who possess smaller but more targeted followings, thereby making their endorsements even more authentic. These social media icons possess the power to shape opinions and influence purchasing decisions through visually appealing content and a personalized touch that easily resonates with their followers.
- H&M initiated the Influencer Program, which recruits well-known influencers for their campaigns. Content creators earn money as H&M affiliates. For instance, Remi Bader frequently showcases her outfits to emphasize the authentic representation of women in popular fashion trends, including H&M.
- Fashion Nova, as a prominent brand, have engaged a wide range of influencers, spanning from renowned personalities like Kylie Jenner to fashion enthusiasts on a smaller scale like Sophie Lewis. What distinguishes Fashion Nova is their diverse selection of creators from various spheres and global locations, ensuring widespread dissemination of the brand's message.
Rise of fast fashion alternatives
While fast fashion once dominated the industry, there has been a noticeable shift in consumer preference towards slow fashion alternatives.
The concept of slow fashion has gained acceptance among conscientious consumers. Slow fashion promotes an ethical and responsible approach to both the production and consumption of clothing. It emphasizes durability, quality, and timeless style, contrasting with the disposable nature of fast fashion. To ensure their clothing choices align with their values, consumers are increasingly seeking certifications that verify the fairness and eco-friendliness of the garments they purchase.
Fashion brands are adapting by focusing on durability, craftsmanship, and the creation of versatile and timeless designs. Combined with the rise of conscious consumerism, individuals are becoming more mindful of their purchases, seeking value beyond mere aesthetics. They prioritize quality, durability, and versatility in their clothing choices.
One alternative gaining popularity is the preference for local thrift stores. Here, consumers can find unique and pre-owned clothing items, reducing the demand for new fast fashion products and promoting the reuse of garments. By opting for thrift shopping, individuals actively avoid contributing to the poor working conditions often associated with the fashion industry.
Here amore some examples of slow fashion brands that offer clothing options that prioritize ethical production and sustainability. These brands, among many others, provide a way for consumers to buy new clothes without supporting the negative impacts of fast fashion.
- Fair Indigo
- Fair Trade Winds
A survey conducted by McKinsey & Company determined that consumers radically changed their behaviour during the COVID-19 crisis. This change was in line with sustainability goals, with 61% of respondents reporting they had gone out of their way to buy products in environmentally friendly packaging.
65% of respondents also said they would be buying higher quality clothing that would last longer and a significant 71% said they would be throwing out fashion items less often. This demonstrates the shift towards clothing made from sustainable materials.
In fact, in 2019 the sales of ethical clothing soared to a record high of over £53 million nationally. A feeling of ‘quality over quantity’ has taken hold of the conscientious consumer, and brands such as Patagonia have been reaping the rewards.
Image source: Pursuit The Label.
This shift in the industry has compelled fast fashion brands to reconsider their strategies and supply chains, which have been subject to criticism for inhumane working conditions in factories located in developing countries.
With the growing interest in the metaverse, Web 3.0, and blockchain technology, new possibilities are emerging for the fashion industry. One such example is the emergence of NFT-enabled fashion, which has gained significant traction in Asian, US, and European markets.
These NFT-enabled items are unique, irreplicable, and grant exclusive ownership to the individuals who truly possess them. Fashion brands can capitalize on this trend by organizing special events, offering exclusive benefits, launching product lines and merchandise, as well as creating virtual garments that can only be worn within virtual environments accessible to NFT owners.
Leading fashion brands like Nike, Gucci, and Burberry have already begun exploring these approaches and conducting market testing in 2022 and 2023.
Moreover, retail brands that collaborate with fashion creators, virtual brands, or virtual influencers that exist solely in digital form (such as Ellisay's CGI character named Elisa) can establish a new business model. This model allows brand advocates and fans to benefit from their ownership of brand NFTs by receiving a share in the profits.
These innovative approaches and collaborations present opportunities for the fashion industry to embrace the metaverse and blockchain technology, opening up exciting avenues for growth, customer engagement, and customer loyalty.
Customer trends and the future of fashion industry
Although some of the mentioned fashion industry trends may only see widespread adoption in the next few years, early adopters will certainly reap the rewards of staying on top of consumer needs. Fashion brands that listen to consumers and observe consumer behavior almost invariably come out on top, accelerating an eventual shift away from practices such as fast fashion and towards a more sustainable, tech-driven and personalized industry.