Keeping pace with the customer: easily said, difficult to achieve. And to make things harder, just as fashion brands catch up with consumer requirements, their behaviour patterns evolve, and they demand something new altogether.
So what exactly do fashion shoppers want from brands in 2016?
Of all the demographics, Generation Y is perhaps the most complex group for fashion brands to connect with. Compared to older consumers that have built up a more established pattern of behaviour, these relative babes move at a rapid and unpredictable pace. Even within the defined age bracket of 18-30 years, there’s a huge variation in the way they communicate, and their service expectations.
One theme common to most, though, is digital immersion. 86% have used their smartphone to make a purchase, and the National Retail Federation recently published an article claiming that Millennials ‘have no tolerance for companies that lag behind in technology’. They’re looking for instant gratification, content-rich experiences, and multi-channel convenience.
What they don’t want is to be pigeonholed into boxes; the brand experience must feel personal to them.
Social media is going to play an increasingly important role in fashion brands’ interaction with Gen Y in 2016. Research by Deloitte has revealed that almost half (47%) this age group use social networks as part of their shopper journey, in comparison to 19% of other age groups.
And their priorities are founded more on ethics than status – sustainability is high on Millennials’ agenda, but their relationship with goods is more transient. PwC notes that younger consumers are far more likely to lease or rent a car than buy it, and this is influencing other aspects of their lives, including fashion retail.
In the year ahead, much attention will be devoted to understanding and extracting value from this group of shoppers, and with good reason: young people today are likely to live longer at home while they establish careers and relationships, and therefore their disposable income is greater.
However, focus on Millennial shoppers shouldn’t come at the expense of other demographics. Speaking at the International Content Marketing Summit late last year, Douglas McCabe of Enders Analysts revealed that 45-65 year-olds show less brand loyalty than other age groups, which may come as a surprise.
In fact, this should set off alarm bells in the fashion industry, as The Baby Boomers (as they’re known) are an equally lucrative segment. Just as the young twentysomething is no longer a hard-up, lie in until the afternoon stereotype, this older segment have worked hard their entire lives, and now want to enjoy the fruits of their labour.
Fashion is fast becoming indicative of their aspirational, jet-setting lifestyle. According to AARP travel, Baby Boomers are planning to take 4-5 trips during the course of 2016. They are broadening their horizons, finding time to enjoy the pursuits put on the backburner whilst raising a family, and – most importantly – want to focus on some long overdue ‘me time’.
Therefore, fashion brands need to indulge their new introspective focus by connecting them in the same, personalised manner as Millennials, through the channels in which more experienced shoppers respond best.
Ultimately, this idea of unique experience is common to fashion fans of all ages, and therefore brands must find a way to create tailored interactions at the same time as making customers feel included in an overarching brand identity.
Achieving this will rest on recognising what each customer wants – and having the back-end solution in place to deliver on individual promise.