Fashion is a fast-growing industry with new trends being introduced every year or even within a quarter. Apparel is the largest category in fashion ecommerce with a projected revenue of $684 billion by 2025. But in such a booming industry, you’re bound to also find booming competition. Your brand needs to really establish a strong identity to stand out in a saturated market.
In this article, we will provide you with the latest insights about the fashion industry today along with eight tips fashion brands can use to adopt a bold identity.
The Fashion Industry Today
The fashion industry has changed in enormous ways, starting from the mid-19th century when clothes were hand-made by tailors. As time went by, this process has become more automated and today’s fashionable items are often mass-produced. With the rise of mobile usage and the unexpected impacts of COVID-19, ecommerce has emerged as one of the main selling channels. Let’s dive deep into each movement to see the new opportunities as well as challenges that brands should pay attention to today.
1. The fashion industry has become more competitive.
Fashion businesses are growing across sectors — from local to global brands and from retailers to wholesalers. Not to mention the rise in second-hand thrifting stores that have become more popular with sustainability- and price-minded shoppers. As there are more players in the fashion industry, customers now have more options to choose from.
Such diverse business models have made the fashion industry more competitive. Without a doubt, innovation is needed to thrive in this fast-changing industry.
2. There has been a shift to online and mobile platforms.
When it comes to ecommerce in 2020, the fashion industry is a large B2C market segment. Due to COVID-19, many people are now avoiding shopping in-store and moving to ecommerce platforms. Scrolling through catalogs, choosing items and checking out online has become a new routine. Fashion brands are now finding ways to create an omnichannel shopping journey to gain customers on both online and offline platforms.
In addition, there has also been a strong shift to mobile platforms. According to a study by Google, 59% of shoppers stated that an option to shop on mobile is an important factor in choosing which brands they shop with. Many mobile apps have been developed to accommodate such a huge amount of potential users, such as Amazon or Shopee. Moreover, many larger businesses have also built their own native apps.
3. Customers are factoring sustainability and ethical sourcing into their purchase decisions.
Being one of the largest industries in the world, fashion faces a lot of criticism about sustainability and other ethical values. A report by UNECE shows that 10% of global carbon dioxide emissions come from the fashion industry. People have become more aware of the carbon footprint caused by clothing production and the poor working conditions in sweatshops. For these reasons, they are beginning to shop more responsibly and become pickier in choosing their favorite fashion brands.
How To Make Your Fashion Brand Stand Out?
Being flexible is important for retailers in any industry to adapt to new consumer behavior patterns. In the fashion industry, what should brands do to adjust to these transformations and stay on the cutting edge?
1. Clearly define target customers.
As fashion is a big industry, clearly defining your customer niche can help you to stay on the right track. You don’t want to run a clothing brand for middle-aged people, with a marketing plan that only reaches young adults.
Therefore, it is essential to understand the purpose of your brand. Is it meant to sell clothes for all age groups or just a specific subset of people? This applies to different customer groups based on their ages, genders, hobbies, etc. Determining your target helps you hone in on your unique selling point, which you can use to further make your brand stand out among others.
Keep in mind that this does not mean you must narrow down the target customers. A shop for all family members, for example, is not less competitive than other ones. In any case, brands should convey their message and principle to their targeted customers in the most effective way.
2. Allow shopping on multiple channels.
As mentioned above, the shift to ecommerce is one of the most notable trends in the fashion industry. However, customers are still increasingly shopping across multiple channels from mobile to in-store to social commerce and marketplaces. These changes in shopping behavior require fashion brands to meet customers wherever they’re shopping and allow them a seamless transition across channels. The combination of offline and online stores can help expand the customer base and increase brand influence. In addition to physical stores, you can consider running your website, building a social media account or making use of online marketplaces.
B-Wear Sportswear is an example of a successful shift from offline to online. Prior to 2018, B-Wear sold exclusively out of their physical stores. By expanding to ecommerce with BigCommerce, the company saw a 162% increase in revenue and 81% increase in site traffic.
Make sure to do research on the market and your target customers to see which platforms they prefer. For example, the social media platform of choice for shopping differs globally.
To manage the complexity of providing a holistic omnichannel experience, fashion retailers today are using multi-store management tools to keep everything running smoothly.
3. Create an omnichannel shopping experience.
As mentioned above, today’s fashion consumers have very unique shopping patterns cross-platform. They might do online window shopping or check the brand’s social media before actually completing their purchase at the store. Research by Google, Ipsos Media CT and Sterling Brands shows that up to 42% of shoppers still check online information while shopping in-store. Therefore, making sure to not only provide multiple channels but also a holistic omnichannel experience can help you stand out.
An omnichannel experience is composed of individual touchpoints across different shopping channels, which connect seamlessly with each other. For example, customers can buy online and go to an offline store to pick up the purchased item.
There are many tasks to build an omnichannel business, such as increasing the number of touchpoints and making sure you have inventory management. This process has become simplified with the latest technological developments. For example, a POS system with real-time synchronization can help connect multiple channels and provide real-time information about product availability. An example of an excellent POS for your fashion brand is ConnectPOS, which supports click-and-collect and mobile shopping experience with their PWA app.
4. Have a consistent brand image.
Ask yourself this question: Consider your brand as a person with a personality, what would you do to express yourself to other people?
For fashion brands, it is important to stick to a consistent image. For example, everyone knows Nike is specifically designed for athletes of all skill levels, while Gucci is associated with modernity and elegance. In addition to the target customers, fashion brands should determine which style they want to do. It can be an overarching style of the whole brand, or a specific look for a collection.
Having a consistent brand image is crucial to tell consumers that you are different from competitors. A report by Lucidpress shows that consistent presentation of a brand can increase revenue by 33%. Consistency should be maintained across multiple communication elements, such as using the same brand logo, presenting the same color palette or delivering consistent brand messages across different platforms. Over time, these elements will become more familiar with customers, thus building up a distinctive ‘look’ and ‘feel’ for your brand.
To maintain brand consistency, fashion companies should follow it inside out. This means that the brand image should be clear to both the public and its employees. Fashion stores often have a high level of interaction between staff and customers, such as when customers ask for sizes, colors or the staff’s advice while shopping. Therefore, it is important to train your staff about how they communicate with customers in both physical stores and online platforms according to the brand image.
5. Pay attention to social responsibility.
Consumers have been more educated about the social responsibility of fashion brands. From a report by PwC, 64% of customers stated that they decide to buy or boycott a brand based on its position on a social or political issue. In the fashion industry, these social responsibilities often include sustainability, ethics and social inclusivity.
The fashion industry, especially fast fashion, has faced a lot of pollution issues. The materials required to mass-produce clothes have been widely criticized, such as waste from garments and toxic chemicals to make fabric (e.g. sodium hydroxide).
Moreover, there are also issues with cheap labor. The Oxfam 2019 report shows that less than 1% of Bangladesh and Vietnamese garment workers were able to earn a living wage. For rapid production and competitive pricing, some fast fashion brands have been claimed to violate human rights in sweatshops, where workers have to work under poor conditions with harmful chemicals.
It is now clear that if you want to be bold in the fashion industry, your brand needs to fulfill the strictest standards of social responsibility. Not only the quality and clothing styles but also the social values matter. Take a look at Heist Studios and its sustainability strategy: “ We’ve also committed to all the tights that we bring out going forward being sustainable and slowly rolling into having only sustainable tights.”
Another tip for building a well-loved fashion brand is how it accommodates people of different sizes, shapes and races. Remember to consider diversity and social inclusivity, because they may distinguish your brand from others in the market.
6. Practice your core values.
86% of consumers say that authenticity is one of the most important factors that decide their favorite brands. Core values should be the center of every business activity, rather than just being something that is put on the ‘About us’ section. They should be what is truly important to your brand, instead of what you think people want to hear.
A fashion brand can win the heart of many customers if it knows how to practice its core values. For example, when you claim materials to be eco-friendly, make sure to do proper research and execute it in the production process.
Being authentic in what you say and do is key to building trust and maintaining loyal customers. It is the most sustainable way to grow a business over time.
7. Tell your brand story.
Another way to be creative is by telling a story via your fashion brand and making it personal. Storytelling can not only bring up emotions but also give meaning to the clothes or accessories you’re selling. If you have any personal motivation or particular mission behind your brand, share it with your customers (for an example of this, visit Natori). With the help of online platforms and visual elements, stories can be easily told in many different ways. In the long run, storytelling can enhance your relationship with customers and strengthen your brand image.
8. Don’t lose focus on product quality.
Before being ‘bold’, a brand must fulfill the basic requirements first. No matter how excellent you are in promoting your brand, it will do no good if the quality of clothing is not up to customer expectations. Don’t forget to carefully check the quality of your products from the earliest stage of production.
These basic requirements may include the ‘feel’ of materials, their durability, the threads or the origins of the manufacturers. Make sure you have the best quality possible within the price range that you offer. In the end, a big factor that makes your customers come back is their satisfaction with the products. While promotion can attract potential customers, product quality retains loyal ones.
Building an outstanding fashion brand requires a lot of effort and an insightful mind. Above all, the two biggest takeaways are making sure you are authentic in what you do and say, as well as incorporating technology/online platforms into the process. In such a fast-changing industry, we believe innovation is the key to success.