8 trends that are changing the fashion and apparel industry

Modern consumers are more discerning than ever. Even the biggest brands are now trying their best to innovate and stay competitive by embracing an omnichannel approach to win consumers. What you need now is a bird’s-eye view of what the customers are up to, what excites them, and what their preferences are. You need integrated shopping data with behavior profiling to know them well.

In fact, the landscape is evolving for just about every field as we continue to experience cultural and technological shifts. The fashion and apparel industry is no different. In the first post of this blog series dedicated to B2B eCommerce for the fashion and apparel industry, we dive deeper to understand the changing trends regarding choices, consumer demand, and technological innovations that drive them. 

So let’s get started.

1. Fashion cycles are more rapid than before

Fashion and apparel have always been known for their extreme volatility. Styles are changing season after season and the number of fashion cycles being packed into a season is constantly rising. As a result, everything around fashion and apparel has become time-sensitive. 

From promoting a particular style or product to making the most of its popularity, before the next product hits the market can be overwhelming. This can also lead to a lack of balance between supply and demand. When a particular product becomes popular, you need to monitor the spikes in demand and sales before it hits a trough. Only then would you be able to optimize products while pushing into new categories. Luckily, businesses understand this well and are seeking help to get this incorporated in their fashion eCommerce platforms.

2. Private labels are on the rise

Private labels are certainly not new to us. Department stores have been introducing their in-house clothing collections for several years now. All of us are familiar with Amazon’s own brands that continue to win consumers with price and quality. 

Taking creative steps in customization, Amazon recently announced its new service Made for You that allows you to create a custom T-shirt that fits exactly how you would want it to. Rather than using mobile technology to scan and measure your body, it asks you to provide the exact measurements along with your pictures and body type to customize the T-shirt. You can choose the fit, fabric and even add your name on the label. 

As per a recent survey conducted by The Hartman Group, nearly one-fifth of respondents now opt for private-label products ever since the pandemic began and 52% are likely to continue buying them even after it subsides. 

Coresight iterates in its report, “Private label has come a long way from its generic roots and copycat phases. Consumer interest in purchasing private-label products has grown because of continuous innovations in quality, packaging, and product concepts. Retailers also increasingly view private labels as a way to drive consumer loyalty, to increase their profitability and as a point of difference in a crowded retail market.”

3. Virtual reality is here to stay

Virtual reality is an exciting addition to the technology landscape. It uses real-time image processing to enable customers to ensure that their online purchases align with their unique personalities. A sense of how they will look and feel after wearing the product gives them a sense of pride and ownership along with enormous satisfaction of choosing the right product or outfit.

Walmart recently expanded its focus on fashion with its very own private labels adorning its website. To strengthen its grip on fashion, it has also announced its decision of acquiring virtual fitting room start-up Zeekit.

Denise Incandela, executive vice president of apparel and private brands at Walmart U.S. elaborates, “Virtual try-on is a game-changer and solves one of the most difficult things to replicate online — understanding fit and how an item will actually look on you. Zeekit will help us deliver an inclusive, immersive, and personalized experience for our diverse customer base.”

4. Luxury brands are normalizing digital shopping

Luxury brands reporting blockbuster sales on eCommerce platforms are proof that virtual shopping is now an essential aspect of the New Normal. The performance luxury apparel maker Canada Goose reported revenue worth $208.8 million in Q4 fiscal 2021, almost a 48% increase from its Q4 fiscal 2020 revenue worth $140.9 million. 

Confirms President and CEO Dani Reiss, “We achieved our largest ever fourth quarter by revenue. With triple-digit eCommerce growth and a resilient retail performance despite disruptions, we served our global consumer base through agile and flexible D2C distribution.”

On the B2B front too, luxury brands are winning big as they continue to leverage modern features to customize their home and collections pages using popular B2B platforms. Through engaging campaigns and motivational videos, they are sprucing up their personalized B2B digital showrooms to bedazzle their customers with bespoke collections. 

Popular eCommerce sites like Natori and Verge Girl come with accurate sizing charts, product recommendations, customer reviews, and social media-friendly versions coupled with extensive built-in features for ease of use and flexibility.

5. Everyone’s vying for personalization and a demand-driven supply chain

Customers know what they want and are looking for services that complement their choices and get them up to speed with the latest trends. They need matching fashion offerings and product recommendations in real-time to complete a look, perfect a style, or match the mood. If you can deliver all this, you will not only have better sales but will also be able to manage the supply chain more effectively. Business owners are now leveraging predictive analytics to improve logistics and reduce out-of-stocks.

The way customers engage with your content and interact with your brand can also help you uncover their behavioral patterns. This realization has led to fashion brands putting in a lot of effort in mapping the digital footprints of their customers no matter where they are. The right data-mining technologies coupled with strategic planning can help you devise new campaigns and promotional offers to strike a chord with your customers.

We are now shifting towards hyper-personalization wherein customers are promised greater value based on their behaviors, preferences, and purchase history. Product reviews, product recommendations, adding customer’s names in emails are all minimum requirements, promising big returns every step of the way. 

Artificial intelligence or AI-driven platforms help in frontend creation while facilitating quick backend integrations. They help you curate dynamic onsite content, design product catalogs and plan email marketing campaigns for customers. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are also helping business owners predict the exact products that need to be delivered either individually or in bulk on a subscription basis.

6. Multi-channel eCommerce is a prerequisite

A consistent, purchase-centered experience essentially means being in digital places commonly inhabited by your consumers. You don’t have to be everywhere, but you can certainly expand one channel at a time prioritizing your digital presence only where it’s needed. 

Look at what Fabletics did to offer a curated, high-performance activewear line for men with Kevin Hart as the DNA of the brand. Ads were run through his Instagram and led to a custom landing page that took you to a quiz. This drove engagement while the brand released content on its own social media accounts. A consistent message across social media, a custom landing page, and email marketing ensured users an immersive experience.

7. A tailored approach based on Google trend analysis works wonders

Consumers have now shifted their focus from fashionable stuff to activewear because wearing something comfortable at home for work and workouts makes more sense than buying clothes you can no longer flaunt. While this is essentially a B2C pattern, B2B business owners can also take a cue. It has become more important than ever to sense the beat of the market and know what sells. 

And Google trends can help you here.

A  Vertical Leap survey suggests 60% of searches are now from mobile phones while only 36% are made using computers. This also means a mobile-responsive web store is critical for your business. Businesses are now looking into search algorithms to understand how customers are searching and to evolve campaigns to match their needs perfectly. Google analytics can help decide what’s trending so that you can tweak your offerings and improve search engine rankings too, using the right meta titles and descriptions.

8. An intimate shopping experience goes a long way

Especially when customer loyalty is so fickle, offering the much-needed intimacy is just what is needed to enable quicker eCommerce adoption. Customer support has often been the linchpin for successful marketing strategies. While sales remain a constant challenge, eCommerce business owners are perennially faced with the threat of rising return rates. 

Modern eCommerce is all about shifting your mindset from reactive to proactive and your approach from product-centric to solution-centric. 

As Penny Gillespie, vice president at Gartner rightly explains by citing the example of selling an exercise bike online, “It’s a move from being product-centric to solution-centric. It’s not just selling an exercise bike online, but rather delivering it to the buyer’s house, setting it up, and then helping them maximize its value through use. The bike is a product; when it’s in my house and working, it is the solution.” 

The challenge doesn’t end with matching needs but begins at that exact point. So here’s what you do. You find out what your customers own and love, what their folks are talking about, and how well they connect with the brand. You offer them choices based on their needs, mood, and budget, and when they decide to seal the deal, you sweeten it further with some loyalty points or offers, or some extra freebies. You tell them what other products they might want to consider and then deliver the products to the desired location. You offer them convenient mobile checkouts and payments while giving them the freedom to return or exchange. All this may sound simple and sensible but is absolutely critical in curating a cohesive customer journey.

Looking ahead

While most of the trends mentioned above may seem B2C-specific, they eventually set the tone for B2B eCommerce too. These are genuine needs we are talking about, of customers who are now spoiled for choice. As a B2B business owner, you must understand the customers’ intent to serve them well as expectations continue to go up. The global B2B eCommerce sales are predicted to touch $20.9 trillion by 2027 with a CAGR of 17.5% for the forecast period. Clearly, things are looking up for B2B eCommerce. It’s time you are ready to ride this wave.

Up Next: Top 5 technologies that are an absolute must for fashion & apparel B2B eCommerce

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