Let’s face it, the fashion industry has been hit hard by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic; since there was a shift in consumer sentiment, people now tend to focus on buying necessary items. According to Boston Consulting Group, revenue generated by the fashion industry dropped by more than one-third in 2020, which is equivalent to around $640 billion in lost sales. This is tremendous.
Additionally, many fashion brands had to close down retail stores. In fact, the world’s second-biggest fashion retailer, H&M, plans to close 250 of its 5,000 stores globally, and the Zara owner Inditex SA already closed over 1,000 retail shops earlier this year.
More to the point, apparel is a necessity, but the fashion industry is very fast-lived, and customers are not as willing to buy the latest product offerings if they have to contend with monetary uncertainty. Not to mention, that today, due to the pandemic, consumers can barely wear the clothing out on the town.
In short, very few people are willing to spend money on new clothes only to wear them at home. Especially not during a global crisis!
As a response to the coronavirus pandemic and its effects, many fashion brands are moving toward digital solutions. For example, Inditex SA invested $3 billion to boost the e-commerce operations of chains like Zara and Bershka. Moreover, this trend toward digitization is also mirrored in fashion marketing. I was recently reviewing data at FIT ( where I teach fashion digital strategies) and charted some vital changes happening in the fashion market today and beyond.
How fashion marketing will change in 2021
With in-store shopping being heavily restricted, fashion brands will have to make their online stores and the shopping experience they offer customers as approachable as possible. A 2018 Gartner survey showed that 46 percent of retailers already planned to deploy either AR or VR solutions by 2020.
With the coronavirus pandemic leading to the closure of many retail stores, this number is expected to grow even more in 2021. According to Gartner Senior Director and Analyst Brian Manusama, about 25 percent of companies are planning to deploy AI technology like chatbots in the next 12 months.
Chatbots and other digital solutions are an easy way to offer a more personalized shopping experience, which translates to higher customer satisfaction and more sales. In fact, some brands are also offering virtual stores to mimic the retail shopping experience. For example, Dior launched a 360-degree view virtual store where customers can walk through the whole store and look at items, just like in a regular retail store. Recently, I have also reported in virtual retail developments with Dolce & Gabbana and Ralph Lauren respectively.
In addition, social media will also play a tremendous role in the fashion marketing sector. Many brands have already successfully made use of paid advertising for their marketing campaigns. Native social media ads are a great way to create authentic online marketing campaigns. “In this day and age, social media marketing is hands down the best way to drive sales revenue,” said Jason Modemann, Managing Director at Mawave Marketing.
Jason and Patrick, founders of Mawave, are leading experts in this field. Together with their team of performance marketing specialists they are helping young apparel and lifestyle brands thrive by employing state-of-the-art social media marketing strategies. Some of their previous clients include the popular socks brand SNOCKS, known for inventing invisible sneaker socks, DRYKORN, About You and Holy Fashion Group, a holding company for various clothing brands such as JOOP!, Strellson, and Windsor.
Another important factor is the optimization with respect to mobile shopping. Nowadays, most customers are browsing stores or social media apps on their phones, and it is essential to make mobile shopping as smooth as possible to ensure that customers who are willing to buy something are able to do so without a hassle. I always explain to people that if you just take a glance at an airport, you will notice that almost all people are using mobile- all the time.
But there are also other aspects that need to be taken into account. Not only do fashion brands rely heavily on retail stores but they also usually made use of offline events to showcase new clothing. In 2021, live streaming events and online advertisements will be the way to go.
Fashion brands need to set themselves apart from their competition
This global pandemic has also kickstarted a trend for more sustainable and affordable clothing. While this trend was already on the rise in recent years, the coronavirus pandemic is a major driving factor since people are wary of spending money during a crisis. In particular, the jewelry and luxury fashion industries have been hit hard by the ongoing quarantine measures.
“COVID-19 certainly had an effect on the jewellery business with less large scale events, parties, and get togethers. There is simply less need for jewelleries when there is less going out,” says Joyce Lin, a native Canadian entrepreneur and founder of the jewelry brand Noor Jouels. The company has been working on its brand image throughout the pandemic and was even able to grow its business despite the significant reduction of physical events.
“I definitely think simulated diamonds is a trend that will stay and expand. It just gives the consumers a diamond alternative where it can be affordable, have less environmental impact, and still serve the same purposes,” she says. In this day and age, offering a sustainable alternative combined with a unique style has proven as an effective method to cut through the noise of the fashion industry.
In 2021, fashion is an identity statement more than ever before. This means that customers are more likely to spend their money on clothes or fashion accessories if the brand they want to buy them from is concerned with sustainability. Another company that has made this experience is Concrete Jungle. This German brand produces jewelry out of concrete and recycled metals, and has reported significant growth as a result of its unique offer.
“This year clearly showed that people would rather spend the money they have on sustainable products that are made to last,” said Madlen Thorwarth, founder and CEO of Concrete Jungle. Certainly, the unique approach of making jewelry out of concrete, a material that is typically seen as the exact opposite of fashion, seems to work out very well for the brand too.
Of course, there are many ways for a fashion brand to set itself apart from its competition, and most of these ways don’t directly relate to COVID-19. Nevertheless, in 2021, it will be more important than ever for fashion brands to tell a story that entices customers to buy from them. Focusing on sustainability and corporate social responsibility is a good way to make people relate to a brand, which will result in them being more willing to buy from this brand.
Another good way to gain consumer trust during this global pandemic is to make retail shopping feel safe. While the focus is definitely going to shift toward online shopping, retail stores will still be a huge part of the fashion industry, so it’s important to make retail customers feel comfortable while they are out shopping.