Fashion has been a defining characteristic of every generation. Whether it be the era of denim, mom jeans, crop tops, or bell-bottom pants, the industry has always experimented and adapted to the changing consumer demands.
According to the Fashion and Apparel Industry Report, the industry generated over 481 billion USD in revenue in 2018. The figure was expected to increase to at least 712 billion USD by 2022.
However, COVID-19 has disrupted the industry. Suddenly, people find themselves within the confines of their homes. According to Statista, at least two-thirds of the global population has been or currently is under some level of lockdown.
This directly affected the sales of the fashion industry. As per data released by the US Census Bureau, compared to last year, the value of US clothing went down by a whopping 50 percent. As of April 2020, big brands like Gap, H&M, and Ross Stores have halted production.
With such revenue crunches and alterations in consumer behavior, it is expected that the world of fashion marketing is going to change post-pandemic, as well. Here is how.
Increased focus on casualwear
Many predict that the pandemic will have a long-lasting impact on how consumers shop. Their spending is likely to decrease. Rather than purchasing it all, they will become choosier in the items they select.
You might wonder, “But after the pandemic is over, wouldn’t fashion trends to go back to normal?” Well, the Great Depression, as well as World War II, both significantly changed fashion. Something as big as a pandemic is likely to do the same.
This means that brands must be very careful about which products they promote more and how they do it. For starters, after months of staying at home, there is likely to be an increase in demand for activewear, home categories, and casual wear.
Therefore, rather than focusing on their formal collections, brands must market their casualwear. Does this mean that niche shops like the Leather Skin Shop will suffer? Not really! The brand offers hooded leather jackets and simpler women and leather jacket for men’s, which they can market in their home categories.
Just like this example, there will be an inherent need to recategorize products and see how they can fit into the modern perception of essential clothing.
The pandemic has crippled economies around the world. According to Pew Research, over 14 million US citizens have become unemployed, as of May 2020.
Those who are still employed are continually anxious about their job prospects. At such a time, it is understandable that many wish to save as much money as possible.
This has caused high-end fashion brands to suffer. Now, customers wish for value and discounts. And businesses must comply. For instance, over four in ten US consumers say that they expect apparel stores to offer promotions.
Many brands are already doing so.
- Gap and H&M have been offering mid-season sales.
- Uniqlo is marketing discounted comfort-wear items.
- According to Econsultancy, Luxury good discounting has increased by 30 percent.
Brands must integrate this need for value and discounts in their marketing campaigns. Whether it be launching social media contests for freebies or flash sales, such items can best help in attracting the audience.
The rise of the online medium
Digital platforms were already on the rise. As per Statista, over 50 percent of the global population is currently present on the internet. Various companies assign a significant budget to digital marketing. Previously, it is predicted that Ecommerce fashion sales will reach over 7.3 billion USD by 2021.
COVID-19 is likely to further boost this trend.
As of now, lockdowns have led an additional 14 percent of consumers to become first-time ecommerce shoppers. The chances are that most of these consumers will stay with the medium.
Why do we say so?
Well, after the SARS epidemic, Ecommerce spending increased and remained at the newfound equilibrium.
As online mediums, especially online shopping, comes at the forefront, fashion brands will have to adapt to digital technologies. Rather than investing in conventional advertising methods like billboards, and on-ground activations, an increased focus will be placed on where the audience is – social media.
This is likely to be accompanied by:
- Rise of mobile shopping
- Use of flagship stores for brand image
- Smaller physical stores
Currently, brands that haven’t adopted online platforms are suffering. For instance, Primark, the UK’s biggest fashion retailer, didn’t have any digital presence and witnessed its sales dropping to zero from a whopping 650 million pounds!
Reestablishment of Trust
One thing this pandemic has illustrated to the masses is how reactive and fragile the modern economic system is. This has caused a loss of confidence in businesses.
Many firms have come under fire for their practices during COVID-19. For instance, Top Shop, as well as C&A, canceled the orders placed to suppliers to avoid payment of items already produced.
To reinstate trust in the sector as well as the company, fashion brands will have to transform their communication style.
They must relay their credibility and empathy through every communication. Avoiding addressing the trying times can have a negative impact on consumer perception, which is likely to further adversely affect sales.
There is more to building trust than merely posting about it on social media. Instead, as a company, firms must design and implement various actions which showcase their commitment to the cause.
Virtual Fashion Walks
Fashion weeks and shows have always been a significant part of the fashion industry – especially for high-end designers.
Even as lockdown restrictions ease in various parts of the world, the fact remains that unless there is a cure for the disease, social distancing measures will stay in place. This means that the sector will have to innovate and rethink the mechanics of its fashion shows and walks.
The good news is that the fashion sector has already started doing so. For instance, A 3D Catwalk was organized by Fashinnovation (a New York-based conference) showed lifelike 3D models walking on the virtual runway.
Moreover, various prominent names in the sector are moving towards digital fashion weeks. This includes:
- The British Fashion Council launched a digital fashion week with British brands sharing creative digital content
- FHCM hosted the first of its kind, virtual Couture Fashion week which was a three-day event featuring videos, live sessions, and complementary content
- Swedish Fashion Association will launch a virtual fashion week with pre-recorded presentations and live interviews with designers.
There have always been concerns about how unsustainable the fashion industry is. For instance, globally, the sector is the second-highest water user. It produces approximately 20 percent of worldwide global waste and 8.1 percent of annual greenhouse gas.
As per the Director for Sustainability at Zalando, Kate Heiny, every nine out of ten Gen Z consumers believe that companies must address environmental and social issues in their campaigns.
The pandemic has pushed the concern for sustainability into the limelight. At the time when the world is already sick, people don’t wish to contribute to further destroying the ecosystem.
Hence, many are making conscious decisions to choose environmentally friendly and sustainable products, even in the apparel sector.
Brands must address this change in two ways.
Firstly, they must alter their operations to ensure sustainability. This must begin by setting goals and taking the right actions. For instance, Zara has pledged to replace all of its fabric with sustainable material by 2025.
Secondly, they must effectively market themselves as a sustainable brand to relay their efforts to consumers.
Slow it down
Before the pandemic, the fashion sector was known for its fast-paced. There were at least eight seasons in fashion, with a new collection coming out for each of them.
Now, many industry experts are rethinking their habits. Post pandemic, there is likely to be a shift to the consolidation of fashion into fewer seasons. Therefore, rather than having eight seasons and having buyers visit stores at eight different points, a capsule approach will be taken.
This will affect fashion marketing, as well. With fewer seasons, the type of campaigns and communications required for the success of each season will also change. Marketers will have more time to create their marketing plan, which will run for longer time periods to ensure their effectiveness.
There is no industry that hasn’t experienced a lasting impact on its operations and business model due to COVID-19. And the fashion sector is no exception.
While fashion, its definition, and consumer preferences may change, people will still always purchase clothes and accessories. Firms must alter their offering and priorities according to the market condition. By doing so, they are most likely to survive the pandemic.
And who knows, maybe COVID-19 will change the industry for the better! Surely, only time can tell us.
Do you think there are any other ways we can expect fashion marketing to change after the pandemic? Let us know.