COVID-19 has slowed down sales for businesses across various industries. Especially fashion and apparel, that lies under the non-essentials category. But as the government starts to relax the lockdowns and restrictions, it’s time to get back to business. Although this time, fashion and apparel businesses need to be aware of how their consumer’s behaviour has evolved during this period.
In this article, we’re sharing what we have learned about the change in consumer behaviour and how your fashion and apparel brand can adapt to it.
Understanding and adapting to the ‘new-normal’ consumer
1. Consumers are choosing to make more online purchases
eCommerce has been growing at a rapid pace over the last few years. The pandemic only accelerated the adoption across all industries. Consumers now choose online shopping for even their day-to-day necessities to avoid stepping into public spaces.
Fashion and apparel brands now need to consider going online with their products. It will give them the ability to reach out to their existing customers and attract new ones by promoting a ‘safer’ way to shop that lets them experience in-store shopping, online.
According to the Economic Times, Indian consumers may shift to only online shopping in the next 9 months.
Is your brand not online yet or you struggling to set up an online store? Here’s a complete guide on how to set up an online fashion and apparel store in India.
2. Consumers are seeking bulk discounts for volume purchases
The new-age consumer is more informed than ever. They are aware of the possible limitations on the availability of items and delivery delays. That’s why you’ll see this new consumer choose to buy certain products in bulk. So they can remain prepared for days to come by making the purchase once. But at the same time, they’re also looking for brands that can offer them discounts on bulk purchases so that they can do the same on other items they need.
Fashion and apparel brands will need to understand their customers better and which of their products in the inventory can be sold in bulk. Creating bundles of fashion wear is a good idea to make more sales right now, but so is keeping in mind what kind of fashion wear the consumer is more likely to put to use as of today.
Recommended app(s): Volume & Discounted Pricing
3. Consumers are spending more time on mobile
In lockdowns and with very few places to go, this new consumer that you’re targeting is spending more time on their mobile devices. According to Social Media Today, people are spending 20% more time in apps alone.
Fashion and apparel retailers need to take this consumer behaviour into account to be able to reach them where they are the most active. It’s a good idea to move past just mobile-web ready online stores to setting up native apps for your store. The easier it is for a consumer to browse through your products, create wish lists and make purchases, the higher will be your conversions.
Retailers that have adapted to this change have seen a spike in their sales and revenue by a whopping 26%.
Recommended app(s): PlobalApps
4. Consumers prefer making online payments
The want of limiting contact with the outside world has increased the number of consumers who choose to make online payments for their orders. You can see a clear drift from opting for COD (cash on delivery) to looking for online payment modes like Netbanking, digital wallets and more.
Fashion and apparel businesses will need to take into account the different types of shoppers their online store will get. It is important to now offer multiple payment modes to consumers to ensure you don’t lose out on sales.
A good idea is to start by analysing what your existing customers chose for making online payments. Then take a look at what other competing brands are offering to their consumers to make online shopping easier. Remember, the idea is to offer popular payment methods in your target area.
Check out the recommended payment gateways in India.
5. Consumers are demanding no-contact delivery
Continuing on the consumer’s need to limit contact with delivery personnel, offering the right delivery mode has also become important to survive the COVID-19 slowdown. If your store has been offering regular delivery methods that don’t boast of the no-contact and doorstep delivery, you’ll see a lot of consumers walking away.
As a fashion and apparel brand, you need to ensure that you have a hygiene page up on your store. This page should share how you’re following all regulations to ensure safe delivery of orders. Including a line or two on your packaging process can get you more brownie points from consumers.
Another delivery method that retailers can now consider is buying online and pick-up from the store. This gives the consumer the flexibility to choose when they want to pick up their order and mental satisfaction of how the number of people in contact with their order gets reduced.
Recommended app(s): No-Contact Delivery
6. Consumers want to engage with brands that support a cause
These are difficult times and the new-age consumer is choosing to do their bit in giving back to society. There has been an increase in the number of people that choose to interact with a brand or buy from them after seeing that they support a cause that is commonly shared. More than discounts, ‘cause marketing’ is what will drive more sales for online retailers.
Fashion and apparel brands will need to look into what their target audience cares about the most. Then you need to identify how you can join them in their efforts to add value to those in need.
For example, GoCoop is running a campaign called ‘crafting a safe environment’ to help strengthen local businesses. They’re promoting masks crafted by artisans across the country to help them tide over the COVID-19 slowdown. This helps them create a positive impression on their customers and also do their bit for society.
7. Consumers are seeking familiarity
These are uncertain times and being introduced to something new isn’t exactly what consumers are looking for. A study by bloomreach suggests that consumers are now looking for familiarity and nostalgia. They want to purchase items that remind them of their childhood or the happier times as we call it.
While fashion trends can’t really have a nostalgic throwback, you can change your messaging slightly to tap into the consumer emotion. For instance, run a campaign that asks them about their favourite age-old fashion trend. Give them a chance to get featured on your feed and you’ll see how word-of-mouth starts to drive more people to your store.
While you’re running campaigns or creating content, remember to be empathetic. This is your chance to reset your narrative and make consumers fall in love with your brand.
8. Consumers are focusing on buying essentials
Consumers are still adapting to the new normal. That’s why their spending habits have been altering week after week. While some industries have seen an upsurge in the number of orders being placed online, there are others that don’t even make it to the list of ‘should check out these products’.
It’s not just consumer behaviour that your fashion and apparel brand needs to take into consideration. You also need to identify what products are consumers looking for and using. The closer you are to selling what your consumers need, the more likely they are to purchase from your store.
For example, Tjori is an online store that sells ethnic wear. But in the light of current events, they have customized their homepage to promote ‘back to work essentials’. The collection includes hand sanitizers, masks, gloves and even bundles.
They have also adapted their inventory to include cotton masks in the material they used for their ethnic wear, promoting them within their lockdown essentials collection.
According to Forbes, fashion and apparel brands will now need to look into offering sustainable products. Sustainable fashion will be a bigger market than ever before.
Looking for inspiration? Here are the top 21 sustainable fashion brands that people across the world trust.
9. Consumers are seeking an immersive experience
With the rise in mobile app usage and technology, consumers are also expecting online retailers to offer an interactive platform. Since they’re limited in ways to get a look and feel of a product, they expect brands to be able to offer them as much information so as to make an informed purchase.
Another post on Forbes highlighted how virtual catwalks and digital fashion is changing the industry. But it’s not just for the industry leaders to take into account.
With smart apps, your store can offer virtual try-ons to consumers on products. This will help them get an understanding of how the product looks on them. On the flip side, it will help your store reduce the number of returns and refunds.
Recommended app(s): Virtooal
Fashion and apparel retailers will also have to spend more time on product descriptions and sizing guides.
10. Consumers want to plan their budgets better
No one knows what the next week is going to look like. That’s why consumers are being careful about their spending habits. While a lot of them are focusing on purchasing only the absolute essentials, there are others indulging in non-essentials but in a limited manner. They want to save on their resources for tougher times.
According to a survey by EY, four new customer segments have emerged during the COVID-19 crisis.
Fashion and apparel retailers that go online should consider offering the ability to pay partially. Similar to how you can set up easy EMIs for a purchase you make. Adding this to the offered payment methods is like showing consumers you care about their resources as much.
Recommended app(s): Split - Partial Payments
Consumer behaviour is still changing. But the one thing that is clear from how even the restrictions on lockdowns are opening, is that digital is the way to go. For fashion and apparel retailers who have been under stricter lockdowns and restrictions, the only way to tide over the pandemic is moving closer to the demands of the shopper.
Also read: Marketing during COVID-19 - How to continue marketing your non-essentials Shopify store