With the majority of people working at or stuck at home due to COVID-19, consumer demand for business and formal wear has fallen off a cliff. Fashion brands have had to quickly pivot and adapt in a myriad of ways, from repurposing old stock for masks to reducing inventory as part of broader cost-cutting measures. They have had to also address some of the fundamental changes shaping the future of India's e-commerce and fast fashion industry, driven by an increasingly discerning and demanding fashion consumer.
Their Customers are Increasingly Online - COVID-19 accelerated the adoption of already growing e-commerce in India. 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.
And are Used to an In-App Experience - Over the past year, owing to the lockdown consumers have spent more time on their mobile devices. Fashion retailers need to take this consumer behavior into account to be able to reach them where they are the most active. A native app for a store, along with a mobile web store, is more engaging for consumers. It is easier to browse through collections and create wishlists, while the retailers can notify them about offers, designs that are selling out, or even for abandoned-cart completions.
Brands Need to Offer Popular Digital Payment Methods - Brands are witnessing a shift from COD (cash on delivery) to online payment modes like net banking, digital wallets, and more. More importantly, most consumers typically use 1 or at the most, 2 payment methods. Businesses should offer multiple payment modes to consumers to ensure businesses don’t lose out on sales. To begin with, analyze what their existing customers chose for making online payments, and then look at what other competing brands are offering to their consumers to make online shopping easier. The idea is to offer popular payment methods to their target audience.
Consumers Care About what a Brand Stands for - People are choosing to do their bit to give back to society, and COVID-19 has amplified this further. There has been an increase in the number of people who choose to interact with a brand or buy from them after seeing that they support a commonly shared cause. More than discounts, ‘cause marketing’ is what will drive more sales for online retailers. It’ll help the case of fashion brands to emphasize their purpose and beliefs on their page and let shoppers understand what their brand stands for.
Consumer Expectations have Risen - With the rise in mobile app usage and technology, consumers are increasingly shopping via their favorite channels and expect brands to offer multiple touchpoints. Since they’re limited in ways to get a look and feel of a product, they expect brands to offer them as much information to make an informed purchase. With smart apps, brands can offer virtual try-on 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 reduce the number of returns and refunds.
Higher Expectations means Offering Greater Choice, but also Growing Costs - As a result of higher consumer expectations, brands are now expected to offer greater choice, not only in terms of payment methods but also being flexible about how products are delivered. Some consumers might shop online and want to pick up in-store, while some would prefer home delivery instead. Regular or VIP customers might even request same-day or next-day contactless delivery, which all contribute to rising business costs. Fashion and apparel brands are being prompted to assess their current supply and delivery network, and adapting that to meet the increasing needs of their customers, while also ensuring the safety of both customers and employees.
Consumer behavior is ever-evolving. The one thing that is clear from how the current situation is shaping up is that digital is the way to go. For fashion and apparel retailers who have already been drastically impacted by lower demand and foot traffic due to stricter lockdowns and restrictions, the only way to survive is to quickly and decisively transform their business to address their consumers’ changing needs.