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The Revolution of Retail

With Fashion Week less than two months away this article seeks to review the trends that are revolutionising the industry and changing the way retailers engage and secure customer buy-in. Currently worth £21billion to the UK economy, the fashion industry is undergoing tremendous change with innovative, technology and customer engagement at the heart of such changes.

Below are some of the key changes taking place that those in the industry need to take note of:

1. Your Online Fitting Room

Metail who provide body visualisation technology, essentially an online fitting room solution for e-retailers, is an absolute shopper’s dream. This technology enables the shopper to input their measurements (height, weight, bra size etc) and then it calculates and provides a visualisation of what the garment will look like based on the measurements provided. Metail solves the endless problem of needing to return garments brought online that either don't fit, or don’t flatter customers body shape. Metail is simply revolutionising the online shopping experience and allowing retailers to cut down on the costs of customer returns.

2. In-store Analytics

Cookies on e-commerce sites are helping e-tailers to better understand and track consumer behaviour; what products we are buying, which ones we drop into the virtual shop (even if we don’t buy), when we shop and how we like to shop. The growing trend of wanting to track consumer behaviour is taking place beyond online propositions, today more than ever, retailers want to and need to gather the same data for their brick-and-mortar stores. Due to the advent of smartphones in-store analytics are receiving millions of dollars in venture capital funding. One such example is Index (founded by former Google employees Marc Freed-Finnegan and Jonathan Wall), who together have raised $7million to develop a downloadable App.

So how does it work? Users can download the App, create an identification pin and load up their credit card information. When they walk into any participating store, Index will likely know if they have shopped there before and what they’ve brought. The user will be notified of a new deal; maybe on a favourite item, or an entirely different product that will get them moving into a different section of the store that they may have never visited before. With the invention of Index (and other similar products on the market), retailers can now have the information to better engage with customers, which will not only enhance their customers shopping experience, but will also direct their behaviour to increase purchases.

3. Mobile Shopping Assistance

A recent Google survey found that as many as 8 in 10 smart phone owners use their devices in-store to help with shopping. Retailers are aware of such developments which has seen the rise of mCommerce (enabling customers to purchase directly from their mobile devices). This has increased mobile specific strategies including one-click ordering, product browsing, search optimization for smaller screens, mobile-specific deals and in-store pick up options.

But beyond purchases, innovative retailers are using other mobile features to enhance the in-store shopping experience, which is giving them a competitive advance. One such feature is the arrival of ‘shopping-assistance’ features. These include features such as navigation tools, mobile redeemable coupons and bar code scanners, as well as inventory checks, product reviews and wish-lists; all of which allow the shopping experience to be enhanced which, in turn, drives confidence and purchases.

4. Instagram Drives Sales

Measuring the monetary impact of social media has always been a challenge but Instagram seems to be working to not only promote but drive sales. As the preferred social media platform for fashionistas, bloggers and designers, independent boutiques are using Instagram to level the playing field and sell products every day.

One such examples is Fox and Fawn, a vintage store in Brooklyn that has reported that Instagram have delivered 25% of their sales increase. For new boutiques, that do not have the large advertising budgets that heir mainstream competitors may have, making sales through creative and very targeted content, with heavy call-to-actions and customer loyalty schemes are attractive alternatives. The key to success goes beyond creativity and lies in retailers’ response rate and open dialogue with the consumer, which can be shared amongst their followers opening the promotions to new customer groups.

5. Fashion Week Shows - Live Streaming

Fashion Week is no longer for the elite fashionistas, celebrities or media. With the growth of social and digital media consumers are gaining front row seats via their computers and mobile devices. Victoria Beckham, who has won ‘Best Designer of the Year’ and wowed the fashion world since her debut in 2008, collaborated with Skype in 2013 for a special Fashion Week project. This docu-video provided the consumer with a unique insight into the preparations of Fashion Week and the making of her collection. Allowing the shopper to gain a greater in-sight into the ‘story’ behind the brand, while enhancing the brand profile and likability.

Alexander Wang in the same year provided an astounding androgynous futurist show that featured 3D and heat-activated fabric, showcasing that wearable fabric was more than a fad. Tommy Hilfiger invited twenty local Instagrammers to the label’s catwalk show to report on the designs as they hit the catwalk and give back-stage reviews live to their followers while the shows were taking place. This saw a 55% ‘re-share’ increase for the brand.

6. Real People - the Evolution of Ad Campaigns

The need for authenticity has grown as consumers have become more savvy and more reluctant to buy into traditional advertising. One way that brands are meeting this growing trend has been to move away from perfect ad models such as Beyonce and Angelina Jolie (who are sometimes deemed unobtainable by the average consumer), to develop the concept and the utilization of brand ambassadors in large scale advertising campaigns.

This need for connectedness, interactivity and shared experiences was evident in the Dove Campaign (using real women to showcase real bodies), and Marks & Spencer who used ‘Leading Ladies’ comprised from a diverse set of role models from Baroness Lawrence to engineer Roma Agrawal.

But high-street brands are not the only one’s cashing in on this trend. Luxury brand Louis Vuitton launched its brand ambassador campaign via its website; featuring a group of men at the World Economic Forum (2014). This Louis Vuitton campaign markets a millstone that other luxury brands are sure to follow; the evolution of a completely different type of fashion advertising, one that connects through adding layers of depth to the brand, stories that connect to social change or personal aspirations; taking large scale advertising to a whole new level.

Written by Ms Kubi Springer

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