While being the ‘trend-setters’ remains the prime reason for apparel, accessory and beauty professionals to stay ahead of the game, the rules of the industry have completely transformed over the years. Today, consumers not only want innovative products but also a unique shopping experience. They want brands to interact with them, whether they are surfing on an iPad or browsing in a store. They are now the active participants, educating themselves about products and engaging with a brand. There have been massive changes in the way people buy, and for fashion experts to compete in this new landscape, listening to consumers is the holy grail of modern business.
Ease of Online Shopping Experience
In today’s fast moving digital age, consumers expect brands to respond to their requests and reciprocate to their passion for products. Research says, there are over 450 million internet users in India, 80% of which are consuming data on their phones. While e-commerce websites are serving their purpose of enabling people to shop at one click, there are many brands who are going a step further to ease the experience of luxury shopping from the comfort of home. BlueStone and Caratlane with the help of their jewellery consultants are bringing designs to the users’ home as per their convenience. Cash on Delivery is also a widely used option that shields the consumer from potential frauds and risks that are associated with online transactions. This assures security of the product being delivered, thus building trust for the brand.
Social Media: All Ears to Consumers
Though memorable shopping experience depends on a smooth purchase, it’s the after-sales service that’s the icing on the cake, especially when majority of the customers are turning to social media for support. While social media platforms are doing their jobs of being ears and eyes of the brands, chat-bots have enabled a friendly conversation with users while addressing their concerns. Technology has bridged the gap between fashion houses and buyers.
Brand Campaigns to Match Consumer Needs
As much as the internet allows us to stay on top of the trends, it is equally vital for a company to match their brand campaigns and products with these trends to delight the consumers. That’s exactly what L’Oréal did after the cosmetic company discovered that ombré hair color was trending and surprised their fans with a new product range.
Power of User Generated Content
On the other hand, Avon wanted to change the role of their consumers beyond trial and sales, for which they launched a Beauty Look Book featuring their consumers. They converted their buyers into brand advocates with the help of User Generated Content i.e. leveraging audience to tell their own stories – through images, videos and words.
From Online Stores to Brick-and-Mortar
However, while pacing up with the digital revolution, fashion labels are also reinventing in-store customer experience. Many online-led fashion brands are expanding their presence offline to connect with the consumers on a personal level. FabAlley opened its third exclusive brand outlet in Delhi this year. Vajor and Flyrobe were also two of the many brands to launch their stores in Pune and New Delhi respectively. Showrooms enable customers to engage with a product before making a purchase, online or offline.
Enhancing In-store Experience
Brands are now emphasizing more on building customer relationshipsrather than only selling the products. Digital storefronts, interactive displays, touchscreens, virtual dressing rooms and in-store kiosks are changing the way consumers interface with the brands, helping brands draw more consumer insights.
Involving Consumers in Brand Decisions
While tailoring brand campaigns remains at the forefront, nothing proves more helpful than involving consumers in a brand’s journey. Quite recently, Aditya Birla hired fashion advisors to educate consumers on new-age Liva fabric, a bio-degradable cellulose fabric, opted by majority of their buyers. The intent was to let the consumers experience the fabric and its attributes. In addition to educating the consumers, several brands are now adopting practices to match their changing tastes and the values they hold close. For e.g. Gucci, Michael Kors, Calvin Klein, Giorgio Armani and Ralph Lauren pledged to go fur-free and are adhering to ethical guidelines when it comes to sourcing products, and the list does not end here. Brands are now hiring consultants to understand user demands, styles and preferences and serve them better, thus giving the end user a holistic, pleasurable experience.
Every day brings new surprises as we are introduced to innovative technological advancements. Brands have now realised how important it is to engage with consumers while focusing on other aspects like brand-building, new product development, distribution, packaging, marketing etc. Every method or response varies from brand to brand. For now, business houses can look at ways to balance universally best practices with choices that are authentic to the brand and its consumers. It’s important to understand that a product represents a brand and you build your brand through the experience, be it online or offline.