The past two years have transformed nearly every aspect of our lives and how businesses interact with their customers. While the pandemic affected every sector and business in different ways, we now see businesses seizing the opportunities emerging in the recovery phase.
When it comes to the fashion industry, brands are constantly trying to keep up with their customers who are seeking safe and reliable digital solutions for their shopping needs. During the start of the pandemic, a paradigm shift was observed as consumers shifted heavily to online shopping, resulting in the acceleration of e-commerce even in remote parts of the country.
This year, it is estimated that the fashion industry can return to pre-pandemic levels owing to changing category landscapes, new digital frontiers and advancements in sustainable fashion. With regards to online shopping, today’s consumers want to support brands that resonate with their own values and offer seamless shopping experiences, besides fast delivery and return policies. With more shoppers taking advantage of online shopping, fashion retailers have to follow this suit.
What's more, brands will have to constantly innovate how they create and sell apparel to make it work in today’s digital world. Earlier, spotting trends and getting access to top-notch fashion products from across the globe used to be a cumbersome process compared to what it is now. Everything is now accessible at the click of a button.
The most successful fashion brands of the future are not only increasing their online presence but also creating an immersive digital shopping experience, with technologies like virtual fit or sizing tools, virtual showrooms and stylists. Fashion brands are also amplifying immersive technologies like AR and VR to allow consumers to “try on” items digitally from the comfort of their homes thereby, helping consumers make the right purchase, which also leads to reduced return rates. Major retailers are adopting virtual dressing rooms and bringing the technology mainstream.
Even consumers who make purchases in person are influenced by digital efforts. Over the recent years, influencer marketing has become increasingly popular, with influencers being opinion leaders in the social media environment. Influencers play a major role in the way we consume today, having an impact on consumer buying behaviour and their purchasing decisions. Going beyond, several large fashion brands are moving to virtual fashion shows and events and are digitizing their designs into 3D prototypes that are easier to showcase; they can try these ideas virtually and float them with consumers before actually creating the physical pieces.
There are also technologies like virtual try-ons, brand-specific size charts, and “Style snap”, an image-based search tool that allows customers to upload an image and get recommendation of products similar to the ones found in the image. In addition to this, the option of conveniently shopping in preferred languages like Hindi, Tamil, Telegu, Kannada and Marathi, has helped further ramp up demand and build trust among customers shopping from marketplaces.
As consumers are becoming more conscious with the kind of fashion choices they make, fashion brands have also started to focus on implementing improved business practices and to become socially and environmentally responsible. Phrases like eco-friendly, eco-conscious, sustainable, ethical, among others, are no longer buzzwords but essential terms part of product-making.
The fashion categories have been growing over the long term, and consumer surveys indicate a likely strong rebound after the pandemic. The future of fashion will focus on customers and providing an innovative experience.
Saurabh Srivastava, director-head, Amazon Fashion India