What Does the Future Look Like for Independent Fashion Brands?

 

Like many other industries, the fashion world is currently at a standstill, putting millions of jobs at risk.  As lockdowns lift, the change in consumer patterns means people are not shopping like they used to. High-street retail is plummeting, but not all is lost: believe it or not, this is the best opportunity for independent and online brands to grow, and here’s why.

SHOPPING FOR FASHION: A NEW TREND

On the same day Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the nationwide lockdown, Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, Harrods and many other high-end department stores had no choice but to close.”

Isabelle Chaboud

In light of this, experts predict that the luxury sector will experience an £8.78 billion decline in sales.

For independent brands, this is a chance to push forward. Indeed, consumer trends are changing and will continue to change: 59% of UK consumers have shopped in more local stores since the lockdown. From those, 57% said that they were more likely to buy from a brand that sells products that are locally sourced after lockdown has ended.

Usually, independent brands may see competition against high-end retailers. Still, now they should take advantage of the fact that a reluctance to shop in brick-and-mortar stores doesn’t mean a reluctance to shop at all.

In May alone, “non-store” sales accounted for 33.4% of all retail in Britain, with 49.4% of that belonging to clothing, textile, and footwear sales. That’s a 25.2% jump in fashion e-sales, compared to the previous month!

Online retail is on the rise. Now is the time to polishing your digital presence and grow your brand. Your next question is probably: how?

Stay-at-home orders will eventually be lifted state by state. Still, in the interim, there are millions of consumers creating and reinforcing new online buying behaviours and habits. – Louis Columbus

SOCIAL MEDIA

How? is a particularly good question, especially because organic reach is on the decline – so whatever you thought you knew about managing social media is no longer relevant.

Yup, From Facebook to Instagram, without paid content, your posts are not reaching as many people.  When your clientele is forced to browse your store not in person but through a few clicks, a lack of reach is a big problem.

So who is to blame?

Mostly, it’s due to the new algorithms introduced by every social media giant. Both Facebook and Instagram, for example, wanted to steer clear from the commerce-focused platforms they were becoming. For the user, this means fewer ads and more interaction with content from friends and families and pages you have visited before.

But for small business pages with only a few hundred followers, it means a decline in exposure and thus, a decline in sales.

Though not easy, there are always loopholes, and one of them is adapting your social media strategy:  

  • Going live is great for engagement and for boosting brand awareness
  • Feature user-generated content that is authentic and prone to push the reach and click-throughs
  • Platform-specific content entices followers to follow your business on multiple platforms

These are, of course, only some of the many solid principles that can help you maintain your online traffic numbers. Still, it’s important to note that paid social amplifies your organic content. If you don’t consider it, you will fall behind.

Paid Social Media
How you target your audience, build customer journeys, and land people on your site is a job that paid social media strategies can help you with. The trick is not to throw money at paid social and hope for the best – but to choose wisely. Every platform operates differently, so your strategy must be tailored to fit them.   

“In terms of social media platforms, Facebook and Instagram will continue to be a major attraction for paid social media campaigns. Their sophisticated targeting across devices and contexts using high-quality usage data on their users also means brands will get a better ROI for their advertising dollars.” – P.K. Kannan

If that’s not enough to convince you, check out these other benefits for using paid social media to advertise your business:

  • Amplify your reach
  • Fit any budget
  • Enhance your targeting
  • Boost brand awareness
  • Maximize your content marketing
  • Gain access to mobile users
  • Gather market insights

“With the financial difficulties, many players, and in particular the smallest, will become more-affordable targets.Confronted with the lasting effects of the crisis and taking into account the observed consumption trends, significant changes in the industry are to be expected.” 
Isabelle Chaboud

E-COMMERCE

The repercussion of Covid will last well into the decade,  and the fashion industry is no exception. People are changing what they’re buying, when, and how.

Since buying from home is currently (and might be, for a while) the new norm, it’s important to have a good strategy and test it continually.

Most e-commerce sites don#t work due to three fundamental problems:

  • Customers don’t know how to use your site
  • Product value isn’t clear
  • Navigation is difficult

Remember to stay on top of your website features and continuously check and adapt your key points in accordance to customer patterns.

FASHION WEEK & FAIRS

Fashion shows are about the fashion, of course, but there is also thrill and excitement and drama. Seeing the supermodels, spotting the attending celebrities, catching the small details of the seasons newest styles.

But fashion is about living with the times, and in these times, most of how we live is remotely. Which means that for the time being, the parties, the live events and most importantly, the runway, have become obsolete.  

Liaising with existing and potential new buyers remotely is becoming more typical than you’d think. While international fairs like Pure London and Fashion Week shows (London Fashion Week Festival) are great opportunities to attract stockists and have face to face interactions with customers, the market has shifted, and a video call followed by sending samples to interested companies can speed things up.

Instead of dealing with this audience every few months, the digital landscape is opening the door to these interactions every single day.

Virtual clothing and cyberspace catwalk shows? It may sound bizarre, but with physical fashion shows on hold, the industry was forced to get creative. Cue: digital fashion.  Yup – just as gaming and music are teaming up to allow entertainers to continue their work, 3D artists are joining forces with designers to portray their creations via computerised catwalks.

If you think this is eccentric, consider this: games such as Fortnite already have a plethora of users who paid for digital outfits. Aside from the environmental benefits, 3D clothing could also allow those without 3D modelling skills and software to style their outfits. Tommy Hilfiger and other brands are already testing out the format.

Who’s to say haute couture won’t soon go digital?

fashion

Trying to go back to “normal” means that our ways of life, from our interests to our demands as consumers, will change. As the fashion giants are trying to cope with the effects of the global pandemic, independent fashion brands are not immune, but they are certainly pushing forward, and with the right tactics and approaching, succeeding.