Customers are buying less: How can online retailers use this to their advantage?

Buying behaviours are changing

The fast fashion zeitgeist

The rise and, in some eyes, the looming fall of fast fashion is a topic we’ve covered here on the blog before. The 2000s saw a huge cultural shift in consumer demand, leading fashion brands to do all they could to meet rising expectations of speed and price point. Fast-tracked firmly into the zeitgeist by social media and the age of the influencer, fast-fashion and the demand for it certainly has its part to play in the decline of the British High Street.

As the stalwarts of the market began to flounder in the digital age with their more traditional offering, a series of online retailers rose in prominence to deliver the customer precisely what they wanted, at a price and time they wanted it.

Back in March, online fashion retailer Boohoo reported a colossal 97% leap in revenue to £579.8m, with over 6.4 million customers choosing the retailer as their go-to for their fashion fix. That bubble is far from bursting. In the UK alone people are buying twice as many clothes as they were only 10 years ago.

The most interesting part of the fast-fashion debate, however, is the quiet revolution that has been slowly building momentum over the past few years. A revolution those retailers who sit outside of the realm of fast-fashion can truly use to their advantage to confirm their place in the market.

If you cast your eyes outside of Britain and over to the fashion-conscious streets of Milan or Paris, where a focus on purchasing items built to last still largely prevails, you’ll get an idea of the rising revolution. Buy less. Buy better. Buy consciously.

In the same way we saw social media and influencers play a key part in the rise of fast-fashion amongst Millennials and Generation Z consumers, they also have a vital role to play in the counter movement. Millennials and Generation Z consumers now account for over 30% of all spending in the luxury sector, whilst a study by Nielsen showing that 73% of millennials are willing to spend more on a product if it comes from a sustainable or socially conscious brand, more than any other generation in the study.

At Silverbean, we work with a number of luxury brands for whom the idea if disposable, fast and cheap purchases will never be the focus. So how do we ensure they’re part of the new conversation?

Built to last

N.Peal, a cashmere brand with a legacy of creating timeless pieces for everyone from Marilyn Monroe to James Bond, choose to celebrate the legacy of their pieces. Investment in content advising customers how best to look after and care for their purchases to prolong their life span builds trust and confidence with their customers. A luxury purchase involves consideration, so this groundwork to establish exactly why it should be purchased in the first place is key.

Famed French cookware retailer Le Creuset have cultivated a reputation for quality and luxury by actively promoting the message that once an item is purchased from them, you’ll never need to replace it. A lifetime guarantee on a product, far from dissuading customers from repeat purchases and fuelling the idea of buying more and more, instead contributes to the brand’s cult status. Confidence in quality leads customers to return for additional items as and when they need them.

In a world of influencers and content creators celebrating the latest £29.99 ‘it’ dress, you’ll find a new wave of those championing the belief that investing in pieces for the future is the way forward. You’ll find them promoting minimal purchases to their highly engaged audiences, encouraging wise investments and pushing forward the concept of the capsule wardrobe.

Working to establish content around the core products that appear on site at all times will serve you for years to come, especially when targeting those that remain on site throughout the year. Thinking outside of the changeable seasonal collections and focusing in on the items that best embody your product’s ability to stand the test of time will strike a chord with those looking to invest in luxury.

Champion sustainability

The retail buzzword of recent times. Where once it might have been celebrated that your purchase would arrive in reams of tissue paper, nestled in a box within a box; the shift in more recent years has been to make this optional, or in some retailer’s cases, entirely removed.

Some might argue the customer’s luxury experience is being is being diminished, whilst others would say placing the decision in the customer’s hands allows them to shop as they see fit. Any progress in this area will set you apart from the fast-fashion retailers, make sure you’re shouting your efforts to promote a sustainable approach from the online rooftops. If you’re making moves to help change the industry – shout about it!

Utilise loyalty

As customers make the move to buy less frequently, their purchases have become much more carefully researched and considered. In the luxury sector, it has become harder and harder to generate impulse purchases without the implication of discounts or incentives. Focusing on establishing content across all channels on your core pieces and messaging will assist in this research phase of the customer’s behaviour, but that’s only part of the story. You have an army of loyal customers who already believe in your brand, understand the quality you offer and likely have something to say about it.

The opportunities to seek reviews, comments and testimonies from customers is an area many brands are yet to fully explore. Adding a review function to your product pages can be highly beneficial, but there’s so much more that can be done here. Build a legacy behind your pieces through utilising customer’s opinions, experiences and their own content.
Align your teams and work with content creators to create dual purpose content – can you utilise their experience of wearing with your products to support the product on site? How do they style it? How many ways can they wear it? Directly aligning your brand’s activity to the product in question, effectively connecting the dots, makes sure your investment in this area works as hard as possible.

Similarly, what content could be created from utilising existing customer’s testimonies and content? Millennials and Generation Z shoppers are prepared to spend their hard-earned money on luxury items, but their research prior to that final click will be thorough. They’re certainly not immune to the persuasion of an influencer’s promotion, and the path to purchase is likely to just be much more considered.

In this sense, the fast-fashion leaders are making headway that the luxury sector is yet to do. Take H&M, for example. Their widely promoted #HMxME tag creates a curated feed on Instagram of their product, allowing the in-house team to sift through the best examples and pull them into the product pages and content articles that focus on the product featured.

The research stage is brought directly to the customer, served on a platter to them to encourage conversion. Why shouldn’t this curated persuasion be utilised by the luxury sector to confirm the status of their products?

If budget is being laid down to establish influencer content, look to make it work for you both on and off social media platforms. Be savvy with agreements and look to include terms that allow you to utilise the content on site, it’s likely no influencer will be unhappy for the exposure if a credit is given.

In short, confirm the reasons to purchase. Establish a legacy. Celebrate your differences.

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