Growing a clothing brand in a year is the primary goal of any start up. But it should also the goal of any fashion brand or clothing business, even if they’ve been on the scene for 20 years. Every 365 days is another opportunity for a clothing brand to reinvent their brand identity, generate fresh customer loyalty, appeal to new consumers, and produce new clothing lines that broaden and extend their appeal.
Brick and mortar stores
The traditional clothing business with it’s own clothing line, clothing store and supplementary ecommerce site has a solid foundation to build on. To maintain significant growth these brands have to be constantly evolving to maintain customer satisfaction and interest. Physical stores are always at risk from their customers choosing to do their shopping online. Marketing efforts that fail to drive consumers into stores mean expensive retail leases, staff wages and other overheads might have to be paid by the ecommerce store.
The traditional business model demands that the brick and mortar stores deliver their own profits rather than rely on being supplemented by an online store. A brick and mortar clothing brand must ask itself if its marketing strategy, inventory management and retail locations are appealing to consumers.
The digital first business model
Every digital-first fashion brand is now competing with high street stores that have successfully developed their own digital platforms. With all these options, consumers have more places to shop than ever before.
E-commerce stores now need to work harder to find ways to appeal to loyal customers. Whether a clothing business is online, offline or both the goal is very much the same, to entice consumers, increase revenues and grow their business.
From new digital marketing strategies to technological developments in how consumers can spread the cost, let’s take a look at some of the best ways fashion brands can increase their sales in 2022.
Your fashion business has to appeal to Gen Z
Generation Z describes the age group born between 1997 and 2012. Amounting to around a third of the world’s population, this generation has become one of the world’s most powerful consumer age groups. Controlling an estimated annual spending power of $143 billion, successfully appealing to Gen Z can future-proof the sales of a clothing business for years to come.
According to research published in Vogue, 60% of Gen Z shoppers are more conscious about their fashion purchases and carefully consider the positive or negative impact of the money they spend. Today, fashion businesses have to think harder when they start a clothing line. Their fashion brand identity and values needs to be in line with the consumers. Sustainability, ethical management and the environment are top priorities and brands that make a positive impact in these areas are likely to be embraced.
By using social media marketing and having a clear brand identity and clear values to communicate, clothing brands can create a dialogue, demonstrate a point of view and appeal to younger potential customers.
A clothing business is no longer just about a t shirts, jeans and dresses. Their partnerships with independent designers and their own clothing line can speak volumes about their creativity, but Gen Z want to do right when shopping and that comes down to fundamental values.
The fashion industry and clothing brands need to understand that their new target market consumes online content, stories alongside fashion. They want clothing companies to tell them how they are making the world a better place through their sustainability efforts if they want to win their brand loyalty.
The fashion industry must embrace gender diversity
Staying with Gen Z, it is worth pointing out that as much as 56% of young shoppers are ignoring the male or female fashions, choosing to wear what they like regardless of gender. Online communities are cheering and promoting any clothing business who creates clothing designs that are truly unisex.
These communities actively encouraging members to spend money with any one progressive enough to think to create such clothing items. Brands such as H&M, Pangaea and Zara have all introduced genderless lines while other brands will deliberately shoot the same apparel on both male and female models.
This is no longer a niche market in an obscure corner of the clothing industry. It is mainstream and something every clothing company should be embracing.
The Online store is the perfect place for a clothing brand to experiment and explore the reactions of their customer base. Female shoppers now will happily buy a sweater modelled by a man. T shirts are always unisex. Maybe a new clothing line can be modelled on male and female models.
Brands looking to increase their appeal and therefore increase sales can consider embracing a genderless line and being more creative in their photography, choice of models and styling. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Y2K-inspired eCommerce brand, TAKA Original, lists apparel by type, not gender, and all items are photographed on both male and female models.
A successful business offers buy now, pay later
Lately we find ourselves in a global cost of living crisis with shoppers everywhere having to make changes to their spending. For retailers, who are also looking at increased costs, lowering their prices isn’t a viable option. More and more retailers, particularly online, are offering easy buy now, pay later services.
Historically, the modern consumer credit system was established by General Motors to sell cars. The process typically involved assurances from the bank that the consumer could make the payments.
Now, in our interconnected digital age, a store using eCommerce platforms such as Shopify, Magento and WooCommerce can bypass the bank. In a few clicks, fashion brands can integrate a plugin app that will automatically approve and grant credit to their shoppers. Paying for special purchases in bitesize instalments is available from Klarna, Afterpay, Affirm, and Openpay.
For consumers, the convenience and freedom to pay later is a welcome option that can encourage them to add items to their basket that might otherwise get left on the digital rack. Any clothing brand that has the technical skills to enable buy now, pay later is essentially better allowing up selling, a vital strategy for every fashion business.
Use smart sizing tools to reduce shipping costs and unwanted returns
Any successful fashion business considers how to appeal to new shoppers, retain existing shoppers and reduce loss, waste and inefficiencies. With an estimated 52% of eCommerce, returns occur due to inaccurate sizing, and Shopify reporting cost increases from each of the major carriers, including USPS, UPS, and DHL fashion retailers face increasing logistical costs managing deliveries and returns. But fashion brands can increase their profits by reducing or mitigating some of these costs. By adopting smart consumer sizing tools such as Sizer, online retailers can suggest a more accurate fit and reduce the likelihood of costly returns.
Once the true size of the consumer is in a retailer’s system they can also offer a more personalised shopping experience. Online fit assistant platforms can automatically highlight a shopper’s best fit whilst the search feature can be adapted to only display stock that is the right size. Other platforms also learn from shoppers’ previous purchases and ‘likes’ to learn their unique style and augment their experience accordingly.
Sizer’s AI technology and deep-learning algorithms calculate customers’ precise body measurements through its easy-to-use app, providing consumers with a more personalised shopping that helps them find more of what they love, increasing their confidence and simultaneously reducing time, money and energy used to manage avoidable returns.
Embrace Omni-Channels and online marketplaces
How many sales channels do you have and what are their different roles? Maybe your shoppers can buy in-store, through social media at your online store and through second-party websites or stores. Are you making the most of each channel? And are they engaged with each other?
For stores that exist online and offline, there is often confusion about what the role of the traditional store should be. Nike’s flagship New York store offers a customer experience designed to create excitement. Other stores have DJs or live demonstrations and personalisation. These events work in conjunction with the online store, to grant virtual shoppers the opportunity to visit the real store and have an unforgettable branded experience.
Besides events, one way to make the physical store and online shopping experience more integrated is to empower staff and shoppers to request items be sent to the high-street store. Staff should be able to order items for shoppers to try on and online shoppers should be able to reserve an item to try before they buy at a local store.
Since 2017 Nordstrom has offered a Reserve Online & Try In-Store Service. They found that 80% of shoppers who tried the service once continued to use it.
While different shoppers, particularly in different age brackets, have differing desires to try, before they buy – all shoppers expect a seamless on and offline shopping experience from their favourite clothing brand.
With digital-first brands, the business model usually relies on casting a wide net to appeal to the largest possible group of online shoppers. Targeting and site-specific promotions can help reach a mass audience, but brands have to be careful to promote the right clothing line in the right place. When shopping exclusively online how many sales channels are you offering and is the stock relevant to the audience that uses that channel? If Gen Z is shopping from Tik Tok are you certain your offering is appealing to that demographic? Embracing omnichannel marketing campaigns means respecting the differences between each platform, knowing your audience and appealing to them directly.
New customers love exclusivity and scarcity
Every shopper wants to own something no one else has and the bulk production order system leads to excess production and landfill waste. Consumers know this and small batch production or limited editions have more appeal.
In 2022 leading clothing brand H&M launched a limited-edition collaboration clothing line with Iris Apfel that secured press coverage and triggered sales. By creating exclusive lines that are limited, and therefore likely to sell out quickly, brands can trigger excitement amongst their target market.
To be clear: Scarcity is the phenomenon where, when a product is limited in availability and becomes more attractive to buyers. It taps into the human FOMO (fear of missing out) and can be seen online everywhere from booking hotel rooms to dating apps.
A clothing brand can create genuine scarcity by launching limited-edition clothing lines and generating excitement and anticipation up to the launch date. Alternatively, they can trigger a sense of scarcity by listing stock numbers and making shoppers aware that if they don’t buy it now, they could easily miss out. These are common strategies employed by the biggest brands in the fashion industry and anyone looking to start a clothing line or clothing business would do well to learn these strategies quickly and put them in their business plan.
The fashion industry, fashion brands and clothing manufacturers face a challenging year ahead. To come out on top they have to adapt to the changing environment. These changes can be big, like changing a company’s supply chain and sustainability pledge or small like introducing online stock counts or switching up their advertising budget and social media strategy to appeal to a more diverse consumer base. But, knowing the consumer and making the changes that will most appeal to them is consistently the key to success. Sustainability efforts becoming central to a brand identity is a big way any clothing manufacturer can connect with new business.
Boosting revenues and scaling up in the year ahead requires a combination of innovation, creativity and true fashion industry insight. The companies that adapt now will be the clothing businesses that shape the future of online retail.