11 October 2019
By Drew Smith
Drew is the Director of Product Strategy and focuses on how technology can help brands and retailers deliver what their customers want.
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The new year is no longer quite so new but it’s as important as ever for fashion retailers and apparel brands to have an eye on long-term trends in fashion retail. Staying aware of the changes coming in 2019 for the whole fashion industry helps you stay relevant, avoid pitfalls and better address the needs of your customers. So, here are 7 key trends for fashion retail in 2019.
As footfall declined for the 14th straight month in January, fashion retailers were slowly waking up to the reality that shoppers are no longer enticed by the offering in their shops and high streets. Clearly, changes and investments need to be made in stores across the country as their value and appeal declines.
Mixed-use spaces are becoming more popular, and we expect to see more retailers taking the approach of Topshop in its Oxford Street flagship, which includes a café, nail parlour and hair salon. These businesses naturally complement each other and make the store a more interesting and useful destination for the young demographic Topshop needs to appeal to.
Rebuilding the value of shops doesn’t have to mean sharing floor space with other businesses, however. In the US, department chain Kohl’s has had success with its strategy of cutting oversized stores down to more appropriate square footage and using data from loyalty programs and ecommerce to assess localised demand. That allowed it to intelligently stock stores with the right merchandise for each region. The store experience doesn’t need a revolution so much as a refresh to remind shoppers of the joy of finding great products.
Nike are leaders in retail innovation, not just in the fashion and apparel business but across the retail industry. Their store assistants have immediate access to inventory information, product release schedules and more, directly from their mobile devices on the shop floor. This connectivity between stores and digital commerce will continue until businesses stop seeing them as separate departments at all.
Depending on who you read, data is either “the new oil”, or perhaps “a goldmine” or even “a GDPR time-bomb” for fashion retailers.
This year, more retailers and brands will realise that their data collection, monitoring, reporting and insights aren’t working. GDPR might not be the catalyst – profit is more likely to push businesses into looking at how they use data. 2019 will see fashion brands prioritise actionable data. Information which leads to clear decisions and changes is much more valuable than enticing dashboards and graphs, as bottom lines will show.
AI will have another year in the headlines and will be much-spoken of by futurists, journalists and board members. Beneath all the talk, as usual there will be some successes and many failures. Retailers and brands will continue to struggle to develop their own machine learning internally, and continue to see success with partnerships or highly focused tactical deployments like image searches and chatbots.
Most importantly, the topic won’t go away, and retailers and brands will slowly realise that is the third parties who are willing to actually internalize the challenging work of building, maintaining and usefully deploying machine learning algorithms who can offer them real game-changing value. Expect to see artificial intelligence cutting through the data noise we described above and making data-backed real time recommendations.
Fashion fulfilment continues to evolve – further and further from simply measuring convenience by delivery time. Like anything in retail, it’s about right place, right time, right price. While 2 day shipping and free delivery have become du jour for most major fashion retailers (although not usually at the same time), getting the place right has proved harder.
Being at home during the daytime to collect a parcel is not what most people could call convenient. That’s the driving force behind the increasing adoption of click-and-collect, the increasing use of delivery lockers, and the surge of third parties like Doddle who aim to make that ‘place’ element of the delivery equation work a lot better.
While we’re not likely to see too many drone deliveries in 2019, don’t bet against more innovations in where and when we get our deliveries.
Fashion brands now know, if they didn’t before, that they can’t expect to get away with flagrant wastefulness by having a polished brand and beautiful products. Great branding and unethical behaviour simply are no longer compatible. Customers expect that all brands are making an effort to behave ethically in their sourcing, production, advertising and logistics.
For sure, not all of that self-reported concern will translate into willingness to pay higher prices, nor will it necessarily manifest as actual research into brands’ practices – but the price for being exposed in the way that Burberry was, for example, is higher than ever and not coming down any time soon. On the flip side, there is perhaps more value to be gained than ever before for brands taking relevant and genuine action to preserve the planet.
Premium brands may be most able to benefit from this as their customers are less price sensitive, and there is an increasing association between ecological friendliness and quality of product.
Major retail peaks like Black Friday and Christmas shopping in 2019 will involve Instagram to a greater degree than ever before. Fashion brands will need to up their game to make sure that they understand the nuances of a rapidly changing platform which may well have direct in-app commerce capabilities by the time the Golden Quarter rolls around again.
Primarily, brands need to invest in surfacing their products in the right places to the right audiences. Instagram will absolutely be one of these platforms, but knowing how much to invest and when to press the button will be key to success. Fashion retailers are already successful on Instagram but cannot rest on their laurels as the social commerce world matures around them.
Ultimately, the core competencies of fashion retail have remained intact throughout the “apocalypse” and the High Street gloom, and will continue to do so regardless of the political landscape in 2019. Making consumers aware of great products, making sure they’re available where the consumer wants to shop, for a price the consumer is willing to pay, getting it to them in a timely and convenient manner, and delivering a great experience throughout the journey; these elements won’t change. The ways retailers set out to achieve them have evolved and will continue to. The adoption of new technologies has accelerated the pace of change, but never threatened to change any part of that fundamental formula.
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