How the pandemic changed fashion

The global pandemic has changed consumer shopping behavior and expectations, and fashion is no exception. Consumers today are slowing down and taking stock of their lives, and their changing needs are reflected in their changing shopping habits.

According to Euromonitor International Top 10 Global Consumer Trends report, 2022 is when consumers reclaim their power and forge a future built around their passions and values. The 2022 Flow Trends report agrees, noting that retail will continue its recovery if it pays attention to changes in consumer behavior and expectations.

For the fashion industry, this means listening to what consumers want and using that information to create retail and fashion experiences that connect with the customer and look to the future. There will be a return to the confidence and freshness that characterizes the fashion category, and retailers can most certainly take advantage of this. Take a look at a key trend – the dopamine bandage. The bright colors and vibrant fashion adventures taken by consumers eager to shake off the dark days of the pandemic in favor of items that bring them joy.

This is particularly relevant in South Africa where a declining economy and high levels of unemployment, along with ongoing load shedding, are impacting retail growth and consumer satisfaction. Retailers need to be more strategic and redesign their offerings to meet key consumer needs. Online stores also need to revamp and shine – they have always been platforms where customers compare prices, now they need to be nimble and digital, another engaging touchpoint from which to connect with the customer.

The question is, how?

The answer lies in creating experiences and environments that meet very clear customer needs. In a recent survey of over 250 customers, KLA asked relevant questions of consumers to find out what influences their shopping behavior and how digitalization has changed their shopping expectations.

South African consumers are looking for quality and durability, but without having to pay high prices in this category

Consumers want quality but they also want better value for money, which can be contradictory. The fast fashion trend was dominant before the pandemic, with customers buying cheap rather than durable, but now it’s about clothes that will last. Wearability is the driving factor for 86% of respondents, suggesting that brands should focus on longevity of clothing through factors such as washability, classic styles and smart fits that grow with the child or children. trends.

Beyond that, quality indicators include clothes with a good fit/cut (53%) and clothes that are made from certain fabrics (39%). Fashion brands should consider investing in sourcing quality fabrics, ensuring craftsmanship and considering garment washability to improve quality signals for consumers. Online, this attention to quality should be reflected in more detailed item descriptions that describe the type of fabric used, for example, so consumers can make informed decisions.

How the pandemic changed fashion

The price has little influence on the perception of quality

Only 14% of respondents said that a higher price implies that the quality of the clothes is higher. Additionally, branded clothing is no longer considered a measure of quality.

While most consumers are interested in buying local fashion, very few associate it with quality (only 7%) and few believe that the quality of South African fashion is on par with that of international brands (only 8 %). Local designers and fashion houses should clearly consider increasing their quality by providing insight into handmade or artisanal processes that often translate directly into higher quality products.

A different attitude towards sustainability

Although the sample as a whole does not directly link quality to durability, 45% of women believe that quality clothing is durable, especially the younger age groups (18-24). This strong link between sustainability and quality can be leveraged by fashion brands.

We anticipate that durability and high quality will become synonymous with grip and brand value. In other words, it feels good to buy an item of clothing that is durable because it is aligned with personal beliefs but at the same time aligns with the personal needs of the category, i.e. say something that will last longer, due to its superior quality.

How the pandemic changed fashion

Consumers are looking for value for money and appreciate proven mechanics

Research indicates that value for money is all about special offers, discounts and promotions, with 55% agreeing that promotions such as ‘buy 3 get 1 free’ or ‘buy -in 2 and get 20% off” offers good value for money.

Loyalty programs remain relevant and attractive, and 54% of consumers say loyalty programs offer good value for money. Markdowns on older stock, seasonal sales, and instant discounts at checkout also communicate value for money. The last two years have not changed the consumer’s passion for a good deal and a good discount.

When it comes to fashion retailers, Edgars, Ackermans and Woolworths rank among the top three brands offering the best value for money in the category.

While limited, there are some interesting demographics at play when it comes to ranking brands based on offering value for money. Younger age groups prefer H&M’s value-for-money offering, while older age groups prefer Pep and Pick n Pay clothing. Women believe that Ackermans and Pick n Pay clothing offers better value than men.

Onward to the future: how do you keep consumers engaged, online and in-store?

Looking to the future and ways to generate interest and stand out in the category, consumers are looking for opportunities to personalize and personalize their purchases, be part of the brand, as well as exciting in-store experiences. This extends to the concept of co-creation as 54% seek to have garments that can be fully customized to suit the desired fabric and color, for example. Additionally, 31% want to be rewarded for creating media content using clothing, including Tik Tok videos and Instagram posts. This is an interesting intersection of social media and fashion, as consumers love to play their part in a brand’s story.

Regardless of the increase in online shopping, consumers are still heading to physical stores. We cannot escape the fact that fashion is an interactive and highly tactile category for consumers. But a technology-driven future is in store, and the winning brands will be those that take their customers on this journey in meaningful ways, both in-store and online.

How the pandemic changed fashion

Take a step forward towards customer relations

It is imperative that brands are aware of current trends but stay in touch with the advances of the very near future. And so, the apparent mix of local channel appetites we’re seeing in research speaks to a potential desire for the next big thing, immersive technology. Brands like Gucci and Balenciaga are the pioneers. If brands start equipping themselves to provide a seamless omnichannel offer, with potential added value from such immersive technology, we believe they are one step closer to the potential future and are vanguard of post-Covid-19 fashion consumers.

For more information, visit www.kla.co.za.