TI06 - September 19

How to react to the new consumer trends?

The consumer’s attitude is key, when the foundations of the fashion business are down on the line. Never has this attitude changed so much in such a short length of time as today: immediacy, customization, ecologic responsibility, and everything running online and in every possible platform are the new trends, to which brands have to submit. Acknowledging the phenomenon is vital for companies, in order to respond efficiently to these new approaches.

António Freitas de Sousa

A study that FinTechs usually present as one of the secrets behind their business states that millennials would rather go to the dentist than going inside a bank. Nobody has been able to identify its authors yet, but that’s not the point: new generations have a radically diverging attitude towards consumption – fashion, savings or otherwise – and directors have to consider these indicators when driving their businesses.

Moreover, the new consumption habits ‘invented’ by millennials have ‘infected’ all the demographics at a groundbreaking speed: brand apps are the best method of communicating with all consumers, be they millennials or any other age”, refers Susana Coerver, Parfois Marketing and Communication Director.

Right off the bat, what this means is that online is the main drive behind the business – which was made evident when Inditex decided to invest two million euro in order to become the first group that sells online to the four corners of the world.

Online, sure, but not just any online: “The omnichannel will replace the multichannel, system that still prevails and is characterized by a single approach to the brand’s activity on each of the channels they’re present in. Multichannel does not pursue that synergy between several channels, save for some basic elements. On the other hand, with omnichannel, the customer-journey is integrated on a single shopping experience, breaking down the wall between the channels. The central point is not which of the channels will prevail since what really matters is rather the complementarity of everyone’s strategy. Not even determining the function of each one because the principle of omnichannel is to provide the consumer with the possibility of undertaking the operation in any of the channels”, details Daniel Agis, specialist in Brand Marketing and Distribution Strategies.

Diana Teixeira Pinto, Marketing Director at MO  (Sonae group), agrees in full: “The online experience has to be as simple and as similar as possible to the experience in store. One must guarantee the brands’ coherence across channels”, she states.

Or put it another way: the clients approach is demanding, but they want simple solutions and transversal access as the vehicle.

Susana Coerver
“Brand apps are the best method of communicating with all consumers, be they millennials or any other age”
The idea is Rui Maia’s, International Sales Manager at Lion of Porches: “Companies have to be very aware of consumers’ new habits, which will become increasingly more demanding. We simply have to adapt to them the fittest way”, he says.

One of those ways is, definitely, speed: “Hyperactive consumers want everything straight away, now or never. It’s got to be available right away. They don’t like to wait, which forces the industry and the brands to be fast on their response. The shopping experience must be simple and it might happen at any time”, shares Peter Jeavons, European Managing Director at First Insight.

Craig Crawford, managing director at ThinkIT, CreateiT, sums up the concept: “The new attitude is: see it, scan it, shop it”. And this comes after the offer has been crunched by those who know. Not those with all the information, not those who are able to decode it, but rather those who experience it from a user’s perspective and describe it in a way that is massively comprehensible – the influencers.

“The influence of social networks is overwhelming: influencers, mainly those who use Instagram, is enormous”, refers Susana Coerver, a trend that Peter Jeavons acknowledges: “New consumers are hyper connected, they’ve always got an eye on the screen; they leave a massive trail of information about their likes and dislikes, what they want or don’t want. This trail must be used by industry and retail”.

“The weight of online channels on sales operations is increasing: by 2020 it will break the 25% barrier, on average, in Europe”, predicts Daniel Agis.

Within or outside the traditional channels, the new consumption will have three essential characteristics: sustainability – leaving space for second hand clothing; customization; and accessibility in terms of costs. Any incongruity between the three is not a mistake, just a sign of the times.

For Graça Guedes, a researcher at the University of Minho, “the consumers’ behaviour is changing a lot, globally. They have behaviours that ten years ago would be incomprehensible.

Rui Maia
“[With online stores] There are logistics costs, but you don’t need to pay store maintenance or employees”
The search for used clothing is one of them: it is a very significant cultural change. It is amazing – only paralleled by renting luxury items. It’s strange. It’s not a money issue. It’s more intelligence entering the circuit: access to diversity is obtained through transience. It is not economically smart to own things: the notion of possession is different. People want experiences, not things. Our society is on the verge of dematerializing possession.”

Rodrigo Siza Vieira, Lectra General Manager for the Iberian Peninsula, reveals that “a team of 100 specialists at Lectra worked, for the past four years, on creating a combined solution of hardware and software that allows companies to correspond to the new consumers’ desire for customized garments, changing the characteristics of the products without affecting the work flow”.

Fashion on Demand, Kubik Link, Quick Nest and Quick Estimate are Lectra’s solutions to integrate the long and segmented chain of value that is clothing, bringing it closer to the final consumer. What is at stake here is customization (custom-made fashion) and the total automation of processes: integrated and intelligent solutions that enable the action and reaction with little to no human intervention, which not only speeds up the response as it also reduces the margin of error. “The customer’s request generates an automatic process to the cutting machine. Companies will tend to stop producing stocks, making, instead, small series, repetitions or unique products, already with a destination in sight, which will be a revolution of the industries business model”, concludes.

For Rui Maia, despite it all, the business rationale is maintained: there is an optimization because the turnover that the online generates is used to negotiate with the logistics companies. However, consumers may have to pay for this service. Competition will determine that. The online has better margins: there are logistics and transportation costs, but you don’t need to pay employees or store maintenance”

To sum it up: “I want it all and I want it now”, as Freddie Mercury used to sing. Back in 1989.