By Michelle Schroeder, CMO, Ometria
The good news? Retail shopping neared pre-pandemic levels this past holiday season, meaning spending is happening across the country, with 89% stating plans to spend at least as much as they did pre-pandemic.
The other news? Consumer expectation is also experiencing a boom… as in, customers are increasingly expecting better experiences from the brands and stores they buy from. And when it comes to fashion brands, in particular, the expectations are high—and likely going to get higher.
This is to say, that there’s a catch attached to the willingness to spend: Consumers expect an improved, more individualized retail experience—and they know what they’re looking for.
For fashion marketers, it’s crucial to listen to what customers are telling you. Data can help.
Customer data and marketing platform Ometria recently released our report exploring spending intentions among U.S. consumers as well as the CRM strategies devised by U.S. fashion marketers to tap into that spend.
We surveyed 2,000 U.S. consumers and 300 fashion brand CRM marketers across a range of verticals and found that consumers were ready to spend at “almost” pre-pandemic levels but they expect more personalized, targeted and relevant communications from fashion brands.
Essentially, the retail experience has become almost as central to the act of purchasing as the item itself and the price point. In fact, 83% stated that a good prior experience with a retailer was key to their decision to make a new purchase.
From the consumers’ perspective, personalization tools aren’t delivering in the way that they want them to. While effective, cross-channel personalization strategies can set retailers head and shoulders above the competition, mistakes can prove costly, as customer expectations remain high thanks to efforts by digital-first retail brands.
Now is the time to step up and stand out and experience is the way to do that.
First off, Demand for Sportswear isn’t Going Anywhere, So Make Sure You Keep That Top of Mind. But the Outlook Looks Good for Shoes, Too.
There was a huge boom in athleisure and activewear during the past 18 months as many working from home and that uptick in demand will stay into 2022 as Ometria found that 48% of surveyed consumers intend to spend in this category over the next year.
However, an even greater percentage is in the market for new shoes, with two-thirds (64%) of consumers intending to purchase fresh footwear in the coming months.
Understand That Luxury is Still Lagging
Interest in luxury spend is low, with just 20% expressing plans to purchase high-end fashion items over the next year. The percentage is higher among 25–34-year-olds (28%) suggesting that marketing spending should target this demographic specifically to capture this demand.
Given the Persistence of Work-From-Home Realities in the Wake of Recent COVID-19 Surges, Demand for Professional Attire Remains Low.
It’s no surprise that workwear is still suffering from the work from home revolution, with only 21% of consumers saying they are planning to buy new professional attire in the coming year. Given the small audience for these categories, insights into their behaviors are critical.
Marketers looking to encourage these shoppers to make repeat purchases need to focus on the experience. Specifically, 39% of consumers rated “a big discount” as very important in their choice of retailers but an astonishing 83% said that a good prior experience with a retailer was important when shopping.
As 79% of fashion marketers are focusing on retention over acquisition, this is a critical point. Boosting customer lifetime value means delivering experiences that exceed expectations.
When in Doubt, Focus on Enhancing Experiences
Personalized consumer communications are a key marketing tool toward improving customer experience. Given that fashion itself is personal, consumers expect retailers to understand, anticipate and reflect their needs.
In fact, four-in-five (80%) consumers said that they feel most valued when offered promotions and perks that a retailer doesn’t offer to everyone else — demonstrating that the more tailored a retailer can make a reward, the more it resonates.
However, less than half (46%) of fashion marketers said that they were sending personalized product recommendations, and only 41% claimed to use demographic segmentation in their emails.
What’s more, 64% of customers feel less valued when they’re emailed a product they’ve already bought—showing that data disconnects can damage customer/brand relationships.
What’s the Big Takeaway?
Retail spending necessarily shifted to eCommerce over the past 20 months, meaning that digital consumer communications became critical as online shopping habits become entrenched. With confidence on the upswing, there’s a clear imperative for marketers to better understand consumer shopping habits moving forward so that they can take steps now to build stronger relationships with their key customers.
Because customers expect the best—always—and retailers must find ways to deliver against this. Consolidating data and creating a unified ‘1:1’ approach to marketing that looks at people and how to reach them, rather than just at channels, will be a key strategy moving forward.