Fashion is a huge industry with lots of competition. Out of the volume of competition comes innovative business models, all geared towards winning and nurturing customer loyalty.
Fashion being a personal taste (albeit, influenced by trends) means that you really need to know your customer in order to reach them in the right place with the right messaging to encourage them to make a purchase.
Once you’ve narrowed down your target audience, there are a number of ways to appeal to them. Conduct research into their values, and align your business accordingly.
If you’re going for the convenience angle, brands like ASOS have the market cornered. ASOS shoppers want as quick a shopping experience as possible and ASOS make the path to purchase quick and easy. With unlimited free returns, customer reviews, and a “save for later” option, ASOS really know their customer.
While on the subject of convenience, it’s difficult not to mention clothing subscription brands like StitchFix. Some people struggle to know what to wear, whether that’s because they don’t know what will suit them, what’s currently on trend, or they lack confidence.
Clothing subscription services take the difficulty out of dressing, allowing customers to take a style quiz to work out the kinds of products they might like, and then sending them an array of clothes based on the choices. Customers can then choose to keep the clothes they are sent or send them back. This model encourages repeat purchases, with customers needing to cancel their monthly subscription, rather than needing to re-subscribe every month.
But is convenience a winning strategy? Last year, ASOS only saw a 1% growth, blamed on the cost of living crisis and poorly planned marketing budgets. While it might suit their customers, convenience (particularly free returns) can be a costly strategy, and ASOS CEO, José Antonio Ramos Calamonte, says they will be taking another look at “leveraging data and digital developments to better engage customers”.
Many fashion retailers are prioritising ethics in their marketing. In an ever environmentally conscious world, brands such as Selfridges and M&S are adding sustainable options to what would otherwise be a regular in-store experience.
Selfridges offer the option to shop (and sell) second-hand products, in a scheme they’ve dubbed “ReSelfridges”. Not only does this prevent clothes and accessories from ending up in landfill, but also allows a new type of customer – one who wants to buy Selfridges products at a lower price-point.
In a time where second-hand shopping apps like Depop and Vinted are booming (with 26m and 21m users respectively), it’s clear that the fashion tides are turning towards buying second-hand, and big retailers are investing in this.
In a similar move towards sustainability, M&S’s “Shwop” offering allows customers to bring their pre-loved clothes to their stores, rewarding Sparks customers with free treats every time they do so. Their partnership with Oxfam has seen over 35 million second-hand clothes collected, raising around £23 million for the charity since 2008.
However, brands must be careful with their eco claims. 63% of people believe many brands only get involved with sustainability for commercial – not ethical – reasons, according to the CMA. You must ensure your brand lives and breathes sustainability and eco-friendliness – not just in how the products are made, but also how the company is run and how it communicates with customers.
For some customers, it is extremely difficult to purchase clothes that fit from high street brands. Petite, larger, disabled, non-gender conforming, and tall people are often excluded from the majority of brands, usually because the brands feel they won’t be able to sell these products at a similar volume to “straight-sizing”.
Body-inclusive fashion is on the rise, with many brands launching curve, adaptive, and gender-neutral ranges. Tommy Hilfiger was one of the first major brands to launch adaptive clothing, designed for people with disabilities. Tommy Hilfiger himself said, “Our adaptive collections have revolutionised everyday dressing for people with disabilities, giving them the independence and confidence to express their individuality through style.”
Not only should brands seek to accommodate different bodies, but they should reflect that in their advertising. A GlobalData survey found that 71% of UK clothing shoppers prefer retailers to use more diverse models in marketing campaigns, with a strong preference for this from people aged 25-44. This makes sense – people like to see themselves reflected in the models wearing the clothes, to see if the clothes will suit them, and to show the brand cares about them as a customer.
Even with ethics being a key topic of discussion in fast fashion conversations, brands like Shein are still seeing huge success, with Shein becoming the largest fashion retailer in the world in 2022. Despite the controversy of how their clothes are made, the low price point is enough for some customers to take the risk and make a purchase.
Selling clothes for as little as a few pence means a younger demographic can afford dupes of more expensive products, and won’t complain about the poor quality. The low price point also enables Shein “hauls” – people can purchase a bulk order of products and post them online, reviewing and recommending to social media audiences.
The brand doesn’t just offer a low price point, but also offers a loyalty points system for reviews of products. This encourages people to not only leave reviews encouraging more people to purchase products, but also encourages repeat purchasing, with people wanting to spend their loyalty points on discounts against future purchases.
Despite much controversy around the brand, with allegations of stolen designs, toxic materials, and labour law violations, the brand is currently top dog. This goes to show its marketing tactics are industry-leading, so other brands need to sit up and pay attention. It could just be the current cost-of-living crisis driving people to cheap brands, but it’ll be interesting to see if Shein will stand the test of time.
Loyalty in luxury fashion brands almost exists in a different realm entirely. A different audience is targeted, with less emphasis on convenience and price, and more on quality, premium experiences, and bragging rights.
Customers making designer purchases often enjoy personal, one-to-one experiences inside designer stores, wherein the number of products on display is significantly fewer than a regular high street brand. The products they purchase are packaged beautifully, often accompanied by an authenticity certificate. All of this makes the customer feel special, valued, and as though they are part of an exclusive club.
Designer brands know their customers will be proud to own a product from their brand, so often emblazon their products with their brand name. This also has the added benefit of customers being walking advertisements of their brand, alerting others to where they have purchased the product from.
Marketing to your target audience should be data-driven – use audience insights to discover exactly what your customers want. At Merkle we have access to a suite of tools that can help discover this. CCS Planner can inform a customer’s buying preferences, personal interests or determine what they expect from brands in order for comms to be geared towards that want. Customer expectations are changing at an ever-increasing rate, so businesses must remain agile and respond to those changes.
Whichever avenue(s) your business go down, authenticity is key – this is not just a way to win them over and make an easy sale, but as a foundational value of your business.
If you’re wondering how to build loyalty for your fashion brand, get in touch. We’ll ensure you’re optimising your customer data and setting your business up for future success.