Besides innovating on the runways, these days fashion brands
have to think about the overall strategy of distributing and marketing products to the consumer. They have to see fashion as products vs seasonal collections. I touched on the subject before in my posts on What Fashion Industry Can Learn From The iPad Release and The Future Of Fashion: Seasons Are So Last Season..
In the last few years we’ve seen some interesting retail trends – both offline and online, that are slowly changing the ways people shop. While seasonal shopping is still a habit (i.e. going to a store every season and purchasing few key items), most people shop throughout the year, looking for unique purchases (or investments) that aren’t necessarily season driven.
I looked at some of the innovative trends we’ve seen in retail this past decade, and tried to predict what are some of the areas where we will see innovation happening next.
2000 – Designer collaborations. The trend started with Target in 2000 with their Design For All product line, which introduced the idea of exclusive collaborations between designers and retailers. Later Gap created their Design Editions, H&M invited everyone from Lagerfeld to Madonna, Net-a-Porter has been inviting designers like Stella McCartney to create exclusive capsule collections and on the brand side Louis Vuitton collaborated with top artists (such as Murakami) to infuse their heritage with some modern art. All these are examples of collaborations between 2 different entities, personalities or brands, which created excitement among consumers and make them shop regardless of the planned seasonal purchases. They invested in unique objects, rather than bought clothes or accessories because they need them.
2007 – Sample Sales.The sample sale boom started in 2007 and exploded within few months, with ideeli, Gilt and Rue La La leading the pack and growing into being prominent retailers within 2 years. Since then the 24-hour sales format has expanded with companies launching one-product a day sales like TrendyLoot, to aggregators like MyNines.
2008 – Curated collections. Curation seemed to be the new buzz word in retail. Rather than collaborating with designers on capsule collections, retailers invite influencers to curate collections. Rachel Zoe has done it for Piperlime, Gilt invited Vogue editors to make their picks, and now ahaLife is marrying curation with the 24-hour
sales format to create a new business model.
2009 – Collaborating with influencers. Brands learned that online influencers are a major force in moving their inventory, and they are eager to use influencer’s networks and fan base to sell products. From Coach handbags to Urban Outfitters shoes – bloggers are the new designers.
2010 – Crowd-funding. Kickstart was one of the most buzzed about ventures recently, bringing crowd funding trend into real scale and helping few businesses, including fashion designers to launch their collections. Recently FashionStake launched to focus specifically on the fashion niche and help designers connect with their consumers early on, before even producing their collection. They take the fashion investment to a whole new level, but giving a stake in the collection and designer’s brand to most loyal customers. This solves a huge problem for the designers, who are usually forced to take the risk and produce an entire collection without any guarantee of sales.
All these are examples of the innovative retail models we are seeing trending now. It’s becoming clear already that new formats of retailing are a much needed tool for brands, who are constantly looking for innovative ways to push their inventory, as well as for the consumers who are getting used to the new and exciting ways to shop. The question is what are some of the new formats we will see emerging in the next few years? And lastly – who are the companies that will innovate in the space? My bet isn’t on online retail giants to come up with these ideas, but on young and creative entrepreneurs, who are experimenting with the new technologies.
Some of the main trends we will see developing in online retail going forward are 1) Gaming – introducing game-like elements into the shopping experience, 2) Customization – using the new technologies to narrow the choices, 3) Consumer involvement in all aspects of the collections – from design to funding and 4) Single product focus – Burberry has started the trend with claiming the trench as their iconic product with their Art of the Trench.
I believe we’ll see more designers going after single product territory, and creating hit products consumers are obsessed about, rather than perfecting the entire seasonal collection.