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The Future of Fashion Retail

Visualsoft sits down with Anusha Couttigane, Fashion Analyst, to take a look at the biggest challenges facing fashion retailers right now and in the not-so-distant future.

How Has the Fashion Landscape Changed in Recent Years?


Fashion has transitioned far more digitally than one could have ever imagined. We used to treat digital in one channel separate from the flagship store, but this is no longer the case, especially with the dramatic rise of social media which has brought a new level of dynamism to the fashion industry. The biggest change is that fashion is no longer a commodity, it’s a form of entertainment for people with the growth of things like live streaming, Tiktok and influencers. Consumers are looking for a lifestyle, not a product, and they’re looking to be entertained and engaged in so many different ways.

We’ve also seen the collapse of seasons as more people have access to catwalks and fashion shows through digital media. Gucci has said it will move away from traditional seasonal campaigns to a far more all-year round approach, with a focus on brand value and storytelling. Now the experience of fashion and the process of purchasing is not tagged to four times a year in the prescriptive way it once was.

$49.5 Billion
Estimated revenue from eCommerce sales in the fashion market by 2025
Of all eCommerce sales are through apparel
Of UK Consumers purchased fashion online in 2021

What Are the Biggest Challenges Fashion Will Face Going Forward?


The biggest challenge is trying to understand which technology to invest in and which will have the biggest and fastest impact. The innovation landscape is highly fragmented and we’re in a period of expansion where a lot of tech players are emerging. They’re slowly being validated by larger businesses and you’re seeing them being bought up so there’s a bit of consolidation, but we’re not quite there yet.

Until then, retailers are still going to be really challenged by what tech to trust because it’s untested. Not everyone has the spending power of ASOS to try out a bunch of different AR technologies. It’s going to take a trusted partner, like Visualsoft, to prove the value of the technology on the retailer’s behalf. And then by working with these partners it helps you access technology that you might not be able to afford to try because usually when they become part of a toolkit there’s a much better business case to access them, rather than risking money on lots of different experiments and not necessarily knowing which one will work.


What Advice Would You Give Fashion Retailers Looking to Improve Their Sustainability Efforts?


The first thing to remember is consumers value authenticity – you can’t join the trend by putting a sticking plaster over your comms because your consumers will notice. Instead, you need to pick the right pathway that is aligned to your values. Sustainability isn’t just an environmental issue, the social impact is just as important. Take Primark improving its workers conditions, like childcare, education, pay, and union rights for factory workers – this has just as big an impact.

It’s important for brands to communicate and commit to a pace of change. This is really important because businesses are in different places on this journey and when you see another company working at a faster pace to effect change, it puts pressure on other brands to catch up – saying you’re going to be carbon neutral by 2040 sounds great… until a rival says they’re going to do it by 2025.

So make sure you communicate your milestones; it won’t happen overnight, but tell people how you’re making progress along the way. There’s still a hesitation to share how things are changing, whether that’s due to protecting intellectual property or a fear of being scrutinised, but the transparency piece is really important, because if consumers can’t find that information about your brand, you might be cut out of their buying decision altogether. So that means it’s not just about writing industry reports that are available in the public domain, but having it on the tags of your product, or clearly at the top of your website.


Fast-forward to 2031, What Will a Successful Fashion Brand Look Like?


That successful brand will be inclusive; representing and embracing all people, not just by producing products for everyone, but also an inclusive hiring policy. And inevitably, it would be a brand that can prove its sustainability principles and practices. That brand will be digitally savvy, but also agile and willing to fail fast and try new things, because we know early adopters of new technologies and channels to market are the ones who will reap the benefits, so that agility will be really important to success.


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