February 26, 2016

Fashion industry and marketing strategies: room for new models

For several weeks now, the media has reported on the desire for change shown by some of the biggest names in fashion, . A substantial trend usually reserved for organisations can be perceived and the fashion industry is naturally no exception. And even if, with its title “”, the New York Times committed the trivial error of over-simplification together with technological determinism, it is still possible to discern how widespread modern pressures are becoming.

Although the smartphone remains a vital component of the architecture of complex change, it typically functions by magnifying those divisions that are most often concealed, but that once examined become key to developing a clear and consistent strategy.

First, the facts. Like Tom Ford, Burberry has set about changing its business model and communication strategy. Clothes will be unveiled events that give centre stage to style gurus and have the end buyer clearly within their sights. Collections will be disparate, no longer based on the seasons, with the designs showcased immediately available from the brands’ various retail outlets.

Since it cannot now be denied that the fashion ecosystem is in a state of enormous flux, distinctions should be drawn between the different forces at play. The first force, or “conventional disruption”, addresses price and simplicity: already-existing products are launched but in cheaper, more user-friendly versions targeting the lower end of the market. The next force, the “second wave of disruption”, relates to indirect attacks by stakeholders operating on the peripheries of the industry in question who more often than not are experts in digital solutions and capable of functioning at an exceptionally high speed. The third force, or rather what has been dubbed the “ground swell”, pertains to in-depth socio-cultural changes and generational divisions in relation to time, space, the body and others.

We are therefore talking about a combination of forces that are putting the fashion industry under pressure at present. Giants like Inditex or H&M are masters of the art of rapidly copying collections by top fashion names. They are able to identify immediately what designs are destined for success and take advantage of the delay between the unveiling of an item and its launch on the market (a phenomenon speeded-up by the non-stop flow of information on mobile devices). More commonly known as “Fast Fashion” brands, such companies are expert in short-circuiting the biggest names in fashion. By way of example, Zara boasts a unique operational agility which allows the label to adjust its orders from city to city and limit manufacturing time to ten days.

In an era of the “” and a culture of instant gratification, behaviours and attitudes relating to the ubiquitous phenomenon of online shopping highlight to what extent the speed top brands communicate at would appear to be becoming increasingly outdated.

It is therefore a question of confronting global consumers whose shopping behaviour has been radically transformed and whose values and cultural reference points have evolved. The traditional boundaries between genders have been broken down, . In reaction to inflexible, conservative viewpoints and in a spirit of multiplicity and reworking in solidarity with the “Pokémon: Generations” series, Facebook decided to . Another sign of the era is the lack of discernible difference between seasons, surely embodying how people are becoming more nomadic and mobile – caring less about the weather and more about adventure.

It is therefore vital that the top fashion names manage to make the appropriate changes in time. It is not enough merely to re-evaluate a brand and its values and make the shift to digital…what is most important is revisiting the manufacturing process, a significant component of the high-end retail model, so that it is not only faster but also revolutionised, involving new relationships with both suppliers and customers.

As the NYT article states, things are likely to get worse before they get better. It will be necessary to experiment, take risks, evaluate and learn, all the while ensuring that the user, a human being, is at the core of the strategy.

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