Shopper inspiration in a digital world
Inspiration is key for the fashion business as it means stimulating the customer to visit a given store to buy a specific garment.
Inspiration comes in the early stages of the customer journey either because we have already planned to buy a garment for a specific occasion and we need to evaluate options before the final choice; or because we have an unexpected impact that provokes in our minds an (irrational) impulse to fulfill a need. The second scenario is, by the way, the one that really defines luxury: something you do not need but you cannot live without.
During past years, the role of inspiring customers was predominantly covered through traditional, non-digital channels such as storefronts, magazines, tv ads and each individual’s group of friends. However, the irruption of the digital era has revolutionized the way we find inspiration.
Social platforms are the new storefronts
Facebook and Instagram are probably the most relevant social visual platforms nowadays. As its name indicates, social platforms were initially intended for setting social relationships. Nevertheless, by 2010, social media started to be widely used and the role of the social media icon gained popularity so brands and businesses turned their eyes to this new phenomenon as a new way for increasing revenues.
Probably, because of this strong interest from businesses, there have been huge investments in data analytics to predict behaviors, preferences and provide personalized experiences and recommendations. In other words, all stakeholders who have an economic interest are investing in inspiring their potential customer base.
Lately, in an effort to promote impulse buys and reducing the evaluation time, most of these platforms have enabled direct purchases, adding a new source of revenues to their business model as well as closing the loop on the customer journey.
Amazon and Google are becoming virtual malls
In our daily life, there are many “I-need-some-ideas” moments for anything and that is when people are often turning to Google to search and discover based on a specific need.
Google search shows what shoppers want and has the ability to recommend options based on multiple variables that, when organic, should be adjusted not only to find the matching garment but also to ensure the best shopping experience.
Then it comes Amazon. The online one-stop-shop with an endless product offering where all needs can be met and fulfilled in 1 hour. And, probably because its Prime membership, which offers free and convenient delivery, it has moved upstream in the customer journey and become a source of inspiration for a number of categories.
A part from this mainstream platform, in the fashion business, there is a long list of platforms that are acting as virtual malls at any level of the luxury pyramid: from asos or Zalando to Yoox, Lyst, Farfetch or 24 sevres.
Although online sales penetration remains low compared to physical channels (although it is increasing at +20% CAGR), the adoption of digital capabilities has had a huge impact on shopping behaviors, especially in the inspiration and evaluation phase within the customer journey. Physical-traditional stores and marketing investments to inspire customers and differentiate brands have been challenged by the new digitally-influenced dynamics.
The digital revolution has brought many new sources for inspiration from ecommerce platforms to virtual assistants and subscription boxes, all of them based on advanced data analytics. Out of them, the two most relevant may be:
Social platforms such as Instagram or Facebook, which have implicit the sense of community
Google and Amazon that are more straightforward in terms of finding options to meet needs
Different approaches for the same purpose. And there is a thing they have in common: their effort to control the end to end customer journey but starting from opposite starting points.