May 26, 2017 | By Sarah Housley
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On Thursday, October 20, Digiday held its inaugural Glossy Forum, an offshoot of the site’s new fashion and luxury platform Glossy.co, in the Conde Nast event space in One World Trade. Attended by representatives from brands and media outlets across categories, speakers took the stage to deliver updates on the future of fashion retail, branding, and marketing. Common themes quickly emerged, with one overarching message: the world of retail has changed. There’s no more going back to basics, because the basics have changed. The customer is king, well-informed and demanding meaningful experiences from the brands they interact with before they’re willing to spend money.
Again and again, speakers at the Glossy Forum returned to the same question: what makes thousands of kids wait in line all day to buy a t-shirt designed by Kanye West, when they won’t even shop at the mall? The immense success of pop-up stores from artists like West, Rihanna, and Justin Bieber has driven home the fact that consumers don’t always prefer online to brick and mortar. “People are still willing to go to a retail store,’ says Nate Poeschl, director of digital marketing at John Varvatos, “but the motivation for going to a retail store has changed.”
Many retailers are struggling to adjust to a world where consumer relationships are more than just transactional; without an experience, or the sense of urgency created by an exclusive launch, it’s challenging for traditional bricks and mortar to compete with online shopping. Inspired by the success of Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo pop-ups, Poeschl drove a partnership between John Varvatos and rapper Future for a brand activation and shopping event in the brand’s New York and Los Angeles stores, as well as online.
Brands also grapple with what Glossy managing editor Shareen Pathak calls, “the great disintermediation.” Without traditional editors and retail buyers guiding consumers in their purchasing decisions, brands and brand retailers have direct access to their customers (and potential customers). Choices are driven by digital elements like social media, where we see the Instagram effect and the Snapchat effect drive consumer desire for the shareable and the ephemeral. The internet gives fashion fans access to every collection as soon as it happens, gives makeup shoppers access to millions of product reviews.
“Most of the time the customer walks in with more information than the person behind the counter,” said Livia Marotta, former VP of marketing and communications for Bulgari. Brands must react by creating full shopping experiences, that makes everything from the store itself to the associates staffing it a brand touchpoint. Designer Misha Nonoo, who recently switched to a direct to consumer model after five years as a wholesale brand, understands the importance of a unique brand experience. “People trust the internet in a different way,” she says, “now [the customer] is one making the decision and advising us on what we’re designing.”
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