Can e-commerce and data reignite lost momentum in luxury categories?
The luxury apparel market has been on fire for the last 20 years. We’ve watched closely as almost every single family-run heritage brand out there has started a transformative journey that’s included new partnerships, new markets and new creative leadership. With the sector booming, 2023 sales would have reached as high as $65 Billion, driven primarily by Millennial and Generation Z consumers from Mainland China, who made up more than 50% of category spending in the six years between 2012 and 2019.
But 2020 had different plans for luxury. The luxury goods market is now facing a potential market contraction of 35% following the fall out of a global pandemic. In just a few short months, we watched as an unprecedented number of brick-and-mortar retail doors closed, previously efficient supply chain systems failed to keep up with online demand and tried-and-true marketing channels (like New York Fashion Week) simply disappeared. With the initial shock fading, luxury brands are now racing to find solutions to operate in a category that is being irreversibly disrupted by a virus that shows no signs of slowing down and the changing consumer behaviours that are an inevitable by-product of crisis.
So, what can the luxury market expect in the next few years? Here are just a few of the patterns that we’ve been keeping an eye on.
Understanding the new customer journey.
The pandemic has forever changed the way consumers behave. And it has lasted just long enough for those behaviours to stick (experts say that it takes the average human around 66 days to form a new habit). Although we know consumers will be eager to get back to their favourite stores (once it’s safe), how they explore, plan and consume during their shopping journey will drastically change coming out of lockdown.
Re-visiting the customer journey will be critical to understanding these changes and identifying new opportunities for interacting with shoppers based on these new behaviours.
Preparing for continued e-commerce growth.
Although brick-and-mortar will continue to make up a large part of the luxury buying experience, a post-pandemic market will see e-commerce continue to grow. 2020 delivered a record-high 23% of total purchases and it’s anticipated that number will balloon to 30% by 2025.
No brand can afford to leave an opportunity like that on the table. Making e-commerce a priority will be important for brands to ensure they can, not only, return to pre-pandemic levels, but also grow their customer base and sales in a new digital world.
Promoting social responsibility efforts.
There has been a lot of talk of consumer consciousness throughout the pandemic, and the luxury goods market is no different. Shoppers are looking for brands to demonstrate that they are sourcing, producing, distributing and discarding their product responsibly and ethically. This was already considered table-stakes for the industry pre-pandemic but will have a heightened focus as we come out of this.
Research shows that consumers will be willing to pay a higher price for brands that can confidently demonstrate they operate based on ethical and responsible principles. It will be more important than ever for brands to share these values with their customers and do it in an authentic and meaningful way.
Using data to plan.
Before 2019, brands used a very rigid 12 month planning cycle in advance of each season (and for each category). The pandemic has turned that model on its head. With the rise of e-commerce (and the purchasing data that it provides), a brand’s planning cycle needs to evolve in a way that allows for it to leverage granular customer data to create strategies that can be adjusted in real-time so that no opportunity goes unused.
Here’s an example: an increased focus on data can help brands assess what bestselling items can be included in new collections in order to protect against losses when shifts in demand and inventory occur during volatile times.
Most companies are sitting on more data than they know what to do with. Learning how to organize, analyze and apply it to future decision making will help luxury brands as they compete for market share in the next few years.
Interested in learning more about how we can help position your brand to thrive in a post-pandemic world?