Updated: Mar 26, 2021
Relieved to have 2020 behind us - the year that kept us on our toes but in our loungewear, as we waited for the ‘new normal’ to arrive - we look back on the silver linings to come out of the year that changed life as we knew it. As restrictions were put in place and retailers closed their doors, brands were forced to refocus and re-strategise, reexamining what their customer really wanted and needed. Here, we outline the major shifts that began to play out, and will continue to do so, for retailers globally.
Naturally, e-commerce saw a massive boom. Brands readjusted their strategies to adapt to the situation at hand, while less innovative brands fell behind. Away from the customer facing side of retail, as remote working continues, digital design is becoming a crucial lever for the industry. As well as providing virtual sampling tools, brands are able to showcase new season collections through virtual showrooms, AR experiences and even gaming collaborations. The new digital era will force brands to become increasingly technologically focused, in order to develop innovative and competitive e-commerce experiences, which also support the brick and mortar experience.
It became shockingly evident that the timing of retail drops no longer aligned with the true ebb and flow of seasons, or the needs of consumers. Last year, many brands opted to skip seasons in order to prevent heavy markdowns with the closure of stores and ongoing uncertainty. Seasonless collections grew in importance, with the increased need for flexible dressing providing an opportunity for retailers to layer out-of-season product into transseasonal stories. Going forward, key essential items will prove more important than ever, with colour being a key driving force for newness, providing a ‘recession proof’ base that offers greater versatility and longevity.
Transparency & Communication
Communication with the consumer has never been more important. Alignment between brand, product and marketing silos will aid the development of clear and authentic TOV and conversations that resonate with the consumer, during the pandemic and beyond. Consumers have had time to focus on what is important to them, changing shopping habits considerably. Brands must have a clear understanding of what will be important to consumers going forwards. To avoid being seen as taking advantage of, or profiteering from the situation, brands need to help in real and authentic ways.
Community & Localism
Community played a hugely important role last year, with many local support groups appearing, and local businesses stepping up to support consumers. Smaller businesses were able to flex their services more readily than larger brands. We believe this sense of community and local shopping habits will continue and develop further. Throughout the pandemic, creatives began to draw inspiration from the world immediately around them, and from their past, focusing on their roots, heritage, and traditions. This sense of reverting back to your roots has influenced designers far and wide, and we are beginning to see a rise in collections referencing cultural influences significant to designers and brands.
Mental Health, Wellbeing & Healing
Mental health, wellbeing and mindfulness became key concerns as consumers were restricted to their home hubs and WFH office spaces due to social distancing measures. Brands started to pay more attention to this repositioned audience by offering products beneficial to their mental wellbeing. Virtual workouts, beauty tutorials, and support groups became the foundation of everyday, with a significant rise in activewear, skincare products, and homeware. DIY tasks not only became an activity but also a therapeutic exercise in healing the psychological impacts of isolation and being restricted to your home. The current state of the world and ongoing restrictions have no end date. Wide-spread post-pandemic anxiety will prove a troublesome hurdle for many. Mental health awareness and wellbeing practices will be key facets in the healing process that is to come.
We saw brands come together and unite (even competitors) to protect and evolve their businesses. Collaborations between companies became key for improving service propositions and innovating. As internal teams become smaller, and travel continues to prove an issue, outsourcing research and support is increasingly necessary. Bespoke intel, tailored trend information, and product strategies have become imperative for staying relevant and keeping a competitive edge.