In her first post for WhichPLM, Nzinga Graham-Smith, Founding & Business Development Director for The ForeverGreen Group, discusses how businesses can retain their customers during these uncertain times – with specific reference to female customers. The ForeverGreen Group’s purpose is building a multinational ‘Aspirational Style of Living’ brand for women and a platform to fully express themselves.
Without a doubt, 2020 has been the worst year on record for the fashion industry. With economic lockdowns, self isolation and consumer shopping patterns imposing further strains on businesses survival – not to mention high job losses – what can the fashion and retail industry do to thrive on the other end of COVID and the economic Depression?
By now, we already know that the women’s retail and fashion industry can no longer count on older, conventional ways of growth to engage with their customer (tribe member). The old model, based on scale and barriers to entry, is slowly eroding. Or somehow still morphed in the current mainstream trend based on personal connection with their audience, which has been formed since 2010, is only recently coming to the forefront by the larger companies.
So how can women’s fashion brands and companies adapt to create a new model on how to win in the next ‘new normal’? The answer is: lifestyle! And what I call an “aspirational style of living,” which speaks directly to busy and career-driven women everywhere who want and expect more out of life with convenience, fun and purpose. Fast-forward to today and that woman is deemed ‘high maintenance’. But what used to be a derogatory term now conjures up an image of a stylish, courageous and unapologetic woman who also advocates social and environmental change to create a legacy.
What brands and companies can do is to be more attuned to the changing of women’s needs and her lifestyle – her wellbeing, her appearance, and in some instances her entrepreneurial desires can be integrated into the brand’s business model. Equally, brands and companies should also be looking inwardly to affect and integrate with their target market outwardly, by enabling their employees to have a voice. This can be done by integrating the ‘business brand’ with the ‘people brand’ to pull their market into them emotionally, which will create a proactive, rather than reactive, market.
This enables employees and the market to define what they want to be known for, what they stand for and how they want to come across.
Another area to look at is to integrate the older generation with Gen Z, who more often than not are much more likely to be influenced by their parents eating and shopping habits. I remember when I left home at 19 years old and took my first food shopping trip to M&S, because that’s where my Mum mainly shopped, so naturally I did them same. Only to see that their price point did not meet a young cash strapped individual. Yet to this present day I still shop there for food. I know this is the same for other shopping habits too.
So how do we translate this shift to an experience for the woman to be part of her lifestyle, whilst setting them apart to create their own identity – aspirational style of living?
I do believe that digital and technology solutions online and offline will play a huge role in connecting with the busy women of today and for the next decade. These changes have already taken place now she is working or operating more remotely by cooking more, exercising, shopping and socialising at home, gathering information through her mobile devices. With this speed and convenience of delivery, what I believe is required is a one stop trusted platform to learn ‘how’ to continue to adapt these services and products more efficiently to be part of her lifestyle. It will also play a part for women taking the entrepreneurial business approach to enforce her values on what she stands for, especially based on the huge number of job losses in the consumer goods sector, notably fashion.
While e-commerce has created opportunities for businesses to connect with their consumers, it has also brought added cost, risk, and competition from a wider array of brands – especially when they have just implemented digital solutions to their business model. This is moreso to the fact that consumers are no longer loyal to a specific brand. And as the woman holds the purse strings and has an array of products at her finger tips.
It’s good to see that since the impact of COVID-19, the past 9 months have given companies the drive to finally readjust to operate in a agile way, especially with consumer mindset and behaviour changes, demands, less brand loyalty and digitisation. One more important thing companies should also be aware of and prepare for is to change during recessions/economic downturns, because you cannot operate the same way in a booming economy. This has been realised based on the fast decline and closures of businesses in a short space of time. This includes preparing an employees mindset to be able to function better when dealing with their audience.
Now is not to dwell on “what was”, but to focus on the greatness of “what is” and “what will be” to create a seismic shift within the fashion and retail industry. Now is the time to work together and forge partnerships, develop new and creative ways on building and establishing a relationship with your ‘tribe’, who are the ones who made you who you are in the first place.