They love shopping on their smartphones. They want a brick-and-mortar experience. They’re tight with a buck. They value quality over quantity. They want to feel like unique snowflakes. They’re followers who are easily influenced by viral trends and word of mouth. The list of generalizations, clichés and contradictions goes on, as media and big business scramble to decipher what makes this generation of digital natives tick.
One thing is for sure: from the clothes on your back to how you get from A to B, millennials are transforming the way goods and services are marketed, made and sold.
Here are four ways they are influencing the business of fashion:
Fast Needs to Be Faster
Millennials don’t like to wait. This generation came of age in the digital era of fast fashion; they want constant novelty and they want it now. Whether it comes to jumping on the latest seasonal trend or offering speedy delivery options (hello, Amazon Prime!), you snooze, you lose.
As a result, today’s fashion businesses are rethinking their entire supply chain, from finding faster ways to design so they can respond quickly to trends and POS data, to shifting production facilities closer to home so they can get merchandise to shoppers before competitors scoop up their sales.
Good Value for Money is Paramount
Millennials are a thrifty bunch. They’re also the first generation with the ability to make a global price comparison in their pocket. But here’s the dilemma: although rock-bottom pricing is important for this demographic, so is quality. Why? Because these tech-savvy shoppers can (and do) read reviews from everybody else who’s purchased the same item—which means that companies cutting corners on quality to keep prices low aren’t likely to last.
One too many complaints about shoddy workmanship or odd sizing floating around on the web could spell disaster. Smart brands in it for the long run are finding clever new ways to provide millennials with excellent value for their money without compromising on quality, whether it’s by digitizing data, automating processes, working collaboratively, or getting creative at the design stage to keep prices on point.
Smaller Collections and Customized Options are Overtaking Mass Production
Despite the fact that they number more than two billion, millennials want to feel unique. This generation tends to favor niche and small-batch over mass production, taking great delight in digging through vintage bins to fish out one-of-a-kind items that nobody else has. In response, fashion brands have begun producing smaller collections with more style variations, and focusing increasingly on personalization and made-to-measure options.
Custom-made clothing is no longer the domain of wealthy executives with deep pockets; from Nike Flyknit to Levis jeans, brands are harnessing technology to offer millennials affordable customized clothing that satisfies their desire to feel like an original.
Omni channel Retailing is No Longer Optional
For a while there, experts were sounding the death knell for brick and mortar. Yet even as big-name brands close up stores by the dozens, successful e-commerce players are opening up pop-up shops and physical showrooms. The takeaway here is that retail isn’t dead, it’s just that companies who want to appeal to this new consumer can no longer afford to put all their eggs in one brick-and-mortar basket.
Millennials want to be able to find something online, try it on in-store, maybe buy it there, or buy it later on their phone. Speed, convenience and a seamless buying experience are key.
With this in mind, savvy retailers are developing their online and mobile strategies, in addition to their retail presence, bolstering all three with no-hassle return policies, customer service that’s quick to respond, and apps that make the shopping experience fun and easy.
Love them or hate them, millennials are changing the way we do business. In fashion, as with life, it’s the early bird that gets the worm. Brands that are able to embrace this change now and find innovative ways to stay agile and adaptable are more likely to stay ahead of the curve and come out on top.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I hear Asos is having a big flash sale.