By Aarti Ahuja,
The world of business have lived through one of the toughest and yet most adventurous year in 2020, and we have all stood witness to every bit of it. From business operations evolving overnight, to unprecedented digital transformation covering every sector in matter of weeks, we have seen almost everything.
The apparel industry is no different, and it has been going through its fair share of transformations, as well. While the industry is trying to make a seamless transition from offline retail to online shopping, the focus have been collectively observed to have tilted towards digital fashion, or, to be more precise, Phygital fashion. Much like how it sounds, the term ‘phygital’ is used to refer to the amalgamation of the physical and the digital world, through which brands are providing a more interactive and accessible experience to the audiences, as well as, communicate with them on an unparalleled level, in the new normal.
The growth of phygital fashion suggest how digital fashion continues to witness an epochal rise. To get more insight on how this new trend works, let us learn about a few notable trends branching out from the very concept, and bringing a sea of change to the fashion retail segment:
Owing to the ongoing pandemic that began in the early 2020, and its recurring waves, people are mostly staying indoors, away from public places, mall hopping and seasonal sessions of retail therapy. However, as the arrangements for work-from-home are extending with the extended lockdown, fashion preferences across the world are also seen to have switched to more embracing and comfortable clothing, with huge focus on sustainable choices. Along with the rising demand for comfortable clothing, brands are also realizing the growing popularity of athleisure among the millennial and GenZ population, and many of them are focusing on showcasing the comfort features of these styles even in designer products.
One of the most prominent restraints against the rise of online shopping was the lack of trust. Over time consumers have started gaining confidence in the safety standards of e-commerce sites. Concerns regarding payments, timely and appropriate delivery have been addressed now with facilities like UPI payments and consignment tracking etc. Furthermore, keeping the rampant spread of the virus, every e-commerce platform has been maintaining strict safety and hygiene protocol in every stage of a delivery, to keep the consumers safe.
With the kind of aggressive digital revolution accelerated by the ongoing pandemic, brands are transitioning in a smoother way, by bringing in fresh sales approach. With outdoor movement restricted, in-store visits of buyers have been limited for over a year, due to which retailers are introducing virtual showrooms, an innovative way for consumers to engage and shop through online platforms. Retail buyers can visit and explore new products and collections digitally, have virtual try-ons apart from on-arrival ones, as well as make purchase orders with a few clicks on the same platform. Synchronous and asynchronous communication helps consumers to understand and gauge the appearance of clothes. Thus, it helps them in making an informed decision. Virtual showroom is a ground-breaking concept that bridges the gap between the digital and physical world, and have a promising future ahead.
Leveraging the best of technology
The industry is leaving no stones unturned to make the most of technological advancements. AI and Big Data are used in multiple situations to derive profitable results in the fashion industry. AI-powered chat-bots and voice recognition technology assist customers in making purchase decisions. Analytics helps in tracking the choices made by the consumer in the past, say, the number of clicks on the type of costumes and time spent on the page etc. Further, VR helps buyers in choosing the perfect ensemble.
The impact of social media
Social media is not a mere networking platform anymore; it has become a sales arena for brands. Influencer marketing on social media channels has evolved manifold, from the perfectly edited pictures of the past to today’s raw and impromptu shots showcasing the actual aesthetics of the product. The changed stance has been caused by the enhanced awareness of consumers who are inclined towards enquiring the authenticity. Consumers today are increasingly looking for a human aspect in any brand, hence digital campaigns on social media have better chances at becoming a hit when it is backed with a touch of realness. With that in view, many brands are leveraging the benefits of social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook, and making the most of its shopping feature, as well as, keeping in touch with the consumers directly.
Instant access to the latest trends
Another advantage of digital fashion is the availability of the latest fashion trends. Instant access to the most recent launches is possible with availability on e-commerce websites. Also with easily accessible internet, as well as, the influencer marketing boom in India, the distinguishing lines between Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities are almost blurred over the last couple of years. In fact, considering the incredible interest in latest trends and demand for designer collections coming from these cities in the recent years, brands are putting more and more focus in the Tier 2 and 3 markets, offering the much deserved opportunity for the fashionistas everywhere to always look spot-on.
Exclusivity is the key motivator
The youth is keen to stand out from the crowd; brands are addressing this need by synchronizing technology with fashion. The evolution of NFT in 2019 paved the way; it became a trend when youth exhibited an inclination to spend on virtual clothing. Some brands went a step further and presented a dual mode in which the buyer received a virtual and an actual product as well. Based on block-chain, the technology allows buyers to retain exclusivity in designer products where the designer surrenders the right as per the clauses of the digital agreement. This stops duplication so that the owner can boast exclusivity.
The youth is no more satisfied with the mere design element; they want products tailor-made to their demands. The advancement in digital technology is making this a possibility. The customers can now buy what they want, and they do not have to suppress their desires with what is available.
The fashion industry suffered a massive blow during the pandemic. The retail stores are still on the road to revive even after the markets were opened. However, the ever-growing demand for digital fashion is set to help the sector claim its lost ground.
Phygital fashion would revive the fashion industry while continuing to ride on the trends established by the new normal.
(The author is Head – Marketing, Customer service, E-Commerce, TCNS Clothing Co Pvt. Ltd. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)