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  • Subject area(s): Marketing
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  • Published on: 14th September 2019
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Introduction

Over the last century, major developments have not only had an enormous impact on us -as human beings and how we live and interact with each other- but also on our industries. Industries adapted themselves to these developments and offered consumers new lifestyles. The fashion industry has undercome changes in areas like manufacturing, delivering and most importantly in marketing. According to the Cambridge Dictionary (2018), marketing is: “a job that involves encouraging people to buy a product or service”. The “Fashion Industry has transitioned to becoming digital-centric” (Kumar, 2016) which has completely changed the way marketers interact with consumers: “With so many different ways that customers access media, whether through Facebook, YouTube, news websites, via mobile or tablet apps, a strong idea can quickly gain huge scale” (Benady, 2014). This partly explains why consumers -nowadays- expect instant production and delivery of products -which brands fulfil on a regular basis, leading to mass production and thus mass consumption.

In this essay, we will discuss the impact of technological developments, such as the Internet, social media and technology in design, on marketing. As well as the new patterns of consumption and consumer behaviours -which arose since the introduction of these developments.

1. Technology

1.1. The Internet

The Internet has, since its creation in 1957 (Fitzpatrick, 2017), permitted better communications and exchange of goods. “Almost every organization in the developed world has become completely dependent on networks of telephony and computers” (Van Dijk, 2005, p.1). Over the last 20 years, the internet has permitted new interactions between brands and consumers, and has offered new ways of shopping. The phenomenon : “all we do is ‘buy, buy, buy'” (Miller, 2012, p.58) is largely increased with consumers' use of the internet. More and more retailers now focus on online retailing by creating websites looking very similar to paper catalogues (Miller and Slater, 2001, p.150). Consumers can shop from home and receive their purchase within days or even the following day. The company Amazon has changed the way consumers shop, by offering “Next day delivery” since 2012 -partly explaining why “Amazon is often privileged when consuming” (Boffey, 2018).

Figure : 2

Since 2017 (Young, 2017), the company added a clothing line to its website to compete with other online fashion brands. Amazon currently works on something that could change consumers' way of shopping in the future: a “Body Scanner” to determine “how outfits will look (..) without having to actually put them on” (Locklear, 2018), when consumers shop online -at home. The company also developed an object -similar to their previous one: Alexa- telling you “which of your outfits is more stylish and algorithms that can spot trends and design stylish clothing based on them”(Locklear, 2018). In addition, there is a “voice-controlled camera that can take photos or videos of your outfits and give you advice on what to wear”(Locklear, 2018). Companies, like Amazon, invest in technology and constantly innovate to facilitate existing and potential customers' purchases. Here, technology has been used to improve one of the problems the company often faced as an online retailer: the lack of physical stores to see, touch and try on clothes. These types innovations were inexistent in the past but are becoming more and more common nowadays within the fashion industry -and many others.

With brands constantly innovating and offering new ways to shop online, e-commerce has changed many shopping habits. The online retailer ASOS knows -ever since its creation in 2000- a huge success. Only available online, the brand has more than “15.4 million customers around the world” (Edwards, 2017). ASOS offers a large portfolio of products for “deal-hungry Millennials”(Doupnik, 2017): from affordable to pricey, clothing to accessories and even beauty products. Their main strategy is to rely on online retailing, fast delivery and free return. Since the end of 2017, a “try before you buy” service has been sat up on their app (Edwards, 2017), in which customers can order as many products as they want, receive their orders at home, try them on without getting charged. The customer will only be charged for “everything he/she keeps” within “30 days of purchase”(Edwards, 2017). Ordering anything on a website with a large product width without getting charged completely changes how consumer shop and will shop in the future.

To compete with these developments, more and more brands rely on virtual shops rather than physical shops. Luxury brand Chanel, after years of refusing to go online, “bought a stake in Farfetch as it teams up with the e-commerce platform to create ‘ultra-personalised; experiences within its stores'” (Sutherland, 2018). Chanel adapted itself to the new consumer generation: “new Millennial consumer, which represents 85% of the growth in the luxury industry” (Sutherland, 2018), by offering a wider range of purchasing possibilities and “digital initiatives both online and offline”(Sutherland, 2018). The website seeks to facilitate the purchase of goods: staff is informed of the products in which the customer is interested in and makes it available for the customer when he visits the store (Sutherland, 2018). Farfetch Founder Jose Neves refers to this technique as “Augmented Retail– taking the magic of the physical boutique experience and bringing it together with the advantages of online and digital services” (Sutherland, 2018). Technology has -in that case- been used to enhance consumer experiences when purchasing a product, the “personalisation” (Sutherland, 2018) of the purchase, as well as facilitate the purchase of a product - “thanks to the role that artificial intelligence and machine learning is playing” (Arthur, 2016).

Getting to know the customer and building relationships between brand and customer, has become one of the challenges for brands and expectations for consumers, developed over the years. Thus, brands frequently send Emails to consumers “building out more intelligent customer service”(Arthur, 2016), offering product recommendations or private sales according to their tastes: “personal subscription is the natural evolution to the private sale push model like ‘Vente Privee' and ‘Saldiprivati'”(Agnoletti, Carandini and Santagata, 2012). These techniques, help to get to know the customer and his needs and wants through an online platform, just like shopping used to be 50-100 years ago “where the owners knew every shopper on a one-to-one basis” (Arthur, 2016).

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1.2. Social media

Since social media took off about fifteen years ago, it has offered better and quicker communication methods but has also permitted the expansion of brands and the discovery of many new. People from all around the globe are constantly connected, whether on the Internet or social media. Thus brands have taken the opportunity to attract consumers and boost their brand image, on these platforms. Brands can communicate, connect with consumers through social media, as well as offer an improved customer service -due to increased connections with “hyper-connected consumers” (Bendoni, 2017, p.98 & 114). Consumers can share and evaluate their experiences online: “they display ratings, likes, comments and (in some cases) purchases on their website or on social network” (Agnoletti, Carandini and Santagata, 2012, p.8).

According to a study led by Five by Five, when advertising, “74% of fashion brands prioritise social media” (Santamaria, 2017), which strongly impacts consumers' purchasing decisions. This is greatly due to the rise of bloggers and celebrities influence. Since 2010 (Bendoni, 2017, p.198), bloggers and celebrities have become a major tool for advertising on social media: “Nowadays, ‘regular' people from all over the world are becoming the biggest voices in fashion via their blog. Fashion bloggers are becoming fashion influencers — a title, in the past, that was only given to celebrities” (Agnoletti, Carandini and Santagata, 2012, p.9). Through their blogs and mainly through their social media, influencers have been promoting brands and their products and thus have increased consumers' desire to purchase a product. Consumers feel like they are very intimate with the influencer, almost like “bestfriends” (Bendoni, 2017, p.28), as these influencers are much “more approachable and more credible than the gatekeepers of decades past” (Bendoni, 2017, p.28). Thus traditional brands, such as Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Dior (Berezhna, 2018) slowly become much more digitally active and pay influencers for collaborations.

Figure : 3

Recently, virtual bloggers and models have also started to gain attention from brands and consumers. In a world were social media and influencers have a special place, originality is key. With over 1 million followers (2018), the 19-year-old Miquela Sousa, has decided to be a different blogger. Her Instagram account features similar posts as other bloggers: at events, outfits of the day, paid collaborations.. But one thing is different: she is not human. The blogger is “computer-generated” (Morency, 2018), meaning that she is a digital doll acting like a human influencer. Brands such as Chanel, Burberry or Fendi have already worked with the blogger in order to share their products in a different way. “According to Tribe Dynamics, 90 percent of brands have increased their earned media budget (which includes influencer marketing) in the past five years” (Berezhna, 2018). Brands evolve with the developments that our society undergoes, as well as the changes in consumer behaviours.

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1.3. Technologies integrated into stores

As said by Chanel's fashion president Bruno Pavlovsky: “We strongly believe that digital will never replace the feeling of being in a fitting room and trying on Chanel piece” (Sutherland, 2018). The experience offered in stores, remains the most preferred when purchasing a product. Online retailers “have reported major success with online purchases” (Easy, 2001, p.31) but some consumers are still sceptical about the use of the internet to purchase clothes. According to a Forbes study (2016), on a 250 retailers sample size, “Retailers indicate that customers like to browse the Internet to research major products, but when it comes to making an actual purchase, they prefer to do it in person, in the store, according to almost half of retailers (46%)” (Forbes, 2016). Therefore, brands like Burberry or Tommy Hilfiger have invested in chatbots to offer a more “conversational commerce”(Arthur, 2016) and build trust and confidence through a “machine-led customer service tools”(Arthur, 2016). Consumers can ask anything, get advice and more information about goods they are interested in. Both the brand and the customer can thus exchange and connect on a platform intended for it. However, consumers did not think this was enough, as they constantly expect more from brands. Thus, typical brick and mortars have been developed in order to maximise customers' shopping experience. Neiman Marcus in San Francisco invested in ‘smart' mirrors which enable consumers to virtually try on clothes (Picchi, 2015). The usual fitting rooms are replaced by high-technology mirrors which “take videos and photos of shoppers in new outfits, (...) compare side-by-side images of which ensemble is most flattering” (Picchi, 2015). In addition, customers can “email to friends or post their images to social media, in order to get feedback” (Picchi, 2015). Technology, here, offers new ways to interact within a store and can also make it more fun for consumers to shop in. These ‘smart' mirrors offer a new perspective and approach to shopping, which consumers want and expect during times of major developments -like today.

Recently, Zara or Burberry, have “invested in AR technology”( Street, 2018). Through the brand's app, customers can “hold up their phone to certain store windows or a sensor within the store and see models come to life on their screens – walking and even talking - wearing selected items from the Zara range, which they can then click through and buy” (Street, 2018). Once again, customers get to share “the experience on the social media, encouraging users to take and submit photos of the hologram models” (Street, 2018).

Figure : 4

Curiosity and innovation attract consumers, as their shopping experiences become more interactive and digital. Marketers use technology and its developments to attract customers and offer unusual and unique shopping experiences. It also permits to move forward, as companies are much more aware of the products consumers are interested in, through the data they leave behind

4 when using augmented reality (AR) or chatbots.

1.4 Garments

Technology has also been used when producing garments. From Laser cutting and 3D printing to Computer Aided Design (CAD), these new manufacturing techniques change garments quality and “speed up time it takes for a garment to get into stores” (Easy, 2001, p30). Design, enlargement and duplication of the design, design “tried in different colourways” (Easy, 2001, p.29-30), and finally printed directly onto fabric, have changed the production process. In times where everything is fast-paced, these technologies do not only save time, but they also offer new approaches to designing and producing goods and services. In addition, these techniques involve “virtually no waste materials” (Dallabona, 2018), which is a crucial element for the fashion industry nowadays. However, they are still very expensive and not very accessible to many brands (Dallabona, 2018).

Technology is also used directly onto garments, for example, with Smart textiles. Sensor t-shirt or even gloves, help define one's well being and feelings: “the integration of computer systems to textile fibres allows to capture and share information from the body and between people, either for medical or social purposes” (Dallabona, 2018). Humans are therefore much more aware of their body and how it functions.

Finally, designers use technology to “make fashion more beautiful and open up new aesthetic possibilities”(Dallabona, 2018). The Intel Butterfly Dress features flying butterflies taking off directly from the dress (Dallabona, 2018). Not only is it beautiful to look at, the Intel butterfly dress also provides a new approach to fashion and gives an idea of what to expect for the future.

Figure : 5

The integration of technology directly onto garments is only just starting to attract the attention of designers, as well as consumers, and will surely be even more integrated into production and design processes in the future. However, for now, laser cutting, 3D printing and technology onto garments remain expensive and unusual for many manufacturers, as they are still quite new.

2. Patterns of consumption and consumer behaviour

2.1. Mass Consumption

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Finally, consumers are no longer satisfied with only 1 piece of clothing every once in a while (Bendoni, 2017, p.20), they expect fast fashion and the purchase of new goods on a regular basis. “The escalation of consumer expectations directly results from increased access to trends through social media feeds” (Bendoni, 2017, p.20), which creates a more rapid fashion turnover to a month or less (Agnoletti, Carandini and Santagata, 2012,p.4). The production process is greatly affected (Agnoletti, Carandini and Santagata, 2012,p.4) and innovations -like 3D printing, laser cutting- are very useful, as they offer quicker ways to deliver goods and services to consumers.

Shaped by the “see now, buy now” (Bendoni, 2017, p.51) phenomenon, consumers always want more and “demand the very latest, instantly”(Bendoni, 2017, p.20). Shopping malls, such as the Dubai Mall in Dubai or the Mall of America in Bloomington, USA, have been built to suit these needs and wants. Examples of these empires of consumerism, these huge shopping malls provide a large number of shops, eateries and sometimes hotels to be able to visit each and every store in the mall, without being rushed (Atha, 2018).

Figure : 6

Shopping regularly and showing off new purchases, have become a new habit of ours -as consumers. Thus sales and promotions are very important strategies, permitting to fulfil consumers wishes to shop loads for lower prices. Created for and grew with mass consumerism, events such as Black Friday or Boxing day, have massively influenced consumers' purchase of products due to the very low prices they offer. Consumers line up hours before the start of the event to get their hands on everything and anything just for the sake of it. It has become a tradition for some and a discovery for others. Emails, billboards and tv adverts have indirectly influenced purchasing decisions during these events: they are on consumers minds without them being aware of it. Marketing has permitted the promotion of these dramatic discounts and thus has largely enhanced mass consumption.

2.2. Shopping experience

As previously said, a large majority of consumers browse online but prefer to shop in stores: “88 percent of global sales in value terms were still made in-store” (Ames, 2018). This is mainly due to consumers' need and want of ‘experience' while shopping: “Brick-and-mortar retail can offer consumers an experience that online shopping can't offer”(Ames, 2018). Thus, marketers, to differentiate their brand from the enormous competition on the market, constantly work on new ways to enhance these experiences expected by consumers: “now we're seeing more innovation in this area than ever before”(Ames, 2018). Amazon recently opened a no-checkout grocery store in Seattle: Amazon Go., permitting consumers to shop freely without having to scan products or wait in line to check out (Amazon, 2016). As “Ever demanding consumers are expecting to get what they want more quickly and easily than ever, especially when it comes to the payment part” (Arthur, 2016). This grocery store has inspired fashion brands to follow the same path, with “self-checkouts

6 at Rebecca Minkoff” (Arthur, 2016). Not only does it offer new ways of shopping, it also gives an idea of what the future of shopping will be like. The rise of individualism and technology will become more and more present and will eventually replace any human contact when shopping.

The rise of individualism and “me, me, me” phenomenon (Atha, 2017) have enhanced the need and want to feel part of the brand as customers, thus brands invest in intangible things like packaging, sensorial effects and pop up stores. For a short amount of time only (Ames, 2018), pop up stores give consumers the ability to purchase goods in an unforgettable environment:  “all sorts of interactive ways for consumers to participate with the brand” (Ames, 2018). Brands are very creative when setting up a pop up store, as they can “engage with its consumers directly at a physical location” (Ames, 2018). Kate Spade's igloo in New York City's Bryant Park, Hermes silk bar in Hong Kong (Shontell, 2011) are some examples.

Figure : 7

American Eagle's “jeans gallery” in New York (Ames, 2018), encourages consumers to “participate in an experiential shopping environment and go to the ‘Makers Shop' where they can personalize their jeans” (Ames, 2018). Moreover, being close to the New York University, the brand has created a laundry area, where students can wash their clothes for free and spend time with their friends (Ames, 2018).

These shopping experiences remain unique ways for consumers to purchase goods, sometimes personalise them, and to directly connect with the brand. The more the brand is creative and offers unforgettable shopping experiences, the more consumers are attracted to the brand and will remain loyal. As  previously mentioned, consumers more and more feel the need to connect with and be part of the brand digitally and physically. Even if these installations are ephemeral, they offer new ways to interact with the brand and to discover more about it.

Conclusion

To conclude, we can say that fashion marketing and consumer culture have changed alongside technological and consumption developments. Technology has been used several ways: onto garments, to produce them, to promote them and finally to offer new shopping experiences. Shopping experience, when purchasing a product, has always had a very special place amongst consumers, however, it massively grew with the rise of mass consumption. Brands and marketers constantly have to innovate and be creative, to keep up with the fast-paced changes of our industries and its developments.

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