5 Considerations in the Consumer Buying Journey

As a business, rather than concern yourself with how to sell, why not put yourself in consumer’s shoes and explore the reasons why you buy. So, in this article, I’d like us to take a new approach and look at things from the consumer’s point of view.

The thing about fashion is that it’s more often a luxury rather than a necessity. For example, you “need a shirt”, but you “don’t need a designer shirt”, and the same can be said for any article of clothing or accessories. But this isn’t to deny the existence of brand conscious people or those who think having a branded item is a need. The significance of this distinction is when someone is buying something they want, not need, they have more flexibility to make decisions.

So, what’s going through their minds as they head down their path to fashion? While this article isn’t about the psychology behind what makes people desire expensive things, and certainly all fashion is not overtly expensive, a good place to start is asking yourself why you do. Envision your own buyer’s journey and consider that many people think similarly to you. Let’s take a look at five important things to keep in mind about the buyer’s journey:

1. The Customer Journey Is No Longer Linear

Marketers used to have a linear mindset. It was marketing’s job to map out the path a consumer would take and to control the narrative. Today, it’s still marketing’s job to control the narrative, but mapping a consumer’s path is simply no longer possible. Consumers are now just too savvy and have too many options to even consider going down a brand’s narrow path to content.

So, in today’s climate, your goal is to put the right product in front of the right person, rather than every product in front of everyone. A person’s journey to buy a shirt, for example, does not begin with a pair of pants. It begins with a search on an e-commerce site or possibly on Google for a shirt. The journey has taken place in their head before they fired up their laptop.

Getting people to your product pages is your number one priority today. Consumers don’t care about you, they care about the product you’re selling. With loyalty at an all-time low, it’s obvious that a strategy that requires a linear journey will no longer work. Marketing needs to realize that the content that needs to be front and center is the product content itself.

That being said, customer acquisition costs roughly five times what retention costs. So, after the first transaction, it’s important that you have a tactical marketing strategy that includes special offers and continual awareness, on top of, delivering a quality product the first time around.

2. Fashion First

The good news for the fashion industry is that when people begin their online journey it’s likely to be for something in the fashion category. According to a McKinsey study, approximately 30% of new online shoppers start with apparel and footwear. Add to that the fast fashion market that sees online shopping as not different from a trip to the mall. It could be argued that e-commerce and fast fashion work together to make each other trendy. Just look at the people on their MacBooks at a coffee shop. Do you think they’re not making a fashion statement?

It’s also worth noting that 85% of product searches begin either on Amazon or Google. Therefore, search, both organic and paid, is a vital investment to make to ensure that consumers are able to find you. Once found, you can start offering personalized experiences. With a staggering 43% of purchases being influenced by personalized recommendations or promotions and 75% of consumers preferring to be marketed to with personal messaging, it’s essential that you have a plan once they do land on one of your product pages.

3. People Want What They Pay For

Oddly enough, when someone buys something online, they’d like the actual product to resemble the product depicted online. If they don’t get that, they’d feel a bit cheated. One reason that stores with a strong physical presence do well with online sales is that it’s easy to return items bought online. The difficulty of returning items is likely the last major barrier to people shopping online, but once that conundrum is solved the fear of a bad purchase will no longer be a hindrance. The cost of returns is also a huge issue. Online purchases are returned at a rate of 15 to 40 percent, which is roughly $400 billion worth of inventory.

While it’s a hassle to return items bought online, a substantial amount of it is still being returned. Certainly, there is a combination of factors when it comes to returning wardrobe pieces, such as the challenge of finding the right size without first trying it on and the shirt that doesn’t quite match the pants that has been envisioned. That being said, while there is no way to eliminate returns, accurate product descriptions and realistic portrayals would surely go a long way in reducing the number of returns, therefore saving you and your customer the headache of the return procedure and upping your chances of retaining your customer.

4. Easily Influenced

Consumers might have the upper-hand during the buying process, but that doesn’t mean that they want to go it alone! Instead of hearing directly from you, though, they want to buy proven items. Influencers in some form are part of the customer journey 84% of the time.

In fashion, people tend to buy what other people make fashionable, but how can they know what’s fashionable? They learn the same way we’ve always have — by looking at what celebrities or influencers are wearing. Remember “The Rachel”, from the TV show “Friends”, haircut in the 1990s? The only difference between Jennifer Aniston on Friends and influencers today is the medium, which is now social media, most notably Instagram. (The stats on Instagram as an influencer channel are pretty amazing and you can check them out here.) Advertising may have moved from the inside of magazines and television commercials to social sites, but that does not mean that it’s not an important part of today’s customer journey.

5. …Yet, Still Price Sensitive

With brands like Zara who are able to get clothes from design to shelves in only two weeks, there’s no doubt that quality takes a bit of a hit in the sake of trendiness. The good news for consumers is that for stores to continually restock their shelves they first have to sell what’s on them. And to ensure that things sell quickly, good deals appear from seemingly everywhere. This new trend called fast fashion has allowed consumers to keep up with the latest fashions and has also spoiled them with low costs.

The apparel industry’s market size is expected to top $1.65 trillion in 2020, up from $1.05 trillion in 2011. Industries don’t grow that fast if they only cater to the high-end consumer. Fast fashion has made it feasible for people to buy outfits for any occasion and in many cases have no plans of wearing it twice. Which means the circle will continue on and on for many consumers on the fashion buyer’s journey.

There’s a lot to consider when you consider the customer’s point of view during their journey. From how it can begin anywhere to the people influencing them to make decisions and, like most industries, budget concerns. While a lot of thought needs to go into your strategy to ensure that you are addressing your prospects along the way, by considering your own motives you already have a good idea on how to address each stage of the process.

How digital transformation affects the fashion industry:

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Douglas Eldridge

Field & Content Marketing Manager

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