The new paradigm of fashion retail and its 4 challenges

The pandemic has turned everything upside down. It has also upset retail fashion, which has been hit by instability, whose overall impact still cannot be properly estimated, and is now facing a mandatory developmental transformation. Between phygital fascination and nostalgia for physical stores, here are some of its prospective and potential scenarios

Virtual tables. Fascinating showcases. Interactive shopping. 3D online customised shoes. Digital lenses that make use of augmented reality to help customers try out a pair of sneakers and much more. Lots of things and much more, aiming at a phigytal viewpoint fashion retail must rely on to get out of the tunnel (a long and very dark one indeed) after being deeply hit by Covid pandemic. In other words, this is going to be an unavoidable and suddenly faster digital transition which can be no longer postponed. What they used to consider as a journey they could carefully handle, within due dates, is now turning into a “mandatory transformation”. Such urgency immediately requires a new strategic paradigm alongside the awareness of its challenges.

The new paradigm of fashion retail

This topic has been closely analysed by paper “Fashion for Humans – Identity, technology and new needs: fashion retail at people’s service”. It has been published by Altavia Italia, a communication agency which specializes in omnichannel sales and shopper marketing for retail business. Their analysis begins by focusing on this input: “Selling stores can still engage buyers a great deal and, besides that, can play a new role. They will succeed as long as they are able to change, therefore turning into a new mix of physical and digital, reinventing logistics and taking advantage of it as a valuable communication opportunity (as well)”. A published manifesto which leads to 4 challenges, pinpointed by Stefania Saviolo, lecturer at Bocconi University, during one of the latest Altavia Fashion Talks. Here they are.

Challenge number 1 – Emotion vs. Rationality

“Pre-Covid retail was primarily targeting consumer goods and the high-end premium segment. The former provided affordability, the latter focused on emotion and spur-of-the-moment shopping. Yet the pandemic dragged us again into our primary needs and a comeback to realism. This is going to be one of the issues: on the one hand, to find a way to create magic and a driving spark again; on the other hand, to stick to sensible values such as security and trust”.

Challenge number 2 – Centre vs. Outskirts

“In the past the centre used to be accountable for processes and made decisions for the outskirts. At present, one can observe that proximity marketing, based in the province areas, is gradually increasing; at the same time, the large avenues in the shopping districts, including the major flagship stores, are more and more desert. Hence, we need to set and implement new models as we must consider that outskirts may have an impact on the way buyers think of a brand if the centre does not run any control”.

Challenge number 3 – Digital vs. Physical

“Companies and brands will have to figure out how they can possibly take the best out of both worlds, which are bound to go hand in hand at this point. Each business will have to find its way without resting on past plans and strategies but rather looking at its own identity and knowing that both online and physical will go through change. Online will become more human, whereas physical will turn into products, services, and entertainment. Well, things are going to be completely different”.

Challenge number 4 – Technology vs. Human

“Prior to Covid outbreak companies were striving hard to set a digital transformation. At present they rather wonder how relations with customers can possibly keep thriving in such a cold and hyper-tech context. Human relationship, to be built up, in-store staff new role, selling ceremonies as much as live streaming and podcasts require a deep makeover in terms of communication and store concept.

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