Fast fashion fix: The dominating force of online fashion
Online fashion retailers have ushered in a new golden age for fashion-conscious consumers, where competitive pricing, the ease of online shopping, and the rise of fast fashion have combined to create an overwhelmingly inviting environment to click-happy customers.
The growth in online fashion consumption has outpaced the growth and demand for traditional retail fashion consumption. The reasons for this range from convenience, economics and the growing familiarity of online retailers, to a general trend of globalised, borderless consumption.
From dream to reality
With the rise of fast fashion and online retailers such as ASOS, Urban Outfitters and even Amazon, it’s now easier than ever to find the item of your dreams – whether that’s a personally monogrammed bag, or a pair of killer lace-up heels.
Fast fashion has meant that it’s easy to pinpoint a specific fabric, colour or cut of a garment or accessory online, without the need to trawl through an endless number of stores. Online aggregators, such as Polyvore and Pinterest also provide another opportunity to seek out the perfect piece without the hassle or embarrassment of seeking out a high street store.
Fast fashion has also helped to speed up the erosion of the traditional fashion season cycles – that is, spring/summer and autumn/winter. Many retailers now produce smaller, year-round ranges aimed at capturing the emergence of particular trends as they unfold.
This can be particularly useful during smaller periods of time with a specific theme or focus, like Christmas (festive knits for all the family!) or during festival season (boho-chic and bright wellies for Glastonbury or Reading). The ability for retailers to market toward a particular event or niche means that potential customers can more easily find the styles and pieces they crave, within arm’s reach.
The geographic decentralisation of internet retailing has also meant that year-round purchases of coats, swimwear and destination appropriate clothing is possible, no matter where you live or intend to travel. This is useful for people intending to switch hemispheres in the middle of summer or winter – so if you’re looking for cute beachwear in January for a holiday down-under, or if you’re looking for a coat in July, you need to look no further than the tips of your fingers.
This type of out-of-season purchasing can also lead you to discount pieces which are perfect for the coming months in your own country. Half-price jumpers and boots can be picked up well-ahead of the traditional in-store rush, without the need to pay a jacked-up retail price.
Return to sender
With online shopping becoming more commonplace and reliable, the issue of costly returns and non-existent customer service has been addressed by most large and reputable online retailers. For consumers, this means free returns (or, at a low price-point) and the ability to connect with the online retailer via multiple channels (social media, email, chat, telephone).
Being able to directly contact and connect with the retailer provides a sense of security in what could seem an otherwise risky or contactless exchange. It also provides to opportunity for customers to provide feedback during a dispute in a less confrontational manner than through direct face-to-face interaction – as is typically experienced in retail.
Thanks to the magic of the internet, it’s always sale season somewhere. The uptick in the popularity of events such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday means that more and more retailers put measured effort into providing and promoting sale events and offers, meaning that consumers are more often able to pick up an item for a reduced cost. Waiting for a bi-annual sale is now a non-event – if an item can be found on sale online elsewhere in the world, why wait?
Traditional brick-and-mortar fashion retailers have cause to be concerned. The ease of buying fashion items online is ever-increasing, with a swathe of new payment, delivery and service options being provided each year. As fashion-hungry consumers continue to find sale items online at a fraction of the in-store (or local) price, the reasons to patronise physical stores diminish – and will continue to do so until physical stores can either up their pricing incentives, or find another effective way to drive customer traffic.
The editorial unit