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The notoriously competitive fashion industry is only becoming more cutthroat. Nimble brands like Zara and H&M are thriving, while teen retailers are suffering big losses. And with fashion enthusiasts and fashion brands embracing social media and other digital technologies, the need to act fast and get ahead of the competition has never been more critical.

In a recent event held in London, Vision Critical and two guest companies revealed how fashion brands keep up with the empowered shopper. The key, according to these companies, is to engage with customers effectively and efficiently. Here are three themes we heard from the event.

  1. Fashion is fast.

Trends can change in an instant. If brands don’t keep up with customer demands, they risk being left by the wayside. Companies need to be nimble to take advantage of changing tastes.

One example is fast fashion leader Zara, which produces only 50 percent of its seasonal stock up front and leaves the rest of its operations free to respond to the market. To cater to mid-season customer demand, the company produces fresh-off-the-runway designs, with an unprecedented two-week turnaround.

How to separate trends from fads in the fashion business

To separate fads from trends, fashion brands need to get feedback from customers within a matter of hours. Brands also use their insight community to quickly test campaigns, allowing them to get feedback on everything from the celebrities featured to the message of the ad. Besides avoiding unnecessary gaffes, customer engagement before the launch of ads ensure that your campaign’s message resonates with your audience.

  1. Fashion is everywhere.

The path customers take when they shop is not linear. From apps to in-person shopping, customers use a variety of platforms to buy.

The omnichannel shopper is forcing fashion brands to experiment with different marketing approaches. Bonobos, the largest online menswear brand in the USA, opened a store in Los Angeles in which items can be tried on but not purchased. This unique approach has proven successful: customers who visited the store spent twice as much compared to those who only visited the website. The store also enables Bonobos to strengthen its brand positioning by creating a continuous dialogue with customers.

It’s increasingly important for companies to engage directly with their customers for the kind of meaningful insight that helps make better business decisions. Companies use an insight community to regularly gather customer feedback. In one instance, a retailer used customer feedback to create a modern and intuitive layout for one of its new locations. The retailer’s customer community also provides feedback on apps and brochures, helping the company refine its omnichannel strategy.

  1. Fashion is personalized.

Shoppers today like to mix and match designer styles with mass market brands. Kate Middleton is the epitome of this personalization trend: it’s not uncommon to see her pair an ASOS dress with a Gucci clutch.

Menswear brand Chapar capitalizes on this personalization trend by offering variety to its customers. Having conducted extensive research about the personal styles of its customers, the company offers over 20 fashion brands for shoppers to mix and match.

Winning companies use customer intelligence to better understand the individual style of their customers. For instance, Banana Republic engages its insight community to ask customers to upload a picture of their wardrobes on a monthly basis. Customers find the activity fun, but it also gives Banana Republic insight on what its shoppers like. Pictures from customers help inform the brand about what’s missing from its collection and how evening wear compares to day wear, for instance.


Technology is accelerating the pace of change in the fashion industry. Keeping up with the empowered shopper is a priority in this market. Fashion brands need to engage with customers using platforms that are familiar with their shoppers so they can continue to serve fresh and compelling products.

- By Sabrina Qureshi and Julia Pavlova, Client Services Managers at Vision Critical 

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