For retailers, 2020 was either the stuff of nightmares or an exhilarating roller coaster ride ending on a hopeful note, or both. While we struggle to contain the virus and distribute vaccines to the populace, 2021 will be as unpredictable as ever. Nevertheless, here are some predictions of what may be in store for e-commerce — primarily within fashion.
Jeans and shoes return, lux booms
The K-shaped recovery has resulted in many who are flush with cash — both from reduced expenses and a booming stock market — and itching to spend. Floodgates may open in late Q3/early Q4 of 2021 as global mobility begins to return to normal and employees return to offices.
While elastic waistbands may not be going anywhere, I think shoes — especially lug sole and hiking boots and stacked and kitten heels — as well as wide leg and other relaxed style jeans and trousers will do well as people seek some change and return to work. I also foresee many companies allowing employees to work from home part-time which means on the days people do come into the office, they may make an extra effort to dress up. Less face to face time with coworkers and management will mean they’ll want to make the most of that time and make a good impression. Going into the office may also become more of an occasion in people’s minds, meaning they may plan to spend more money and effort on their appearance, at least in the beginning.
That said, what people buy for their return to work may be of higher quality than before. With reduced in office time, they’ll need less work attire and this will give the luxury industry and opportunity to provide entry points for a new less wealthy consumer who can now afford to splurge and hopefully over time will upgrade. Especially with so many brands partnering with BNPL providers, luxury has removed barriers to entry points. I expect contemporary luxury brands and possibly some premium brands to invest in this strategy (no ultra-premium luxury brands), resulting in incremental marketing dollars being spent on a new target audience.
I believe people are tired of wearing leggings everyday, but I don’t think they’re giving up on athleisure completely. As many employees stay working remote at least part-time, their WFH attire will continue to be professional on top and comfort below. Thus, while I do think many stocked up on athleisure during the pandemic, I don’t think consumers will stop spending. In addition to comfort clothing below the waist, many have new at home gym routines having reclaimed time in their day from previous long daily commutes. If they find themselves working out more than before, it could necessitate increased sustained demand for athleisure as the user base has grown.
AR ads become mainstream
AR can solve 2 major e-commerce challenges: try-ons and returns. COVID ushered in a paradigm shift in e-commerce. Large retailers scaled their existing infrastructure and tested various approaches to understand what works. SMBs who previously hesitated to build their e-commerce presence overcame that fear with the help of e-commerce platforms and now find they’ve saved their businesses. As e-commerce begins to become a default consumer choice, AR’s impact on product and promotion has never been more important.
Virtual try-ons within ads as well as LIDAR and image based measurements to determine appropriate sizing or create custom clothing are all available to marketers now as both a product feature and as ads (e.g. on Google and YouTube). A potential next step in this evolution beyond 2021 may be for each user to have a highly accurate avatar of themselves which allows them to try on makeup, clothes, hairstyles, etc. from multiple retailers and then share those renderings via text or social for feedback and self-promotion (this would be a boon for influencers). Imagine how much more effective re-targeting ad CTRs and conversions can be leveraging this technology — leveraging the user’s avatar in the ad and including feedback comments from the sharing.