GlobalData’s report titled Connected Consumer in Retail and Apparel argues that consumers are increasingly informed about all aspects of products they buy and consume, through both active and passive use of technologies, such as conducting research, using review sites, viewing user generated content, seeing influencer campaigns and adverts and listening to podcasts.

This, the report argues, means that consumers cannot be steered towards purchase by marketing and advertising solely conducted by the retailer itself. It suggested retailers must ensure that the experience consumers have at every point they connect with the retailer is good, leading them to make purchases.

The report highlighted sportswear giant Nike as one of the ‘leaders’ in connecting consumers, highlighting its Nike Run Club and Nike Training Club apps. These boost consumer engagement and immerse users in what the report called “the Nike universe”.

British retailer Marks and Spencer was also highlighted by the report’s authors as a ‘challenger’ in this space. The report noted how the retailer is using user-generated content and reviews of its products.

Inditex-owned Zara’s user-generated content was also noted, as the brand has increasingly used pictures of consumers rather than models on its website and social media. The report said: “By connecting with consumers in this less editorial and more relatable way, retailers can increase positive brand receptiveness, not least because it allows consumers to envisage how they would wear or use products in their day-to-day life.”

The report outlined some key retail trends shaping the connected consumer theme over the next 12 to 24 months:

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  • Trust and transparency – As the connected consumer is on the rise, it is paramout that consumers trust retailers. This trust is built through transparency at every connection point the consumer has in their experience with the retailer. There can be two sides to this, as trust and transparency do not necessarily have to go hand in hand when it comes to the connected consumer.
    One is through influencer hauls and peer reviews where consumers have gained trust in ordering from retailers such as Shein and Temu. Conversely, a retailer’s lack of transparency can create issues as consumers are hyper-aware of product details. When it comes to connected consumers, retailers are increasingly unable to get away with greenwashing or leading consumers to believe their products are ‘clean’ if they are not
  • Passive and active connected consumers – Connected consumers can be both active and passive in their connectivity to retailers and products. Consumers are empowered to be connected through no longer only receiving information through retailer marketing, but being able to look at peer reviews and being educated on what to look for.
    Connected consumers can also be more passive in their connections due to the volume and wealth of content that is available online and is constantly being absorbed by consumers on social media, for instance. As most consumers are constantly connected to a device with internet access, they can be advertised to through platforms such as podcasts and social media, and can also quickly check reviews for a product they see advertised in public spaces, for instance.
  • Influencer marketing – When done well, influencer marketing campaigns can be a powerful strategy for retailers and brands to connect with their target consumers, with consumers trusting the opinion of those that they follow and relating to them more than they would a celebrity.
    However, as the success of influencer marketing has drastically increased the stakes in terms of compensation paid by brands to influencers for ads, consumers have become increasingly aware of the financial motivations that may drive influencers to recommend products. Trust and authenticity have therefore become the cornerstones of influencer marketing.
  • Personalisation – Connected consumers generally want a more personalised, less ‘appeal to the masses’ approach. Personalisation is a valuable tool for connecting with consumers and boosting sales. Retailers can collect data from online and instore shopping journeys about their shoppers’ preferences and interests and build up a profile of their shoppers.
    This profile can be analysed alongside contextual data for greater insight. The more granular the data gathered on a consumer’s preferences, the better the personalisation, as this gives retailers a greater understanding of what their shoppers want, like, and dislike.
  • User-generated content (UGC) – To be more connected to consumers, many retailers are increasingly ultilising user generated content. Utilitising user-generated content is a way for retailers to build trust both with and through connected consumers. As retailer competition is so high, authenticity, and therefore authentic content, is important to retain consumer trust. Consumers are more likely to trust content that comes from customers, employees or loyal brand followers and will notice fake or false content.
    UGC is essentially the connected consumers’ version of word of mouth. By connecting consumers to the retailer’s community and making them a part of that community, retailers can ultimately build loyalty and trust, leading to a higher rate of purchase.

GlobalData’s upcoming webinar will share insights on the apparel consumer priorities, attitudes and behaviours to watch for the rest of this year and beyond.

The session, which takes place at 3pm BST/10am EST on Thursday 18 April, will explore how ongoing economic turbulence on a global scale will impact apparel spending.