It’s official: Millennials outnumber Baby Boomers. Millennials are now the largest generation, and they have the purchasing power that goes with it, around £2 trillion at last count. Millennials are the most influential group with regards to employment and consumption, but numbers alone aren’t what make them unique as a consumer group. Today’s working boss lady (and boss man) is shopping online. S/he cares a whole lot less about brand names and a whole lot more about what social media influencers are wearing. Read on to discover how Millennial shopping habits are changing fashion.
Today’s shoppers looking for gifts for wife don’t want cookie-cutters. They want unique: custom sizing statement necklaces, and tailor-made power blazers. Millennials have a much stronger desire to stand out and display their unique personality than the previous generation. This translates into more demand for customisable options. Very few brides in the past would have bought a wedding dress online. But the allure of a custom-cut and -fit gown is an offer today’s fiancées can’t refuse.
The relationship between buyer and seller has always depended on trust, but today’s shoppers put their trust in individuals rather than logos. Millennials are hyper-connected. Nine out of ten Millennials do at least some of their shopping online. They own an average of three devices and their primary news source is often social media, rather than the tv or newspapers. The definition of ‘news’ on social media runs the gamut from world events to what one of the Kardashians wore to lunch. With options to ‘buy the look’ and 1-click purchasing, social media has made shopping easier than ever. These days, pseudo-celebrities exert far more influence than name brands that may have worked for decades to build their reputation.
Fashion is all about change, and Millennials fully embrace this concept. They don’t care a whit about convention or rules. Gender fluidity, diversity, and inclusivity are all extremely important to Millennials. Stereotypical portrayals of masculine or feminine types are out, while unisex, androgynous fashion has become the norm. Companies that cater to non-traditional beauty, such as makeup for a broad range of skin tones and, even better, offering personalisation options, are doing very well. Businesses created and run by atypical CEOs are also enjoying a moment as Millennials strongly support minority and underrepresented populations. Another unexpected growth sector: menswear. Online menswear sales now outpace those for womenswear, and men beat out women overall when it comes to shopping online.
E-tail sales were already skyrocketing pre-pandemic and the lockdown has only fuelled this trend. While some claim retail is dead, the truth is, brick-and-mortar shops will always be with us. Virtual is great, but most people still want to touch and try things on. Nonetheless, physical stores have had to dig deep into their well of creativity to lure customers back through their doors. The smart ones have succeeded by offering services that can only be performed live, such as blow-outs and date makeovers. Of course, savvy retailers immediately upload before-and-after pics onto social media for maximum reach. They know this is the quickest route to Millennials’ hearts, and their wallets.
Online personalities may not have a degree in marketing or even much talent with a camera, but that doesn’t make them any less influential. The knowledge that your outfit will be photographed and the risk of being seen twice wearing the same thing has led to an explosion in fast fashion. Many social media celebrities have taken to only wearing an item a couple of times — at most — before tossing it. A boon for the fast fashion industry, if not the environment.
We’re not talking about see-through clothes (at least not yet). One of the reactions to fast fashion has been the demand by Millennial consumers to know where and how their clothes are made. The fashion industry is now much more transparent about sourcing, production methods, fair treatment of workers and environmental impact than ever before. The majority of Millennials say they’re willing to pay more for brands that support social or environmental causes. Companies that advocate and demonstrate these types of practices are scooping up a particularly healthy part of the market share.
Another reaction to the throwaway fashion is the concept of ‘slow fashion.’ Slow fashion promotes, amongst other things, sustainability, environmentalism and workers’ rights. Businesses that embrace slow fashion subscribe to the mantra ‘less is more.’ Some companies are going so far as to offer to pay the return shipping on items shoppers no longer want, with promises to reuse or recycle it. One bright spot in the debate over e-tail versus traditional retail when it comes to waste: online shopping consumes about 30% less energy.