Can digital keep the industry alive?

In light of the coronavirus outbreak, many sectors within the fashion industry have been forced to turn to digital solutions. And while in-person events will go back to being the modus operandi after the virus is contained, the smartest brands will continue using innovative digital solutions for the competitive advantage they offer. In this post, we highlight how different sectors are facing digital evolution and the brands winning as a result. Let’s dive in.

Beauty Drives Ecommerce Sales with Creative Digital Strategies

The beauty industry is finding new ways to engage consumers and drive sales during lockdown. The beauty industry often performs well – even during an economic downturn. This is down to the fact that many consumers perceive inexpensive beauty buys as an ‘affordable luxury’. Cosmetics aficionado Leonard Lauder terms this the “lipstick index”. 

However, beauty has always thrived on in-store purchases. How has the industry adapted to predominantly digital marketing and sales?

Several brands are finding ways to keep their customers engaged during lockdown. For example, the popular natural skincare brand Kiehl’s is launching virtual beauty consultations for customers. Post lockdown, virtual consultations could be a way for brands to help customers benefit from the beauty smarts of industry specialists without having to leave home. 

Moreover, due to lockdown limitations brands are now focusing their sales strategy around ecommerce, marketplaces, and shoppable social media. Sephora, for example, has seen online sales increase by 30% since lockdown began. 

The pivot into ecommerce-focused sales and marketing has led to sales of at-home beauty treatments – including face masks, tech beauty tools, serums, and hair dye increase by more than 100% during lockdown. ELLE Beauty Director Katy Young notes this may be because people are finding the joy in undertaking their own beauty regimes and the stress of fitting in beauty procedures feels unappealing even after the lockdown lifts.


Screenshot: Sephora’s Instagram

Far from being a temporary fix for inaccessible retail stores, Lubomira Rochet, L’Oréal’s Chief Digital Officer, says lockdown has sparked the inevitable digital revolution that the industry was heading for. Commenting in the Financial Times, Rochet states, “The crisis has profoundly accelerated the digital transformation of the beauty sector. In e-commerce, we achieved in eight weeks what it would otherwise have taken us three years to do.”

Going Digital to Grow Community: From Chain Store Fashion to Independent Brands

As loneliness rates have tripled across the globe, successful fashion brands are finding innovative new ways to create a sense of community and inspiring coming together for a common cause online. Maximilian Bittner, from Vestiaire Collective, says, “On our platform, we haven’t talked about discounts, but about community. People are passionate about belonging and togetherness. We started a series of charity sales with a range of profiles, including Kate Moss, to raise money, which was very successful.”

Moreover, as Marthe de Ferrer notes, businesses that focus on ethical and sustainable directions may be the ones who are rewarded when the coronavirus pandemic is over. Marthe highlights the rising popularity of ethical fashion brand Lucy and Yak, who have used social media platforms and video content marketing to raise awareness and money for their struggling tailors in India who can no longer work.

As BoF highlights, the pandemic has caused many consumers to reassess their consumption habits and look for more sustainable, ethical fashion labels. Several companies in the fashion industry are using digital platforms to promote ethical practices and campaigns. Such moves highlight how digital platforms are helping fashion brands make the shift to relationship-centric, ethically driven engagement with their prospects.

Luxury Leads the Way with Digital Innovation and Creative Customer Engagement

Luxury brands have also been at the forefront of embracing digital strategies and solutions in the wake of COVID-19. Global luxury fashion houses are the first to feel the impact of hard social and economic times. This is true here. The industry is predicted to contract by more than 35% this year. However, several luxury fashion brands’ stars continue to rise and are likely to continue to do so after the crisis is over.

What’s at the root of their resiliency? Since lockdown began, luxury brands have excelled at using digital platforms to stoke community and deepen consumer loyalty in fun and creative ways. For example, Alexander McQueen has racked up thousands of subscriptions to its new #McQueenMusic Spotify playlist. Moreover, Christian Dior’s Designer of Dreams fashion exhibition, broadcast online from V&A South Kensington, charts the history of the fashion house – way back to 1947.  The exhibition has been a hit online, amassing hundreds of thousands of views in its opening days.

To return back to fashion’s move towards ethical business practices, something that resonates with consumers in the post-outbreak world, several high-end brands are supporting relief efforts and documenting their charitable efforts online. Louis Vuitton and Chanel have both announced via social media that workshops across the U.S. and Europe will now be used to create masks for donation. While Gucci has announced donations of millions of dollars to COVID related causes under the hashtag #GucciCommunity – showing how luxury brands are using online platforms to grow ethical brand identities.

In a move echoed by smaller fashion labels, several luxury brands are using creative new ways to build their brands and grow their cult following. The luxury sector is excelling at using digital platforms as an avenue for developing playful and engaging new ways to connect with their customer base and reach more consumers. Chloé has released Chloé Voices on their Instagram account, which features designers, artists, and singers sharing their skills and talents with the company’s online followers.


 Screenshot: Jimmy Choo

Luxury footwear brand Jimmy Choo has created Choo Sketch, in which the brand’s social media followers are encouraged to share shoe sketches – five of which will be chosen for a unique capsule collection. The project received 70 submissions in the first three hours alone – showing the high engagement rates such initiatives can generate – something many luxury brands will remember as lockdown begins to lift.

In addition, luxury fashion brands have taken tradeshows, showrooms, and fashion shows online. For example, the Haute Couture and Paris Men’s Fashion Week will both take place online this summer. Moves that could become more deeply embedded into the culture of fashion as calls for a greener industry continue to intensify.

Fashion Brands Look to the Future – Is Digital the New Normal?

Successful fashion brands have reveled in the creativity and innovation that digital avenues have provided them since lockdown began. For example, the BoF highlights the rise of virtual showrooms that offer an immersive, interactive online experience. Moreover, innovative tech – from 3D-printed clothes to the incorporation of virtual reality – are predicted to be a part of the new fashion normal as the industry moves more into the digital landscape.

Digital fashion company Loanhood notes, “As we adopt most of ourselves online, particularly the new Gen Z’ers and digital natives, it seems necessary that fashion should look to tech to adapt to virtual environments. As technology advances, so does the realism of virtual fashion and, as a result, this can have beneficial results of reducing fashion’s impact on our planet.”

Is Digital Set to Last in the Fashion Industry?

Several brands within fashion are thriving in the digital realm. Lockdown has helped accelerate the inevitable digital evolution of the fashion industry and the most forward-thinking brands will continue to grow their digital reach beyond lockdown.