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Online, mindful, values-driven: Tapping into the post-pandemic consumer mindset.

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Life might be starting to look more like it did pre-pandemic, but the post-pandemic economy presents some new challenges for brands.

post-pandemic consumer mindset

There are certainly signs that we’re getting “back to normal.” People are getting out, going back to the office, and wanting to look good while they’re at it. This is all great news for fashion, apparel, footwear, and accessory brands.

Look beneath the surface, however, and it’s clear that we’re not really going “back.” We’re moving forward into a marketplace driven by new consumer habits.

Let’s take a look at what’s driving the post-pandemic economy today, and why customization is one powerful tool brands can use to tap into today’s consumer mindset.

Post-pandemic consumer trends.

As we head into the second quarter of 2022, it appears consumers are as eager to spend as ever.

According to pymnts.com, apparel sales were up 37.6 percent in January 2022, year-over-year. It makes sense. The return to in-person social life, events, and work means a desire to restock the wardrobe.

And consumers are eager to indulge themselves after two years of hiding out at home. The “homebody economy” – driven by purchases of workout equipment, furniture, home theaters, and other creature comforts – is leveling out. Outgoing lifestyle brands are back in.

All that looks very pre-pandemic. What’s changed isn’t so much what consumers are buying now, it’s the way they choose and how they prefer to buy. 

Trend #1: Online shopping.

There have been two huge shifts in the realm of ecommerce since the start of the pandemic. 

The first shift was pretty predictable: ecommerce growth. 

When brick-and-mortar stores began to close up, consumers turned to online shopping for things they never had before – like groceries.

And as marketing firm Acosta’s vice president for business intelligence predicted in August 2021, that preference for an online experience option will persist. 

“COVID-19 has significantly impacted consumer behavior and accelerated trends we were seeing prior to March 2020 … While many believe we’re headed towards normalcy, it is highly likely that certain pandemic-related shopping habits – particularly consumers’ reliance on e-commerce – are here to stay.”

It’s no secret that all brands, whether fashion, footwear, food, or anything in between, have a lot to gain by investing in direct ecommerce sales channels to meet this demand.

The second shift represents an unexpected challenge: loyalty-breaking.

As they have embraced online shopping, consumers seem to be more interested in experimentation, too.

According to retail marketing software vendor StoreYa, as 35 percent of shoppers plan to continue to shop online more post-pandemic, 46 percent are now less loyal to brands they love.

The big takeaway: As brands offer ecommerce to consumers, they’re only meeting the post-pandemic expectation. To stand out and win, retain, or win back loyalty, you have to exceed expectations.

And customization is a powerful way to do so. More on that below.

Trend #2: Mindful purchases.

Consumers are eager to spend, yes. But in the midst of historic inflation, they’re also more mindful of value.

Even higher-end brands, whose customer base is less concerned about rising prices, need to demonstrate unique value to maintain consumer engagement. 

As Forbes Business Council member David Yudis said, the key to cutting through questions of value is always to speak to what the consumer covets:

“When something is coveted, economics only matter in terms of emphasizing supply and demand. Personalization, customization and differentiation that separate a product or service from the competition will always stand out. The more [your brand] provides this for a consumer, offering the thing that only one or a few individuals can possess, the greater the boost will be to sales.”

Product customization allows you to tap into this inflation-proof emotion of coveting something unique, something special to the individual consumer.

A mass-produced product may feel like something you want, but ultimately a purchase you can put off. 

But apparel that you can customize into the perfect, unique gift for a loved one, or for yourself, and show off to the world? That’s something you covet. It feels like a high-priority, high-value purchase worth making now.

The big takeaway: When fashion brands offer something truly unique through customization, they’re tapping into an emotion that is more powerful than the rational weighing of value. The high-end consumer will feel the higher price is worthwhile and act accordingly.

Trend #3: Values-driven buying.

It seems like the pandemic amplified all the other concerns that were already on consumers’ minds. As a result, purchases in the post-pandemic economy are even more driven by personal values than they were before.

One of the most universal is a concern for the environment. 68 percent of consumers are actively seeking brands that are working to reduce their environmental impact.

Addressing these concerns is one of the greatest challenges our friends and clients in the fashion industry face today. Mass production and the rise of trendy, but also cheap and disposable fast fashion, are associated with staggering waste.

Alternatively, customizable, personalized fashion supports lean manufacturing processes that are more sustainable for the planet and people.

• Environmentally sustainable: Customized products have a return rate that is far lower than mass-produced products, leading to a significant reduction in waste.

• Socially sustainable: In the U.S., onshore custom manufacturing is a growing economic driver, creating good-paying, desirable jobs for American workers.

The big takeaway: By drawing connections with sustainability, your customizable fashion program can give you a powerful story to tell. Even a small step in this direction (e.g. a single product line) will provide welcome contrast with negative perceptions of the fashion industry.

Fashion customization is an effective way to differentiate yourself in the post-pandemic economy with great ROI.

There is plenty of evidence that the demand is there, and the investment is worthwhile. 

Consumers who want to design their own products are a big part of what’s sustaining the monumental growth of ecommerce. Those interested in custom products represent over a third of all consumers today!

These “customizers” are flocking to brands like DeFeet, The Sak, Volcom, and many others, eager to pay premium prices for the ability to make apparel their own. 

For example, another one of our clients, Corkcicle, has seen consumers pay up to 56 percent more for a customized tumbler. This incredible increase in order value makes the challenge of getting a custom manufacturing program off the ground well worth the effort. 

The return on investment can be incredible. According to Liveclicker, 90 percent of brands see up to a $20 return on every $1 they invest in product customization programs. 

JTB Custom can help end to end, from consumer experience to the factory floor.

We talk with so many brands who see these trends happening, want to tap into the opportunities and overcome the challenges, but just don’t know how to get started.

There are many ecommerce platforms out there that support customization programs. But what we find is that most don’t provide enough of the solutions brands need to get started.

Our software, SilhouetteTM, is a great start. It provides consumers with a fun and easy-to-use online shopping experience on the front end, and it provides you with comprehensive order management, production management, and fulfillment on the backend.

Like most brands, you probably have other questions beyond software, though:

• What equipment do I need for my customization program?
• How do we set up the factory floor for custom production?
• What adjustments do we have to make to our supply chain?
• What people do we need? What training do they need?

What sets JTB Custom apart as a leading provider of product customization services is our hands-on experience in the factory. We can help you get set up with your existing vendors, find new ones, or even manage production for you on a temporary or indefinite basis.

Bottom line, we will walk you through everything, step by step, and together get you started at a comfortable walk … with our sights set on running and eventually flying. Getting ahead of the post-pandemic economy. Winning the day.

If you’re ready, the first step is simple. Talk to an expert today.