Fashion trends are characterised by highly variable consumer preferences and rapidly changing tastes. You may ask –What is the role of ‘consumer sentiment’ in the success of sustainable fashion revolution? In what ways can consumers be more conscious about how their purchasing decision has a direct effect on the environment and more importantly, contribute to the fashion revolution?
Today, consumers use multifarious platforms from co-creations to social networks such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, to express their emotions about brands. Although sustainability is not a new concept in the fashion industry, its acceptance by masses is still meagre.
While it is important to make fashion brands and retailers commit towards inducing a difference in their business models, a truly sustainable future of the industry would be impossible without focusing on the consumer’s side of the equation. It is known that the fashion industry is still readjusting itself to the new normal lifestyles started as a result of COVID-19 pandemic. A major portion of the global population today has become more concerned about sustainable alternatives to dailywear in fashion. The sentiment of concern has triggered an even better opportunity for brands to reiterate their sustainability models. Although fashion industry is yet to recover from the shock and uncertainty that the sector has undergone due to the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, a silver lining has been observed for the environment.
A report by Mckinsey, based on survey conducted on more than 2,000 consumers from Germany and UK in April 2020, has tried to capture the overall sentiment of consumers during COVID-19 outbreak. According to the report, about two-thirds of all the consumers surveyed,have expressed that limiting impacts of fashion on climate change has become even more important for them. Moreover, 88 percent of surveyed respondents believed that reducing ecological pollution needs more human attention. Also, research says that consumers have already started changing their choices to affect demands in the market. The report by Mckinsey further presents that 57 per cent of surveyed population made significant changes in their daily lifestyles in an attempt to reduce environmental impact, and more than 60 percent respondents have gone an extra mile by switching to environmental-friendly packaging and recycled fashion.
Another report titled Pulse of Fashion Industry is the result of a collaboration between the Global Fashion Agenda, Sustainable Apparel Coalition and The Boston Consulting Group. The report explores the efforts of global fashion industry to resolve persistent social, ethical and environmental challenges. The statistical findings revealed that more than 75 per cent of surveyed consumers consider sustainability as a topic of paramount significance, while 50 per cent consumers plan to find alternative brands if the other one offers more social concerns. However, when the survey was performed on practical choices, the figures were a bit less optimistic than the portrayed remarks.
A report on consumer sentiments towards two significant brands, Zara and Levi’s, mapped the purchaser’ tweets related to the two brands. The tweets and comments were analysed using Naïve Bayes classifier and Text mining, and the results from the study suggested that social media platforms such as Twitter can be used as a repository of a brand’s consumer sentiments and unbiased opinions. Sentimental analysis of the tweets indicated prevalence of specific fashion trends and the need for fashion brands to respond to the ever changing consumer demands as quickly as possible. The report says that customers of younger age groups tend to buy more of sustainable and low environmental-impacting garments.
In one recent survey published in the Harvard Business Review, 65 per cent respondents said they would love to buy purpose-driven, sustainable brands that advocate environmental conscience, yet only around 26 per cent of them actually did so. The study further quotes an ‘intention-action’ gap that is persistent due to experience-driven decision making. “People are influenced to install solar panels just because near neighbours have done so,” the report explains.
Withdrawing the power of influence is found to be one of the most effective ways to stimulate pro-environmental response in fashion consumption as well. Research shows that telling online consumers about where other people were buying eco-friendly products led to more than 65 per cent increase in making one sustainable product purchase. Telling shoppers that the norm to be followed was to not take too many items at once (rather, it was OK to return for the others) reduced waste by 20.5 per cent.
Thus, a major predictor of whether customers will switch to sustainability is whether their close-by relations have done so and benefited. Additionally, in the most dramatic outcomes, explaining millennials and students that their peers hoppers were ditching cars and bikes in order to adopt better sustainable modes of transportation (like car pool, cycling) led them to use the latter mode of transport five times more often, as did those who were simply given information about alternatives.