3 Mobile Marketing Strategies to Keep Fashion Retailers Relevant During COVID-19

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Fashion has been hit hard by COVID-19. Mandatory stay-at-home orders, layoffs and the shift to remote working have squeezed household budgets and changed consumer buying behavior. In response, fashion retailers have had to rethink their marketing strategies for 2020, struggling to answer the following question: how do we stand out from the crowded online retail space to reach and resonate with the consumer? COVID-19?

Brands that historically relied on in-person interactions, poster ads, and mailbox coupons to drive sales are now struggling to retain customers. But all hope is not lost. While some shoppers will still tighten their belts, others are increasing their online spending, buying luxury “feel-good” items and essentials for staying at home.

To avoid further revenue losses and appeal to this emerging consumer, savvy fashion retailers are adopting new mobile and online marketing strategies.

1. Prioritize empathy over in-store sales

Before the outbreak, fashion retail was navigating the e-commerce boom, using mobile marketing to increase foot traffic in physical stores. However, in-person shopping became a moot point when storefronts closed in March.

At the start of the pandemic, brands changed their language to focus on communicating empathy – relaying safety and support plans to employees, as well as store closures and reopening forecasts. Macy’s, for example, has shifted messaging from sales to store updates and charities (eg, a partnership with Meals on Wheels).

Going forward, empathy should remain at the heart of your messaging. The pandemic is underway and customers will remain concerned about safety protocols, store closures and corporate liability for some time.

2. Modify messaging to fit today’s lifestyle

Prior to COVID-19, messaging was environment-agnostic and relatively neutral, focusing on level 1.0 personalization (first name, last name, date of birth) and generic wording, like “clothes you’ll love”. It’s much more effective to contextualize messages to specific situations, like personal vacations, work situations, and booming social trends.

In stay-at-home orders, fashion brands that embarked on specific messaging to promote products that fit customers’ new, more sedentary lifestyles and casual work environments saw the best results. Rent the Runway, for example, which previously focused on a wide range of formal and professional wear, has pivoted 180 degrees to promote work-from-home fashion and outfits for digital events.

Other fashion brands have chosen this home workout class boom to promote fitness apparel or launch partnership campaigns with fitness brands (e.g. J. Crew and New Balance).

3. Promote lesser-known products and services

The pandemic has dramatically changed consumer spending habits, with the recession forcing many to question what purchases were truly essential. For some retailers, like grocers and pharmacies, the necessity of the product was never in question.

Fashion retailers faced a different narrative. To boost sales, some fashion retailers turned to marketing lesser-known items like home decor, fitness accessories and electronics that more closely matched customer needs than wants. As a result, home essentials have seen a surge in demand during the pandemic as more consumers spend time cooking for themselves, redecorating and completing long-delayed home improvement projects.

Many aspects of the home lifestyle will become the norm. Some consumers will prefer to work out at home or work remotely after months of quarantine, and consumers will continue to buy fashion items to meet these unique needs. It is ultimately up to marketers to understand the specific retail needs of their customers during a crisis and tailor messaging and product offerings to meet those demands.

Empathy, modification of messages and promotional changes are essential strategies to follow in responding to unprecedented change, and their value is timeless, independent of the global pandemic or cultural shifts.

Michael Huard is Director of Content Marketing at Iterable.

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