The fashion industry has been pushing for sustainability for some time now. However, soaring inflation and economic turmoil over the past few months have forced people to change their buying habits. How is inflation affecting consumer sentiment in the sustainable fashion industry, and what should retailers prioritize as consumers tighten their spending? Recent research by Nosto attempts to find out.
Over the past few years, people around the world have taken significant climate action. While governments and organizations take certain measures, ordinary people also take concrete measures. For example, sustainable fashion has been in high demand over the past decade as public awareness of the industry’s environmental impact continues to increase. Blind consumerism has drawn harsh criticism from activists and the government. At the same time, consumers are reassessing their values and paying more attention to sustainability.
Taken together, there has been significant disruption to the world economy over the past few months. There are several factors driving inflation up, and people are already feeling the effects. Experts predict a recession is imminent. As a result, global consumers are forced to change their spending habits.
So, how is the economic crisis affecting consumer sentiment in the sustainable fashion industry? Is it sustainable? If consumers tighten their spending, what should retailers prioritize? Nosto recently conducted a study to find out.
Price takes precedence over sustainability
The study found that 57% of respondents still want the fashion industry to be more sustainable. That said, 61% are more concerned about price as inflation increases. Even high-income groups tend to agree with this. Additionally, 55% believe sustainable fashion products are too expensive. Only about 39% said they would pay more for sustainably made fashion items.
Does that mean retailers may have to offer more accessibility to help consumers continue to embrace it as inflation is worsening?
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Shoppers ready to wait longer for greener deliveries
One way retail businesses can get consumers to support sustainable products at a reasonable cost is through their delivery services. For example, 41% of consumers are willing to pay more for greener online order delivery. But 54% of respondents said they would have no problem with slowing deliveries if the number of truck trips and carbon emissions could be reduced. Given the fashion industry’s growing expectations of fast delivery, it’s encouraging to see consumers gear up for sustainability.
People don’t want to pay for returns, but are open to ways to prevent returns
Returns are one of the biggest concerns in the fashion industry and a pressure on the environment. Return rates take a heavy toll on retailers and the environment. Many brands have even started charging customers for returns to stop it.
For consumers, however, charging a return fee is the least preferred method. That said, 49% believe returns are bad for the environment. They also showed good receptivity to other ideas that did not involve the cost of preventing returns. Some of these ideas are:
- Display User Generated Content (UGC) to better reflect the product
- Ensure product information is clear
- It is convenient for buyers to check products online. For example, live chat.
Over 60% of respondents believe each of these approaches is feasible, suggesting that the return crisis can be resolved without affecting sales.
Customers want to store clothes longer, but don’t think retailers can
While returns are an issue, research has found that many people don’t think clothes are built to last. About 58% of consumers want to keep their clothes long-term to protect the environment. However, 54% don’t think they will last. This seems to increase the demand for repair services. Some 42% had to throw their clothes away because they couldn’t repair it, while 60% believed that offering repairs would make fashion sustainable.
Are there gaps in retailers creating or driving repair services? Will they find a way to solve current problems associated with providing repair services?
Broken sustainability promises force consumers to look to others for guidance
Consumers always scrutinize brand claims. Even many well-known brands have been exposed under the lens of “washing green”. Last year, the Dutch CRA investigated H&M and Decathlon for neither fully explaining nor justifying the sustainability of their claimed products. Naturally, consumer trust has been declining over the past few years.
According to the study, 54% of consumers do not trust fashion brands’ statements about their sustainability commitments. Some 68% of those who expect fashion to be sustainable are more concerned with what others say than what brands say. There is consumer skepticism, and people want to get proof of sustainability before buying a product. As people trust other shoppers, brands may have to consider leveraging social proof to reassure consumers.
Shoppers need a clearer understanding of product sustainability
The lack of clarity on what is sustainable does not contribute to consumer skepticism. The study found that 55% of people are confused about understanding which clothing is sustainable. Even 68% of those who want to be sustainable and are more likely to have a better understanding of what to look for are not sure if a product is sustainable.
The problem for brands is that sustainability covers several complex issues, from the origin of raw materials to how garments are packaged and shipped. Brands cannot simply label products as “sustainable” without understanding every step in the supply chain. Furthermore, their concerns about misleading consumers are justified.
So how can brands clearly communicate which of their products and elements are actually sustainable in order to help consumers identify them?
See more: 5 User-Generated Content Ideas to Turn Customers into Fans in 2021
Overall, soaring inflation has exacerbated the financial barriers to supporting sustainable fashion. Clearly, to encourage consumers to embrace sustainable fashion, retail and fashion businesses must improve the affordability and availability of relevant options, especially when inflation is rife.
Consumers expect fashion to be sustainable. While they are looking for brands to make it possible, they are also willing to take responsibility when relevant options are available.
Fashion retailers can take the following actions in response to consumer demand:
- For greener deliveries, retailers can offer options that require longer delivery times.
- Instead of charging a return fee, brands can find other ways to reduce returns.
- To help customers keep products longer, retailers can introduce repair services or raise awareness about such services.
- Brands should seek to use UGC to alleviate doubts and build trust.
- Retailers making sustainability claims should also look for other ways to build relationships with consumers.
- Retailers should make it clear to people in their communications what is sustainable and what is not in their merchandise.
Taking these concrete steps will allow consumers to continue to support sustainable fashion and the growth of the industry.
What steps are you taking to support consumer perceptions of sustainable fashion?share with us Facebook, Twitterand LinkedIn.
Image Credit: Shutterstock
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