Challenges and Opportunities in Global Fashion Discovery and Shopping

Catering to the global consumer in the modern digital world presents a myriad of opportunities but also encloses serious challenges for all players in the retail and service industries. The market is changing at such a fast pace that the consumption process itself is driving numerous changes in the value chain, undergoing serious shifts in how the consumer interacts with brands and retailers.

However, a few questions remain — who is this global consumer that brands and retailers wish to target? What are they looking for? Is it a product or an experience? Is the path to get there more important than the outcome and the act of shopping itself? And what is the secret sauce that will keep consumers' attention across the board, in a digital world in which socio-demographic segments remain clear but with lessening barriers to trade?

Although these issues apply to all industries, fashion discovery, inspiration, and shopping in a mobile digital world is one example of a market in which borders are disappearing, with brands wishing to cater more and more across the board to a diverse global fashion consumer. Within this framework, analyzing the mobile consumer may not give us all the answers to these questions, but it's a great place to start. We all spend more and more time on our phones, and although the social side of life is arguably the main driver for this, we still find the need to shop for the latest products, keeping up not only with what the market projects at us as our needs and wants but also with what our peers do and the way that both those effects impact ourselves as individuals.

With emerging markets in Asia or Latin America becoming critical for brands that wish to affirm themselves as key players in the global retail market, and with the world's eyes focused on Brazil with the World Cup occurring in mid-2014, let's analyze behaviors in this very fashionable, fast-growing economy as one of the benchmarks that brands have to keep up with to guarantee growth, relevance, and sustained brand value in an increasingly competitive global market.

We can start by stating that contextual engagement is fast becoming king, even in a market traditionally driven by category as fashion retail. Consumers are increasingly looking not for a pair of black high-heeled shoes but for a pair of shoes to wear to that special occasion. Not just that, but shopping isn't only about catalogues anymore — context is not only about what to wear for that specific occasion but almost more so about how others have worn it beforehand and how consumers can build on that to create their own unique riff. The global fashion consumer looks for a mix of relatable and aspirational tastemakers (from both a geographic and socio-demographic standpoint), and brands and publishers that can find this equilibrium can maximize their engagement across the social digital world.

Building on the fast-paced world we live in, the cycle is increasingly becoming smaller, and it's not only about the news anymore. Consumers want to know what's the latest, across the board, and are willing to put the effort into keeping up. And it's not only about individual relationships with brands anymore — fear of missing out is a real thing, with consumers reacting strongly to suggestions that others in their circle might have a leg up on them (although this effect seems to be strongest in Latin American markets on the Gleam platform, others are not far behind). This has strong implications for the shopping arena, and brands that can explore this effect to their best advantage in a positive light may create a key competitive advantage in their gain of share of mind with the consumer.

But it's not only about attention; at the end of the day, it's about share of wallet and how interactions across the spectrum of the global digital world can be converted into sales. And this is where the mobile world has both its biggest challenge and opportunity. Users have clear attention cycles, with behavior becoming more uniform across the board — from when consumers search for inspiration to when they're most willing to shop, from sharing patterns to how they interact with products and services in their own private sphere. The global fashion consumer is always on (really, we know, and we're not only talking about the outliers here) and always searching for the latest everything; they just don't want to be let down once they've been enchanted, whether by a logistical, practical, or legal impediment — it's all the same to them. All we have to do in this fast-changing scenario is to remember who our target consumer is and where they are and manage to convey constant excitement and drive ongoing engagement, and from brands to retailers, media to publishers, we'll all be fine.