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Despite slow consumer adoption, fashion brands are using customization

More fashion brands are following the beauty market’s lead by introducing product customization options that make each purchase feel tailor-made.
With major brands like Nike, Coach and Burberry already on board with the trend, smaller fashion retailers and DTC brands are following suit.Activewear company Alala, for example, now has an expanded customization program allowing buyers to customize leggings (starting at $185) with choice colorways, monograms and embroidery. Alala’s personalized orders are on the rise, said founder Denise Alala.
Over the past 12 months, the brand has seen a 100 percent increase in online orders with some facet of personalization. Alala owed the boost to an increased marketing push across channels and the brand’s expanded customization options.These personalization efforts capitalize on the growing demand for made-for-me products. Research from theDeloitte Consumer Review showed more than 50 percent of consumers are interested in purchasing highly customized products.
“This is a trend that will continue to grow, especially when customization is framed within fashions attempts for greater sustainability,” said brand strategist Ana Andjelic. “The technology is already here to make decentralized manufacturing a reality, and it’s not just going to change the way apparel is made; it’s going to change patterns of consumption and behavior.”Andjelic said she’s seen these shifts reflected in recent brand moves, as well. For example, Ministry of Supply’s launch of 3D knitting in its Boston flagship may signal the future of transparent fashion production, distribution and consumption.If even a small portion of a retailer’s goods are made on-demand, it could slash significant costs, as there would be no risk of getting stuck with unwanted inventory. On-demand manufacturing would also allow brands to react on-the-fly to trends, an increasingly powerful weapon at a time when social media is acting as rocket fuel for fashion fads.
Finally, it could help retailers meet the expectations of customers increasingly seeking one-of-a-kind goods.
While more brands are buying into the need for customized offerings, consumers aren’t consistently taking the bait.
A few recent flops at the intersection of fashion and personalization may cause brands to pause and reconsider before diving into similar efforts around personalization.Take Zozo, for example.In January, Zozo, Japan’s largest fashion retailer, announced it was cutting its projected operating profit from $360 million down to $240 million. The reason: The Zozosuit, the brand’s black bodysuit that works with an app to take custom measurements, failed to bring in the surge of custom orders and glowing praise the brand expected.Custom-made shoe retailer Shoes of Prey also fumbled in the realm of personalization. The brand’s founder Jodie Fox announced on Instagram in August that the brand would no longer be taking custom, on-demand orders due to the fact that it was never able to crack mass-market adoption.
The growing trend of fashion personalization and customization doesn’t come without its own unique set of challenges. Fashion brands offering custom orders have to find a way to integrate one-off orders into their supply chain management and logistics workflows, all while considering its impact on production time and delivery as it relates to the overall customer experience.For DTC fashion brands like Cuyana, these are hurdles worth overcoming. “We saw a big opportunity around customization, particularly given how much our products are gifted,” said Cuyana CEO Karla Gallardo.
“We decided to manage monogramming in-house and have developed a fulfillment operation allowing us to ship monogrammed orders same-day.”As more fashion retailers look to personalization as a competitive differentiator, it will be important to consider its ripple effects as well as its potential perks.“Offering elements of personalization has made a positive impact on our overall customer satisfaction ratings,” said Gallardo, “But what we really like is how they allow our customers to establish a stronger emotional connection with the brand.”

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