The NPD Group has teamed up with Stylitics to produce a report entitled 'The New Handbag Customer Revealed 2016' which documents the evolution of the Millennial shopping movement within the U.S. handbag market. By extension, the report by NDP – a marketing research company helping retailers and manufacturers identify market trends to make smarter business decisions – provides insight into the buying trends of Millennial customers in the fashion market and indeed in the retail sphere generally.
Firstly, shopping style is changing. The report reveals that 41% of customers spend over a month researching and scanning the market before making a purchase. This increasingly cautious approach to buying does not signal lower spending habits - in fact, a reported $11.5 billion was spent on handbags in the U.S. in 2015 by women aged 18 and over; representing a 5% increase in handbag sales from the previous year. What it does indicate is the customer's need to feel that they are well-informed about the products available on the market before committing to a purchase. Marketing methods will need to adapt to cater to this.
Secondly, shopping routes are changing. The report identifies that 61% of customers take the first explorative steps in their product research process online (notwithstanding the fact they may later opt to additionally browse and/or purchase the desired item in-store). Retailers whose online platforms are not sufficiently sophisticated to inspire and trigger purchases will find themselves at a significant disadvantage.
Thirdly, shopping habits are changing. Purchasing patterns of Millennial shoppers are unlike those of previous generations - "this customer starts with specific product attributes, not brand, when looking for her next handbag" (Rohan Deuskar, CEO and co-founder of Stylitics). These customers have lower brand loyalty and place far less importance on the name attached to an item than brands may expect. Well-established brands are not safe to rest on their laurels; product development strategies need to be sharper than ever.
In short: This generation demands more from their shopping experience. If retailers wish to stay ahead of the game they need to be diligent to meet the ever-evolving needs of the shopper.
Paula Lee Levitan is a partner in Bryan Cave LLP’s London office, managing the international legal affairs of public and private retail and consumer product companies, and handling the legal aspects of investment activities in the sector. Nicola Conway is a Trainee Solicitor at Bryan Cave in London.