Words by Bethanie Ashton for O2 Monde
Last year in Lower Manhattan, as luxury retailers Dolce Gabbana, Louis Vuitton and Chanel boarded up their stores during the worst looting binge since the 1977 New York Blackouts; the vast population continued their obsession with shopping – this time, online, undeterred by retail closures or the worsening pandemic outside.
Soho businesses boarded up stores after violent looting in 2020
The online commerce sector grew by 44% in 2020 year on year, likely bolstered by new buying power as home refinancing reached an all-time blockbuster high. Online spending topped $861B in the U.S., further supported by the wave of ‘shop now pay later’ customer financing startups such as AfterPay, SplitIt, Klarna, Sizzle and Affirm.
But how did our behaviors toward shopping change?
In April 2020, McKinsey surveyed millennials in the UK and Germany and reported that 57% had already made significant changes to their lifestyle to lessen their environmental footprint; more than 60% reported going out of their way to purchase products in environmentally friendly packaging; while 67% consider sustainable materials, where virgin synthetics cause a deal breaker.
Brand loyalty is today less important to the millennial and Gen Z market, who are instead driven by a brand’s commitment to social and environmental welfare. If indeed brands (including heritage labels that line the streets of SoHo, considered emblematic for more than a century) can no longer rely on customer loyalty, at least within the millennial market (who dominate online spending), they must now focus on product integrity.
The industry has seen a dramatic increase in the use of science and technology to develop and pioneer sustainability; not only in AI (machine learning) but 3D modeling, renewable energies, waste management efficiencies such as food scrap or ocean waste engineered into wearable, durable leathers.
Recycled waste from grapes or natural wood: just a few examples of renewable materials that can be used as an alternative to traditional leather
Since the Rana Plaza Collapse (Bangladesh, 2013), The True Cost (documentary, 2015), #whomademyclothes movement (Fashion Revolution, 2013) and Covid-19, the consideration of ethics is not only a humane responsibility, it is highly lucrative. 63% of millennials surveyed in McKinsey’s earlier report, were equally as persuaded to shop based on a brand’s traceability.
Consumers are now searching for a deeper connection with a brand and its value system. An increase in the use of QR codes and NFC chips sewn into products allow customers to follow a product’s journey from plantation to mill, the dying house, onto hand-worked detailing as a product is stitched together and tucked inside biodegradable packaging.
O2 Monde shoe box made of recycled paper with a message to remind to either reuse or recycle the shoe box itself
Finally and no less important, is a brand’s commitment to the UN’s Sustainability Development Goals (SDG) and support of social enterprise could almost be described as a new prerequisite; from forest regeneration, Say No to Plastic, the 1%, women’s health and education.
O2 Monde is a proud certified member of 1% For The Planet and Peta
As customers realize their position of control over what and how brand’s present to us, how might this behavioral change in shopping radically impact fashion and largely, our Earth?
Over the next month, O2 Monde will interview top ethical influencers, from fashion to music and food, for their insights and ideas about radical transparency and the transformation in consumer behavior.