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Understanding Consumer Buying Behavior: The 2 Major Motivators of Fashion Consumption

by Svenja Solveig Pleye

We already talked about how important it is to be customer-orientated and consistent in your brand’s storytelling, but what it all comes down to is what drives consumer behavior. Understanding our customer’s reasoning and motivation behind their purchase enables us to influence them in their decision-making and ultimately boost our sales. If you’re in the Fashion sector – which I’ll just assume given that you’re reading this blog – you do know, however, that especially in our field there are a lot of intangible motives for your customers to buy a certain dress or accessory. So how can you actually predict and understand consumer behavior? – Keep reading.

Fashion is one of the biggest consumption fields, where it’s not only about our own needs and desires but about the expectations from our social environment. That’s why we can categorize our customers into two groups that feel an opposing dependence on this social component. So let’s deep dive into the two strongest motivators for fashion consumption:

#1 Aspiration

Most of all fashion consumers are highly motivated by aspiration, meaning that by wearing certain fashion pieces, they want to symbolize their belonging to a certain group. The consumed items of choice can be either piece which shows a certain lifestyle, such as luxury purses or shoes, or pieces that are part of a major current fashion trend – or combine the two such as the Saddle Bag. Either way, following these self-set item requirements, is viewed as a way to show that consumers are on-vogue as they define themselves through the reassurance of their aspired social group. The ultimate motivator is being able to ’’fit in’’. Thus, aspirational consumers or shoppers, as I call them, are very receptive to opinion leaders like influencers. As you probably know, influencers have a lot of power and impact on consumer buying behavior. People look up to bloggers like Chiara Ferragni – who’s one of the highest-paid fashion influencers by the way – as they are the ones who tell you the latest trends ‘’one must be wearing to count’’. Did you like Chiara’s look in her latest post? Aspirational shoppers will buy it simply because they got a lot of positive feedback on it and they want that praise too. Technically, the post was marketing the Mini Lady DIOR bag, of course, she didn’t say so and the caption read something that had nothing to do with the photo posted but hey, who makes the rules, right? And who really cares as long as they could own a fashion piece which is Chiara-approved?

When trying to target this particular group – and I would highly recommend you to, as most consumers are motivated by aspiration – it is highly advisable to have someone like Chiara showcase your brand. By someone notable talking about your fashion, it is inevitable for your fashion to become notable itself.

#2 Dissociation

Nevertheless, there is also a small percentage of consumers who reject the consumption of certain fashion items out of principle. The dissociated groups are usually the ones who blindly follow trends and would wear anything just to fit in, such as our aspirational shoppers. This in turn means that some fashion items won’t be bought due to the fact that they are currently popular. You probably remember those days in which no one with a little self-respect or fashion sense would have ever left their house in joggers, right? Those days that are far behind us, long before the pandemic? Well, I’m sure you also know what became super popular and trendy when COVID-19 hit, that’s right: Loungewear. However, our consumers who are motivated mainly by dissociation, would still not wear joggers past their doorstep, no matter how many loungewear pieces Cosmopolitan showcases. These true-fashionistas pretty much follow the principle of designer legend Karl Lagerfeld who once said that ‘’sweatpants are a sign of defeat. You lost control of your life so you bought some sweatpants.’’. Obviously, this type of fashion consumer isn’t really receptive to influencers either. Just because someone with a lot of followers said that a particular style was cool, they won’t be buying it – They need more than that.

This makes dissociation consumers harder to target, but also very valuable when you sparked their interest as they will be the ones inspiring aspirational shoppers to join them. After all, the most important thing for our dissociation consumers is to not be considered part of the crowd, but to be unique and a trendsetter themselves.

If you learned anything today by reading this post, I hope it’s to first understand what mindset you’re consumers are shopping with to be able to target the best in the future. An aspirational consumer will most likely purchase your brand when you work with notable fashion influencers and offer them trendy pieces. Opposite to this, you’ll only catch a dissociative consumer’s attention if you not only serve the current time spirit but also offer classic fashion items which the fashionistas can turn into a trend themselves. After all, once we fully understand our customers’ decision-making, we’re able to influence them better into feeling the desire of buying our fashion and loving it – and that’s what we’re all here for.

Did this post get you excited and craving for more? This was just the beginning! – Stay tuned for next week’s post where you’ll learn another interesting facet of the world of Fashion Marketing.

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