No matter where you sit in any retail supply chain today — whether you are a supplier, a manufacturer, a brand or a retailer — you have to pay attention to the end consumer more than ever. Consumers want to connect with the products and brands they select and feel good about their choices.
Three retail megatrends are driving this movement toward connection:
One: The brand-belonging umbrella
A couple of years ago, IBM's iX services consultancy conducted a global study about brand belonging, examining 172 brands across six categories. The study found that top-performing brands cultivate a feeling of belonging in their customers through everyday enrichment; create a compelling relationship through shared values; and build trustworthy excitement, often with dependability. Collectively, when considering consumers in social contexts, the top brands were also found to inspire connectedness through building an empowered community; engender feelings of community and optimism, including by demonstrating social responsibility; and constantly improve their products, services and the customer experience through innovation.
As IBM blogger Kelly Mooney noted about the study: "While all these drivers are important, leading brands are combining them in powerful ways to create exceptional experience strategies that appeal to people’s individual and collective needs."
Likewise, even companies further downstream in the supply chain in B2B channels, such as suppliers, have to always think of the end consumer, ultimately transforming into B2B2C, consumer-focused organizations.
Two: Fueling and connecting the circular economy
Consumers are embracing the circular economy, which eliminates waste and makes continual use of resources by reusing, sharing, repairing, refurbishing, remanufacturing or recycling to create a closed-loop system that minimizes the use of resources and conserves energy.
For example, apparel and accessories, including fast fashion — once considered disposable — are being repurposed as both brick-and-mortar and online retailers appeal to consumers' growing desire to reduce waste. Besides long-established resale sites, such as eBay, niche apparel and accessory resellers are gaining popularity, such as Poshmark, a "social commerce" reseller, and The RealReal, an online reseller and retailer of luxury goods.
The drive to capture customers in today's omnichannel environment has produced strange bedfellows among ostensible competitors. These collaborations happen in the circular economy; for example, online consignment site thredUP has partnered with J.C. Penney and Macy’s to feature thredUP resale boutiques inside their stores.
Further downstream the supply chain, Lenzing, an Austria-based manufacturer of specialty fibers, stands for eco-responsible production process in the materials it supplies retailers, manufacturers and brands worldwide for apparel production. "At Lenzing, our business model and strategies fit into the natural circle of the circular economy, where our fibers are produced by environmentally responsible processes from wood, a sustainably sourced, natural resource and other raw materials. Our fibers are biodegradable, compostable and can fully revert back to nature," said Krishna Manda, senior manager of sustainability integration at Lenzing.
A contributor to the circular economy, Lenzing has developed its pioneering REFIBRA™ technology, which is used to upcycle a substantial proportion of cotton scraps from garment production, in addition to sustainable virgin wood pulp. These raw materials are transformed to produce new virgin TENCEL™ Lyocell fibers to make fabrics and garments. The industry-leading recycling technology uses both pre-consumer and post-consumer textile waste as raw materials while reducing the extraction of wood as a raw material, conserving global forest resources.
Three: Establishing sustainable fashion
Apparel is the world’s second-worst polluting industry, behind only energy. Did you know that most fabric fibers take decades to decompose? Because apparel production increases each year and the world consumes approximately 80 billion new pieces of clothing every year, innovative companies are turning toward more sustainable manufacturing practices, and it starts with sourcing and fiber production.
Responsible manufacturers or fiber producers such as Lenzing are committed to offering sustainable solutions. Its flagship product, TENCEL™ Lyocell fiber, is a 100% biodegradable fiber made from renewable, responsibly managed wood sources.
Lenzing also contributes to a partnership of using TENCEL™ branded fibers to create a biodegradable activewear fabric offering greater breathability and abrasion resistance, which speaks to the consumer’s drive for sustainable, durable products that will endure over a normal product life cycle. The new activewear fabric combines with Solvay's Amni® Soul Eco, the world's first biodegradable yarn designed to decompose within five years, made of sustainable nylon on the front, with TENCEL™ Lyocell fibers on the back.
Lenzing is committed to socially responsible partnerships with global textile and nonwoven
manufacturers that drive technological innovation in sustainable fabrics. Being a participant in the U.N. climate-change initiative, Lenzing is also active in the Make Fashion Circular initiative by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
"At Lenzing, we are dedicated to driving sustainability and making our world a better place. We believe in the concept of circular economy and that it plays a paramount role in solving the current climate-change challenge," Manda said.