As the world continues to evolve to fit the needs of a post-COVID landscape, we may wonder – will digital experiences replace physical?
We’re here to tell you that’s far from the truth.
Physical experiences have shaped retail to expand to what it is today, with consumers at the forefront. We’ve seen a lot of pure-play digital-only business models in recent years, however they’re simply not sustainable. Most of them, in fact, end up opening brick-and-mortar stores in order to adapt to an omnichannel approach for long-term results.
And now, with millions of Americans on lockdown amid the COVID-19 pandemic, technology has become more prevalent than ever, but that doesn’t always mean it’s the preferred method. Many stay-at-home orders have already been lifted and communities have returned to life that is (somewhat) normal, and with that comes a lot of pent-up demand among consumers to return to physical stores.
The fashion world has heavily influenced consumer retail and its evolution through the years. Recently, high-profile fashion shows during fashion week have gone digital amidst the pandemic. Chanel’s first virtual show used pieces that had already been released, to show transformative garments against video and photo backdrops. However, many fashion critics pointed out that it didn’t match the same experience as physical shows. Critics noted the fashion pieces chosen should have had a “working from home” feel (which they clearly didn’t) in order to fit into viewer’s current lifestyles. Using backdrops also didn’t feel the same from an audience’s perspective, which allows fashion show goers to travel around the world to places like Cuba and Dubai to attend shows.
Fashion shows have evolved into facets of storytelling. Fashion brands use their garments and the individuals who wear them to tell a story, and this is what makes people feel connected to the clothing. To be able to use that connection and bond over fashion with other individuals in one room is empowering. You lose that sense of feeling when you attempt to replace it with a digital experience. Consumers want to physically see a brand and their products come to life.
It’s safe to say that virtual fashion shows weren’t as successful as some brands thought they would be. However, with this experience it is important to take into consideration what needs to change in the future. Using fashion shows to really enhance sustainability and show a story behind each piece of clothing. Instead of going back to “normal” fashion shows, brands will need to create physical experiences that also offer an expression of creativity, even if it’s in unorthodox ways.
This further proves that we are far from a world where digital replaces physical. In fact, that will probably never happen. Physical experiences are directly correlated to the five major human senses. It is our biological and psychological need to live in a world where we use our sight and touch, especially when we are purchasing items. We are wired to experience the things around us through physical senses, that can never be replaced by a new digital reality, no matter how advanced or sophisticated that technology may be.