If you’re like many and wonder why certain trends like “Y2K fashion” or “power bohemian flowers” seem to explode out of nowhere, you can thank social media. While it’s good to understand where these trends are coming from, it can be harder to understand how to harness online inspiration and channel it into real-life fashion offerings.
As Fashion Snoops (FS), a consumer intelligence and trend forecasting company, recently pointed out in a webinar titled “How to Track Trends Using Social Media”, trends are increasingly driven by consumers and influenced by multiple sources – from niche influencers and internet-first brands to celebrities and designers.
“While the traditional adoption rate of a trend was around one to two years, today’s trends can go viral in just a few weeks and have a varied shelf life of years, just a few month or even a week,” explained Fashion Snoops’ Jenna Guarascio, vice president, content strategy. “Not only are brands now required to react differently, but they are also required to anticipate and interpret trends for future assortment. If you know where and how to look, social media can be leveraged to help you better predict your consumers’ expectations and make more informed decisions at every stage of the product development process.
Guarascio advised brands to define and segment the different types of profiles they want to follow. For example, while it’s important to follow celebrities, it’s also important to look at brands and people who are either ahead of the curve or more specialized and outside of a mass market sensibilities. It’s also important to know what to track to determine if a brand is at the peak of popularity or could be used for future assortments or branding strategies. But the most important factor, she says, is why these trends are happening.
“How are consumer expectations changing and why are they driving this desire for new products? Guarascio asked. “The answer is what we at FS call cultural sentiments, which we identify at the start of every seasonal forecast to really set the stage for what to expect from a product and design perspective. are just the starting point, as there are various sources and influences that follow and define a trend throughout its life cycle.
Sentiment around social media’s influence on style also varies. When asked about their sources of fashion inspiration, 33% of women and 26% of men cited social media, according to the Cotton Incorporated 2022 lifestyle monitor™Survey. This percentage climbs to 50% among consumers aged 13 to 24 and remains high at 40% among those aged 25 to 34. It drops to 25% among those aged 35 to 54 and to 9% among those aged 56 to 70.
Among young consumers, social media is the second most popular influence behind what they already own and love (67%), according to Monitor™research.
The most popular sites for fashion ideas are Instagram (73%), TikTok (52%), Facebook (49%), YouTube (45%), Pinterest (42%), Snapchat (23%), Twitter (22 %), and Tumblr (5%), depending on the Monitor™research.
Among Gen Z consumers, Instagram is the favorite (78%), followed by TikTok (71%), Pinterest (49%), YouTube (40%) and Snapchat (23%), according to Monitor™ search. Facebook only comes in at 17%, followed by Twitter (14%) and Tumblr (3%).
Interestingly, YPulse, a market research company focused on Gen Z and Millennials, discovered that fashion trends on TikTok’s For You page aren’t always what’s worn in real life. More than half of 13-39 year olds told YPulse they only wear an outfit to take a photo or video for social media. Almost two-thirds (61%) say their style on social media is how they want others to perceive them. And a quarter of young people say they’ve worn comfortable clothes to a location just to change out for a social media shoot.
YPulse also found that while younger generations “may seem like their buying decisions revolve only around the latest #core, their go-to style remains pandemic-chic: casual and comfortable.” Almost half (47%) say their style of social media is different from their everyday life. In fact, comfort continues to rule their everyday clothing choices, “which is why mom jeans and sweatshirts continue to be off-line uniforms.” Most respondents (74%) say their everyday style is governed by comfortable ‘basics’, and two-thirds say they would consider their favorite sweatshirt part of a dressy look if styled correctly, which extends the relevance of loungewear.
Another warning for brands: consumers are unlikely to buy directly from social media. So far, around 20% of all consumers have purchased a product on social media by clicking on a link or image, according to the 2020 Monitor™data. People between the ages of 35 and 55 are most likely to do so. Going forward, only 30% say they are likely to purchase an item directly from the social media platform where they first spotted it.
After Guarascio explained the genesis and life cycle of a fashion trend on social media – like Barbiecore, defined by a range of pink hues in clothing and accessories – it became clear that some of these trends “virals” have actually increased over time, with a legion of influences putting them forward. Plus, the weight of a hashtag can give legs to a look that already exists (think coastal grandma). And pop culture can accelerate a trend although it’s usually not the initial manifestation.
“Trends are no longer linear,” Guarascio said. “They are a multi-level ecosystem. Social media can influence a trend at different stages of the lifecycle, sometimes reactivating or extending its relevance. There’s normally a lot going on under this layer that speaks more to how consumers feel and what they expect or need. From this point of view, understanding the needs and expectations of consumers really helps to define a clear and predictable path.
The Cotton Incorporated Lifestyle Monitor™ is an ongoing research program that measures consumer attitudes and behaviors around clothing, shopping, fashion, sustainability, and more.
For more information on the Lifestyle Monitor™ survey, please visit https://lifestylemonitor.cottoninc.com/.