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Consumer research

Consumer research provides information about consumer characteristics and consumer behavior.

Consumer research provides information about consumer characteristics and consumer behavior.

As previously noted in the section on Market Analysis, some forms of consumer research study broad trends in the marketplace. Other forms of consumer research focus on a company’s specific target customer.

Both are important for a fashion brand company to understand and plan for changes in the preferences and behaviors of the customers they are targeting for their products and services.

The State of Fashion 2019 (McKinsey & Co and Business of Fashion 2019, p. 16–17) identified ten overarching trends that are affecting the global fashion industries.

Global economy

  1. Caution Ahead: Key economic indicators reflect a possible slowdown in global economic growth, resulting in fashion companies exploring opportunities to increase productivity.
  2. Indian Ascent: “India becomes a focal point for the fashion industry as its middle-class consumer base grows and the manufacturing sector strengthens.”
  3. Trade 2.0: Uncertainties in international trade may lead to a “shake-up of global value chains.”

Consumer shifts

  1. End of Ownership: “The lifespan of the fashion product is becoming more elastic as pre-owned, refurbished, repair and rental business models continue to evolve.”
  2. Getting Woke: “Younger generations’ passion for social and environmental causes has reached critical mass, causing brands to become more fundamentally purpose-driven to attract both consumers and talent.”
  3. Now or Never: Fashion consumers seek to purchase products as they discover them; resulting in the need for “shorter lead times, improved availability of advertised products and new technologies such as visual search.”
  4. Radical Transparency: Consumers expect companies to “meet a new bar for consumer trust” with a“heightened level of transparency, value for money, creative integrity, and data protection.”

Fashion system

  1. Self-Disrupt: With a decrease in brand loyalty and new small emerging brands, traditional brands are beginning to disrupt their own business models and images.
  2. Digital Landgrab: E-commerce players will continue to innovate by adding profitable value-added services through acquisitions or internal research and development investments.
  3. On Demand: Agile, small-batch, made-to-order production that responds more rapidly to consumer demands and reduces overstock will become the norm.

Fashion brand companies, marketing research firms, and trade associations conduct research on how, where, what, and why consumers shop and purchase fashion goods and services.

Two broad categories of research focus on demographic information and psychographic information.

Demographic information

Research on demographics focuses on understanding the following characteristics of consumer groups:

  • age
  • gender
  • marital status
  • income
  • occupation
  • ethnicity
  • geographic location.

Psychographic information

Consumer research may also focus on psychographics. Psychographic characteristics of consumer groups include:

  • buying habits
  • attitudes
  • values
  • motives
  • preferences
  • personality
  • leisure activities.

Demographic information helps describe who the customer is, whereas psychographic information helps explain why customers make the choices they do. Combining these characteristics helps to define trends in the lifestyles of the target customers, or the way they live. Therefore, consumer research also includes lifestyle research.

Conducting consumer research related to why consumers purchase the fashion items that they do and/or shop the way they do can be a challenge. Purchase decisions are based on psychological, social, lifestyle, and financial considerations—some of which consumers may not even be conscious of. Therefore, effective consumer research must delve into multiple interrelated factors that influence and motivate consumers.

Whereas research questions addressed in market analyses focus on broad trends, research questions related to consumer research are more focused on a company’s specific target customer.

  • What are the characteristics and preferences of a new consumer group that a fashion brand company is considering? For example, if a fashion brand is determining whether and/or how to expand offerings to customers in another country, how does their culture affect their preferences and/or shopping behavior?
  • How might lifestyle changes for the target customer of a fashion brand company affect the shopping habits and product preferences of the company’s target customer?

As with consumer research, and understanding the behaviors of customers, it is also important to conduct product research to gain insight into preferred product design and characteristics.

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Introduction to Fashion Marketing and Research

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