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The world of retail is quickly shedding its old school skin for a more creative and all-inclusive approach. More and more brands are avoiding photoshop in favor of unretouched images, forgoing former definitions of an ideal body size in favor of showcasing the wide range of human body types, and loosening traditional definitions around menswear and womenswear.

Certainly pop culture plays a big role in this, as does social media. Today, few brands can get away with unfair or unclear dress code policies for employees,  advertising with unnaturally thin models or disregarding popular millennial values without mass online backlash. In fact, a new report by Sparks & Honey and Fashion Snoops found 22 different cultural trends affecting the state of commerce in everything from a brand’s marketing to its margins.

Two of the major trends identified are what the report dubs “squealing” and a rise in customer empathy.

Income Disparity and Customer Awareness

“Squealing” in the report refers to an increase in awareness around income disparity not only in retail, but throughout the world.

“Companies with high wage gaps are thought to be cannibalizing their own consumer base if people who work for the company can’t afford its products,” said Sarah DaVanzo, chief cultural strategy officer at Sparks & Honey.

This megatrend turning millennials away from legacy brands most affects luxury retailers, of which their customer base has been notably declining. In an effort to expand brand awareness and loyalty among millennials, those aged 18 to 34, almost all luxury brands are now online or will be opening up shop online beginning in 2016. Luxury brands were the last of the commerce conglomerates to move online.

Some companies, especially nimble small businesses quick to act on these trends, are using this increase in awareness to pull in more customers with savvy and culturally relevant campaigns. For instance, Pittsburgh pop-up boutique retailer 76<100’s new pricing model allows women to pay a percentage of an item’s price in line with salary inequalities.

Millennial Inclusivity and Empathy

The second megatrend found by the report emphasized customer desire for oneness and an increase in empathy. In other words, consumers are no longer willing to disassociate what they wear with who made it.

“There’s so much bad publicity about how clothes are made and the impact of fast fashion on the world,” said Lilly Berelovich co-founder, owner and chief innovation officer of trend-tracking and forecasting firm Fashion Snoops. “Now, looking cool is having empathy and making a difference.”

This customer-driven desire to spend money where it counts is reflected in the viral popularity of brands like TOMS Shoes and Warby Parker, which donate products or services to those in need with every customer purchase. Indeed, ethical fashion is up-and-coming with millennials, who are often willing to pay more if they know their extra dollars are going to a good cause.

For brands looking to optimize on this trend, offer, if you don’t already, to give percentages of sales to causes close to your own heart and your business’s mission. SMBs like Bottle Breacher, for instance, give back to veteran charities and prioritize hiring veterans when and where possible. Doing so has earned them appearances on Shark Tank and a loyal following that not only loves their products, but also their overall purpose.

Chief industry analyst at NPD, Marshall Cohen, has sage advice relevant to SMBs — especially as we begin planning for the holiday season:

“Traditional thinking and marketing approaches don’t apply to this consumer segment — it’s about being different, and marketers need to follow suit.”

For full insight into all 22 identified megatrends, view the slideshare here.

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  • Nice post thanks. Lots of juicy insightful info here

  • Ed

    This article isn’t about how to sell more stuff on Big Commerce; it’s about you’re own liberal political views and agenda.

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