How Online Retailers Are Still Getting You To Buy In Lockdown | Read Time 5 Mins

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With our modern instincts, behaviours and habits locked down for the foreseeable future,     
we as the consumer have been put under immense pressure, without even knowing it. 

Out of Stock... Selling Fast.... #trending...

As I traipse through pages and pages of clothing I'm met with the same literature time and time again, the same "Oops! You were too late" tone and the lack of new things to ogle over in my saved items. While this could easily be dismissed as another pay day parade of trend-conscious buyers that I've been caught up in, it's hard to ignore the fact that seven out of ten UK firms have currently furloughed their staff members, myself included. So with countless reminders that your favourite stores have shut, and your paycheck's been sliced, how are online fashion retailers continuing to rule the roost over our spending?

My mind has constantly tried to stay in "save mode", but with an ever-growing culture of intensified consumerism currently circulating through social media, email alerts and other forms of advertisement, it's becoming increasingly hard to stay in that spend savvy psyche. Most consumer marketing strategies start with a concept, placing emphasis on a new item that will benefit our livelihood. With #lockdownlife currently taking precedence as one of Instagram's most popular hashtags, the push for us to buy into a new way of living is hitting us between the eyes. The problem here is that there's a lot of unnecessary pressure being enforced on what in the grand scheme of things will hopefully be the shortest trend the Fashion world will ever experience. The psychology behind this hashtag is dangerous; basically if you don't buy, you ain't doing lock down "right" - a philosophy recently adopted that implies there's a certain way to behave during isolation, and those who do not succumb to this must feel worse, or more importantly for the success of a brand - left out. 

The desire to fit in is hard wired into us and dates back 30,000 odd years to our former primitive state, when being included was a fundamental part of everyday life and the key to survival. It's basically the foundation for the trends that appear in today's fashion landscape; if she's wearing it, you want it too. Brands feed off this energy when it comes to showcasing their latest collections each season - that's a no brain-er - and it's long been accepted as part of the industry's natural cycle. But when we relate this back to our current climate, that's where it can become toxic. Our nation's mental health is reported to be at an all time low; people are separated from loved ones, cut off from routine and the outside world. So what are we doing? We're buying new things to make ourselves feel better, to fill a void and to ensure we're keeping "connected". We've all been there; holidays have fallen through, birthday celebrations cancelled, weddings postponed, even the most simplest of weekend plans ruined. While we realise the frivolity of our own personal issues in comparison with the bigger picture surrounding us at the moment, it's natural to feel hard-done by. And that's exactly how brands want us to feel.

Enter - the Influencer. A modern marketer's dream, and our virtual best friend; they understand exactly what you're going through, because they're going through the same thing. And when I say same, I mean "same-but-different". Sure, we're all in lock down, but very few are experiencing it in the same way as their favourite Influencer, and this is where the para-social relationship can become manipulating. Don't get me wrong, this is not an attempt to bash or shame those who consider themselves Influencers or content creators; I think the concept has received a lot of unnecessary bad press (the same way that blogging was belittled a few years ago) and definitely don't take this as a "one-size-fits-all" assumption. But during such intense and restricting times, it's important to realise your relationship with the people whose content you enjoy. While the follower or subscriber is not being charged to view content, you are very much spending your own money when it comes to the latest matching tracksuit that an Influencer is pushing you to purchase. They've most likely been sent that item for free, where-as you need to buy it. This indirect payment puts you at a loss, and the Influencer at a constant gain.

*I find Influencer marketing so interesting; if you'd like a more in-depth article on this topic do let me know and I will go into the above in more detail!*

The necessity to keep current is being propelled by Influencers, who themselves are being bombarded with brands begging for our favourite caption makers to sell sell sell as much as they can. They are there to fuel the 'treat yourself' culture, promoting discount codes, competitions and fast fashion's newest fave - the 'Stay At Home' style. At the time of writing this article, popular British online retailers such as Topshop, ASOS, Missguided, PrettyLittleThing and Boohoo have all created separate tabs on their websites purely dedicated to lock down fashion. If it wasn't official before, it definitely is now. Athleisure, loungewear, jumpsuits, nightwear, even lingerie is being pushed as lock down "essentials" that any fashion-conscious person should consider.

So how do you avoid succumbing to these incredibly intelligent marketing schemes? Well, unless you have god-like will power, the likelihood is that you probably wont. I'll hold my hands up and say that I've bought non-essential items online since lock down started. I'm not here to tell you off (lol imagine) if you've placed multiple Zara orders. The way the consumer reacts to lockdown marketing strategies isn't the issue here, it's the fact that brands are praying off us and our vulnerability to make a profit in the sneakiest of ways. But if you do decide to spend, here are some tips to make sure you're making the smartest purchase:

1. Ask yourself why

- The good ol' fashioned 'do I actually need this?' trick. Taking that second thought before you hit purchase needs to be introduced into your buying process. Be real with yourself; will that fluffy pair of tracksuit bottoms actually be an investment piece as we go into the summer season? Once you're back at work - and I don't say this lightly because I do understand the uncertainty of the times we live in - will you be able to wear those cosy work-from-home slippers? This is a phase, and so is the craze. There's a fabulous quote I found in a recent issue of ELLE which read: 'If there is any meaning in producing something new, it has to bear a certain value'. Think about how much value you assign to each product and act accordingly.

2. Explore and Invest

- If there's a product or a pair of shoes or an item of clothing that has repeatedly caught your attention over the past few months, this is where your money should go if you decide to spend it. For example, I've read so many reviews about the Function of Beauty shampoo but have never got around to buying it. So I decided to give it a go and ordered it a few weeks ago. This method certainly can get out-of-control if allowed, so try to limit yourself to a reasonable amount.

3. Forward Planning 

- These are such uncertain times, and I know for sure that I will be getting paid less this month than I did in the previous. Budgeting and planning ahead is needed now more than ever, and should always be thought of first before any item is purchased. Impulse buyers may find this especially hard; if you fall into this category, practice letting the latest item you're currently obsessed with run out of stock, then you'll realise you perhaps didn't necessarily need it in the first place.

4. Support Independents!

- I'm delighted to have seen so much spotlight placed on independent fashion retailers at the moment, but the word definitely still needs to be spread. These people are their own marketers, designers, creators and delivery service all in one, and deserve our attention way more than large money-grabbing brands. Use this time to research smaller names and start ups on Instagram - or through this handy article that ELLE UK posted, which showcases 100 independent clothing brands you can support during the pandemic.

The last tip seems obvious but - instead of spending money on new items, why not look in your wardrobe and try and create new outfits from existing purchases? Lord knows we're all running out of ways to keep ourselves entertained, so why not set aside an afternoon and play about with your wardrobe and see what you can create? Get inspo from Instagram or Pinterest and just rolleeeee with it!

*Graphic created through multiple Pinterest images* 
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