One would think that personal styling would fall by the wayside during a time of economic uncertainty. It seems like this would be particularly true for Gen Z who are known for their frugal, spare consumption and spending habits. They couldn’t possibly risk paying for multiple clothing items they won’t actually wear. And paying someone else to determine what they put on their bodies couldn’t possibly appeal to the pathologically unique digital generation. Right? Wrong.
There’s a social element to buying from a personal shopper that Gen Zers can’t get shopping for themselves. They can film their unboxing videos on TikTok, which may then be shared with the stylists’ followers, creating an online community around their finds. Finally, few people haven’t been stuck in some type of a style rut. Paying someone else to find a custom fit can encourage next gens to experiment with new looks and break out of their comfort zones.
The #stylebundle hashtag became a Golden Ticket for next-gen stylists, driving more than 200K views and tens of thousands of social media followers a singular stylist. And that’s just the beginning: The hashtag “#StyleBundle” currently has over 197 million views on TikTok.
We’ll demystify how #stylebundles are taking off in 2023, despite all of the contradicting factors. We’ll also take a look at what brands and retailers that want to get in on the trend need to do to get it right.
How Are Personal Stylists Trending When Algorithms Do Similar Work for Free?
These days, customers receive a version of AI-facilitated personal styling by simply shopping online. Cookies crawl every website they visit, and algorithms generate customized apparel suggestions. This is true not only when customers visit their favorite online stores, but when they Google any type of prospective purchase. Algorithms are already doing the work, which brings to mind the following question: What’s the benefit for next gens of paying a premium for a style bundle from another human?
This is where it gets interesting. Most of the style bundles that next gens are buying are secondhand. The in-store shopping experience at low-priced thrift stores still isn’t something that everyone enjoys –– we aren’t talking about bougie consignment shops here, but Goodwills and Value Villages. But the terminally unique, nostalgia-obsessed next generation longs for the personalization and unique pieces that can be found with in-person thrifting. Think of the style bundles as more of a secondhand version of Stitch Fix or EVEREVE than an online rummage sale.
The Hidden Benefits of Style Bundles for Next-Gen Shoppers
Thrifting isn’t just a trend for Gen Z shoppers, it’s a lifestyle choice that they plan to continue indefinitely. They’re also not all buying in thrift shops. In fact, in this year’s Resale Report from ThredUp, 58 percent of Gen Zers who bought second-hand made at least one of those purchases online. Speaking of ThredUp, why aren’t Gen Zs just thrift shopping for themselves on the popular resale app from the comfort of their own homes? This is where the answer gets a little complex.
First of all, few people really know the right fit and colors for their “season” and body type. The assurance of getting fit from an expert can be too tempting a proposition to pass up. Second, there’s a social element to buying from a personal shopper that they can’t get shopping for themselves. They can film their unboxing videos on TikTok, which may then be shared with the stylists’ followers, creating an online community around their finds. Finally, few people haven’t been stuck in some type of a style rut. Paying someone else to find a custom fit can encourage next gens to experiment with new looks and break out of their comfort zones.
From Whence Doth All These Next-Gen Stylists Come?
Growing up watching tales of subversive success like “Girlboss,” which tells the story that of Nasty Gal founder Sophia Amoruso, has greatly influenced Gen Z. As has observing their millennial and Gen X family members financially struggle during the pandemic (it’s no secret to most next gens that job security is often an illusion in today’s world) which makes them less risk averse. Gen Z’s tech savvy has boosted their confidence in entrepreneurship, as they’ve seen evidence of their ability to create content and get paid. A study recently published on Yahoo Finance found that 84 percent of Gen Z-ers selected entrepreneurship as the most exciting of 12 career paths and that 75 percent ultimately want to become entrepreneurs.
So, what platforms are next-gen stylists using to hawk their wares? They aren’t creating shoppable Instagram posts or selling on ThredUp, where sellers instantly lose control over the price point and marketing of the product. Instead, they’re shopping based on Pinterest mood boards created by each unique customer, then marketing themselves on TikTok through the closets they create on Poshmark, or the resale app, Depop. Many also have their own websites extolling their sartorial prowess.
How Can Brands and Retailers Capitalize on this Trend?
If you’re considering creating your own #stylebundle offering, here are four critical touchpoints to keep in mind:
Next gens are still incredibly value-focused. They want to feel like their stylist is giving them access to deals that they couldn’t find or access on their own. Think about how Instacart shows customers the hours they saved shopping, or how discount shopping sites show customers a total of how much money they saved over buying full price. This is exactly the type of value proposition next gens expect with their purchase.
This goes way beyond assessing what’s flattering for a customer’s body type. The stylist needs to ask such in-depth questions that customers feel they’re providing them with something that they can’t do themselves. Stylists do in-depth research into their customers’ personal style through Pinterest mood boards, scouring their social media profiles, and creating customized quizzes to get a feel for what they like. Customization IS a value proposition for next gens. Getting to know each customer is the first step.
Next gen customers expect a “feel good” element in any product they purchase. This is particularly true when talking about style bundles, which have a higher price point than the purchase of a singular piece of apparel. Whether stylists focus on the sustainability of secondhand clothes, donate items to people in need for every bundle sold, or highlight how customers are supporting a young entrepreneur, the “giving back” component is almost always part of the pitch.
It’s essential that customers see their style bundle as providing them with better fashions at a better value than they can provide for themselves. This means that each stylist needs to be a brand in their own right, which is what sets them apart from mass style bundle platforms like Stich Fix. Much of the marketing is user-generated content or word of mouth, so every single interaction has a massive impact on young stylists’ brands.
A Good Idea Endures
Although many style bundles are focused on secondhand goods, consumer perception is the most important part of the value proposition. While direct marketing companies like Mary Kay and Lularoe have largely fallen by the wayside, style bundles are also based on relationship marketing… albeit that much of it takes place online. Style Bundles are modern-day proof that if consumers take the time to get to know them well enough, the customer will come.