Clothing is expensive and trends are quick to change, making fashion rental platforms especially appealing for consumers who want more choice, convenience and flexibility. The clothing rental market in the United States is projected to reach $4.4 billion by 2028 and millennial women are leading the charge, according to Brittany Johnson, CEO and co-founder of online subscription-based clothing service FashionPass.
“It’s almost become the norm for women in their twenties and thirties [to buy clothes online] because it’s how they grew up,” she said. “[Rental is] a whole different experience … because with traditional online shopping, you’re always looking at prices.”
Johnson explained that the FashionPass subscription model is more personal than typical online clothing services, and that the offering was designed to make the consumer feel like she is shopping in her “best friend’s closet.” Maintaining that level of flexibility as the platform expands will be critical to its success.
How Clothing Rentals Are Changing Customer Behavior
As the sharing economy grows, more customers are participating in clothing rental models and the features and functions they want are changing fast. FashionPass offers its service as a monthly subscription, enabling users to mix and match different box items for greater choice with the clothes they receive.
“There was almost this learning curve and also a bit of apprehension [toward] rental … where people would either think … ‘Am I going to get something in great condition?’ or ‘Is it going to feel like a used clothing item?’” Johnson said.
Many consumers — especially women in their 20s and 30s — find rental’s sustainability appealing. This might attract customers, but retaining them requires constant innovation. Such developments have become a main focus for FashionPass, which is currently building out its mobile app.
“Knowing that it was going to take us a little longer to build a mobile app, we really focused on building the website to be mobile-friendly first and then built everything backwards from that,” she said, adding that the company is also considering support for Instagram payments. “We know 90 percent of our customers are shopping by phone — are using FashionPass on their phones — so we tried to make the experience as app-like as possible from the beginning.”
Clothing Rental and the Future of Fashion
FashionPass will continue to innovate its channels and features as consumers’ behaviors and opinions regarding clothing rentals change, and the platform has considered implementing artificial intelligence (AI) for future developments. Johnson said the technology is “not quite” where it needs to be for the fashion market, but that there are a number of potential use cases, including ways to enhance customer service and increase the delivery speed and personalization of each box.
“[You could get a] text notification or an email, and [the AI] would automatically select your next box for you with just one click, instead of you having to filter through items or figure out what you like best,” she explained. “We’re going to continue to rely on our own decisions and the way that we filter items [until AI reaches that level].”
AI’s applications and how customers will want to interact with clothing brands in the future remains unclear, but the importance of innovative customer service experiences will continue to increase.
“Customer service is going to majorly separate the five-star rental companies from the two-star,” Johnson said.
While the rules of fashion may change completely in a few short years, the golden rule of retail will always remain the same: The customer is always right.