One of the most substantial trends of the early 21st century is the ability, and willingness, for consumers to participate as well as consume in markets where they have a huge passion, whether that’s music or fashion.
A recent study, published in the Journal of Consumer Research, reveals how such passionate consumers have fundamentally changed the inner workings of the industry by sharing their love for fashion online.
"The accumulation of rather small, individually incremental, innovations in existing practices by consumers can cumulatively help to usher in important market-level changes in the institutional work that supports a market, the categories of actors within it, and the underlying logics that inform it," the authors say.
The researchers analyzed a group of fashion bloggers and online community members to try and identify any changes that are occurring as a result of greater participation by consumers in the fashion industry. Three major trends emerged.
Firstly, consumers are increasingly performing tasks that had traditionally been done exclusively by professionals such as photographers and stylists. They are creating images and curating styles on various outfit sharing websites.
There is also a strong growth in fashion bloggers, who regularly attend fashion shows alongside more mainstream industry figures, collaborating with designers and even writing for fashion magazines.
Lastly, engaged consumers are cementing a new logic of accessibility. This makes fashion more accessible both in terms of its wearability and affordability.
We see sites such as Tumblr, Vine, Twitter, YouTube, Vimeo and Lookbook offering an increasing array of tools for consumer participation, which allows consumers ranging from food bloggers to Ikea hackers, amateur movie critics to Instagram photographers, to participate more actively in those markets.
"Across a range of markets, consumers with a deep-seated interest in the products, producers, and trends in those markets are eagerly interacting. Our investigation has helped to push the boundaries of our understanding of market dynamics in fields where engaged consumers were afforded easy opportunities to interact," the authors conclude.