Are you the culprit or the victim in today’s digital society? The use of digital innovations in the Swedish fast fashion industry and its significance for consumer behavior
The fashion industry has grasped a wide range of digital innovations, and the past decade has shown an increased junction between advanced digital innovation and consumption. Therefore, the mechanism of consumption is recognizing important transformation, following a redefinition of various areas from advertisements and markets to consumers and the concept of utility and value. Meanwhile, significant changes have appeared in the dynamics of the fashion industry, such as an expansion of the number of fashion seasons, speed to market, and flexibility in delivery, which is nowadays referred to as the fast fashion industry. This thesis aims to investigate the interaction between corporations and consumers, regarding how the use of digital innovations in the Swedish fast fashion industry influences consumer behavior. Research suggests that fast fashion corporations show competitiveness through the ability to quickly provide novel trends to the market and that these corporations face new challenges due to rapid advances in the digital innovations of today. By providing a multiple-case study of four Swedish small to mid-large fast fashion corporations, this thesis intends to present findings of how the use of digital innovation in the Swedish fast fashion industry influences consumer behavior. The research question of this study is of an explorative design, hence applying a qualitative strategy with an abductive approach, both influenced by the epistemological position constructionism. The data collection was gathered through semi-structured interviews and analyzed with a thematic analysis. Furthermore, focus groups were conducted to provide insights from the consumer side of the phenomenon. The empirical findings, as well as the analysis, is divided accordingly. The empirical findings show that the corporations use a lot of means to communicate and advertise towards the customers, such as emotions, personalized content, and a continuous conversation. However, even though the companies are confident about the positive perception among the customers, the empirical findings from the focus groups indicate otherwise. The companies express joy and empowerment, and the customers experience stress and confusion, thus the messages inherent in the communication that flows between companies and their customers are shown to be lost in translation. However, this consumer engagement is based on a behavior strongly influenced by cognitive biases and psychological factors restraining the human mind from taking rational decisions. Thus, a self-fulling prophecy is created in which companies are basing their strategies upon tracked consumer engagement, in turn preventing the intentions of the companies to be in line with the customers’ perception. Based on the findings of this thesis, suggestions on further research have been provided. Since the use of digital innovation within the Swedish fast fashion industry, due to the exploitation of cognitive biases and psychological factors, has been proven to influence consumer behavior, further research on how this interplay can be used for a positive purpose is suggested.