If there is one element in the fashion business that never goes out of style, it’s your customers.  That of course, is the goal: to keep them coming back for more, and to make sure they’re up-to-date on what you’re designing and selling.  Regardless of trends in global sales or advances in the way that products are brought to market, your company will always owe its long-term success to the ultimate end-user: the consumer.

As a result, to compete and succeed in the fashion industry, you need to keep your pulse on what consumers really care about, from the way that garments are manufactured to the manner in which they’re delivered.  That’s where a recent DHL fashion survey enters the picture. With New York Fashion Week set to start in February, now is a good time to take a closer look at some key results from this new survey of more than 6,000 people across the UK, the United States, Italy, Australia and Japan.

Manufacturing Matters
From an environmental and ethical perspective, production methods are important to consumers.   Critical information is only a few keystrokes away, and your customers are more interested than ever to know how and where garments are made, how fabrics and other materials are sourced, and how workers are treated. According to the DHL survey, consumers in the UK value ethical production especially highly. Across each country, however, interest in manufacturing principles is high: a quarter of respondents say that production under fair working conditions is important, and one in five shoppers care about a brand’s carbon footprint.  In addition, 19 percent of respondents say they care about a garment’s biodegradability.

Supply Chain Choices Are Crucial
Social and environmental considerations also matter for your supply chain – not just your manufacturing practices and material choices. Consumers care how your goods are shipped, how materials are sourced and delivered, and what kind of impact it all has on the environment.  According to research from the MIT Sloan School of Management, consumers are willing to pay more for supply chain visibility and social responsibility.  They want to know that your shipping methods are green, which means that you need to work closely with your logistics partners to understand the steps they are taking to minimize environmental impacts.  At DHL, for instance, we have made it our mission to achieve zero emissions by 2050, and green logistics are central to our operations today.

How Fast and Affordably You Deliver Makes the Difference
The impact of e-commerce on the fashion industry can’t be understated. No longer bound by the retail store experience, consumers are free to order what they want, when they want it. The can also engage in omni-channel shopping and purchasing, switching back and forth seamlessly between the online and brick-and-mortar experience.  And your customers are by default global, capable of purchasing from competitors anywhere in the world. This reality has a profound effect on every aspect of the fashion business, from the amount of a particular item that might be produced to the way that inventories are stored and delivered.  According to the DHL survey, half of all shoppers cite ease and cost of delivery as primary deciding factors when buying clothing online.  In addition, 37 percent cite ease and cost of returns as a top factor.  As a result, you need a logistics partners who understands express delivery, global shipping, and the importance of flexibility.

Quality Takes Center Stage
The DHL survey confirms an important fact: quality matters for today’s consumer.  37 percent of those surveyed cite quality as a leading issue in the decision to buy a garment; those in Japan place quality above all else.  For designers and retailers, placing a premium on how fashion products are made and how they are transported is essential, as is the task of communicating your commitment to top materials and production standards.

At DHL, we work closely with established and up-and-coming leaders in the fashion industry, such as CFDA, to provide logistic solutions that are custom tailored to the needs of designers, sellers, and manufacturers.  Let us know how consumer attitudes and logistics challenges impact your business on Twitter @DHLUS.