In 2022, Your Majesty conducted interviews and user tests with over 80 participants. Our sample consisted of people from North America and Europe whose occupations ranged from luxury buyers, creators, corporate executives and fashion designers, to leading tech entrepreneurs.
This primary research was paired with insights from leading journalism platforms, newsletters, and creators whose open source information continues to fuel and inspire our work.
“Hindsight Is 2022” is a recap of five strategic themes we learned during our research effort for fashion-tech clients in 2021-2022. Whether you are a Designer, Strategist or Marketing Manager we hope you’ll take something from this year's edition of Hindsight Is into your next project. The five themes are:
1. Growth Without Erasure
When demand is high there is a temptation to streamline, and inevitably homogenize production. In a capitalist arena where growth is the ultimate aim, going against what’s working, and questioning proven success can be unthinkable.
In 2022, we worked with a custom sneaker studio based in North America that invests in creatives and helps them go against predefined sneaker silhouettes and diversify the world of expression. What is their business case?
StockX data showed that, as the number of collaborative sneaker releases increased, the premiums of those same projects decreased.
The exponential availability of sneaker collaborations reduced former collectibles to commodities; eroding the value of individual brands, the sneaker category, and the broader sneaker culture. Resulting in high profile sneaker-heads like Harrison Nevel, Seth Fowler, and Elliot Page warning their audiences of tumbling resale values and saturation of the market driving prices down on coveted styles.
Wide appeal can come from specificity.
The lesson is to not equate growth with cutting fat and erasing nuance. In an attempt to become a mass-market brand, it is important not to default to the common denominator, but to constantly create new niches. Our conversations with sneaker enthusiasts and makers showed that, counterintuitively, a wide appeal can come from specificity.
Therefore, as you look to increase market share and existing traction, you should invest time and resources into understanding and unpacking "your specifics". Establish what makes your brand special, understand the many roles it can play, and use own-able nuances or rituals to drive relevance.
2. Save for Me, Save for Later
In our conversations with collectors, designers, and socially conscious Gen-Zers, screenshotting was frequently mentioned as a digital equivalent of a dog-eared page. Collectors take screenshots of products to inform their buyers. Designers take screenshots of scenes and product detail pages to create mood boards for their clients. Creators use screenshots as the background for their product reviews or hot-take TikTok video.
Customers who save products to a mood board are 21% more likely to purchase.
Regardless of demographic, screenshots and their various applications point to the imminent need for safekeeping and curation in the age of fast-moving content and algorithmic anxiety. In this context, screenshotting or any form of internet archiving works as a form of identity formation (Save for me) as well as a coping mechanism against the attention economy (Save for later).
While the notion of "Save for Me" emphasizes the need for brands to enable personal curation across their digital properties, it also highlights the importance of trust and transparency. To encourage users to use on-platform safekeeping, brands need to actively explain their approach to data collection and make it as easy for users to export their data as it is for them to provide it.
"Save for Later", on the other hand, brings to mind the reality that our perfectly crafted experiences and branded moments exist in the context of others. To design without acknowledging the users' already burdened and stretched schedules is to not design at all. Affordance, crystal-clear wayfinding, and expectation-setting are but a few things to keep in mind as we continue to design for people's "Save for Later" digital reality.
3. Guidance In the Great Overwhelm
In 2004, Barry Schwartz introduced the theory of "The Paradox of Choice": how having more choices does not necessarily equate to more freedom. While having no choice can be unbearable, having too many choices can be exhausting.
Earlier this year, Jemima Kelly of the Financial Times dubbed this unnerving feeling of being able to do as one pleases as "The Great Overwhelm". Kelly hypothesized that one contributing factor to this tension is the expansion and acceleration of the digital realm: "These days, we are not just battling to reach inbox-zero; we're also trying, futilely, to get to podcast-episode-zero; TV-series-zero; Instagram-story-zero".
Against the backdrop of this information overload is what seems to be a timely antidote: TikTok. As one of the fastest-growing forms of social media ever, TikTok's algorithm has been cited as the main reason for its success.
Beyond leveling the creator playing field, it tailors the experience to each user. According to The Washington Post's, Drew Harwell and Taylor Lorenz, it’s TikTok's algorithmic recommendations that users value—and in some cases rely on—in predicting their interests, removing the modern imposed anxiety of choice.
“I like it when [a collection] has been picked and curated by experts and you don't have to do much more thinking”
The rise of human-centric design and customer-centric thinking might have helped organizations put the user at the center of their design practice.
It can, at times, mistake customer abandonment for customer autonomy; placing the burden of choices solely onto the user and removing the expert opinion of the brand.
The most successful brands act as a mental shortcut for decision-making. The most helpful digital experiences, in our research, are opinionated on their subject matter.
They provide users personalized recommendations, contextual explanations, and UX-mechanics that aim to reduce cognitive load, such as conversational searching, visual filtering, or progressive disclosure.
4. The Secret Delight of Friction
Be it Instagramable imagery or TikTok algorithm-friendly content, cultural creation today is often reduced to pleasing the success rubric written by anyone but the creators themselves. This approach to creation can also be seen in the rise of blanding and countless templatized eCommerce shops.
Our conversations with creators also point to a reality where today makers are cornered into making new things just to please the supposed audiences' expectations. Expectations that are imbued with inertia, conditioned by incumbent playbooks, and cemented by the "following best practices" culture, trapping culture in a stalemate.
Last year, we found ourselves in a similar situation. During the initial round of testing website concepts we developed for a client, we heard comments like, "The navigation is a bit strange," "This is not what I was expecting," or "I was thinking it would be like [abc], similar to that [xyz] platform."
Our choices were to either follow the “expected” pattern or to stick with something we thought had the potential to add something new to eCommerce’s “optimized-to-death” space. We went ahead with our conviction, further prototyped the concepts, put them to the test once more, and learned the secret delight of friction.
“I struggled at first but once I got used to it, the experience was really nice and matches the status of [brand X] .”
Users who experienced friction were also those who reported a higher perception of value for the brand behind the website. Here, frictions—when designed with intention—promote a form of active engagement with the brand, allowing users to not only consume but also pay attention to, and be immersed in, the message.
The delight of learned friction also echoes the IKEA effect, also known as the Co-Creation Heuristic, where the act of making sense of something can become synonymous with building value, ownership, and attachment to something.
As the tyranny of convenience continues to encroach onto our lives and stifle culture, brands and designers have an imperative to think about designing deliberate friction. Friction that not only makes room for newness but also creates space for a more intentional experience of the internet.
5. Wearing Walls, Weary Walls
Like fashion, I wear my walls to express myself.
When interviewing luxury furniture buyers, we were introduced to the concept of "wearing walls" and the importance of one's surroundings when it comes to their online presence.
Even in our conversations with sneaker-heads, walls of sneaker boxes were often proudly pointed to as a way of introduction. Our research in 2022 shows a need among culturally minded customers to see how their purchases can transform their surroundings and heighten their identity.
This learning comes with a great opportunity for digital experiences. Where advertising excels at painting desirability, emerging technologies like AR, WebGL, and 3D rendering can be great at making desirability personal. For an art institution and dealer of culture, we created a web experience where luxury art buyers can access bespoke viewing rooms which are modeled after their private or local galleries.
Here, each art piece selected will dress the viewing room in a different visual effect, bringing these objects’ transformative power to life, in a personalized manner.
In the same breath, our research also points to the pressure young buyers face to aestheticize their every situation, all of which are susceptible to scrutiny on Zoom, TikTok, or Instagram.
As of writing, TikTok has over 10 billion views for content with the hashtag #GetReadyWithMe. This is a type of content where creators reveal their entire routine from waking up, showering, and eating breakfast, all the way to when they go out, leaving little for privacy.
As technology connects one's private wall to another's and culture continues to demand raw and intrusive content, there is a need for brands and designers to think about building digital buffers, walls if you will, to protect young users. Unsending messages, blurring video call backgrounds, and self-deleting content, are just the beginning of more protective mechanisms that we encourage brands to think about; it is the right thing to do and can also help distinguish your brand.
How might these digital trends impact your business?
Digital experiences are developing at breakneck speed and it can be hard to keep up. As a firm that has been there from the start, we can help you filter out the noise and distill strategies that makes sense for your company’s unique situation.
Read more insights from our curious team
- Gold Rush in the Uncanny Valley - an exploration into the development of generative art and why now you should be taking it seriously.
- Four Considerations for Creating Better Digital Fashion Experiences - considerations to be taken seriously in both the real, and virtual worlds
- The Metaverse needs the gaming industry - why its success lies in the partnerships and seamless integration with the big game entertainment studios.
- GARRIXON —Bringing sneaker-making to the people - as featured in this article
- ARMADA Music —Inspiring creativity for generative AI music marketing