How social proof can help you win the activewear race

Alison Wiltshire

16 Apr 2024

After an explosion in demand during the pandemic, clothing that crosses the boundaries of lounging to sports (known as athleisure, activewear or even just good old sportswear depending on your energy levels and the label you want to add) is now an ingrained, everyday lifestyle look loved by teens to middle-agers alike in a market in which retailers are fighting for prominence.

It’s not surprising – what’s not to adore about a style that allows us to look good with minimum effort while also being comfy and cosy.

Activewear, or athleisure, also suggests we might be doing more than we actually are. We might look like we’re off to the gym when we are just planning a gentle stroll with a friend or relaxing indoors. We might be hard at work or comatose on the sofa – no one cares.

What is certain is that it’s a bigger sector than ever – a hybrid style that now also matches our hybrid working lifestyles.

Strengthening athleisure sales

As a result, sales are booming. According to figures from GlobalData, sales will grow by 16.4% in the UK between 2023 and 2027, from £12bn to £13.9bn. Globally, Grand View Research predicts a compound annual growth of 9.3% from 2024 to 2030.

This makes athleisure a key growth category for both general retailers such as M&S to specialists such as M&S, for example, now sells more than 1.6 million items a year from its activewear collection Goodmove.

Meanwhile, Sports Edit – its curated collection of activewear brands on M& – now comprises more than 20 third-party partners, including Sweaty Betty and Reebok, offering more than 800 products. Searches have grown by 110% in the last year alone.

Making the right purchase decisions

Whether athleisure wearers are secretly chilling in front of the TV or gearing up for that energetic HIT class to get beach-ready for summer, they still want to make the right purchase decisions.

But with such a mix of reasons for buying, it can be hard for retailers to surface the information shoppers might need which can lead to basket abandonment and lost sales. One customer might be wondering about the technical aspects of a fabric, while the next might be more concerned about how comfy it is or simply want the hottest new look.

The role of social proof messaging

This is where social proof messaging can provide an added dimension to the customer experience you offer, helping customers to navigate overwhelming choice in an increasingly saturated market. It can help to highlight trending or in-demand items by portraying how many items have been added to a bag in a certain time period or by highlighting bestsellers.

This signposting of popular products helps to drive confidence to buy right first time – reducing basket abandonment and returns.

With advanced optimisation messaging, meanwhile, you can incorporate everything from review messaging to recommendations, as well as adding upselling and cross-selling or low stock feeds into your social proof messaging to help customers buy more.

Hard-to-find product information, such as the technical fabric details that the customer was looking for earlier, can, meanwhile, be highlighted with eXtended messaging, which helps to highlight real-time product attribute messages.

Leveraging social proof messaging across the customer journey

By leveraging social proof messaging across the customer journey, you can create dynamic and relevant shopping experiences that help customers navigate a range of purchase decision factors that better enable them to buy. You can aid product discovery and improve the time to first click on the PLP, reduce bounce rates on the PDP and on the basket page, reduce basket abandonment and increase conversion.

The use cases are numerous, and the results are fast and impressive. When integrated social proof messaging on its website, it boosted conversion rates by 4.5% in only three weeks. It was so impressed with the results that it rolled social proof messaging out across its entire website.

In a market as crowded as activewear, ensuring your online customer experience stands out is essential to success. Is your online activewear offer fit for purpose? Try our free conversion calculator to understand the impact it might have on your business, or get in touch to find out more.

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