eTail Palm Springs 2020

February 24 - 27, 2020

JW Marriott, Palm Springs, CA

Rent the Runway Appeals to Young Consumers' Environmental Concerns with Personalized Email Sustainability Reports

Brought to you by WBR Insights



It's no secret that fashion - and in particular, fast fashion - has a sustainability problem. These days, consumers can purchase a dress for less than $10, wear it once and then throw it away without feeling even the slightest pinch in their wallets. Critics of the industry cite the appalling conditions and rates of pay in the factories churning out garments that will end up as non-biodegradable additions to landfills quicker than you can say "climate change". Decarbonizing the fashion industry was, in fact, a hot topic at this year's Copenhagen Fashion Summit, where more than 450 brands and organizations gathered to address the sustainability record of the industry. As reported in The Times, textile production is a significant contributor to climate breakdown, emitting 1.2 billion tons of greenhouse gases annually - more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined.

Sustainability is of growing concern for fashion shoppers, too - especially those in the millennial and Gen Z generations. And it's giving rise to what's becoming a major trend in the fashion industry as younger consumers who crave new looks seek out more sustainable ways to shop - renting.

Fashion rental isn't a new phenomenon - in fact, Rent the Runway has now been in operation for over 10 years. But an increase in environmental concerns has made renting clothes instead of buying them more popular than ever. According to the State of Fashion 2019 report from The Business of Fashion and McKinsey&Company, nine in ten Gen Z consumers believe companies have a responsibility to address environmental and social issues - yet, when it comes to clothing, one in seven consumers believe it's a fashion faux pas to be photographed in the same outfit twice. Rental, however, kills both birds with one stone - it quenches consumers' thirst for fresh new trends and does so in a sustainable way.



(Image source: businessoffashion.com)

The authors of the report also point out that fashion rental is a natural progression from what is happening elsewhere in other industries. "In more and more categories, consumers are choosing to rent rather than own goods outright. Think of Spotify supplanting CD sales and downloads, Netflix replacing video stores, and ZipCar standing in for car ownership among many young urbanites. This is a fundamental evolution in consumer behavior, and we expect it will have an impact on the fashion business in the years ahead. This trend is partly driven by the young generation's hunger for newness, while embracing sustainability."

Personalized Email Sustainability Reports

Rent the Runway is the leading player in fashion rental right now. The company was valued at $1 billion in March 2019 after securing $125 million in a new round of funding. "The goal here is to create the Amazon Prime of rental, to usher in a new form of dynamic ownership," said CEO Jennifer Hyman.

However, as attitudes around clothes shopping change, it's important for the brand to remind its customers that they are not only doing business with a company who shares their concerns for sustainability but are also making a tangible positive impact on the environment. To achieve this, Rent the Runway has developed an interesting strategy - personalized emails that break down exactly what environmental savings each customer has made over the course of the year by renting instead of buying.

The personalized reports let customers know precisely how many pounds of CO2 they personally saved and how many gallons of water, equating the measurements to everyday things that customers can easily understand - for example, how many miles driven.



(Image source: glossy.co)

In addition, Rent the Runway uses these emails to give their customers further information about what their most rented categories were, the designer brands they rented most, and how much everything they rented would have cost if they bought it all brand new.

Rent the Runway COO Maureen Sullivan is confident that the company's customers are interested in seeing their sustainability impact, and that the emails deepen connections and solidify retention. "I think a lot of our target audience is realizing that most of their closet is only getting worn a few times and really they want to be more sustainable," she said. "Fashion is huge and yet a massive portion of all of it goes into the landfill. People are becoming more aware of what they can do on an individual level."

Final Thoughts

As young consumers look for more sustainable ways to shop, the fashion rental market is poised to capitalize - and Rent the Runway sits right at the top of the pile. However, in the age of the environmentally-conscious shopper, it's crucial for brands to let their customers know that they're dealing with a company who not only shares their concerns but are actually helping them make a positive impact on the environment while still enjoying great products at a great price. Email enables Rent the Runway to deliver that personalization - cementing the company's relationship with its customers and driving deeper loyalty and stronger connections.

As Hyman puts it, "We really think we're creating a modern, sustainable way to live." With its personalized email campaign, Rent the Runway makes sure it's getting that message across to its customers.


You can hear Rent the Runway's CTO & Head of Product, Joshua Builder, speak at eTail West 2020, taking place in February at the JW Marriott, Palm Springs, CA.

Download the Agenda today for more information and insights.