The fitness trend has taken the sportswear market by storm, with sportswear brands, including Lululemon, launching leggings and some sportswear. Some new brands such as Keep and MAIA ACTIVE are launching new arrivals rapidly. With social influencer marketing, leggings and sportswear quickly sell over 10,000 items online. Lululemon’s share price has risen due to the brand’s strategy of promoting its e-commerce business in recent years, using DTC as its main channel. Its success is also due to community marketing, which has developed a loyal following.
Leggings support a $100 billion market cap
Lululemon initially specialized in women’s sportswear and started a fashion trend. Over the years, it has rapidly expanded internationally, attracting many young people to buy them. Since its inception in 1998, Lululemon has positioned itself as a sportswear brand with a technological innovation based on yoga. Claiming to be designed with top-notch fabrics and craftsmanship, they said the goal is to solve traditional sportswear wear pain points.
As the originator of the yoga pant, Lululemon’s most distinctive feature is the patented fabric used to enhance comfort. Designed with a seam-free fit, they are snug and stretchy to reduce chafing and complete high-intensity workouts. They are combined with basic features such as anti-bacterial, sweat-wicking, and breathable. Fitness enthusiasts quickly became the brand’s most loyal fans.
The majority of consumers are young women, accounting for 70% of the population. To reach a wider group, Lululemon has started to launch more products for men, including leggings, shorts, tops, and jackets to cater for physical activities such as yoga, running, and training. lululemon also claims to double its menswear business by 2023.
Community operation, Exporting brand culture
“Lululemon may be expensive, but it’s good quality.” This is why followers are convinced that Lululemon stands apart from other brands. In terms of providing a sense of value, Lululemon has also succeeded in convincing users that it is worth spending money for the brand.
In addition to the quality of its products, Lululemon’s ability to export its brand culture through its community is one of the most important reasons it has gained a loyal following.
Lululemon believes that it is the functional enhancements that influence consumers’ purchasing decisions and the brand culture that is conveyed. Therefore, Lululemon’s marketing strategy is about selling products and adopting a community marketing approach, connecting consumers through physical shops, online, and community.
The essence of Lululemon’s social marketing is to use the community as a base, including yoga studios and fitness clubs, and turn these offline outlets into distribution channels to reach the target audience, with results that can be seen immediately.
Lululemon’s brand ambassadors are usually athletes, yogis, coaches, and other KOLs. lululemon works with them to offer them free products or discounts, and these ambassadors will use the product first-hand and then act as “shoppers” to bring in new customers. In addition, lululemon regularly organizes training sessions such as meditation and yoga and outdoor sports such as running to keep the community active.
When Lululemon first entered the Chinese market in 2013, it first landed in the core shopping districts of first-tier cities such as Shanghai and Beijing, opening showrooms and holding several regular offline events that attracted thousands of yoga enthusiasts.
The “apprentices” who are desperately trying to catch up
Compared to Nike and Adidas, Lululemon is more focused on leggings, with consumption scenarios expanding from sports to daily commuting and prices almost twice as much as similar products. There are also a few competitors to Lululemon, but no headline brand has emerged yet.
Learning community marketing from Lululemon offline and distributing content online with the help of social media, featuring KOLs for endorsements, and sharing product experiences, several brands have taken a cue from this approach to educating users. MAIA ACTIVE, for example, positioned itself as a DTC brand, researching the right fit for Asian women while launching a series of offline training events.
Some of the newer brands offer better value for money in terms of brand positioning. This means missing out on a more open market for the higher-priced Lululemon. More and more clothing brands, including MAIA ACTIVE, are moving towards the DTC model to reduce channel costs.
Although Lululemon is still difficult to surpass in the short term, the gap between the different brands on the market has gradually narrowed as sportswear brands have emerged. The advantages from products, channels to supply chains have been weakened.
Some brands start with fabric and fit from product development to improve the wearing experience. Many of the cheaper leggings on the market offer the most basic functional needs and have similar selling points. Many of the more affordable leggings on the market provide the most basic practical needs and have identical selling points. Consumers can get a pair of leggings that are just as high value, moisture-wicking, and high stretch as Lululemon for a lower price.
Although using proprietary fabrics, Lululemon still has to rely on third-party suppliers. Some new brands seek to work with top suppliers, using materials from the same factories as Lululemon. Lululemon has also said that in the future, it may compete with other brands for raw materials and production lines to create products with similar performance.
The success of Lululemon is challenging to replicate, as it has captured the hearts and minds of consumers with its high-quality yoga trousers. If it wants to be popular enough, Lululemon needs to cater to a broader range of users, diversify its product line, and increase the frequency of repeat purchases to avoid the “spell” of decline after a hit.