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Reconnecting to Shoppers by Reframing Exclusivity

Reconnecting to Shoppers by Reframing Exclusivity

You can’t manufacture hype, and younger consumers are hard to fool when it comes to selling them on a so-called 'must-have.' Here are key ways to up your covet factor in a new era of exclusivity

These days, the concept of luxury and exclusivity have little to do with price. Today’s shoppers are increasingly seeking unique products and experiences as a way to showcase their personal identities—and flex on social media. In fact, 75% of consumers agree that they enjoy using social media to share one-of-a-kind products and/or exclusive experiences, such as limited-edition sneakers or secret concerts (1).

As a result, younger generations are driving an interest in customized clothing and accessories, as well as vintage fashion, in addition to their well-documented love of hype and exclusive streetwear. In a time when a $40 T-shirt can sell out in minutes, what does it mean for something to be unique, what makes for a covetable item among today’s youth? Further, what can retailers do to drive interest and create hype? Here are three approaches leaders are taking, drawn from PSFK x Complex Networks' report full of insights into today's category-defying consumer audience:

For The Clout

Streetwear and its culture has taken hold of the mainstream imagination, helping usher in a new era of casual dressing, reigniting logo-mania, and effectively democratizing the concept of luxury. The concept of the “drop” has extended far beyond its original environs, as brands and influencers use limited or surprise releases to get young people lining up for everything from Kylie Jenner’s lip kits to Popeye’s chicken sandwiches—then posting about it on social. And the drop isn’t limited just to streetwear, mind you: Morgenstern’s Finest Ice Cream, a small chain based out of New York City, entices fans with super limited edition ice cream bars and collaborations with talent like Action Bronson.


The new exclusivity isn’t just about hard-to-get, but really more so about hyper-personalized experiences and products. Epsilon research states that 80% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase when brands offer personalized experiences, and 90% of consumers find customization appealing (2). Brands can meet young consumers’ expectations to not be put into a box by giving them something that feels individualized. From that hyper-personalization will come the feeling of exclusivity. This uniqueness extends to the store and brand experience—Nike Melrose store in L.A., for example, offers a hyper-personalized shopping journey, using localized sales data to curate merchandise specific to the needs and preferences of that audience.

Vintage Comes Back Around

The rise of individualism and desire for sustainability has correlated with growing interest in thrift store shopping and vintage, giving way to a massive secondary market for clothing and accessories. For young consumers who came of age at the height of fast fashion, vintage provides a unique alternative to the mass-produced items churned out by trendy and inexpensive retailers. With decades’ worth of clothing at hand, young people feel less beholden to the trends of the moment and have all the more options to pick and choose from when composing their visual aesthetic. Moreover, vintage expands young people’s access to the world of fashion: Marketplaces like the RealReal, ReBag, ThredUp and Grailed give young people a means of interacting with luxury brands at a more accessible price point. Meanwhile, peer-to-peer platforms like Depop offer brand-building tools to members and encourage them to create unique content and leverage personal identity to build sales.

Key takewaways for upping your covet factor:

Consider the context around an item as it relates to its covetability. Does it signify that the owner attended an exclusive event or drop? Does it give them an opportunity to wear something no one else has?

Embrace co-creation, giving customers the opportunity whenever possible to have a part in the development process —either weighing in on design decisions along the way or customizing the final product.

Consider the possibilities of the secondary market. Many brands can capitalize on a rising interest in unique vintage items by building resale and authentication into their business models.

Redefining exclusivity is one of four trends tied to changing desires and behaviors that PSFK and Complex Networks explore in our rich report full of consumer and cultural insights, which we've compiled to help retail and marketing experts understand and engage today's most influential audiences—to access the free report, click here!

1 The Complex Collective Survey, 2019, as referenced in Complex Networks x PSFK's What's Next: Generation Antidentity, 2020.

2  “The power of me: The impact of personalization on marketing performance.” Epsilon, 2018