The Rise of Fashion E-Commerce
Fashion is the number one item purchased online, with research from Mintel showing that over two thirds of online shoppers purchase clothing and footwear in this way. For shoppers the benefits are clear to see: online shopping is convenient; saves time, offers greater product choice, and allows for cost savings. The benefits for retailers are equally abundant such as increased visibility, cost saving, access to data, value-added engagement and, of course, an increase in sales.
A strong, successful online presence goes beyond just a good website and needs to be part of a fully integrated offer. Brands can add to Shopper experience by involving other channels such as social media. For many, clothes shopping is a really social activity – with shoppers often looking to their peers for inspiration, advice and opinions before and after making a purchase. This is not just true for ‘high-street’ shoppers, but also for online. They love to share their thoughts, images and opinions on social media as well as seeking out those of others. It’s no surprise that recent research conducted by TK Maxx revealed that almost a third of British shoppers credit social media in helping them to decide what to buy and how to wear it. This is also backed up by research from Crowdtab and Ipsos showing that user-generated content is 20% more influential than any other type of media when it comes to purchasing and 50% more trusted. Through social media, brands can leverage this ‘herding instinct’, but they must be careful because the modern consumer wants more than just aspirational branded content. Today’s consumer wants something they can trust. They want real-life recommendations from their peers. To provide this, online retailers must combine social media and user generated content with their e-commerce offering to improve trust, drive conversation and build an online “community” of current and potential consumers.
ASOS have already tapped into the popularity of user generated content in their ‘As Seen On Me’ channel that encourages consumers to share photographs of their Asos outfits on social media. These images are then placed on the buying pages of the particular items, allowing shoppers to browse what others are buying and how they are wearing it.
Taking it one step further, Net-a-Porter launched their own social network, The Net Set, earlier this year. The World’s first shoppable social network allows users to share their feelings on all things fashion whilst also following friends, trendsetters and “style-tribes” to see what they’re browsing and buying from the Net-a-Porter site. Promising to be the ‘future of how we shop’ every single item featured is shoppable, giving users a seamless experience across devices.
However, the reasons and motivations behind each person’s shopping habit can vary greatly, making it extremely hard for e-tailers to provide a universal message that appeals to all. By encouraging social sharing, retailers can offer a more personalised service, with tailored content to suit their needs. By demonstrating their knowledge of, and proactively engaging with, shoppers – they can offer an in-store level of customer service that many find lacking in the online shopping world.
A personalised online offering is being adopted by many fashion retailers on a variety of levels. From Very.co.uk, who recently became the first retailer to produce a fully personalised homepage to each of their customers, to Lyst -a personalised digital shopping platform that partners with designers and stores to provide shoppers with suggestions based on their previous buys.
London based start-up, Thread.com, goes as far as to offer a real life personal stylist to each of their shoppers. After gaining a few personal details, the site blends man and machine to generate an algorithm of suggestions whilst the allocated (human) stylist suggests how to wear each item and what to combine them with.
Online retail has huge potential and fashion in particular is moving at a dramatic and exciting pace, with sales in women’s clothing expected to increase by 14% through 2019 (Mintel). Disruptive technologies in social commerce, mobile and customer experience continue to transform the retail industry, opening up new ways for retailers to engage with their consumers, whilst allowing them to gather insight into what they want and why they buy. The challenge for online retailers to continue to succeed in the digital age is to stay ahead of the curve and respond to trends as they emerge in the e-commerce space. By doing this they are able to constantly redefine their value whilst providing their consumers with a more efficient and pleasurable online shopping experience.