Change is coming in the fashion industry! Investors believe in the digitalization of this industry, one of the reasons that explains the number of mergers and investments last year. To name just a few, ‘unicorn’ pure players: Farfetch acquired London boutique Browns, American luxury firm Neiman Marcus acquired German fashion e-tailer MyTheresa and start-up Rent The Runway, fashion aggregator Lyst or mobile app Spring have all raised new rounds of funding to fuel growth. Investments are necessary because the sector is changing quickly and companies have no other choice but to follow the trends.
“It is true that only about 6 percent of sales are online at the moment. But we know that online is responsible for influencing more than 50 percent of buying decisions,” said José Neves, founder of Farfetch (International fashion website). “You need to integrate your eCommerce with your physical retail operations.” For example, the Kooples provide the same quality of service and advice on their website as in their shops thanks to Personal Shoppers.
Fashion brands may have been a bit reluctant in the past but they are now ready to focus on eCommerce and let’s be honest, the transition is not easy. It is impossible to try clothes on online and a challenge to manage the logistics of the store’s inventory in real time.
But consumers spend more and more time online and they are increasingly demanding. So how can fashion brands stand out in this competitive sector? Let’s find out.
Sources: le Journal du Net, eConsultancy, eCommerce foundation
Innovation: a key tool to ease the transition and appease customer concerns
The first wave of eCommerce consisted in bringing the fashion world online. Now, the challenge is concentrated around features. For example, Spring is a platform that aims to be a virtual shopping mall for the Fashion industry. The process is similar to applications like Spotify and Uber: they focused on the user-interface and customer experience. Applications aim to provide the best possible customer experience to increase online sales. For example, Fits.me is an application that analyzes body types, physical proportions, the preferences of millions of shoppers and the technical composition of thousands of garments to suggest the best clothes for any one shopper asking for help. It’s as if you were there, trying the clothes on! Well nearly … Change is definitely on the way.
Social Media: Social Shopping, an old habit brought to Social Media
It’s not new that people ask their friends for advice when they start thinking about a purchase whether it is a new dress or new shoes. Social Media just gives them the possibility to seek recommendations from more people and influencers (experts in a field). For brands from the fashion industry, the challenge is to spot influencers and engage with them. Influencers have a strong voice on Twitter (@ChiaraFerragni, @AIMEESONG), Instagram (Kristina Bazan / Sincerelyjules), Facebook (Chiara Nasti ) and on their blogs (Nicole Warne with garypeppergirl.com / Shea Marie Shea Marie with peaceloveshea.com).
Before social media, only friends and family influenced someone’s decision to purchase a fashion item. Now, influencers and conversations on social media help them with this decision. Fashion brands have to understand current trends to better integrate them within their content strategy and social media engagement.
But if we could give you a piece of advice, do not just rely on your brand’s content. User-generated content will have more impact on your customers. Shoppers seek out user-generated content before a purchase. It’s more objective and they can really relate to it.
Sharing economy: the new norm
The start-up Rent the Runway is currently challenging the idea of owning fashion with a Netflix-like rental service. It has capitalized on several trends like the coming of age of the Millennial generation and the sharing economy. This service offers designer items from brands like Balenciaga. This way, users can borrow clothes and accessories indefinitely. You share the clothes with the entire community and borrow them from the website. You can then decide to purchase the item for good. This way, the service is a good alternative to the purchasing commitment.
Now, why not challenge customer service in the fashion industry by letting brand ambassadors answer other customers’ questions ? It’s another way of getting advice and making up your mind before you take the plunge.
Progress needed on the mobile front
With consumers spending 89% of their time on media through mobile apps, it’s no longer something that can be ignored. If consumers are more and more connected it’s also because they are always a click away thanks to their smartphones. Consumers are flexible, that’s why they expect brands to be at the ready to support them on all devices, all channels and at all times.
To sum things up, the future of fashion is both physical and digital – phygital!. Fashion brands should not neglect physical shops but they should focus their attention on every channel that can connect them with customers. They should also pay attention to anyone who can help them advise customers. Yes, you will first ask your friends for advice but you might also take what influencers on social media say into consideration. Also, it seems like an interesting alternative to let brand ambassadors advise visitors since consumers seek information and content from other users more than from the brands themselves.
Customer service is key for brands in the fashion industry. Indeed, it helps websites reduce the number returns which is quite high in this sector (17,3% of fashion deliveries are returned). By providing online customer service, brands can advise customers and visitors on sizes, shapes and colors.