5 reasons why fashion ecommerce brands will lead retail's growth

Shopping for clothes and accessories is a personal experience.

For some, the word fashion strikes fear into the very soul of some (mainly male) people. The idea of shopping for joy seems like an oxymoron to these folks. Why would anyone consider this anxiety-inducing chore anything more than a time-sucking necessity?

In contrast, so many of us consider shopping to be our sport of choice!

Apart from indulging in the emotional delights of retail therapy, shopping also allows us to stay updated on the latest style, and it’s the gateway to expressing our personality when we socialise with friends and family.

Fashion has a significant impact not only in the development of culture but also on our individual self-satisfaction.

The thing ecommerce brands are in danger of forgetting is the reason why so many online shoppers decide to click that ‘buy’ button…

Shopping is an emotional experience.

Those brands who capture these emotions and make shoppers feel a certain way are the ones who can develop lasting, loyal customer relationships.

The psychology of shopping goes way back – and even shopping habits have their roots back in early human history. The classic example of this is how men and women differ with how they shop. Stereotypically, men have always been depicted as a grab-and-go type of shopper while women are lingerers who prefer to relish and savour the experience.

Consider the psychological drivers of your target audience when designing your shopping experience

If we go back to our extremely generalised gender stereotypes, we can see how an ecommerce brand might use consumer psychology to tailor the online store based on the target audience’s preferences…

  • Males have always been hunters and are required to be quick, efficient, and waste no time as they have to get back before dark. Astute online retailers might use this knowledge to streamline the store’s user experience, provide clear and succinct style advice and product info, and test the checkout process to make sure any friction is reduced to avoid abandoned carts. 

  • Females, on the other hand, were traditionally gatherers, who would spend hours foraging the best fruits, plants, berries, and other types of food. Putting our Darwinism to work - guys have the tendency to know what they want and find a way to get it fast. Women tend to research widely, consider their decisions, and analyse if the item is right before making a choice. If your online store’s audience fits this stereotype – you’ll need to prioritise elements that reduce uncertainty, build trust and prove authority.

You need to analyse your target audience and find out what emotions and feelings spark their purchase decisions.

What are the behavioural similarities between your customers?

What matters most to your ideal shopper?

You need to work out the psychological buttons your online store needs to push inside the minds of your target audience. 

Huge growth awaits fashion ecommerce if we can create more enjoyable online shopping experiences. 

In recent years, people who prefer shopping for clothing, footwear and accessories online instead of in-store, has risen to 45%.

A further 64% consult a fashion retailer’s website first before making a purchase.

This trend corresponds with the significant investment of retailers in online stores.

Growth in ecommerce is steady, while malls around the world are closing at record rates.

While both online and offline retail are both here to stay – there’s still plenty more growth left for ecommerce brands prepared to invest in more innovative, customer-friendly online shopping experiences.

For all its promise now, fashion ecommerce is an industry ripe for the picking by forward-thinking digital entrepreneurs.

I want to explain five reasons why your fashion retail brand needs to invest in developing the superior online shopping experience in your niche.

#1. Investors are becoming more confident in the growth of fashion ecommerce

The likes of Lyst, Zalando and Net-a-Porter in Europe, and Revolve, Jet.com and Warby Parker in the US – have blazed the trail for aspiring ecommerce entrepreneurs, nailing down huge multi-million dollar investment deals. This graphic from CBC Insights shows a significant collection of US ecommerce fashion brands who’ve nailed down investor funding in the last few years.

These are just a few examples that prove investors are growing more confident in the growth trajectory of the fashion ecommerce industry.

RJMetrics’ 2016 Ecommerce Investor Report found the median size of early stage ecommerce investments rose from $3million in 2011 to $9.4million in 2016. The best of the bunch can dominate, and they can build that domination fast.

However, deal volume has decreased from 731 deals in 2013 to just 68 in 2016. That means – if your ecommerce fashion brand wants a big chunk of that growing ecommerce revenue pie – your online store needs to be one of the best of the best.

Sustainable ecommerce success is hard to achieve at significant scale. Even though the opportunity for growth is juicy, only those retailers with the most customer-friendly online service environment will be left to share in the spoils.

As much as consumer behaviour changes affect the way fashion ecommerce must operate, it also affects the behaviour and confidence of investors in the industry.

If we build better, more personalised online stores that develop loyal customer relationships with our target audiences – we’ll generate more sales and more investment interest.

#2. Fashion ecommerce is slowly getting rid of its biggest weakness

This weakness is simple.

People buying clothes, footwear and accessories want to trial products before committing to purchase.

If a shopper can’t be sure of a size, feel or fit – there’s a good chance your ecommerce store will be left with an abandoned cart.

A large percentage of shoppers go to brick-and-mortar shops despite recognising the convenience and advantages of online shops.

Why?

Because they aren’t 100% certain of the clothes they are planning to order online.

The fear of spending money on something you won’t be able to use, and the frustration of having to return an item is enough to force a shopper to make the purchase in store.

However, forward-thinking online retailers are overcoming this entrenched consumer behaviour by developing content experiences specifically designed to reduce this uncertainty.

Many brands are investing in augmented reality technologies that allow online shoppers to see virtual 3D forms of the clothes they plan on buying to see what it would most likely look like in person depending on certain parameters like fit options, colours, and fabrics.

For example, Virtusize allows shoppers to check garments they’re browsing online against products they already own to help find the right fit.

Suit makers have also introduced customization technology – Brioni, for has even digitised its made-to-measure tailoring process so customers can visualise their completed custom look using a 3D technology called “mirror”.

Other fashion retailers with lower tech budgets are finding ways to bootstrap the development of online try-on experiences and detailed online size guides.

Victoria’s Secret and Michael Hill Jewelers provide inspirational examples for brands without the ability to spend up on virtual reality.

#3. Fashion brands can engage directly with online shoppers to build stronger social relationships

When buying or browsing in a brick-and-mortar shop, your customer has the benefit of being in contact with other humans, whether it be a friend who can help you make the right decision or a salesperson who can answer your questions immediately.

Online shopping has been deprived of this ability for too long, but now ecommerce brands have no excuse not to provide quality alternatives to help reduce customer uncertainties and provide social proof.

From reviews, forums, Q&A pages, and user generated content - customers are now able to keep in contact with influencers, decision-makers, and even brands themselves for helpful style advice to influence the buying decision.

Recent surveys revealed that the majority of customers tune in to reviews first and base their buying decisions around them. In 2016, 84% of people trust online reviews as much as they do with personal recommendation, and 90% of consumers read less than 10 reviews before forming an opinion about a business.

You need to develop an ecommerce business model with content marketing built in as a competitive advantage. User generated content could be the difference between an abandoned cart and the first sale to a lifetime loyal customer who acts as an unpaid brand ambassador.

#4. The sharing economy has now extended to fashion

BazaarVoice has this fascinating analysis of the sharing economy merging into fashion ecommerce:

“When we think about the concept of the sharing economy, brands like Airbnb and Uber are the first to come to mind. However, the concept of the sharing economy is also extending to fashion. Millennials who are driving this trend of disownership might not always have the budget to afford expensive clothes, but they still look for great experiences.”

Many customers, especially millennials, have varying reasons why they may not pursue a purchase.

One big one is the lack of budget to afford expensive clothes. Or they may want a particular article of clothing for a specific event, but can’t justify the expense knowing they are unlikely to wear it more than once.

Forward-thinking fashion ecommerce entrepreneurs have capitalised on this consumer behaviour. By developing an online shopping experience based on the sharing economy concept (where customers can find and rent outfits in a marketplace environment), fashion ecommerce brands can avoid the logistical and operational nightmares on manufacturing and wholesaling.

These brands also pull significant benefits from a reduction in returns expenses, and an increase in repeat sales and purchase frequency.

#5. Fashion brands are primed to maximise the benefits of new ecommerce technologies

The internet has seen a swathe of tech improvements, especially in recent years.

Social media has driven huge change, evolving from simple platforms that designed purely to connected individuals - to information hubs and content networks that act as the gateway to the internet.

The visual nature of platforms like Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook plays right into the hands of fashion ecommerce retailers who can develop strong relationships with their target audience.

Interacting with their customers (and vice versa) and even effectively targeting niche audiences has never been easier. If your brand can develop regular, quality, valuable content to lure your target audience from these social platforms to sign up for a regular email choc full of this helpful content – you have yourself a repeat customer generating content marketing machine.

Some of the many benefits social media gives to marketers and businesses, particularly within the fashion ecommerce vertical include:

  • Immediately seeing results of your campaigns with real-time and instantaneous inputs from users

  • A/B testing of highly-individualised messages for equally-individualised audiences that are easier and less expensive compared to traditional advertising

  • A greater “multiplier effect”: users can resend the original message to thousands of friends or followers with a simple click of the mouse with very little cost to the company as opposed to spending stacks of cash on TV, radio or print

  • Social media allows brands to pinpoint influencers with existing audiences and collaborate on content marketing initiatives to amplify reach and build a targeted audience quickly and inexpensively

  • Social media is a great method of driving traffic to your ecommerce website organically

With the continual improvements and new features constantly integrated by the big social media platforms, more and more tools will be developed to help brands develop stronger relationships with their target audiences.

Now is the time to invest in your fashion ecommerce brand’s online store experience

Fashion ecommerce is still in its infancy.

Growth is steady and sustainable.

Just remember – the best brands with the most customer-friendly online shopping experiences will share in an exponentially larger share of that growing ecommerce revenue pie.

Your fashion ecommerce brand needs to start developing a best-in-class online store to make sure you can reap the rewards and dominate your online niche.

 

 

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Author

Dana Mia Kim

Dana Kim is a former business consultant who has now transitioned into an online marketer helping ecommerce brands grow their business. Dana has worked with retailers across several industries including fashion, fitness and hospitality verticals.With six years’ experience as an online marketer, Dana has carved out a niche helping several start-up clothing companies to establish their brands, and develop sustainable growth.