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There is little doubt that in recent years the high street is being reshaped by the impact of the growth of e-commerce.

Aurora fashion group, for instance, announced in March 2012 that half of its stores could close due to the fact that 70% of the company’s transactions are now made online.

Successful fashion brands are looking at innovative ways to drive customers into stores and innovative ways of improving the in-store experience through online. Pure players are extending their presence offline with services like click and collect and traditional bricks and mortar are looking at new ways to increase their stock online.

But what makes a fashion brand look better and perform better than their competitors? From a sector broad analysis, fashion brands that are succeeding through an integrated multichannel approach are the ones considering the following aspects: 

Wardrobe size tends to increase despite the economic context

It would be reasonable to expect a cut on clothes spending during the last two years due to external events like woes of the global economy. However, according to a number of sources, including the office for national statistics, consumers spent more on clothes in 2011. 

Sales increase is happening due to the exponential online growth that we have been witnessing in recent years.

Traditionally the major barrier to growing online fashion sales and the main reason for the increasing number of returns is the inability to physically interact with the products.

Recent advances in technology like virtual fitting rooms and improvements in data collection, are helping shoppers to fully embrace e-commerce and contributing to the steady growth of the market. Solutions like Fits.me promise an improvement in online sales by up to 62% and reduced returns by up to 35%.

Through historic data, retailers know which sizes are selling and can forecast what they could be selling, thereby reducing risk in the business.

Customer centric services help customer decision process

The most important challenges in the fashion offer tend to be related with customer service and logistics - mainly because of the increasing customer expectations.

Flexible customer service systems and a range of reliable and convenient delivery or collection options, offered by companies like Shutl are more important than ever in providing consumers with a shopping experience that will lead them to repeat buying and give recommendations.

The brands offering a multi-way conversation are the ones helping consumers’ decisions

In order to be customer centric, fashion brands are extending their offer between the ‘bricks and the clicks’ in what is normally called the multichannel offer.

According to Google, the buying decision journey has the ‘zero moment of truth’, that happens online in real time, with the consumer taking control of the entire emotional process. 

Fundamentally, the big challenge is to provide an operating model that moves away from silos, towards an agile customer centric approach, where the simplicity wins in relation to the usual addition of components and systems.

Entertainment can be enhanced through ‘gamification’ techniques;

Fashion brands can increase sales by enhancing the entertainment factor through ‘gamification’ techniques as Topshop did when it launched online games to get customers more involved with its site and fashion offering. 

Among others, the factors that will influence the rise of shopping via networking sites in the future are broadband penetration and smartphone ownership.

Augmented reality and interactive TV’s known as the ‘third wave’ of technologies is set to revolutionise the market in a not too distant future. Consumers will regularly use interactive television to shop and this will represent a big opportunity for brands in the fashion industry through techniques like product placement and social network campaigns.

One of the first examples was given In September 2012 when Burberry launched ‘tweetwalk’, livestreaming its London Fashion Week runway.

The focus is on customers and not on stock and cost saving

There are several stages of integration and analysis before a brand can claim the multichannel badge. An understanding of the customer journey is key along with a good understanding of how the data systems can be integrated because improvements in one channel will have impact in all others. 

Mobile is seen as the main connector between the offline and the online world and this is particularly interesting for fashion retailers that are trying to innovate through QR codes and real time stock availability display.

This increased use of mobile can make attribution more difficult to measure. Another point that adds complexity to the customer journey is social media qualitative data measurement.

Social media is an area with big potential for brand advocacy and therefore a big area of interest for fashion brands whose success seems to be highly dependent on popularity and influence on social networks.

In 2011 and 2012 a series of companies went into administration including Peacock group, Jane Norman and La Senza. Among other reasons these companies may have in common the lack of adequate solutions for the multichannel consumer.

What are your predictions for 2013? Are fashion brands performing better this year?

Maria Morais

Published 7 February, 2013 by Maria Morais

Maria Morais is Digital Commerce Consultant at neoworks and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can follow Maria on Twitter

2 more posts from this author

Comments (4)

Hayden Sutherland

Hayden Sutherland, Director at Ideal Interface

I'm not following you when you say "This increased use of mobile makes attribution very difficult to measure".
Most digital analytics products can now track mobile website usage and only yesterday there was an article on this blog about measuring mobile app usage.

Also I have to admit I'm struggling with your comment "Another point that adds complexity to the customer journey is social media qualitative data measurement." Can you explain what you mean here and specifically why qualitative measurement of any social media channel should affect the customer journey.

over 3 years ago

Maria Morais

Maria Morais, Customer Engagement & Commerce Retail Lead at IBM

Hi Hayden,
Thanks for your comment. Yes, you are absolutely right when you say that most digital analytics products can now track mobile website usage, the point is that the 'single customer view' or the 'multichannel' oasis is still far from reality for most brands. One thing is technological capability, the other is how brands decide to set up their analytics package. The good news is that this means there are fantastic business opportunities for analytics products when it comes to attribution models especially the ones that can bring something different to the last touch measurement.
Regarding your second point, when analysing the customer journey, it becomes difficult to justify the path between qualitative data like a comment for instance and a conversion. This is why we often hear that social media does not generate sales.
The challenge seems to be having the ability to create a multichannel offering and also being able to measure it accurately, solving the problem of which channel gets credit when a user after touching multiple channels, decides to buy a product.
Hope this helps to clarify.
Thanks,
Maria

over 3 years ago

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Jesper Christensen

@Hayden the increased use of mobile will indeed make attribution modelling difficult as the user moves from one device to another and maybe researches on laptop, check up on prices from mobile and ends up buying from a tablet. All visits will be counted as unique visits even though they are performed by the same user in the same flow of buying the same item (if the user is not logged in of course).

So everytime the user change device during their path to conversion the attribution model indeed becomes more complex.

Best wishes

over 3 years ago

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Maria

I agree with you Maria!

over 3 years ago

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