Amazon might be your first port of call for a new book or a kitchen blender – but what about clothes?

According to analysis by Cowen & Co, more people than ever are shopping for fashion on the site.

In fact, it has even been predicted that Amazon will overtake Macy’s to become the biggest clothing seller in the US next year.

So what does this mean for the future of fashion retail? 

Here’s a bit more on the story.

Amazon takes on apparel

Like a lot of people, I had been vaguely aware of Amazon selling clothing and accessories, however, I had always assumed that this was only external brands selling via the site’s marketplace.

What I didn't know was that it had also launched seven private-label apparel brands of its own in the US.

With names like ‘Lark & Co’ and ‘Franklin Tailored’, the labels could easily be mistaken for small and independent companies in their own right – not part of Amazon’s growing catalogue.

However, this appears to be a deliberate move by the retailer.

While Amazon’s customer base remains reluctant about buying clothing on the site – just 15% of active customers currently shop for fashion – it is surely hoping that its private labels will help to ramp up activity. 

Of course, data plays a huge part in this. 

By using data analysis to identify fashion retail opportunities – i.e. which brands consumers are looking at on the marketplace, their price points and abandonment behaviour – it is hoping to swoop in and offer an irresistible alternative. 

Naturally, Prime delivery is the killer incentive – the very reason the predicted 30% growth of its apparel category doesn’t sound so unlikely. 

Other forays into fashion

The launch of private labels is just one part of Amazon’s growing apparel strategy. 

Earlier this year, it also created Style Code Live

Rather like QVC but for a digital audience, it is a daily shoppable show dedicated to all things fashion and beauty.

Alongside this, Amazon has also acquired fashion retailers Shopbop and Zappos in the past few years, and continued to sponsor a wide range of industry events ranging from the Met Ball to Men’s Fashion Week. 

With the fashion world being a traditionally luxury space, it hasn’t been an easy nut to crack. 

As a retailer that’s well known for its low-price and high-demand style of selling, Amazon does not naturally fit in with even the lowest-cost competitors. 

The Amazon appeal

As well as acceptance from fellow fashion brands, there are many reasons why consumers might feel dubious about shopping for clothing on Amazon.

First and foremost, it lacks the emotional appeal of a typical clothing ecommerce site. 

With fashion typically being a need rather than a necessity, the site’s focus on functionality and convenience is at odds with the expectations of the average consumer.

Sure, you might feel comfortable shopping for socks or even a pair of trainers, but buying a $200 dress on the site is another story. 

Likewise, the lack of physical stores means that shoppers are unable to try before they buy or engage in a one-to-one interaction with employees.

That being said, there are many factors which might outweigh the negatives.

Despite being online-only, the 'showroom' effect is definitely something that goes in Amazon's favour. This term describes the phenomenon of consumers browsing, usually in physical stores, before searching online for a cheaper price point and more convenient delivery.

Of course, the biggest draw will be Amazon’s Prime delivery service. With two-day shipping and easy returns, it's something that the likes of Macy’s, Nordstrom and JC Penney are unable to compete with.

The fact that Amazon is so ingrained as a trusted and reliable retailer is also another win. Shoppers already have experience with its extensive customer reviews and Prime Day deals – features that already make Amazon one of the most recognisable brands in the world.

So, watch this space.

Now forecast to make $62bn in annual clothing sales within five years, it could be a matter of time before buying clothes from Amazon is the norm.

Further articles about Amazon:

Nikki Gilliland

Published 3 November, 2016 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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