It was once believed that people just wouldn’t buy clothes online; that fashion consumers needed to touch and try what they would be wearing – but this is clearly not the case, as online sales grow and brands continue to innovate.
Online fashion sales grew by 185% between 2007 and 2012, and sales are predicted to rise by 41% by 2017.
According to the IMRG, online clothing sales have increased by 14% this January, compared to the previous year, while online retail overall only grew by 7%.
Fashion and digital work together brilliantly. More brands are bringing new technology to each stage of the consumer journey, and using dynamic data in more creative ways to capture and convert customers online.
One of the reasons that fashion translates well to the online landscape is that stock information can be updated more quickly on a website than in a shop, and it can be presented beautifully (shoppers can’t come in and mess it up, can they?).
Providing that bespoke, personal shopper experience – the experience consumers of certain brands have come to expect in-store – is also far easier online.
Changing the actual store layout for each visitor would be tricky; using consumer data, transactional data and product data to recommend items to website visitors is pretty straightforward.
Personalising content has also been shown to generate a 7.8% increase in conversions, so it’s, y’know, probably worth trying.
- According to Google, the average shopper visits 2.9 different websites before buying clothes (11.4 site visits in total)
- These fashion shoppers consider these purchases for 27 days (having spent more than 3 hours on research)
- 76% of them will use search at some point in their journey
- Half of these fashion customers will use both brand and generic keywords in their searches.
Brands are putting more and more effort into making their sites interesting, personalised and usable, but they are also quick to understand the importance of third-party channels, such as Google Shopping, affiliate marketing and price comparison sites, as a way to reach more potential consumers within an efficient pricing model.
The more channels they use, theoretically, the more data multi-channel retailers can collect on their consumers, helping them to optimise their marketing.
One of the areas fashion brands are exploring is ‘shoppable content’. Retailers are making money from their editorial content, their blogs, and their social media channels, ensuring that they make the most from engaged readers.
MR PORTER, for example, has integrated its product inventory with the blog, to make sure that followers of the blog can be turned into consumers in a seamless and (actually rather gorgeous) way.
MR PORTER’s Senior Performance Strategist Matt Pollington said:
The average order value for someone who visits our The Journal is higher than a non-reader. Therefore, we want to make it as easy as possible for consumers to go from content to product to basket, and achieve true content and commerce integration.
Brands are also becoming more sales-focussed in social media channels. Social media, especially channels such as Pinterest and Instagram, has been a boon for fashion retailers, who rely heavily on the visual aspect of their products.
With news that Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest are probably/definitely/maybe launching ‘Buy’ buttons this year, and Instagram launching carousel ads for brands, it does seem that fashion retailers will be able to start measuring ROI more effectively across these channels.
- 16% more people are using mobiles for fashion purchases than other online retail transactions, says the IMRG.
- Footwear brand schuh says that 49% of their site visitors come from mobile; a further 21% from tablet – so only 30% are visiting from a desktop computer.
- According to L2, 80% of fashion brands now have a mobile site; less than half did in 2012.
This is one of the most important trends: fashion shoppers on mobile are not an audience brands and retailers should ignore.
Client manager at Kantar Worldpanel fashion Shweta Pamula told us:
In the last three months alone, more than 15% of fashion shoppers have bought items using a mobile device – mobile devices only account for a quarter of online spend, but a third of online growth.
These omnichannel shoppers are also very valuable to retailers: shoppers engaged across devices, on average, spend 50% more on fashion than those that only shop in-store and on PCs.
Grabble is one company offering a mobile-friendly approach to shopping – keep or bin items, simple as that. They learn about your preferences as you go: users typically open the app four or five times a day, for 30 to 60 seconds at a time.
Grabble’s co-founder Daniel Murray commented:
People use mobile completely differently: it’s all about user experience over driving conversion in an obvious way. Previously, with web, if you could add hundreds of features on your site to keep the customer there, you were a winner, but on mobile people are comfortable having a number of apps and services that do one function, do it well, make it fast, and keep it simple. Until retailers address this shift in mentality, they will continue to be caught out.
High-end brands often struggle to replicate the store experience online, but some are doing a great job.
Burberry has led the way, presenting Instagram followers with a real-time photo feed during its September London runway shows, and tweeting animated GIFs of scenes from backstage.
CMO of Rich Relevance Diane Kegley comments:
It all comes back to authenticity, originality, quality and craftsmanship. Increasingly—it is also about the experiences a brand can offer, beyond the actual product. A brand’s ability to connect with its consumer and maintain a two-way conversation with her across a multitude of touchpoints will ultimately distinguish it as a leader amongst its peers.
Technology and data has, if anything, brought luxury fashion to a wider audience.
Several fashion brands have been lauded in the Econsultancy blog for taking a more creative (or intuitive, or exciting) approach to search and product filtering, in their quests to improve the user experience.
‘Slicing’ their product data in a more interesting way has allowed brands to present personalised recommendations, aiding cross-sell and up-sell, as well as offering up quizzes and other interactive content to take users from discovery to transaction as quickly and smoothly as possible.
Interestingly, men’s fashion brands seem to be at the forefront of many of the digital trends we’ve seen.
Perhaps because it’s harder to get men engaged with fashion content, innovations are rife, from MR PORTER’s shoppable blog to Grabble’s easy-to-use app.
According to the IMRG, menswear sales have grown 264% between January 2011 and December 2014 – while womenswear has seen growth of 87% in the same period.
New markets, channels and platforms
Something we’ve spotted with our fashion clients is their enthusiasm for new things.
As well as new digital marketing platforms that emerge (see, for example, the buzz around Polyvore, a site that combines community, collages and commerce), fashion brands are capitalising on the global appetite for apparel, ensuring they are represented on local search engines (like Yandex in Russia) and comparison sites.
The question retailers and marketers need to ask themselves is: are you in a position to quickly take advantage of these new channels? When they spring up, can you push your products into them quickly?