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GUEST COMMENT WhatsApp Business: Fashion’s new runway, storefront and service centre?

At first glance, digitisation and messaging should represent the very antithesis to traditional fashion shopping. Purchases are usually driven by trips to retail stores, waiting for a changing room, and gleaning all-important advice from fashion experts.

In other words, a world far removed from chatbots, GIFs, and smartphone screens.

But more and more consumers are embracing digital, a move driven by Millennials and Gen Z who demand mobile-first customer experience wherever their buying journeys take them. Think wanting recommendations based on their purchase history data, using their smartphone cameras to carry out ’visual searches,’ and more.

Savvy fashion house CX specialists have already capitalized on this. They understand the demand represents a real opportunity to create faster, frictionless CX, driven by digital conversational commerce, and are turning to WhatsApp, the world’s number one chat app, to deliver on such promise.

How fashion trailblazers are already innovating with WhatsApp

A growing number of fashion brands are using WhatsApp Business to successfully deepen customer relationships, stealing a march on competitors still relying solely on traditional CX channels:

  • Spanish fashion brand Zara lets customers use the chat app to connect with the company instantly and chat about typical issues such as sizing, colours, materials, order updates, and returns.
  • Sports fashion brand, Adidas, has been answering customer queries via WhatsApp since 2015, and last year innovated by allowing amateur teams to pitch for a professional athlete to join them for a single game via WhatsApp.
  • Indonesia’s largest online marketplace Tokopedia sends one-time passwords via WhatsApp, increasing the authentication success rate by 10%.
  • Other fashion brands have successfully experimented with the chat app, including Agent Provocateur that offered a ’discreet’ customer service for its shoppers, and Clarks that answered customer queries about its campaign promoting boys’ shoes.

There are fashion retailers that are basing their entire business model on messaging. For instance, Yoox-Net-a-Porter offers a personal shopper service that delivers curated fashion advice and products to its subscribers via WhatsApp. It’s a fresh approach that places conversational commerce front and centre, and successfully addresses the lack of personalisation that often dogs ill-conceived digital customer experiences.

Making WhatsApp Business work it

It makes product discovery a delight, not a deluge

Fashion is about personal expression; in reality, that can represent a whole lot of ’expressions’ for a single consumer to contend with before deciding on what purchase is right for them. More often than not, the experience can leave them feeling overwhelmed.

With WhatsApp, purchasing suggestions can be personalized and delivered at the right moments based on their previous buying preferences and other insights provided by the company’s CRM and other systems (through backend integrations). It means fashion retailers can help their customers tackle those feelings of ’decision-paralysis’ once and for all.

Swap out changing room queues for instant rich media

WhatsApp enables fashion brands to move beyond plain text and emojis and deploy a raft of rich media to help customers visualize just how great they’ll look in the clothes they’re considering. Think images, GIFs, carousels, videos, and PDFs that bring the shopping experience to life on that diminutive phone screen.

This, in turn, can help drive down return rates, which currently stand at 40% in fashion e-commerce (that’s 10% higher than any other form of online retail).

Chatbots – now back in fashion

Gone are the expensive, low IQ-touting chatbots of yesteryear. They’ve been replaced with super-smart bots with lower development costs — and even entire out-of-the-box solutions. It means bots can be rolled out at speed on WhatsApp and begin servicing customers who need answers to common FAQ-like questions, such as details on clothing sizes, physical store locations, loyalty point updates, and more.

Better still, deploying a bot sees traffic being moved away from time, resource, and cost-hungry call centres.

Customer journey that doesn’t miss a beat

If the chatbot does come up short, customers can be handed over to a live agent in an instant to ensure their journey doesn’t end in a conversational cul-de-sac.

Messaging with a live agent also helps deepen engagement with customers, making them more likely to complete their purchases — and promote the brand. This is great news as the shopping cart abandonment rate in online fashion retail currently stands at 68%, according to Smart Insights.

Deliveries made as visible as fashion runways

No, delivery logistics aren’t as appealing as a Milan catwalk but for customers, knowing when that new top will arrive is still critical. After all, 93% of consumers state they want to receive updates about where their parcel deliveries are, says Convey. And WhatsApp can help with that too, allowing fashion retailers to send out automated notifications, so the customer always stays informed.

Giving customers what they want

Providing great customer experience is now more important than ever. According to Salesforce, 84% of consumers say that a brand’s customer experience is as important as its products and services.

Critically, superior CX driven by conversational commerce is “one of the few remaining means of sustainable competitive differentiation,” says Gartner.

That’s why many brands are turning to WhatsApp Business and jump-start the conversational commerce engine.

Official WhatsApp Business Solution providers like tyntec work with brands to transform their service and commerce experience throughout the buyer journey – from creating an official WhatsApp Business Account and securing all-important verification to seamless backend integration and even chatbot deployment.


Jean Shin is Director Strategy and Content, tyntec

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