GUEST COMMENT: Covid has hit Fashion like a meteor – five ecommerce survival strategies for 2021

Image: Fotolia

Image: Fotolia

With60% of the UK population working from home, job uncertainty and money worries sweeping the country it’s hardly surprising thata quarter of Brits plan to spend less on fashion in 2021, despite internet sales being on the upward trend.

Loungewear aside – John Lewis reported a sales increase of over 1300% –  almost all other areas of the fashion world – online and offline – have been hard hit by the effects of the pandemic, particularly the global personal luxury goods market, which has lost €64 billion ($79 billion) in sales over the last 12 months resulting in a 23% decline.

In 2021, the fashion industry faces many challenges but those operating online have several new opportunities available to them. What follows are five survival strategies for this challenging terrain.

Offer A Personalised Online Experience

As the fashion industry adapts to social distancing and store closures, we can expect to see growth in the personal shopping experience, particularly at the premium fashion end. This will be an opportunity for brands to connect with their customers on a personal level and understand customers’ needs, while the user benefits from having a great personalised experience.

John Lewis has launched a free, virtual personal shopping service for customers to receive the product advice without leaving their home, while luxury brands Burberry and Gucci are betting on personalised video consultations spurring sales, launching their own video services.  This approach retains the exclusivity, excitement and individuality of the personalised service one receives in store and we expect it will become standardised in the online space.

Promote Purpose & Trust 

Consumers today expect higher levels of authenticity, seeking out brands they can trust will deliver on promises and that align with their own values. In fact, 52% of respondents from Euromonitor’s Lifestyle Survey in 2020 agreed that they only buy from brands that they completely trust.

Fashion brands should look at following the lead set by brands likeRêve En Vert andPineapple Island, building a following around core values built around thoughtful and transparent messaging that connects with their audience. However, all that effort will be wasted if brands fail to deliver on promises – it’s the quickest way to break the bond of trust with your customer. 

Today’s ecommerce market is fraught with fulfilment issues, with a third of shoppers experiencing problems with delivery since the pandemic, something  that’s leading to greater levels of disappointment and mistrust in online shopping. In order to cultivate strong bonds with customers that will carry them through this crisis, brands need to revisit their post by button touch points in 2021 – particularly their ecommerce delivery strategy to see if it’s still up to grade. 

Prioritize Agility 

If there is one lesson to be learned from the ever-changing status of lockdowns, tiers and restrictions, it’s that brands must prioritise agility. The status quo can change in the blink of an eye and many fashion brands found themselves caught out by an over-reliance on a singular channel or a complete inability to sell direct to consumer. 

With the likelihood that restrictions, in some form, will persist, brands must have the operational agility to pivot different channels – and markets – at a moment’s notice, as well as the flexibility to support cross channel execution, like Click & Collect, which will only increase in demand, and thirdly, the automated workflows, like shipping, to ensure orders keep flowing out the door in a timely manner. 

Win The Repeat Business 

According to Euromonitor’s Voice of the Industry survey ecommerce sales are expected to grow by 24% over the next year, and many fashion brands will be chasing growth and offering new services, with 44% of fashion retailers planning to offer free delivery and a third implementing free returns this year in a bid to entice shoppers to convert. 

However, one of the most damaging things they can do is promise a service that they don’t have the capability to deliver, and so brands must balance chasing growth and introducing creative technologies like virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and live streaming technologies, with ensuring they have the right infrastructure in place that delivers an optimal shopping experience at all ends of the buying journey.

To succeed, fashion brands must focus on winning repeat purchases. Customers will remember brands who excelled on the operational end of the spectrum and provided stellar service during these challenging times. Even when things return to normal the experience brand’s deliver today will heavily influence buying decisions in future. Experience matters. 

Investment in Collaboration 

Fashion businesses will need to collaborate more effectively to address the unusual issues and complications arising from Covid-19. This could be an effective way to run events, launch joint initiatives, or even new ranges in the year ahead. For example. British designers Halpern, Julien Macdonald, Liam Hodges, Mulberry, RAEBURN and RIXO joined forces in June 2020 with the launch of non-medical charity face masks. 

Online only DTC brands may also find value in widening their collaborative partnerships with brick and mortar to include locally-based independents, to take advantage of the strong expected demand for local shopping and Click & Collect in 2021.

Author: 

Nick Shaw, chief revenue officer at Brightpearl

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