The pandemic has accelerated a shift to online for the fashion industry, with ‘retail therapy’ now taking place across websites, rather than a browse in the shops. Indeed, data from IMRG reveals that online sales grew by 36% in 2020, the highest growth seen in 13 years.
Even before the pandemic, the fashion industry was undergoing large-scale digital transformation driven by evolving consumer behaviour, more affordable and accessible technology, and the enormous benefits of data collection and analytics.
However, online retail has historically opted for functionality over brand experience, seeing an online platform as a place for consumers to simply make transactions. Whether the retailer is value or premium, high street, fast fashion or boutique, consumers are faced with a sea of sameness.
As we enter London Fashion Week, here are five ways fashion brands can enhance their eCommerce offer and tap into the consumer demand for inspiration, fun and escapism online:
At Landor & Fitch we have identified three core shopper missions: Locating (I need to buy new trainers), Exploring (Which trainers are best for me?), and Dreaming (What’s new in the world of trainers?). By digging into these missions and where they fit within the consumer journey, brands can offer an omnichannel experience that meets and goes beyond expectations.
With ongoing lockdowns, there is a growing desire from Dreaming consumers for fun and escapism. By tapping into this and finding ways to excite and delight, brands have an opportunity to enhance their ecommerce experience for consumers and, in turn, drive profits. There are different ways retailers can do this from special launch microsites to gamification. There’s never been a better opportunity for the fashion industry to go the extra mile and fill the ecommerce experience gap.
In the fashion world, as in other sectors, we’ve seen demand for a more immersive and interactive customer experience. Shoppers now expect online shops to deliver the same sense of wonder and inspiration as physical flagships do. The rise in virtual fashion showrooms - as we’ve seen with the likes of Dune, Brunello Cucinelli, and the partnership between Keith Harries and Disney – offers an example of how retailers can create a more engaging online customer experience.
Elsewhere, we’ve also seen the gaming world and fashion collide to create playful interactive experiences, for example Balenciaga’s Afterworld, which saw the fashion label release its latest collection in the form of a video game. On Gucci’s website, consumers can play interactive games through Gucci Arcade, which is inspired by vintage video games of the 70s and 80s. These games encourage unusual and engaging interactions with Gucci products, ultimately creating a unique experience around the brand and inspiring consumers.
Small changes can make a big impact. Adding personalisation to a website will surprise and delight your shoppers and make them feel special. While almost 80% of customers expect personal attention, only 23% say their needs for personalisation are met on .com.
Tech start-up Stitch Fix provides a personal, data driven service for its customers, allowing them to dream about fashion with ease. Stich Fix uses a proprietary algorithm and AI to convert client Style Profile data and fashion attribute data into a unique clothing mix recommendation, specific to each customer’s unique style. This smart application of personalisation drives a higher likelihood of repeat sales.
It goes without saying that one of the challenges of eCommerce is the fact that customers can’t physically touch a product before they buy it. Retailers shouldn’t be afraid to tap into emerging technology to enhance the online user experience. But be sure to differentiate your brand experience from other competitor executions.
Take a look at the Yeezy Supply website, which is credited with turning the rules of eCommerce on their head, transforming a flat 2D space into a “3D rule-breaking web experience.” Shoppers can select avatar-like 3D images of real models and try clothing on the model of their choice. Shifting user behaviour from looking at static images to actively engaging with a virtual product can increase purchase likelihood and boosts time spent with the brand.
Another example of this is Rebecca Minkoff, the haute couture brand that has adopted the use of 3D modelling and AR on its product pages. As its co-founder and CEO puts it, this will allow consumers to “understand the texture and structure of every bag and envision how they’d feel wearing each piece in a collection”.
Over the past few years, we’ve seen brands increasingly ‘talking’ to their consumers online, whether that’s through social media or on their own website. The pandemic has meant this is even more important, as retailers seek ways to replicate the face-to-face interactions that take place in-store.
Smart tech applications that help sales staff talk to customers directly and bring products to life are a great way to bring the human connection to the online experience. DECIEM at Home, which connects customers with its in-store ‘micro-influencers’ for real-time consultations using video links, shows us that meaningful conversations are still possible even if Covid restricts us to shopping from the safety of our homes.
Brands have a real opportunity to create meaningful, human connections online. There’s an increasing demand for distinctive shopping experiences, where consumers can be made to feel something online. Consumers would expect a flagship store to be a place where they can come to be inspired, have fun, and sometimes learn – and the digital flagship store should be no different. Whilst we’ll see a lot of digital innovation at London Fashion Week, it’s crucial that this is not a one-off – rather, it must mark the start of a new era for the retailers’ online brand experience.
Nick Burdett is digital director EMEA at brand and experience design agency Landor & Fitch