What do fashion and technology have in common? Ten years ago, the answer may have been “nothing.” But in today’s world, where the digital channel has become a paramount component of the shopping experience, all that has changed. “Online merchandising and visualization have come a long way,” stated Jeffrey Grau, eMarketer principal analyst and author of the new report, “US Retail Ecommerce Forecast: Entering the Age of Omnichannel Retailing.” He continued by saying, “Retailers continue to increase the scale of their ecommerce operations, particularly by investing in online sales platforms that display products and convert shoppers more effectively; apparel sales have benefitted more than any other category. Apparel has become an online success due largely to easy and free returns, innovative visualization tools and the presence of customer reviews.” If fashion brand attendance at the recent eTail East conference is any indication, it’s more apparent than ever that digital sits squarely in the center of these brands’ omnichannel strategy.
According to GP Bullhound, the number of sites vying for a piece of the online fashion market is now over two thousand, up 126 percent year-over-year, and almost every week we hear of a new online fashion startup receiving venture capital funding. In a recent article in the Business of Fashion, Kirsten Green, managing partner at Forerunner Ventures, talked about the next step in fashion and ecommerce innovation. “I think the biggest online-only opportunity in fashion is related to and focused on discovery and connecting people to inspiration.” But businesses that begin online are also making the reverse move to brick-and-mortar stores, where they are recreating and fostering that same sense of “discovery” and “inspiration” consumers have become so fond of on their websites.
One example of this online to brick-and-mortar migration is Fab. The site, which now boasts 12 million registered members in 28 countries, has sold more than million items to date, a third of which took place via mobile and tablet devices. In April of this year, Fab opened its first retail store in Hamburg, Germany, where consumers can enjoy the most personal of shopping experiences – choosing from a range of different models, with the ability to customize colors, fabrics and other attributes that fit best with their personal style.
Given the uniquely individual nature of style preference, we’d like to share four personalization essentials that fashion brands must have in their digital shopping bags. If not, shoppers – who have limited patience, are multi-tasking, and expect exceptional online experiences – will walk away, or in this case, click away and take their dollars with them.
Robust attributing puts you in the front seat of personalization.
Customer profiles are dynamic and should include the curation of attributes collected through real-time visitor sessions and other data sources such as credit card, loyalty and social media. The more you know about a visitor, the better you’ll be able to serve them the experience they’re looking for. The convergence of customer attributes from a range of sources will provide a more complete picture of each visitor, including their browsing and purchasing behavior, aesthetic preferences, personality traits, social status and cross-channel shopping patterns.
Capitalize on industry events like Fashion Week to make personalization even better.
In order for brands to offer a more relevant experience than their competitors, they must be willing to think of creative ways of identifying customers with attributes that matter. Fashion Week is as high profile and exciting to fashion brands, designers, merchandisers, publicists, models and fashion-conscious customers as Cannes Lions is to the digital and advertising community. Brands that are digitally savvy can use the event to give customers a preview of their upcoming collection – with varying cuts, silhouettes and styles. The key is make sure products for the upcoming season are tagged with the appropriate descriptive attributes. Not only will this improve the effectiveness of the search bar on your website, but fashion brands can also use these attributes to facilitate product recommendations for visitors who are “fashion forward” and always one step ahead of the next trend.
Match search terms with Fashion Week trends.
So how do you know if a consumer is fashion forward? Well, chances are if they’re searching for or viewing pieces from a fashion collection that match the style and aesthetics seen on the runways of Fashion Week, they are the “fashion forward” consumers you’re after. Identifying this group of visitors will help digital marketers offer this group the cutting edge fashion choices they want.
For customers who tend to be very loyal and committed to a select group of fashion brands, it can be very effective to show and tell them with messages, images and offers for fashion and accessory items with the Fashion Week “look and feel.”
Similarly, if the styles a visitor tends to search, browse, or better yet tends to buy, have a common theme, then pay attention to these preferences. This should influence which banner you show them on your home page – all the way through to the products you recommend including cross-selling and upselling opportunities. Some themes to consider may be: Conservative, Classic, Modern and Sexy.
Identify and test preferred content for each customer profile.
Personalization looks at different combinations of attributes and matches against different content to determine the preferred content for each profile. While any one attribute, such as “Fashion Conscious” may be useful in driving a more meaningful experience, the combination of “Fashion Conscious” with a preference for “Classic” styles by a specific designer will further enhance personalization efforts. As long as you are adding relevant attributes with predictive capabilities, the relevance of the content and recommendations you are offering will be spot on. In turn, that will translate into more views, more frequent interactions, greater conversions, higher Average Order Values and long-term revenue growth.