The latest in the world of fashion retail and eCommerce

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The coming months will see us take the opportunity to focus on several retail and eCommerce industries in detail, providing you with insight into the latest trends and techniques that are driving progress.

Is there a better space to start in than in the ultra-competitive world of fashion? In the war for consumer attention, this competitiveness breeds innovation, and so we constantly see fashion retailers push boundaries and adopt new technologies to gain an edge.

Data-driven, personalised experiences

Covered in detail in last month’s introduction to retail personalisation, fashion retailers are increasingly tailoring their customers’ shopping experience so that it meets their individual needs and preferences.

“By using data and technology, retailers can offer personalised recommendations, promotions, and experiences that make customers feel seen and valued - critical for attracting new customers and keeping them engaged for the long term.”

An Introduction to Retail Personalisation - Venditan, April 2023

Delivering customers with an engaging and personal experience goes a long way towards establishing them as champions, and in as competitive a world as fashion, it’s never been more important that customers are retained and looked after.

We are seeing this being achieved through:

  • Analysing customer data, including past purchases, browsing history, and demographic information to recommend products that are relevant to the customer's interests and preferences.
  • Personalise communication with customers by addressing them by name, tailoring messaging to their preferences and referencing previous interactions between the customer and the brand.
  • Allowing the customer the freedom to customise the website based on their preferences, creating custom categories of their go-to products for ease of use, and a checkout process that prioritises their preferred methods of payment and shipping.
retail personalisation for fashion ecommerce

Sustainability and social good

A 2022 Deloitte study into sustainability sentiment found that 40% of UK consumers will now actively ‘choose brands that have environmentally sustainable practices and values’ - up 8% on 2021 - while 37% ‘choose brands that have ethical practices and values’ - up 7% on 2021.

It reinforces the notion that the general public is becoming increasingly aware of sustainable and ethical practices and that there is an increasing demand placed on all retailers, regardless of industry, to acknowledge this and act accordingly.

By embracing sustainability in their operations, fashion brands are not only reducing their environmental footprint but also addressing social issues and meeting the evolving consumer demand for ethical and sustainable fashion choices.

Here are some of the ways in which this is being achieved:

  • Making the switch to sustainable and recycled materials in their products, which require less non-renewable materials, water or pesticides compared to others.
  • In turn, working to reduce their carbon footprint by adopting sustainable practices in transportation, energy use, and packaging. There are many ways to approach this objective, including greener optimisation logistics, using renewable energy sources, using eco-friendly packaging materials, and offsetting carbon emissions through initiatives such as tree planting.
  • Prioritising ethical manufacturing practices by ensuring fair wages, safe working conditions, and workers' rights.
  • Collaborating with factories and suppliers that follow ethical labour standards and certifications, such as Fair Trade or Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS).
  • Embracing the principles of the circular economy by promoting product longevity and minimising waste.
  • Designing durable and high-quality garments, offering repair services, and facilitating take-back programs for recycling or upcycling.
  • Implementing rental or subscription models to extend the lifespan of their products and reduce overconsumption.
  • Offering greater transparency over their supply chains by disclosing information about the origin of materials, manufacturing processes, and social and environmental impacts.
  • Implementing traceability systems, conducting audits, and collaborating with third-party organisations to ensure supply chain transparency and accountability.
  • Collaborating with sustainable initiatives, NGOs, and industry partners to drive collective action and share best practices.
  • Educating consumers about sustainable fashion choices by providing information on sustainable materials, care instructions, and the environmental and social impacts of the fashion industry.

As sustainability becomes increasingly important to consumers, fashion retailers that prioritise sustainability are likely to gain a competitive edge and build stronger relationships with their target audience. Regardless of the size of the business, embracing sustainability helps cultivate a more favourable perception among consumers by addressing their concerns and aligning with their values.

This often comes at a price

While embracing environmentally-friendly alternatives brings numerous benefits, it is essential to understand the financial implications that come with implementing these practices.

Shifting to greener transportation options, such as electric vehicles or optimising delivery routes, often incurs additional costs. Investing in eco-friendly vehicles or implementing alternative delivery methods may require a substantial upfront investment, potentially impacting profit margins in the short term.

Similarly, implementing energy-efficient practices and investing in renewable energy sources, such as solar panels, can result in higher upfront costs which may initially impact profit margins, yet often lead to long-term cost savings through reduced utility bills.

Sustainable packaging materials, such as recycled or biodegradable materials, are typically more expensive than traditional options.

While there is a trade-off between adopting sustainable practices and profit margins in the short term, retail businesses need to weigh this against the potential long-term financial benefits and competitive advantages that arise from embracing sustainability.

The fall of fast fashion?

Shares in Boohoo, which also owns brands Pretty Little Thing and Nasty Gal, fell by 70% in 2022. A further shortening has been experienced in 2023.

But why?

An interesting January 2023 piece in the New Statesman discusses ‘the fall of fast fashion’,  citing a growing awareness and criticism of the negative environmental and social impacts associated with fast fashion.

As discussed above, we are experiencing a shift in consumer attitudes towards sustainability, waste generation, unethical labour practices, and the exploitation of natural resources. Consumers are increasingly seeking alternatives to fast fashion, such as sustainable and ethical fashion options.

Research shows an increasing demand for brands that prioritise responsible, environmentally friendly practices and this shift suggests that the popularity of fast fashion may be declining.

The rise of C2C transactions

It’s no surprise, then, that we are also experiencing a significant increase in C2C (customer-to-customer) fashion transactions as consumers turn to marketplaces like Vinted and Depop to buy and sell their pre-loved items.

The combination of sustainability, price and convenience has made C2C fashion an appealing option for many consumers who are passionate about extending the lifecycle of garments and saving money.

C2C fashion marketplaces offer a wide range of unique, vintage, and one-of-a-kind items and this makes them an attractive proposition to those who wish to express their individuality and stand out from the crowd. By browsing through C2C platforms, consumers can discover unique pieces that reflect their personal style, allowing them to curate a wardrobe that is distinct and different from mainstream fashion trends.

While this will never overtake the traditional B2C fashion retail market, brands do need to sit up and take notice of this. We may not be far away from the major players launching their own C2C marketplace communities, facilitating the resale of their own goods between customers and unlocking an additional revenue stream through a platform fee. It isn’t unreasonable to imagine Nike operating their own second-hand marketplace, for example.

Augmented and virtual reality

AR technology blends digital elements with the real world. Through devices like smartphones, tablets and headsets, the user's position and orientation in the real world is overlaid with virtual content (images, videos, 3D models) to create an interactive and immersive experience.

Leading fashion brands are increasingly experimenting with augmented reality to test enhanced shopping experiences. A prime example of this can be seen in AR-powered dressing rooms, where customers can virtually try on clothing, accessories, and cosmetics without physically wearing them.

By using their smartphones or other AR-enabled devices, customers can see how items look on themselves in real time or through uploaded photos. Long term, this technology may help the general customer make more informed purchasing decisions, reduces returns, and enhances overall satisfaction.

AR is also helping major players to engage customers and promote their products. The technology is being utilised to create interactive and engaging advertising and marketing campaigns. Through AR-powered apps, customers can scan print ads, billboards, or catalogue images to unlock additional content, such as 3D product models, videos, or exclusive offers. 

zara shop the look

While AR combines the real world with digital elements, VR technology creates fully simulated artificial worlds that can be explored and interacted with by users, often through the use of a VR headset and other devices.

Experimental budgets are being used to test VR technology as an engagement tool. Spanish brand Gisela presented its Autumn/Winter 2022 collection via a virtual showroom, allowing customers to explore the virtual environment using VR headsets and navigate through aisles, browse products, and interact with virtual sales associates.

This immersive experience allows customers to shop from the comfort of their own homes while simulating the feeling of being in a physical store.

But is that what consumers want? With an estimated global user penetration rate of 1.3% in 2023, VR headset owners are still an incredibly small audience to be using heavy budgets on, and this is why early adoption is being driven by global heavyweights in the main. As the technology remains in its infancy, it comes at a huge cost to businesses and consumers alike.

You can read more about AR and VR in our recent piece covering the metaverse and eCommerce.

Social commerce

Consumers have long been using social media networks as a means to discover and share new fashion brands and their products. In more recent years, some of these platforms (TikTok, Facebook, Instagram) have been developing eCommerce functionality to deliver an integrated shopping experience from within the social network, and this is called social commerce.

In social commerce, social media platforms serve as a digital marketplace where businesses can showcase their products or services, and consumers can browse, interact, and make purchases without leaving the platform.

This integration creates a seamless shopping experience by combining the social elements of networking and product discovery with the convenience of online shopping, and it lends itself perfectly to the visual nature of fashion products.

Businesses can create posts or content on social media platforms that include product images, descriptions, and links that allow users to directly purchase the showcased products. These shoppable posts often have "buy now" or "shop now" CTAs that lead users to a product page or checkout process.

Social commerce leverages the social aspect of networks by allowing users to share their experiences, provide product recommendations, and write reviews. This user-generated content helps build trust and influence purchasing decisions.

The social commerce GMV in the United Kingdom is forecasted to increase by 37.5% between 2022 and 2028.

tiktok shop ecommerce fashion retail

Experiential retail is redefining the role of brick and mortar

In articles of years past the focus will have been on the readjustment of brick-and-mortar stores to provide an omnichannel experience, and this is still very much the case, with fashion brands moving to a seamless and cohesive shopping journey across all of their touchpoints.

This is still a requirement, and retailers must continue to ensure that their physical stores can serve as a location where customers can engage with the brand, try on products, and receive personalised assistance, while also facilitating online ordering, pickup, or returns.

2023 is seeing the rise of experiential in-store retail. In an attempt to differentiate themselves from online shopping, physical fashion stores will increasingly emphasise experiential elements and create immersive and memorable experiences for customers. This may include interactive displays, in-store events and AR/VR experiences discussed earlier in this piece. It’s been happening for years - IKEA?!

While the future of physical stores may involve changes and adaptations, they will continue to play a vital role in the fashion industry. Physical stores offer tactile experiences, human interaction, and opportunities for customers to engage with the brand on a deeper level.

By embracing innovation, technology integration, and experiential elements, fashion brands can transform their physical stores into dynamic and compelling spaces that complement their online presence and enhance the overall customer journey.

Final thoughts

The world of fashion retail is continuously evolving.

From embracing technology and innovation, such as augmented reality and virtual reality, to prioritising sustainability and ethical practices, fashion brands are adapting to meet the changing demands of consumers.

Social commerce and personalised experiences are also playing vital roles in engaging customers and building stronger relationships, while the rise of experiential retail is redefining the role of physical stores, creating immersive and memorable experiences.

By staying ahead of trends, embracing consumer values, and leveraging the power of technology, fashion retailers can position themselves for success in an ever-evolving industry.

We have a track record of success when working with fashion retailers using our eCommerce platform, Venditan Commerce. If you have requirements or wish to discuss what we can offer in more detail, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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