How fashion eCommerce brands can stave off the Amazon threat
Recent figures from the Office of National Statistics revealed that whilst the UK retail sales figures are on the rise, clothing retail sales are failing to hit the mark.
This should surely be a wake up to clothing brands to re-think their approach to driving sales, loyalty and devotion amongst their customer base.
The performance of online fashion may be better than offline (worth £10.1bn in 2015 and growth forecast at 79.1% in the next five years), but the increasingly crowded sector means that eCommerce and omnichannel retailers must continue to find ways to build relationships with customers or risk losing them to an eager competitor.
With the unstoppable growth and success of online giant Amazon, surely this is the biggest threat for fashion retailers? The global eCommerce retailer continues to add more strings to its bow and it is no secret that it has sights set on conquering the fashion business with its Amazon Fashion offering.
The threat of Amazon
With unrivalled brand awareness, a superior eCommerce platform and shipping offering, success in the clothing retail sector isn’t beyond its means by any stretch.
Above all, the retailer’s approach to customer centricity has earned it a loyal following. No matter what sector Amazon is operating in, customers are placed at the core; from making relevant product suggestions based on their behaviour and preferences, to the service they receive.
Their reputation for delivering such an exemplary experience for customers has already proved beneficial as it moved into the grocery sector, so there is no reason why it can’t perform just as well in online fashion retail.
As one of the top ten general merchandise websites, already attracting nearly two-thirds of all online visits from UK shoppers (331 million British visits per month), the foundations have already been laid.
eCommerce fashion brands need to differentiate themselves and make customers really enjoy shopping with them enough to build a strong affinity with their brand. This means creating an experience that rivals the convenience of Amazon so that shoppers stay loyal to them.
Now is the time to put customers back at the core and deliver a personalised experience that breeds an emotional connection to the brand and ultimately drives loyalty.
The threat of Amazon is becoming increasingly real so what steps should they take to secure a greater share of the market and deliver the much-needed revenue boost to the sector?
A smart use of data
The benefit of operating online is the access this offers brands to customer data – whether gained through newsletter sign up, purchases made or browsing behaviour.
Used properly, these insights will give the retailer understanding into that individual and influence how they are communicated with in the future.
Smart use of customer data will enable the brand to show the customer they are valued and recognised. This is where predictive modelling can be used.
For example, if a customer buys a swimsuit, this could indicate they are going on holiday and suggests a customer might be receptive to communications that recommend other items for the beach.
Similarly, if someone always buys professional wear for the office, retailers can predict that they are more likely to shop for a new collection of office wear above loungewear, and make relevant recommendations.
Make discounts strategic
Many customers expect some form of discount in return for sharing email data. Whilst discounts may drive some sales, it’s unlikely to harness long-term loyalty, so brands should be strategic in how they use them.
Smart use of customer data will enable the brand to show the customer they are valued and recognised
Instead of blanket discounting for all customers, discount promotions should be targeted to different customer segments at relevant moments.
Fashion eCommerce brand ASOS has introduced elements of this in its loyalty programme, which rewards premium shoppers with access to preview sales and exclusive discounts ahead of time.
Delighting customers with money-can’t-buy experiences
Online shopping can and should be much more than just a transactional experience if brands want to drive devotion amongst customers.
By creating opportunities to build up knowledge on an individual, whether through incentivising them to complete an online profile or using data from all other touchpoints including in-store and social, brands can gain a holistic understanding of the shopper.
Armed with this insight, online fashion brands will be able to engage customers with offers and rewards that surprise and delight them. This helps to make customers feel recognised and shows the value in sharing their data.
Rewarding customers based on their likes and preferences, these relevant offers, from a preview evening to money can’t buy experiences such as front row seats at London Fashion Week or a Formula One racing day, help to create a stronger emotional bond.
Fulfilling the convenience promise
One of the key drivers for consumers shopping for fashion online is convenience. The expectation of more choice and availability, and quick delivery has been heightened by the growth of Amazon, so it’s an area where brands need to deliver well.
Ensuring delivery is reliable and merely an extension of the high-quality brand experience is critical if customers are going to be encouraged to shop with that brand again. For luxury eCommerce fashion retailers, in particular, there is a real opportunity to enhance the experience and create a stronger emotional bond with the customer through presentation and packaging of products.
It will be the first physical contact the customer will have with the brand, so a chance to surpass expectations and create a memorable experience.
What stands between fashion eCommerce retailers and an Amazon take-over at present, is the reluctance of many brands to be lumped together with others, losing their identity on Amazon’s platform.
But, it is a brand that has already captured the hearts of customers across the broader retail sector due to its customer-centric approach, so it is only a matter of time before it becomes a serious threat to the fashion category.
For other online clothing brands it’s time to look at how to differentiate themselves from competitors by making customers fall in love with them. Brands must drive greater loyalty throughout their customer base or risk being lost to the giant.
Brands must drive greater loyalty throughout their customer base or risk being lost to the giant.