How Can Fashion Retailers Increase Online Sales Amid COVID-19
In 2020, the phrase ‘new normal’ has been overused to the point where people can’t stand it anymore. Retailers need to stop expecting business to return to ‘normal’. Consumers are likely to keep the behaviors they’ve adopted, such as digital shopping, according to McKinsey.
eCommerce’s share of total U.S. apparel sales accounted for 38.6% in 2019 as compared to 34.0% in 2018, and it has seen the highest spike in 2020, according to Digital Commerce 360. It, therefore, is imperative for businesses to provide a seamless eCommerce shopping experience to their customers. Doing so will translate into an increase in online sales. However, that’s just the first step.
In the midst of digital disruption, constantly changing customer expectations, and new market conditions, how can businesses achieve profitable growth?
As a fashion retailer, there are a few strategies you can implement to address today’s challenges and tomorrow’s opportunities. Having said that, pursuing too many actions without a set of strategic criteria is a trap. Based on COVID-19’s impact on the fashion industry till date, we’re proposing three main areas you need to focus on – those involving the digitization of key functions in order to increase your online sales:
1. Build Your Digital Capabilities
The value of excess stock from spring/summer 2020 collections is estimated at €140 - €160 billion worldwide. To ensure liquidity and to make room for new collections, clearing this excess stock has become a top priority for businesses.
The ideal solution for this is to invest in digital marketing and analytics. Digital-led experiences will continue to grow in popularity post-COVID-19. Establishing/improving your digital performance dashboard such that it provides you with a cross channel view of e-commerce, customer relationship management, and social media will help you identify opportunities in real-time. By keeping a pulse on changing consumer preferences through digital channels to redesign customer journeys will pay off like nothing else.
Upgrade your digital-marketing activity, by adding sophisticated imagery to your social media posts and conducting social listening to what consumers expect from
your brand. Facebook, Instagram, search-engine advertising, email campaigns are a few of the highest-impact target channels, so allocate budget to them.
Retailers should start by developing a contextual landing page with content addressing the COVID-19 situation. Secondly, make the highest-selling (and ideally highest-margin) products easy to find to make the customer journey seamless. More importantly, with more customers now engaging through mobile devices, retailers must ensure that all digital channels are integrated.
2. Launch Purpose-Driven Campaigns
Are you coming across as a business that customers can trust during these tough times?
The pandemic has transformed the way customers shop and their relationship with brands. Authenticity and transparency are valued more than ever.
Fashion retailers, therefore, must build a strong presence on digital channels and launch genuine communication with their audience regarding health and safety, business continuity, and community building, such that it is in sync with the current times. Certain apparel players such as Lululemon, amongst others are setting an example by going above and beyond - offering free online yoga and meditation classes to their audience.
75% consumers value trust in a brand as one of the prominent factors when making a purchase. The campaigns that you’ll come up with now will help you emerge as a true leader and shape long-term loyalties.
3. Deliver Omnichannel Excellence
The pandemic has accelerated the shift away from physical stores to digital shopping by roughly five years, according to new data from IBM’s U.S. Retail Index.
Giving rise to a hybrid model that combines digital commerce with products delivered by a local store, the pandemic has forced retailers to be more innovative than ever.
You, of course, don’t want to lose sales to your competitors, which is why you need to come up with unique product offers and leverage digital channels to drive store traffic and vice versa.
Buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) brings consumers instant satisfaction of receiving their product without having to unnecessarily wait. That’s perhaps the reason why BOPIS surged 259% YoY in August 2020, according to ROI Revolution.
To win in an omnichannel environment, you need to understand your ecosystem and your customers across multiple channels and touchpoints.
The inability to engage customers in a physical environment has pushed some retailers to engage with customers and increase revenue and loyalty by sharing experiential content. When it comes to online purchasing in apparel and fashion, customers can’t seem to fully understand how items would look on them without trying them on. Kendra Scott, a jewellery brand is tackling that problem through its new Virtual Try-On platform, which uses AR, machine-learning, and computer-vision techniques, allowing shoppers to preview styles while enjoying the experience of a retail setting from the comfort of their homes.
A Difficult Road Ahead
COVID-19 has accelerated the move to digital shopping at warp speed. eCommerce is only going to get bigger going forward. There’s no denying that for some companies even survival may be a huge struggle. However, fashion retailers who systemically align their objectives with the changing landscape and make innovative moves will be able to build resiliency and sustainable growth.
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