The ecommerce fashion industry: strategies for growth

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Tactics to help you streamline and grow your business.

The best ways to keep up with the evolving industry for high-growth businesses is to understand where consumers are discovering fashion brands, how to make these channels work for your brand, and optimizing practices on the basics – inventory and order management, shipping and the entire customer experience.

Fashion ecommerce industry statistics.

The global fashion ecommerce market is continuing to grow and is expected to reach $1.164 trillion by the end of 2025

It’s predicted that each European consumer will spend $921 on fashion-related items throughout one year. (Source) In 2019, the average US user spent $432 a year on apparel, compared to $296 in China, according to DataFeed Watch.

Online channel share is expected to amount to 22% of the fashion market sales worldwide by the end of 2021, while the eCommerce penetration rate in the fashion industry is expected to hit 50%, according to DataFeed Watch. (Source)

In China, over $284 billion sales were made in 2020. The United States has over $126 billion, according to DataFeed Watch. (Source)

According to Digital Commerce 360, “Ecommerce helped U.S. apparel sales stay afloat in 2020”. They report that online apparel sales accounted for 46.0% of total U.S. apparel sales in 2020, rising 16% from 2019 and from 26.6% in 2018. This growth is much faster than in previous years. They also estimate that U.S. online apparel sales grew 21.8% year over year and reached $110.68 billion.” 

Where consumers discover fashion. 

When it comes to where consumers are finding fashion, 70% are shopping while multitasking, such as browsing on Amazon, watching a video on YouTube, and scrolling through social media, according to Linnworks research on the effortless economy

Social media has become more than just sharing your photos and staying connected to friends and family. More than four in five shoppers like shopping on social channels, according to Linnworks research. Social platforms offer targeted advertisements, personal connection to brands with engaging content, and recommendations from influencers and friends. But it’s important to keep in mind that each social media platform appeals to a different audience.

Here’s a breakdown of the audience on each social platform: 

  • Facebook: The largest group is 25-years-old to 34-years-old, according to Sprout Social. There’s also a large baby boomer audience and even 37% of the “Silent” generation (those born before 1945).
  • Instagram: The largest age group is 25-years-old to 34-years-old. 
  • Pinterest: The largest age group is between 30-years-old and 49-years-old.
  • Snapchat: The largest age group (75%) is 13-years-old to 34-years-old.
  • YouTube: The largest age group is 15-years-old to 25-years-old.

It isn’t just social media that impacts fashion ecommerce but also the influencers on those channels. The global fashion influencer marketing market size is predicted to hit $9.2 billion by 2026, and according to research from SocialPubli, 89% of marketers believe in the effectiveness of influencer marketing. 

Besides social media and influencers, consumers are discovering fashion on marketplaces. Research from Linnworks shows that 76% of customers said convenience is their top priority when selecting a retailer, and 91% of consumers start their shopping journey on a marketplace for that convenience. 

In Q4 of 2020, marketplaces grew by 81% year-over-year, which is at least double the overall growth rate in ecommerce, according to Mirakl. Even before the pandemic, marketplaces made up half of global ecommerce since they allow customers to buy from multiple retailers at once, according to research from McKinsey. 

Strategies for ecommerce fashion brands.

Now that we’ve talked about where consumers are discovering fashion, let’s explore how fashion retailers can succeed in 2022. 

Establish brands on marketplaces

Almost all (91%) start their shopping journey on a marketplace, such as Sears and Fruugo, which sell various products across many departments. Other fashion-specific marketplaces include ASOS, Tanga, Wish, and Zalando. 

The benefits of marketplaces for consumers are it provides a variety of product offerings, a well-built search algorithm and convenience, and an opportunity to find out about other brands. For fashion retailers, it gives access to a large audience and allows for testing out new markets.

“Selling through online marketplaces within a carefully branded space can really build buzz around fashion retailers,” says Jemma Tadd, Head of Fashion at eBay. “Think about the excitement that rare deadstock from sports brands causes among sneakerheads, or the trend for vintage Laura Ashley – which resulted in dresses selling for more than their original price.”

If you determine there is a demand for products on an international level, a good way to begin selling is to focus on growing across multiple marketplaces. According to Digital Commerce 360, 51% of consumers across 40 international countries plan to make cross-border purchases in 2021. Keep in mind it’s important to familiarize yourself with international shipping and product regulations before you begin selling cross border.

Create positive direct-to-consumer experiences 

“Selling direct-to-consumer (DTC) allows for a clear line of communication with your customers and gives you control over the entire customer journey, from the moment someone lands on your website until the product is delivered,” says Meghan Stabler, VP of Product Marketing, BigCommerce. 

“You can leverage customer data to create personalized experiences on your website, such as product recommendations, or you can send emails to gather post-purchase feedback. Data insights like these help you get to know your customers first-hand, which ultimately increases engagement and builds brand loyalty over time.”

According to a report by Diffusion PR, 2 in 5 Americans know of at least one DTC brand. Of those, in the past year, 7 in 10 have purchased from a DTC brand at least once. DTC keeps costs down for the fashion retailer and lets the brand own the entire customer experience. 

Take full advantage of other sales channels, like social media platforms

When it comes to social media, visually appealing content is key. Eric Yonge, CEO and Creative Director of EYStudios says it’s important to stick with imagery that captures a lifestyle that’s aspirational but still somewhat relatable. 

“With our fashion clients, it’s really important to make sure the imagery and language used are evocative of the customers themselves, while still remaining true to the brand standards,” says Yonge. “These are lifestyle products, so they need to be emblematic of what customers respond to in their everyday lives.” 

To be successful with social commerce, a brand’s social posts should tell a story to connect with customers and provide value. If used correctly, social media can help create a personalized journey for customers and allow brands to offer fast response to questions or issues. 

Here’s a breakdown of the shopping experience on each social media platform: 

Instagram Shopping enables you to sell products while telling your brand story, while customers browse products without leaving the app.

YouTube product reviews and unboxings have the option to buy directly on the app with Buy on Google.

Facebook Shops offers customers curated storefronts. A Facebook Shop store allows you to sell on both Facebook and Instagram. When a customer discovers a product, they can purchase directly in the app or on your website. 

Pinterest has shoppable pins that allows users to discover new products. The Shopping Spotlight program features recommendations from Pinterest influencers and publishers in fashion and lifestyle.

Snapchat has clothing and accessory immersive shopping directly on the app.

TikTok users can shop directly on TikTok in a partnership with Shopify. 

Social media is also a way to utilize the power of influencers and live-streaming. Live-streaming fashion products offers customers engaging content that connects them to your brand, offering real-time communication. Tommy Hilfiger held a livestream shopping event in China where 14 million people attended and 1,300 hoodies were sold in under two minutes.

Leverage automation 

A total commerce management system will allow you to automate as much of your workflow as possible. The more channels you have and the more stock you sell, the more room there is for human error. Automating processes such as inventory management, shipping, and returns helps mitigate the risk of error and leaves more time for you to focus on other aspects of your retail business.

Improve on inventory management and shipping. 

Inventory management can be tricky for fashion retailers. The option to buy online and pick-up in store can be great for the customer experience, but it requires strategic and accurate inventory management. Overselling items by accepting orders that are no longer in stock is a challenging aspect of multichannel fashion retail. Plus, fashion retailers need to allocate for the seasonality of their product and the rapid evolution of fashion trends.

An inventory management software synchronizes orders and inventory across all marketplaces and channels, which can prevent overselling and stock-outs. An inventory management system can also help predict the correct amount of inventory your customers should have. 

The more transparent the retailer is about shipping, the more satisfied and loyal customers are. Ecommerce trends highlight that consumers want total transparency when it comes to delivery costs and timing – so much so that if the retailer doesn’t provide delivery date and cost of the shipping before the customer clicks “buy,” customers will abandon their purchase. Using a shipping management system can designate carrier services based on warehouse location or other predefined criteria and select the best fulfillment method for your sales. 

A good return policy is a big part of the shopping experience with 72% of consumers being influenced by a return policy. First off, minimize returns by helping customers find the right fit for them with sizing technology. Make your return policy easy to find and clear about what customers can expect, such as store credit or full refund. 

Your fashion brand needs to be committed to a Total Commerce strategy, conducting commerce where the customer spends their time and on their terms. The experience across sales channels needs to be seamless and frictionless. But managing inventory across multiple channels at the same time is difficult. The good news is that the process can be easier with the help of Linnworks, a Total Commerce solution.