The evolution of Online Fashion Retailers
Time was, when you wanted to buy new clothes, you’d maybe flick through the fashion supplements of the weekend broadsheets, circle a few styles and then wander into town to see what was on the high street. Obviously the internet has changed all that, and now that mobile devices are so ubiquitous, it’s not just how we shop that’s changed, it’s where.
Bricks-and-mortar stores are still fixtures, especially fashion retailers. But the onslaught of online vendors such as ASOS and Dobell means that we can get almost all the information we need without having to cross a shop’s threshold. Even trying garments on isn’t an issue – if an order purchased online doesn’t quite fit or look right, it can usually be sent back at no extra cost and with the minimum of fuss.
Ten or even five years ago it was enough to simply provide ranges online and let shoppers buy from the comfort of their own sofas. Now that’s not enough. As eBay and Etsy (with some 18 million listings, according to Retail-Week.com) have opened up the fashion retail space to independent designers and enthusiasts able to sell unwanted clothes or vintage pieces, online fashion retailers have had to fight harder to attract a consumer’s attention amid so much noise.
Sites like Net-a-Porter and its men’s fashion offshoot Mr Porter have bolstered their e-commerce with heavily editorialized content. Style guides, must-have lists, tips and slick imagery have made such sites go-to places for those who simply want to get expert advice on what to wear. Actually purchasing anything may only be a secondary consideration.
Packaging products up as part of appealing stories gives an item added appeal. Like how those carefully placed sunglasses glint on the bedside table of this impossibly cool hotel room? Your next bed-and-breakfast stay could feel just as exotic. Can you almost hear the crunch of autumn leaves beneath that model’s brogues? Your next walk could be just as sophisticated.
And once the attention has been caught, the next thing is coaxing the customer to not just get their credit card out, but actually be sure that what they see is what they want. Back to ASOS again – the retailer introduced 360-degree product galleries in 2009, which let shoppers check and check again every last stich and seam before clicking ‘buy’.
Online timepiece store Watch Shop took inspiration from videogames media, whose elaborate unboxing videos of new consoles and rare collector’s edition games proved such a hit with gamers. Watch Shop’s own unboxing items let buyers imagine exactly what the recipient of their gift would see.
These clever touches have meant that online retailers have become part magazine, part personal shopper. So much so that traditional high street brands have followed suit, blending online innovations with their own offerings. As Holly Ripper, Managing Partner of Green Cave People, told TheDrum.com: “Today we are seeing a rebirth of the high street: traditional retailers like Jigsaw… are focusing on unique ’showroom’ experiences with their new ‘concept’ stores. [They are] seamlessly blending the physical and digital worlds through apps and social media to bring communities closer to the range of services and to reward people for coming into town. This omni channel approach means new organisational designs, new processes, new metrics. It means organizing
your business around your customer.”
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