As the fashion industry continually evolves, these trends reveal the direction fashion e-commerce could be heading in the coming years.
You often hear people declaring how in their sector, if they blink for a minute they’re left behind.
Usually, upon hearing this statement, you’re left smiling and nodding with a slightly glazed expression as you wonder where your friend has got to with your drink.
But, if they work in fashion e-commerce, give them a minute – they might just be telling the truth.
The colossus that is the fashion industry evolves as quickly as the trends it creates come and go.
Fashion has always been a place for innovators – and with customer expectation at an all time high, this progressive outlook is needed more than ever before to keep fashion eCommerce relevant.
We’ve already had a look at what 2016 holds for m-commerce and our CTO has offered up his thoughts on the future of e-commerce.
Now – from fast fashion to omnichannel retail – it’s time to look at the trends defining the coming years in fashion e-commerce.
Crossing from digital to physical (or omnichannel…)
First, let’s start by clearing something up.
Whether it’s online or brick-and-mortar fashion – it’s the same thing.
Physical and digital channels are converging and, if you haven’t already, it’s time to stop differentiating between them.
Think from your customers point of view – to them your brand is your brand – whether it’s online or in store.
Now, the term ‘omnichannel’ is thrown around loads, to the extent it’s become something of a buzzword. But buzzword or no buzzword, with shoppers that buy on multiple channels having a 30% higher lifetime value than those who shop using only one channel the need to merge your channels into one truly seamless shopping experience is pressing.
While relatively few have achieved a true omnichannel experience yet, those who are laying the foundations to provide this experience now are onto a winner in the coming years.
The need to provide this coherent service in the future is made clear by the efforts of some of the most forward thinking single-channel fashion retailers to diversify.
E-commerce may be driving innovation in fashion, but the lack of somewhere for customers to interact more deeply with products is being seen as a limiting factor by some pure online fashion retailers.
Last year, the e-commerce behemoth that is Amazon took a step into the unknown and opened a physical book store. While it wasn’t in fashion, it’s not much of a stretch of the imagination that they’ll do the same in a different vertical.
And Amazon aren’t alone in jumping across the increasingly blurred retail borders.
In the last couple of years Birchbox opened their first physical store and US-based e-commerce sites Warby Parker and Bonobos have opened additional brick-and-mortar stores. While in spring last year Farfetch acquired London boutique Browns, with the open intent of testing omnichannel retail tech.
Diversifying and providing this service is as much a question of logistics and coherent data funnels as it is a slick front-end and in-store service.
But, whether you’re a single or multichannel retailer, future success relies heavily on you finding a physical and online blend that works in unison for your customer base.
Omnichannel tech in action
Rebecca Minkoff has built quite the reputation for mixing tech and fashion.
Its ‘connected stores’ in partnership with eBay have proved a hit and provide a nice example of how physical and digital channels can converge.
The stores feature a host of clever features, but the smart mirrors in dressing rooms really help to provide a link from the store to the e-commerce site. The mirrors can track products customers take to try on and offer different sizes and colours to be added to their e-commerce basket to buy later on.
In addition, if customers don’t purchase the items they take in the fitting room, a follow up email is sent later reminding them what they could’ve bought – sound familiar?
While large interactive in-store screens seem unfeasible in the middle of busy high street stores, intimate smart mirrors in a fitting room could work for any brand. And they don’t just look cool…
Rebecca Minkoff have seen the mirrors help their store triple its predicted clothes sales.
Even faster fashion
Whether a celebrity causes a clamour by wearing a certain product or a piece from the catwalk sparks instant demand, fashion trends change at speed.
The ability to pick up on these trends and make the products available quickly for your customer has been dubbed ‘fast fashion’.
This approach helped make the likes of Topshop, Zara and H&M relevant and took them to the summit of the high-street fashion pyramid. Now online originated challenger brands like Missguided and Boohoo are shortening the time from trend to product even faster with the help of their e-commerce stores.
Missguided embody the acceleration of fast fashion, their founder and chief exec, Nitin Passi, told The Guardian that “if a trend comes, we need to have it on our site in under a week.”
To succeed in producing this turbocharged version of fast fashion you need to be incredibly agile. The ability to manufacture new trend-led outfits quickly demands a few things – local manufacturers, rapid marketing (usually through social) and a responsive supply chain.
This agile approach also demonstrates an additional payoff of integrating physical and digital channels – it’s much easier to test the demand for a small batch of new product online before deciding whether or not to roll out stock in store.
As well as enabling brands to produce constantly fresh lines this more flexible approach means fashion retailers don’t have to be dictated to by seasonal trends and aren’t left with piles of unsold stock due to unseasonable weather.
The sharing economy
Unless you’ve got your own chauffeur and holiday homes around the globe you’ve probably used, or at least heard of, the sharing economy.
It’s taken off with the acknowledgement that as stuff generally becomes more expensive, we’re better off borrowing and sharing. The likes of Uber and Airbnb have made it hip to share and the success of subscription services like Netlix and Spotify prove ownership isn’t as important as it once was.
But this model wouldn’t work in fashion, would it?
Enter Rent The Runway which has been described as ‘Netflix for fashion’. So, how does their service work? They outline it pretty simply below:
Unfortunately dresses and shoes are a little trickier to stream than films and music, meaning logistically the service is a lot harder to run.
But, however complicated the logistics – demand is there – and since 2009 women have borrowed $300 million worth of dresses.
And women aren’t just using Rent The Runway for one off occasions, their newly launched subscription service means customers are now renting fashion by the month.
This means customers can have a constantly rotating selection of borrowed high quality pieces, along with their own staple pieces in their wardrobe.
The whole idea makes an interesting contrast to fast fashion. Young fashion buyers don’t want to be spotted on Instagram or Facebook wearing the same outfits twice. A Netflix style, constantly changing, subscription wardrobe caters for this – while also appeasing an increasingly eco-aware market.
These factors have commentators questioning whether anyone will really “own” their clothing in the future.
It’s not hard to imagine shoppers increasingly borrowing special pieces for one off occasions. But doubts remain whether the majority of consumers will be able to resist the lure of ownership and the quick hit that fast fashion gives them.
This is only the start
If we were to list all the trends and factors that could impact fashion e-commerce over the coming years we’d be writing for days (and no one would be reading).
Amongst the others that immediately spring to mind are virtual reality, beacons, smart fittings, mobile and real-time personalisation.
What’s clear is that future-proofing your fashion brand will depend just as much on your ability to predict and adapt to your customers’ evolving shopping behaviours, as it will your capabilities to anticipate impending fashion trends.
Staying agile and embracing the integration of on and offline will be key factors in ensuring your brand keeps ahead of the curve over the next few years.