E-shoppers love fashion. Online sales in this industry, in fact, have recorded the highest growth rates in the last year (54%), as revealed by the research carried out in May 2019 by Netcomm in collaboration with Kantar, which interviewed over 3000 Italian online buyers.
If we look into the various phases of a fashion customer’s journey, by analyzing the touchpoints with which they have come into contact, up to the landing and the conversion sites, we observe an anomaly.
In fact, its navigation path typically starts from online reviews, passes through the brand's proprietary channels (website, apps, etc.) but eventually ends with the purchase on a marketplace.
Nowadays, marketplaces are the first place of conversion. However, the fact that the buyer first visits the brand's website and then lands on the marketplace, with price as the first lever of purchase, tells us that the consumer experience has impoverished.
This is also demonstrated by the following chart, which investigates the reasons for buying. Price is the first motivating lever, followed by range and buying experience. Only then do brand and product motivations appear, and this is alienating in an industry like fashion, where the brand and the quality of the product have always been a precise status symbol.
Buying experience: expectations change
In fashion, the perception of the buying experience itself has changed: the focus is no longer on the brand and the values it embodies, but on the delivery of the product. This implies that, in converting an interest into a purchase, distribution takes on particular importance.
The possibility of selecting among several shipping options (e.g. choosing a precise time frame, being informed in real time on the progress of the shipping, having click-and-collect formulas, etc.) is a service very positively received by buyers. In fact, the possibility to choose the date and time for the delivery of fashion items comes in first place (27%).
Marketplaces have certainly contributed in increasing expectations on delivery. Indirectly, the same shock wave has also hit packaging.
The most appreciated feature is the use of a package already prepared to be returned, a preference expressed by 53% of e-shoppers aged between 16 and 24 years. Great attention also goes to eco-sustainability (39%).
Returns policies are a great hit in the fashion world: consumers like the possibility of rethinking their decisions. The relationship with the brand is not so strong, if the buyer thinks of backing out of the purchase.
- Large-scale competition
The entry into the market of international players has expanded competition and led to a redefinition of proximity. For a customer, there’s no big difference in buying from a platform located in Italy or abroad, also because of optimized shipping times.
However, it must be said that the translations on these foreign marketplaces are often very basic, and not only do they not enrich, but also deduct the value of a brand.
- Unrequired value-added services
The research also showed that consumers have such low brand expectations that they are no longer used to resorting to value-added services such as Customer Care (81% of them said they do not use it), when in fact they are fundamental elements of the brand-customer relationship.
Currently, the satisfaction in e-commerce Customer Experience of industries such as fashion, beauty, furniture and design doesn’t rise above 50%.
The rethinking of Customer Experience
Over the years, the communication of fashion companies has evolved. For Baby Boomers the brand corresponded to a precise status symbol, and focused on the superiority of the product; then, with Generation X of the 80s and 90s the language shifted, as the brand had to satisfy desires by paying greater attention to the image and values it transmitted.
In the 2000s there was a disruptive event: the appearance of marketplaces. From this moment on, the brands have began to think about the possibility of being searched within the platforms.
The impoverishment of experience and the lowering of consumer expectations, with price as the first motivational lever, is something that has already happened in other industries: in Food & Grocery, when the Retail major brands have gained power and relevance over the product brands. High-profile people have started to shop in discount stores, and brands have moved to the background.
Actually, in the post-Millennial era more than ever, today the focus must be on experience, which brands have to re-establish starting from the micro-moments that make up a customer journey.
Maslow’s pyramid of needs, and its current purchasing motivations, must be reversed, placing identity motivations at the top again. In this process, Marketing must take on a new sense of responsibility, making sure that the consumer, now lacking in expectations, is enriched by the experience with the brand.
E-commerce should become the privileged channel where to employ all the marketing levers, returning the brand to its true potential. The study of successful fashion e-commerce has highlighted which elements have contributed in bringing exciting results:
- Branded stores and brand stories
- Very detailed descriptions
- Excellent packaging
- Integrated Marketing strategies
Storytelling and consumer moments must merge into a channel that is no longer just informative or just relational, but that can give a unified response to customer needs. When consumers land on the brand's website, they are looking for something rational (delivery, etc.), but through Marketing we should be able to create an emotional bond that aims to enrich their experience.
Only in this way will fashion e-commerce be able to play an active role within a complex scenario, that should see marketplaces and brands talking to each other not in a subordinate manner, but with both in a leadership position.
The images come from the presentation by Federico Capeci available on the Netcomm website.