As surely as the fashion trends evolve from season to season, so does fashion’s business outlook morph from quarter to quarter.
As we emerge firmly in to mid season collection period, the digital outlook in retail has taken on the shape of something unrecognisable from prior years.
So what is moving the needle as our industry continues to adapt to e-commerce?
1. It’s a mobile world – at least, for some
For a long while, the eventual emergence of the “year of mobile” was an industry running joke – an event horizon that would never come. Suddenly, however, we have reached a tipping point, with 51% of UK ecommerce sales now coming from mobile devices, versus desktop, according to IMRG.
This is a significant moment. But it is as much testament to the loyalty brands are winning from consumers as anything else – after all, mobile is still not a great product discovery tool; most sales come from existing customers, rather than new ones.
2. Digital starting to fuel offline sales
Online retail sales are rocketing. In fact, eMarketer expects digital to account for almost a fifth of UK retail sales by 2019. That’s because retailers have become incredibly adept at making stock available digitally and marketing it using online content. By now, many believe online sales will dwarf the high street.
But what’s most interesting to me right now is how digital sales channels are actually beginning to re-empower their offline equivalents. New apps for sales assistants and managers are allowing high street staff to take orders, even when items are out of stock. Beacons are allowing retailers to recognise when known shoppers re-enter their store, helping them build an ongoing relationship across channels. I think the future is not about digital and analogue as separate channels, but as a single experience.
3. More brands can now sell online
Even for smaller retail brands, the online opportunity is opening up considerably. Time was, setting up an online shop was hard. Now platforms like Woocommerce are making access to ecommerce far more straightforward.
DIrect to consumer relationships for brands can outway the previous cushion of a wholesale buy with ease of platform access, higher margins and owning your customer relationship.
4. Trade barriers are being broken down
Business owners are constantly being told of the importance of overseas exports to trade. Until recently, becoming the kind of business that exported to or sold overseas was difficult, involving either holding on to costly stock or developing relationships with key overseas suppliers.
But marketplace platforms are changing all that. If your eCommerce site runs off Magento, it is now easy to create a new store in a new location – you just add a store, amend prices and customise your text. More than that, overseas marketplace platforms like Tmall are making it simple to make stock available to buyers available in China with very little investment.
5. Photos becoming key to in-store browsing
The internet may have started as a textual medium, but so much of our current digital environment is now led by images. Single-image browsing is emerging as a critical driver of sales from product listings.
Quality photography is becoming an essential for online retailers. For many, this is going to involve new investment resulting in a need to maximise such assets and accessing them in-store as well as online, an investment I’m sure will pay off.