Fashion, Apparel and Footwear Industries in the United States are scaling steadily from $323B in 2013 to an anticipated $353B in 2018 (source: Statista). Interestingly, the US market witnessed a 13% increase in the number of stores closed in the year 2017, as compared to the previous recession back in 2008, despite the current rise of overall industry revenue (source: Fung Global Retail & Technology).
The increased use of mobile and web channels are pushing lifestyle brands to revisit their customer engagement and conversion strategies. Some of the must have features that lifestyle brand manufacturers and retailers should consider in their digital commerce strategy are:
- Today: Personalization
- Near Future: Conversational Commerce
- Not So Far Future: Augmented Reality
Personalization in the eCommerce context means tailoring the user’s experience on the website based on the previous interactions and transactions. Research shows that offering personalized content can help increase the average order size by more than 20 percent (source: SAP hybris).
It is vital to collect personal and clickstream data and more importantly, to use the collected data properly for enhancing the customer’s experience by showing them personalized offers and content.
Customer demands are changing – the ability to search for products via different means (like text search, barcode search, image search, voice search), demanding competitive pricing, fast checkout & delivery and personalized shopping experience that meets their mobile first approach. These are some of the basics eCommerce offerings now.
Few types of personalized experiences that can be offered on the website are as follows:
- Recommendations based on a customer’s previously purchased items
- Recommendations based on browsing history, reminding customers of products they’ve shown interest in
- Displaying recommendations/offers related to a previously browsed product or category
In addition to personalization on the web, there is another area that needs to be personalized too – Emails. Listed below are examples of topics that can be used to engage with the customer via personalized emails.
- Sending them offers on recently viewed products and categories
- Reminding visitor about items in their abandoned carts
- Newly launched products
- Targeted Promotions
Near Future: Conversational Commerce
Evolution of Shopping:
From: In store purchases – physically experiencing the touch and feel of the product
To: Online Orders – virtually experiencing the product
And now: Voice Orders – just asking to buy the product
Out of the thousands of things you can do through a voice assistant, shopping is one of them. Voice Shopping revenue is expected to increase to $40 billion by 2022, up from $2 billion today (Source: PR Newswire). The three most commonly shopped categories through voice are: grocery (20%), entertainment (19%) and electronics (17%). Clothing is fourth at 8% (Source: PR Newswire).
There is a tremendous potential to tap into this market for the lifestyle brands too. Just like other sales channels, it is vital to get the strategy right – from identifying the right opportunity, to providing the right messaging, to offering appropriate calls to action. Companies can start by enabling voice search on their existing mobile apps and websites, that will allow customers to search for specific products by just talking to their mobile phone. Outdoor gear and apparel retailer The North Face, saw an increase of 35% in their search conversion rate and a 24% increase in revenue from search, after implementing natural language and voice-enabled search on their European sites (Source: Retail Dive).
Not So Far Future: Augmented Reality
As lifestyle brands gear their digital strategy, it is crucial to address their customer’s pain points both from their brick & mortar stores and their online channels. One of them is being able to try on products to determine the best fit and look. In Brick & Mortar stores, it is frustrating when there is a line for the dressing room at anytime and it even more so during the holiday rush. As a result many customers just give up and don’t purchase or end up buying online, only to find the clothes don’t fit and now they have to return the products. In either case, companies are providing poor customer experience and losing sales.
Thanks to Augmented Reality (the technology that enables superimposing objects like clothing on a person via the mobile phone’s camera), this problem can now be solved with the use of Apple’s ARkit and Google’s ARcore, development platforms for augmented reality. Many apparel and sunglasses companies have virtual try-ons or are working on introducing virtual try-ons for their websites and mobile apps. Introducing features like this will help increase the conversion rates on their websites, increase average order values, increase sales and significantly reduce returns.
Companies that have pioneered this technology fall into categories like beauty products (L’Oreal & Sephora), sunglasses (Smith Optics & Ray-Ban), furniture (Pottery Bran, Wayfair, Houzz & IKEA), footwear (Lacoste and Converse) and last, but not the least, Amazon. In addition, Gap, an iconic lifestyle brand, has also announced its plans to introduce virtual dressing rooms.