[Column] Penny Whitelaw: Fashion ecommerce opportunities amid Covid-19
10-04-2020 13:36:00 | Editor: Bob Koigi | hits: 3754 | Tags:

We are living in unprecedented times. The widespread outbreak of coronavirus has created uncertainty across industries, fashion retail being particularly vulnerable with the closure of bricks and mortar stores, disruptions to those with offshore supply chains and the unknowns around customer sentiment and how this will impact behaviours long term. 

Despite the uncertainty, there is hope and opportunity for fashion eCommerce.

While circumstances continue to evolve each day, we want to share some insights we’ve observed on customer behaviour to help fashion eCommerce brands not only in times of crises, but to future proof their business in the most profitable, sustainable way.

1. Customers are spending more time online

With most of the world being isolated consumers are spending more time online than ever before. This presents an opportunity to not only connect with your customers in a more meaningful manner across an array of channels that may have been more expensive or less likely to result in conversions before, but to also provide the most relevant, relatable and trustworthy online shopping experiences that convert browsers to buyers. 

2. Increased willingness to explore new brands 

46% of online shoppers remain loyal to the brands they already love and know and have not changed their buying behaviours since the outbreak. Interestingly, 34% of online shoppers who were previously unwilling to explore and/or buy from new/known brands mainly due to the risk or returns are willing to do so now. This presents a fantastic opportunity for brands to maintain their customer loyalty and engage with a new customers that were not open to them before. 

3. Comfort seeking behaviours in an uncomfortable time

In times of crises feelings of threat are at an all time high, shifting behaviours to find comfort in an uncomfortable time. What we are seeing is customer spending on more expensive items. The discretion of where and with whom they spend is largely based on their experience and emotional connection to the brand, but ultimately means they are choosing to buy less items at a higher price point. This is particularly encouraging for brands with an AOV of 100+ euros that also have a positive, sustainable story to tell. You may not increase your average order value right now, but you are in a good position to give your existing and new customers the comfort and connection they are actively seeking. 

4. Discretionary spending is aligned to core values & the WHY behind your brand

Customers are evaluating things from a completely different perspective with the WHY behind your brand being a core buying decision. They have the time to learn more about your story, your vision and your values and are more likely to choose to support you if you are a sustainable and eco-friendly conscious brand that aligns with their own core values. We are also seeing more support and discretionary spend with locally produced brands - partly due to sense of community and partly due to their desire to minimise their own environmental impact. 

5. Frictionless online experiences are critical to build trust & loyalty

At the start of this year, fashion eCommerce brands we spoke to ranked providing customers with frictionless online shopping experiences that reduce returns as a top priority. With the impacts of coronavirus some have put integrating fit solutions on hold while they monitor customer sentiment, which is totally understandable. Comparing data from December 2019 to today, customers feel getting their fit right the first time without the hassle of returns is even more important now. It directly impacts their level of trust in a brand which accordingly to them, will influence their future purchasing behaviours and loyalty.

The big takeaway: winning customer TRUST is absolutely critical right now. 

We don’t have a crystal ball to know whether new customer behaviours could outlast the crises. What we do know is that consumption behaviour is habit driven and right now people are making decisions largely based on their experiences, emotional connection, level of trust and feeling aligned to a brands core values. These all present opportunities to connect in authentic, meaningful ways that are good for people, profit and the planet. 

Our advice if we may offer it, is to take some time to really look at your customer journey and the initiatives you’re prioritising.

Are your current initiatives fostering trust in a way that is relevant to what your customers want and need right now? Where can you remove the friction to optimise your eCommerce business? What else can you be doing to make your brand easy to love?

To show our support to the local fashion community SCIRCULA is offering sustainable fashion brands our eCommerce Fit Solution at no cost.  

Why? We know the pressure brands are under to keep generating revenue whist conserving margins and cash-flow. We also know that by removing sizing guesswork and giving your customers the most frictionless online shopping experiences you can not only reduce the risk of costly returns, but increase sales through loyalty and trust.

Penny Whitelaw is the Co-founder and CEO of SCIRCULA B.V.