Making the move online – how can brands fine tune their digital strategy?
Success in today’s fashion industry means embracing a targeted strategy both offline and online; namely omni-channel selling. With the likes of ASOS and Net–A–Porter flying the flag and showcasing how to successfully sell online, for brands to keep up it means effectively targeting a ready-to-buy audience using solid data and statistics, writes haysmacintyre partner Natasha Frangos.
It’s imperative for brands to keep quality and service at the centre of their consumer’s experience. This has traditionally been easier to do instore, however it is now just as important to mirror that experience online. This includes having a user-friendly website that makes it easy to click through to review an order, a fast speed of delivery, low shipping costs, a good presentation upon delivery, the option for customers to review and also helping to bring products to life with a range of images.
Essentially, the experience in a brand's physical store should be consistent and complementary to that on the brand's website. Once this has been honed, brands have the substantial challenge of driving traffic in a crowded and noisy market. Investing in an SEO strategy alone isn't enough and will not enable them to simply sit back and wait for the traffic.
To stand a chance of capturing the attention of a busy consumer brands need creativity and a way to strike a personal chord with their target market. That may include engaging with social media sites such as Instagram and Snapchat, as many brands are now discovering. Social media is such a huge influence on society and, with a growing footprint, it's a tried and tested way for brands to connect with consumers on their favourite platform. The success of such social media engagement is dependent on a brand finding its voice and committing to engaging with its consumers through the chosen channel.
Another method of driving traffic is through tapping into an influencer who is industry relevant and has a loyal following. Endorsement of a product can be a very positive way of driving traffic and increasing brand awareness. Factoring these strategies into financial planning, alongside wider marketing and SEO strategies, is important for brands nowadays and will continue to be so as technology develops.
To succeed in an increasingly digital world, retailers are recognising that routes into the market are changing. Online marketplaces are difficult to ignore, accounting for 38% of online sales. Brands have begun to look to them as potential collaboration partners, but the breadth and depth of multi brand e-tail platforms makes it very difficult for an individual brand to compete. Making a website interesting, such as including blogs on customer experiences, and creating a story tracking the manufacturing process of the brand’s products, will help. Valuable content is more likely to keep consumers on the website longer and leave a resonating experience.
With online sales accounting for nearly 25% of all fashion spend in 2017, which is set to grow by a further 79% by 2022, brands need to be constantly on the lookout for more direct digital methods of targeting their consumers. That’s where seamless merging of the physical store can help a brand get ahead - a strategy echoed by many online brands through the use of pop-ups. Having that fantastic personal service or beautiful store should translate to a user-friendly online shop, which includes a clear and easy way of communicating with a brand representative in the event of any issues or questions. Integral to this has to be ease of purchasing on a mobile device as consumers increasingly connect through devices at any time to suit their busy lives.
Returns are particularly crucial for online retailers as shoppers are unable to feel or try on items, meaning there are higher chances of multiple refunds. Making it easy for customers to return items will encourage repeat purchases from the site.
Shifting habits in consumer shopping no doubt provide challenges for brands. With increased competition, every brand needs to constantly be bringing their best efforts to market. However, this coupled with strategic planning, broader channels of customer engagement also provide opportunities for brands to grow their reach and sales. Harnessing this opportunity requires more than just putting money into a website; it also needs a carefully formulated plan on how to follow through post-launch.