Chris Lavoie
Senior Technology Partner Manager at Gorgias
October 7th, 2021

How to Prep for the Future of Fashion & Apparel in eCommerce

The pandemic massively disrupted retail, especially for fashion brands. Here are 5 ways that brands can prepare for what comes next.

Table Of Contents

It’s been a fascinating year for fashion and apparel brands in eCommerce. Many brick-and-mortar brands have had to shift to or double down on online shopping, and online-only brands have had to face increased competition. Not to mention the fact that what shoppers are buying has changed — goodbye, workwear; hello, athleisure.

And now, as the pandemic wanes, shoppers are planning to make up for lost time, in retail especially. According to a survey done by Yotpo, 79% of Americans are saying they are now planning to shop more in the coming months. Not everyone will be shopping in person, though, as 37% say they plan to stick to shopping online, and 53% plan to do a mix of online and in-store shopping in the next year. That’s why it’s more important than ever for brands to ensure their online shopping experience is seamless, and that they’re prepared for the return of shoppers.

With this influx of shopping, many fashion brands will also acquire new customers for growth, but it’s important that they retain those customers for survival. Acquisition costs have been steadily rising for years, and increased competition for online shoppers during the pandemic only accelerated that trend. Having a solid retention strategy is a more cost-effective and effective way to drive sales. One of the best retention tactics is to build out a customized loyalty program for your customers that helps you stand out from competitors and increases repeat purchase rates.

Here are five tips for fashion and apparel brands to prepare for the future of shopping:

1. Upgrade your omnichannel strategy

Being able to meet and recognize customers across all platforms is so important for retailers, as it helps ensure your customers have a VIP experience through every step of their buying journey.

Customers expect to be able to connect with their favorite brands across all platforms, including live chat, phone, SMS, email, and social media. Leveraging an omnichannel helpdesk like Georgias that funnels all your customers’ tickets into one place can help, as it will ensure you’re there and ready to reply to customers quickly, efficiently, and personally. This will also help with brand loyalty, as customers will feel connected to your brand and know you’re there for them.

If you’re a fashion brand that has both an online and brick-and-mortar store, you can also upgrade your omnichannel strategy by creating a seamless loyalty experience between all stores. In fact, more than 25% of shoppers say that their biggest frustration with loyalty programs is the retail disconnect. And if you’re an eCommerce-only brand, making sure that the entire customer journey is seamless across channels and devices is crucial.

Yotpo’s omnichannel loyalty solutions help connect those customer touchpoints for a frictionless VIP experience. In-store shoppers can scan a QR code in order to easily access their loyalty rewards at a physical store location, and online shoppers can receive updates about loyalty points and rewards through SMS, email, or on-site.

2. Engage customers with a loyalty program

Loyalty programs are crucial for fashion brands as they help improve key metrics including your average order value, repeat purchase rate, and overall customer data. According to a study by Forrester, across traditional fashion retailers in the United States and Canada, customers who engage with loyalty programs will spend about $99 dollars more on average than a customer that does not engage with loyalty.

You can also use loyalty programs to collect important customer data, including customer interests, purchasing behavior, and more. As tech companies like Google and Facebook prioritize consumer privacy and move us closer to a cookieless internet, it’s crucial for brands to own their customer data. This data will not only help fashion brands better understand their current customers, but also adapt their approach for acquiring new customers.

Fashion-forward Australian clothing brand Princess Polly implemented a loyalty program for customers, leading to 191% higher conversion than non-loyalty members. Loyalty members are also more engaged with reviews, including an image with their reviews 188% more than non-members.

3. Personalize at scale

There are always new online apparel brands for customers to choose from. In order to stand out and build a loyal customer base, it’s important for brands to create a sense of community for all of their customers.

In order to do that well, you’ll need the right tools to ensure you can personalize experiences across all channels, and recognize your return customers. For example, by leveraging Yotpo and Gorgias together, you can easily recognize and reward your brand’s super fans. When a customer reaches out, you can quickly see their previous product reviews and purchase history, making it easy for your team to recognize who they’re talking to and send discount codes or win back customers after they’ve left a negative review — all without leaving your helpdesk.

And as you collect more customer data, you can better personalize product recommendations. You’ll be able to know which items customers will be most likely to buy when you release new collections each season, and will be able to tailor their shopping experience with the products that they most want to see.

4. Leverage social proof to increase sales and reduce returns

One unique issue that fashion and apparel retailers in eCommerce face is returns. In 2020 alone, customers returned more than 10% of total retail sales — with an estimated price tag of $101 billion. Yotpo’s research shows that shoppers overwhelmingly chose fit issues (65%) as the number one reason for returning an item, followed by products being different than described (39%) and appearing different in person than they did online (33%).

One way to reduce returns is to empower your customers to leave reviews on their purchases. This creates user-generated content (UGC) that both helps future customers know how products fit, and provides your team with content that (with permission) you can re-use for marketing. It also gives you insights into where you may need to improve the fit of your products.

You can also lean on your customer service helpdesk to gather social proof and even drive sales. With Gorgias, you can use machine learning to detect social leads to drive sales. For example, if a customer comments that they love a pair of shoes you posted on Instagram, it will automatically detect that as a social lead, and your team can reply quickly and send them a discount code in their DMs for their next purchase.

5. Create an in-store experience online

To keep the attention of that 37% of shoppers who prefer to continue shopping online only, you can create an in-store experience on your site. For example, live chat allows your brand the ability to greet, monitor, and take care of the customer on your website in much the same way as if they were in a brick-and-mortar store. If a shopper has questions, they can be asked and answered in real-time. Generic questions can be responded to quickly via automations, or a support team member can chat live when needed.

Here’s an example: a visitor is spending their time looking at two pairs of similar-looking jeans. You can create an automated message in chat about different types of jeans to begin a conversation, and use 1:1 communication to explain a subtle difference between the two items. Or, provide a survey about different types of jeans and how they fit so the customer can make an informed decision. This specific information, delivered at the right time, can be the factor that motivates the shopper to take one pair off the page and put it in their shopping cart.

By following the five tips above, fashion and accessories brands will be prepared for the ever-changing future of eCommerce. Click here if you’re interested in learning more about Gorgias and how you can create exceptional customer experiences.

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