We are just saying what everyone is thinking, what a crazy year to be in retail. E-commerce was on a steady growth path, but the COVID-19 pandemic launched this retail channel to reach 10-year expectations in mere months. Amidst the closures of brick-and-mortar storefronts brands hustled to align with what becomes the new norm over the past year.
There is one main question retailers are asking now, is e-commerce here to stay? Or can we expect to see brands transition back to a predominant storefront and wholesale distribution channel? There is a certain nostalgia that comes with the brick-and-mortar shopping experience, but here at WAIR, we are 100% bought in on e-commerce.
Tumultuous Retail Year Sets the Stage for an E-commerce Takeover
As the world gasps to approach a sense of normalcy and with peak shopping seasons like end of summer sales and back-to-school quickly approaching it may be time to take a look at your game plan. Earlier this year Shopify highlighted 11 trends to keep on your radar for 2021 in this article. Below, we’ll revisit a few of the trends and discuss how WAIR can help you achieve these initiatives.
Conduct Rapid Customer Research
Design teams utilize customer review information to help optimize product offerings. One of the primary challenges for apparel companies is a lack of understanding of the reviewing shopper’s body type. For example, assume a shopper was recommended a size small, but instead ordered a large and ultimately left a review saying the product was oversized.
Without knowing the body of the shopper the design and consumer insights teams are missing a critical piece of information by which to make improvements to the garment. WAIR’s Fit Strategies can help align these datasets empowering these teams to quantitatively make important decisions with contextual data.
Bring In-Store Experiences Online
E-commerce has worked very hard to achieve shopping 2.0, taking the very best of brick-and-mortar and deploying it on-site by utilizing digital only opportunities. One of the most challenging in-store experiences to port into the e-commerce space is the fitting room. A true virtual fitting room experience is unlikely to be universally adopted in the near future due to cost, equipment needed for the consumer and brand, and privacy policies.
However, a platform like the WAIR Fit Advisor can help shoppers order the best fitting size by answering a few questions about their body type and dimensions giving them the same size confidence a traditional try-on would result in. Most importantly there is no measuring tape needed, and the shopper’s information is secure and anonymous.
Historically speaking the physical brick-and-mortar or wholesale world was primarily driven by large retailers and department stores as the pipeline to successful brand launches in the apparel space. With the move to D2C e-commerce, the large retailer’s hold on the ultimate success of an upcoming brand has diminished but should be learned from.
Large wholesale partners forced D2C brands to pay for placement in their endless catalog of goods. With the ability to attract and acquire a new shopper directly, be sure not to fall victim to the same “endless scroll”. Acquisition of a new customer is the expensive portion of e-commerce, so creating a loyal repeat customer is key. By personalizing the online shopping experience a brand can provide a differentiated service that a shopper will enjoy doing time and time again. Loyalty programs and perks, customer support, and suggesting viewable products that align with the shopper’s fit and style preference are all small steps in the right direction.
Diversify Payment Options
One thing is clear, alternative payment options are here to stay and on the rise. Whether payment plan services like Afterpay or Klarna are a part of your roadmap, or a try before you buy service like Black Cart, these solutions are meant to increase conversions, period. For apparel companies, more conversions put you at risk of increasing the number of returns simultaneously. Without ensuring that the ordered products fit the shopper, increased product returns will decrease overall profitability and sustainability efforts.
As you think through alternative payment options to increase conversions, don’t lose sight of the importance of keep rate as a KPI. Try packaging a payment option tool with a tool that helps you increase keep rates for a valuable and profitable toolset. Your consumers will appreciate the customized and flexible shopping options and appreciate your brand’s approach to becoming more sustainable.
Value Ethical E-commerce
The apparel industry is one of the highest material waste and CO2 emission contributors in the world. As sustainability continues to take center stage, shoppers are demanding that their favorite brands align with the best environmental practices. Reducing design sampling, minimizing the use of toxic dyes and washes, appropriately managing inventory, and finding ways to reduce return packaging and trip transportation are all factors to consider.
WAIR helps brands at every stage to optimize ethical and environmental practices. From deploying digital 3D avatars to your designers, helping with regional size runs to increase sell-through rates, to ensuring shoppers order the best fitting sizes the first time we believe that fashion sustainability doesn’t have to be a myth. Learn more about our three-step program towards becoming more sustainable in this article.
Develop Creative Advertising Strategies
As D2C brands heat up along with the rise of balanced omnichannel shopping, it is likely that we see return on ad spend (ROAS) decreasing as keywords and audiences face more competition in the ad space. It is important for new brands to think about advertising differently. How can you hyper-target consumers, provide valuable engaging content, create a consumer referral network through social media channels, and ultimately make every shopper develop a sense of loyalty to your brand?
Several brands using WAIR Fit Advisor have doubled down on their ad efforts by highlighting the ability to cleanly and efficiently recommend the best fitting sizing to potential shoppers. Furthermore, we’ve seen our customers use their shopper’s demographic information, captured by the Fit Advisor, to align sizing strategies to hyper-target audiences by body shape that are likely to best fit their feature products. Whatever ad strategy you choose to creatively stand out amongst other brands, be aware that bids are on the rise and consumers are familiar with traditional ads. Our insider tip? Think like a consumer, and build an experience that you would also love.
Ensure Performance is Optimized on Every Level
Microseconds are microseconds. They matter when you integrate several tools that compound and eat away at them. Be sure to check the load time of your pages, apps, and plug-ins to ensure that your page loading strategy is enhancing the user experience, not dragging it down.
Prioritize tools by thinking through what tool would be most valuable to keeping your shoppers on site, and always, always focus on overall page load time. No tool is worth a higher bounce rate due to an avoidable long site loading time. The spinning wheel may have been ok in the ’90s, but it is a death sentence now. The WAIR Fit Advisor tool is a compatible and customizable tool for most e-commerce themes, and our product team is constantly releasing updates to improve site speed and functionality of the tool.
Pay Attention to Headless Commerce
Don’t sleep on headless. E-commerce engines are amazing and solve so many repetitive problems, but as CEO of WAIR Greg Moore’s dad always told him when it came to sports, “You can play them all, but then you’ll never be a master at one.” E-commerce engines like Shopify, Big Commerce, Magento, Salesforce, etc. have developed powerful stacks, but beware because within those stacks lie bloat.
Headless sites, when developed correctly, will always (well almost) outperform a theme developed in an e-commerce engine. Pay attention to your shopper’s needs. If you constantly hear that your site is too slow, images aren’t loading, see an increased bounce rate, or abandonment at a specific segment of the consumer journey on your site, take action. It is becoming more common and valuable to go headless.
E-commerce is no longer a game that a business dabbles in to acquire a diverse set of shoppers. The last year has proven it has the ability to soon become the lifeblood of commerce. We have highlighted these shopping trends to urge apparel D2C brands and retailers to think through the tools they are offering as we approach peak shopping seasons. A thoughtful structure and utilizing the right tools for your brand from initial marketing contact to conversion are imperative to becoming profitable.
Never forget that size confusion is the number one reason why new shoppers size sample or churn/abandon a cart for apparel brands. WAIR’s Fit Advisor can completely remove size confusion for your shoppers and has proven a decrease in size-related returns once integrated. Learn more about how WAIR can improve your future-facing e-commerce strategy and join the list of brands that care about fit.