Business tips

Five of the best engagement strategies from the world of fashion e-commerce

According to Ajit Chandran, Business Development Manager at Apparel21, the vast majority of sales from the bigger fashion brands come from repeat customers. Here are five ways beyond social media you can attract, engage and keep customers.

In the fickle world of fashion, brand loyalty is a constant challenge for online retailers. It’s not enough to post static images of clothing items and hope consumers will click and buy. Shoppers are now looking for a fashion experience online and smart retailers are using digital technology to gain a competitive edge.

Ajit Chandran, Business Development Manager at Apparel21, which provides integrated business solutions to the fashion and apparel industry, says fashion businesses are particularly reliant on customer loyalty. “If you look at some of the bigger fashion brands, 70 to 80 per cent of their sales come from loyal costumers who repeatedly buy from their collections,” he says.

Chandran adds that social media is one key way online fashion retailers are engaging with their customers. “Social media is a big driver for fashion. It’s especially the younger customers who expect it now,” he says. “If some of our customers publish a picture on Instagram, sales of that product will go up in stores.”

However, smart online fashion retailers also look beyond social media, engaging in creative multi-channel marketing to attract and engage their customers. Here are five ways they’re doing it.

1. Fashion communities

Consumers like their voice to be heard and savvy online fashion retailers are providing a forum for shoppers through membership-based fashion communities. In some instances, these communities can influence the direction of a fashion brand.

San Francisco-based ModCloth is a retro-inspired fashion e-commerce site that encourages its community members to participate in its business decisions. Its social media programs such as ‘Be the Buyer’ invite customers to choose products ModCloth should stock. Its ‘Make the Cut’ initiative also allows its fashion community to vote on customer-submitted sketches and the winning design is produced and sold by ModCloth.

The retailer’s commitment to its fashion community is clearly paying off – it has 21 million ‘Be the Buyer’ interactions and 4,000 crowdsourced ‘Make the Cut’ products.

2. Digital magazines

The best magazines forge powerful relationships with their readers. Fashion is a natural match for this medium and, when produced in a digital format, it provides not only a fashion experience for consumers, but also an opportunity to instantly shop a look.

Luxury online retailer NET-A-PORTER launched its glossy bi-monthly fashion tome PORTER in 2014, which now competes with the likes of Vogue and Harper’s Bizarre. The digital version of PORTER, which is available for purchase as a single issue or annual subscription from the Apple Newsstand, has all the editorial qualities of the printed magazine, plus extra digital content, behind-the-scenes fashion videos and an added e-commerce bonus – shoppers can simply click on an image of towering Jimmy Choo heels and take them straight to the online checkout.

3. Lookbooks

Just like the fashion spreads of glossy magazines, lookbooks build an enticing story around fashion, bringing clothing and accessories to life. They also help to share a fashion label’s inspirations with consumers.

Australian women’s fashion brand Bardot produces seasonal fashion lookbooks for its website. Each instalment is themed and shot on location or in a beautifully lit studio. Shoppers can click each perfectly styled image to shop the look.

4. Personal scrapbooks

Since the launch of popular online scrapbook site Pinterest, fashion retailers have seen the benefit of allowing shoppers to create their own personal look from items on their website.

Fashion retailers such as Topshop include Pinterest buttons with all of their online fashion items so shoppers can pin, share and plan their own look. Topshop recently asked shoppers to create a moodboard on Pinterest dedicated to the ‘Perfect Holiday Party’ as part of its Dear Topshop competition. The moodboard could include a dream Topshop dress, party decorations, food and all-round festive cheer. The prize for the most eye-catching entry included £1,000 spending money for a personal shopping session with stylist and former Fashion Director of British Vogue, Kate Phelan.

5. Runway videos

One challenge of online fashion retail is that customers can’t try before they buy. A dress may look stunning as a static image, but how does it actually drape? Runway videos provide shoppers with a three-dimensional impression of how clothes look when worn. Online men’s and women’s luxury fashion retailer uses runway videos with models wearing its clothes so shoppers can see exactly how a skirt flows or a shirt fits.

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