With annual consumption in emerging markets nearing $30 trillion by 2025, the next five years will see the largest market growth in history, giving e-Commerce companies more opportunity to grow exponentially than ever before. The fashion industry, which is currently the fastest growing retail segment in the e-Commerce market, is sure to be at the forefront of this historic growth. That is, as long as fashion companies seize the opportunity and continue to meet the ever-changing demands of modern consumers.
Here are four trends in fashion e-Commerce that retailers can embrace in order to innovate in the coming year.
#1 Instagram Commerce: Less Purchases, More Micro-Conversions
Instagram, a powerful channel for fashion retailers, made waves this year by announcing the launch of Instagram Checkout, which is meant to make it easier for shoppers to buy the products they discover directly within the app. However, some retailers are proving to be much more hesitant about the idea of using the new feature than the platform thought they’d be.
Having historically been used by retailers as more of a digital storefront instead of a full-on store, it’s not surprising that Instagram is having difficulties with changing brands’ behavior on their platform. Retailers risk losing a lot by allowing Instagram to interject itself into their most important interactions with their customers: purchases. By allowing purchases to take place offsite, retailers are giving up a lot of data that they currently capture when a customer makes an onsite purchase (such as email addresses). They’re also losing the opportunity to upsell and cross-sell during the checkout process.
As retailers of all types continue to raise these concerns with Instagram, I believe the platform will start finding other ways for the capability to be useful. Looking to reach the end-goal of added value to both the brands and the users, Instagram will begin using the capability to drive experiences somewhere in-between their traditional browsing experience and this full-fledged purchase experience. The market will start to see retailers, especially in the fashion vertical, use this new technology to drive micro-conversions, such as ‘Add to Cart’, signing up for an email list or activating a promotion. These micro-conversions, in congruence with the influence of celebrity that is so tied to the platform, will once again prove why Instagram is such a powerful tool for fashion retailers.
#2 The Rising Influence of Behavioral Data
60% of marketers struggle to personalize their site content in real time, yet 77% of them believe real-time personalization is crucial to their business. To achieve this, the average fashion retailer, globally, uses more than eight different analytics and commerce technologies. The challenge for retailers — and an opportunity to transform — lies in harnessing real-time behavioral data among these technologies to deliver personalized experiences. The alternative is depending on stale, transaction-based data, lacking in valuable insight, that emerges as customers interact with different channels, devices and touch points. As retail continues to evolve, ignoring behavioral data will make it that much harder for brands to excel against their competitors that are using it to personalize the shopping journey.
On top of the innate difficulties fashion retailers face with harnessing real-time behavioral data, new data privacy legislation will continue making these efforts even more challenging. We saw how GDPR cracked down on consumer privacy, requiring EU consumers to opt in to any web site before viewing any content. Similarly, the U.S. is following suit to tighten consumer privacy with the California Consumer Privacy Act and other legislation on the horizon — which will make the use of third-party data and PII more challenging than ever before.
As retailers continue to experience challenges, such as harmonizing their commerce technologies and adhering to new privacy legislation, using behavioral data will become the highlight of gathering personalization insights and overcoming these challenges.
#3 Getting Ready For Visual Search
Some of the world’s largest discovery platforms, such as Google and Pinterest, use image recognition and visual search tools to streamline search capabilities for their 1 billion+ users. As of 2018, Pinterest alone reported that their users generated more than 600 million combined monthly searches using their latest visual search tool, Lens. That is to say, people find visual search tools useful, and they use them quite frequently when available. Visual search and image recognition are continuously improving, and these functionalities are already being carried out by larger fashion retailers such as Target and ASOS. Their shoppers are now able to snap a photo of products they discover in the physical store and find similar items through the web site.
As visual search becomes more mainstream, it will become easier and more affordable for smaller retailers to follow suit and harness these functionalities. Consumers will be able to discover new products and brands more conveniently, resulting in an even more seamless shopping experience across online and offline channels and increased brand exposure and revenue for retailers.
#4 The Adoption of Customer Data Platforms
Traditional customer relationship management is widely available for pretty much every business and organization in the world. Customer Data Platforms (CDPs)— a marketer-controlled system that supports external marketing execution based on persistent, cross-channel customer data — are the next evolution in understanding and engaging customers. However, there’s a catch — right now, that technology may be widely available to enterprise retailers, but mid-market retailers can’t quite utilize such tools yet.
There are a number of reasons for this — including the high price tag on CDPs, the complexity in implementing these platforms and the difficulty in stitching together multiple data sources to put the data to effective use.
That said, it’s important for businesses of all sizes to stay competitive and utilize emerging technology, so what are the other options? Email service providers are trying to move into this space, but their tools generally don’t have the learning capabilities or scope of data to deliver the same quality experience. Many CRMs are also trying to evolve into CDPs, but some are still only transactional-based, limiting how far they can truly evolve. Regardless, if mid-sized retailers want to stay ahead of the curve, they will undoubtedly be engaging with these evolving platforms now, to ensure that when one does break into the space, they’re there to do so with them. After all, software is a highly competitive and fast-moving industry, and there is often a turning point when customer accessibility turns mainstream.
Fashion Forward, Tech Forward
For decades, any convergence between fashion and technology was strictly on a manufacturing and logistical level. Today, technology is helping drive business opportunities in the fashion retail market, and it’s up to fashion brands to evolve alongside the industry to remain ahead of their competition — and in front of their customers.
Matt Levin is the Global Head of Marketing at Nosto, the leading B2B SaaS personalization platform for digital commerce. Previously, he ran marketing at SimpleReach, a SaaS content marketing analytics platform that was acquired by Nativo, and Indicative, a behavioral analytics platform for marketers. Levin has spent the bulk of his career helping marketers leverage technology better.