Tips and Trends in Fashion E-Commerce
In a digital world with so many choices on where to exert your effort and budget, the question for direct-to-consumer (D-to-C) merchants is really where you should be spending your time and what channels — new or old — can deliver the desired results. Smaller brands cannot be everywhere all the time nor do they have unlimited cash. In mid-September at the Chicago eCommerce Summit, I had the opportunity to discuss challenges and trends with three entrepreneurial fashion D-to-C marketers: Dana Todd, CEO, Balodana; Meagen Johnson, senior vice president, marketing, Jane.com; and Germaine Caprio, owner/designer, Majamas Earth.
While it sounds like everyone spends all their time on social media, these women, across vastly different business models, all depend on strong search engine optimization and paid search as a bedrock of their advertising. Email continues to be a workhorse, but pending changes to privacy will challenge its use and results in the coming years. So what opportunities should fashion online retailers be looking towards when steadfast channels are challenged?
What’s Old is New Again
As brand recognition becomes more and more difficult across Google and crowded social platforms, our panelists agreed that content continues to push each brand’s message to the right audience. For Jane.com, its marketplace of boutique sellers attracts passionate purchasers from young to old, with a primary segment of young women who love to share themselves wearing/using items they’ve purchased at Jane.com across channels.
- Connected TV: Balodana is targeting audiences on Hulu. Dana shared that “OTT” (over the top) streaming content ads offer the benefits of testing discrete audience profiles like you do with web and mobile ads, down to lifestyle and behaviors, plus the added bonus of being delivered in a non-cluttered, non-skippable experience. For brands and campaigns that rely on storytelling, it’s a unique way to have “TV ads” without the waste.
- Retail stores: Pop-ups and trunk shows have been used successfully and are once again under consideration as the U.S. economy opens up. Majamas Earth will be adding two stores in 2022 in the Chicago area after stepping away from brick-and-mortar retail two years ago.
- Samples: Before committing to or making a custom garment, an actual fabric sample can seal the deal.
- Print: While email boxes and social feeds are overflowing, mailboxes are not. The quality of your images on paper surpasses digital. With the right planning and budget, print can prove to improve repurchase rates of customers and feed acquisition of more customers like them.
Social Commerce as the New Affiliate Marketing
Everyone has seen their Facebook ad results plummet. With the downfall in tracking and results from recent iOS14 changes, the strongest frontier to jump into now is social commerce on Facebook and Instagram. Jane.com participated as a beta for Facebook, which truly offers the customer a frictionless chance to buy right then and there.
On its heels is Live Shopping on Facebook and Instagram. Create your own “home shopping” experience, allowing viewers of your livestream to click through and purchase. Afterwards, turn your livestreams into an on-demand program, but remember to include time-sensitive offers to incite action.
Fueling Growth — and Our Planet — With Sustainability
For Majamas Earth, sustainability is woven into every aspect of its business, and Germaine is passionate to raise awareness of industry participants. Majamas’ clothing is organic, recycled, reclaimed and sewn in the U.S. Per Forbes, of all fashion produced, 30 percent of it's over-produced, creating excess. Fabric production and garment production accounts for 20 percent of the world’s waste water. To sum it up, our fashion addiction is one of the harshest on our environment.
On-demand and custom clothing are one solution Balodana embraces. While sourcing globally, custom made-to-order items create a lower impact on the environment and are retained longer.
Although it seemingly takes forever, public understanding and sentiment is beginning to show up via buyer habits. Seventy-two percent of millennials and 62 percent of Gen Zers want sustainable clothing and both demographics say they will pay more for it (Forbes). Additional trends with these key demographics include upcycled products (i.e., new products created from trash, such as plastic bottles recycled into materials for clothing) and buying secondhand clothing from a variety of outlets.
Where does that leave Jane.com, unabashedly instilled in the fast-fashion space? Meagen shared, “we're seeking more brands committed to sustainability and urge our sellers to pay attention to their production and packaging practices.” Brands can continue to diminish their carbon footprint by thinking through their packaging materials and practices, as well as sizing to minimize returns and discards.
Apparel faces challenges to revenue alongside sustainability from returns. With the huge lack of clarity and uniformity in sizing globally, fashion continues to see the highest return rates in e-commerce due to fit. Lingerie, particularly bras, rank among the highest. Sixty percent of buyers are bracketing (i.e., ordering two different sizes of the same item in order to return the one that doesn’t fit). This is problematic for sellers, as well as increases shipping waste with each return.
“This is an issue that we're collaborating with the IEEE to develop body measurement and sizing standards to help makers deliver a proper fit to consumers,” shares Dana. “One key metric slowing down the process? No one can agree on where your waist is!”
All three entrepreneurs warn brands against “greenwashing.” The long-term damage when your brand will ultimately be uncovered heavily outweighs being transparent in your marketing and communication with customers.
To sum it up, we all agree, “when one door closes, another opens.” As frustrating as it is to experience some demise in social ads and email, there are new and fresh spins for brands to explore and engage your target audience. Jump on board with social commerce if you haven’t already and focus on providing content for and by your customers. Know your mission and be true to it. And have a great Q4!
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Paula brings in-depth experience designing, developing and implementing strategic cross-channel marketing programs for both B2B and B2C. She has worked in radio and TV, moving to print & online as marketing director for Skyvision where she oversaw direct mail, e-commerce & infomercials along with launching a second catalog, Field Trips, from scratch. She continued applying her creative and marketing strategies to clients large and small to develop direct marketing programs that delivered results. Paula has driven relationships with brands around customer data, email, mail, ecommerce, online advertising and new technologies. She joined Lett Direct in 2016 to lead business development activity for print and digital across new/existing clients and partners. Paula is a past member of DMA’s Catalog Council and speaker at ACCM & DGA, is currently a Bronze sponsor of NEMOA and an ACMA member.
Hopefully soon, you’ll find Paula singing with the Milwaukee Symphony Chorus again or sipping a fine wine at a Lake Michigan harbor.
You can reach Paula at firstname.lastname@example.org