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The latest fashion trends aren’t the only trends on apparel retailers’ minds. Purchasing habits are changing as consumers increasingly use digital platforms to discover, research and order products. Data from market research firm The NPD Group indicates that online sales have grown to account for 19% of industry dollars, while in-store sales have declined by 2%. Does this mean that ecommerce will eventually lead to the demise of in-store shopping? Not exactly. As eMarketer explains in its latest report, Apparel Retailers and Digital Commerce: Trends and Benchmarks, both in-store and online shopping remain popular, but how consumers interact with each is changing. Here’s what apparel brands need to know in order to reach audiences in the right way at the right time in the right location.
Visuals matter, especially in online retail. In a consumer psychology study by mobile company VoucherCloud, 92.6% of people said that visuals are the top influential factor affecting an online purchasing decision. This is reinforced by the eMarketer report, which says leading ecommerce retailers have all translated catalogs to their online presence. A background in catalog retailing doesn’t always mean success, the report says, but multichannel retailers with strong direct-mail roots (like J.Crew or Urban Outfitters) can still command as much as 30% of sales digitally.
Pictures of your products are worth a thousand words! Be sure to use visual-heavy ad formats that let your images shine. Try Facebook’s carousel link format, which mimics a catalog by letting you share multiple images in one ad.
eMarketer cites a performance index from ecommerce platform MarketLive which found that year-over-year revenue per smartphone visit had grown by nearly 50%. Yet MarketLive says that revenue per smartphone visit was still significantly lower than that generated by desktop and tablet interactions. eMarketer concludes that smartphone shoppers were still more likely to be using smartphones for research as opposed to buying on those devices. Research is not confined to digital, however. According to a survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers, a combination of digital and in-store research is preferred among consumers. Yet 68% of respondents in PwC’s survey said they ultimately preferred to purchase in-store, as opposed to the 26% who said they preferred buying online.
Consumers’ purchasing journey isn’t confined to one device, so make sure you’re targeting them across both mobile and desktop. One way to do this is to allow visitors to save products to a wishlist that they can view on any device. You can also nudge them towards purchasing by emailing them whenever an item on their list goes on sale or is close to going out of stock.
As the PwC survey mentioned, consumers still prefer to purchase apparel in-store over online. In a survey conducted by market researcher CivicScience, 56% of respondents said that being able to see and touch a product was the most important factor when making an in-store purchasing decision. The in-store experience is still valuable to retailers, and ecommerce brands are taking notice. eMarketer points to several online brands that have opened up brick and mortar showrooms, such as Warby Parker, Rent the Runway and Bonobos. As Bonobos CEO Andy Dunn explains, customers who visit the brand’s Guideshops buy almost 75% more than online-first buyers. He says the human experience that customers receive at the store is the main reason for this success.
The value of the in-store experience is still a major factor in apparel retail. Digital isn’t the enemy of brick and mortar stores; in fact, both can work to benefit each other. Make sure you provide information online that consumers need if they’ll be continuing their journey in-store, like store locations near them, real-time inventory info or store-only sales on specific items.
As the consumer path from research to purchase evolves, brands need to adapt to ensure that they’re following potential customers every step of the way. Learn how four ecommerce brands are delivering real value to their bottom lines by using digital advertising to find and engage customers:Download Delivering ROI: How 4 Top Ecommerce Brands are Achieving Digital Advertising Success