Online provides yet another shift in the Competitive Paradigm for Fashion Retailers
Online fashion retail offers are nothing new, traditional bricks and mortar fashion retailers have been contending with this online competition for years now, and on the whole are continuing to refine their own online brand strategies to manage this competitive business risk. But my experience has been that the traditional fashion retailers have always done-so from a perspective of holding the advantage. But that advantage is disappearing right from under their noses.
In fashion retail, real stores with real stock to touch and try on combined with a selling environment with which to create an aspirational context for the visual merchandising creates a real advantage when it comes to encouraging customers to part with their hard-earned cash and to build that all important brand loyalty. Online fashion retailers traditionally competed from a price advantage platform, leveraging lower overheads to knock-down prices. But recently we’ve seen online retailers aiming to replicate the ‘social shopping with friends’ aspect in their digital offers. Fashion retail website TheStyleCure replicates the social shopping experience, instead of uploading photos of their favorite items, users can choose, ‘like’, ‘share’ and ‘comment’ on pre-listed online items with friends via Facebook connect.
Created by former MySpace VP Ryan Sit, TheStyleCure aims to recreate the social interactions shoppers have with friends. The site itself is not particularly impressive, choosing to displays product (over one million products from 300 stores, across 7,000 brands) over building a sense of brand or retail experience. To me this is a real weakness of the concept and where TheStyleCure like many online brands before it misses a valuable opportunity. Users search by clothing type and refine by brand, store, sale, price and color. One click saves favorite items into a stream which can be viewed and commented on by friends to advise on the purchase decision. Users can shop for their friends as well by posting items to their wall. The concept is simple but provides a convenient space to create a wishlist of clothes and accessories, which can be purchased by clicking through on the item.
We’ve seen Facebook increasingly being used as an e-commerce destination, where friends encourage each other to buy.This application is equally relevant for any brands where social approval encourages purchasing behavior. As we encourage more retail brands to adopt a fully integrated brand building mind-set, an online purchasing experience that is a closer reflection of a real-store purchasing experience is as much a red-hot opportunity for traditional retailers integrating an online offer as it is for specialist etailers.