Continuing that trend, in this blog post, we’ve decided to investigate some of the current challenges faced by fashion brands and retailers.
We’ll be exploring the following:
- Social media networks, influencers & trust
- The high street vs online
- Responding to the concerns of a ‘woke’ generation
- Online marketplaces
- Lack of an adequate SEO strategy
So, what are you waiting for, lets dive straight in…
Social Media Networks, Influencers & Trust
While SEMrush has identified that social media is a less significant source of traffic for online fashion stores globally compared to other sources, that’s not to say it isn’t still a powerful force for setting trends, raising brand awareness and assisting in the increase of sales.
This is particularly the case for Instagram, which has been shoppable since 2016, who claim that a third of its users have bought an item of clothing they discovered while using the social network.
Between carefully curated photos and well thought out partnerships with influencers/ambassadors, it’s unsurprising that fashion brands and retailers should thrive on this highly visual platform.
That said, an increasing scepticism and lack of trust associated with social networks and influencers presents a blocker to fashion brands and retailers’ success via this channel.
According to Dealspotr, Millennials in particular are losing trust in online influencers when it comes to discovering and buying fashion online.
While there are FTC guidelines on disclosing ads on social networks, they are often ignored or implemented incorrectly. This only adds to confusion and distrust amongst followers.
A survey of more than 1,000 shoppers conducted for BBC Radio 4 also discovered that most shoppers do not trust social media influencers. Staggeringly, 82 percent of people were not always clear when an influencer has been paid to promote a product.
What’s more, in a post Cambridge Analytica climate, there remains a sense of cynicism by social users surrounding their personal data and how it is used. The 2018 Trust Barometer Special Report: Brands and Social Media by Edelman found that 60 percent of people no longer trust social media networks. More specifically, independent research firm Ponomon Institute reported last year that trust in Facebook had plunged by 66 percent.
This decline in trust when it comes to social media, influencers and ads presents one of the biggest challenges facing retailers and fashion brands today.
So, what can fashion brands and retailers do to counter this?
Moving forward, it’s clearly imperative that brands demonstrate complete honesty and transparency with social followers about how their data is being collected and used.
In terms of influencers, many businesses are now adopting the tactic of pursuing collaborations with micro influencers. While they have a smaller number of followers, micro influencers tend to have more niche, loyal and highly engaged audiences compared to those with high profiles or celebrity status.
With this in mind, fashion brands and retailers might want to jump on the bandwagon. Not only are micro-influencers more affordable but they’re viewed as more genuine and trustworthy by consumers.
If you’re just getting started with influencer marketing or are looking for advice, check out our A-Z guide to influencer marketing.
The High Street Vs Online
These days, it’s almost predictable to turn on the news to hear that yet another high street retailer is either closing down or closing many of its stores.
Undoubtedly, a significant factor for the demise of high-street retailers is the lure and convenience of online shopping.
According to a PWC survey, high street exits (including those by fashion retailers) remain at a historic high. Indeed, the top net fallers in 2018 were banks and financial services – followed in close second by fashion retailers.
Most recently, it was announced that Gap intends to close over 200 stores worldwide as its US parent company launches a massive restructuring programme. Arcadia Group, which owns the likes of Topshop, Burton and Miss Selfridge, at the time of writing, is also looking likely to be put into administration. Last year, it was House of Fraser which took a knock – with 20 of its 59 stores across the UK expected to close, including its London Oxford Street store.
Depressing stuff for those on the high-street.
On the flip-side, the likes of Boohoo, PrettyLittleThing and Nasty Gal, all exclusively online women’s fashion retailers, recently announced strong growth. Boohoo, was particularly impressive, boasting a 97% leap in revenue from March 2018 – 2019.
There are multiple factors that might be the reason behind the successful performance of online fashion retailers compared to high street footfall, such as the rise in mobile shopping and the ease with which purchases can be made online to name a few.
Whilst the stats don’t look good for high street fashion retailers, all is not lost.
In fact, there’s often increasing demand from online brands to open physical stores, to cater to shoppers who want to try products on instore before they commit to buying – think Missguided at Bluewater.
We believe that the key is to take an omnichannel approach to the online/offline shopping experience. After all, very few people shop exclusively online or only in store, but rather combine the best of both.
For fashion retailers that have both a high street and online presence, navigating the two can be a challenge. Nonetheless, we have some top tips for how to do so:
- Enhance an excellent instore customer experience by utilising engaging technologies such as VR and augmented reality.
- Make payment on and offline quick and easy.
- If your issues lie solely with getting footfall to a brick and mortars store, consider running exclusive instore deals and discounts.
Perhaps most importantly, if you’ve opened or own brick and mortar stores, you’ll need to make sure you get your local SEO right!
Responding to the Concerns of a ‘woke’ Generation
Young people today are increasingly concerned with any deemed societal injustice, particularly social and environmental causes, which has led to what’s been labelled a generation of ‘woke’ young people.
With regards to the fashion industry, sustainability is currently high on the agenda for many young consumers and they increasingly favour fashion brands who are in alignment with their values.
This movement has even seeped into the political sphere with the environmental audit committee recently calling on the government to make fashion retailers take responsibility for the waste they create and put an end to an era of ‘throwaway fashion’.
Fashion brands who are taking these concerns seriously include PrettyLittleThing which recently launched a new line of clothes in April which are made from recycled materials.
They also announced a partnership with Regain – a recycling app. This collaboration aims to prevent unwanted clothes heading to the landfill. It allows users to donate unwanted clothes at pick up points and, in return, they receive discounted codes that can be used with Regain’s retail partners which includes the likes of Missguided, Boohoo, New Look and SuperDry.
It’s not just the planet and concerns about workers’ rights however that influence young people’s fashion buying decisions. Consumers are increasingly championing brands that embrace diversity and represent all types of people (regardless of age, sex, race religion and ability).
Interestingly, a data scrape of over 2000 fashion retailers, cited by the State of Fashion 2019 report, revealed the appearance of the word “feminist” on homepages and newsletters increased by a factor of more than 5 from 2016 to 2018.
However, a fashion brand or retailer advocating any cause can prove risky for their reputation. There’s always a likelihood that existing or potential customers will not support the cause in question. Alternatively, others might criticise it as a transparent marketing ploy and question whether it’s a genuine value shared by the company.
Primark are a prime example of this. In 2018, the fashion retailer was criticised for releasing a collection of Pride themed t-shirts which were produced in Turkey – a country ranked third worst in Europe for LGBTQ equality.
Ultimately, fashion retailers face a risk to their reputation if they are seen to be supporting a cause merely for gimmicks/PR opportunities as opposed to genuinely believing in it.
Clearly, in order to thrive today, fashion brands and retailers will have to do more in terms of their corporate, social and environmental responsibility.
Here are our top dos and don’ts for demonstrating that you, as a fashion retailer or brand, are listening to the concerns of a ‘woke’ generation:
- Be genuine. Take a stand on something that inspires a personal passion.
- Don’t capitalise on a crisis. Cynical customers will be able to see right through it, not to mention that it’s insensitive.
- Be fully clear about what statements you want your brand to make or support. Be consistent in this message across all communication channels.
- Ask yourself the question: “why would my audience care”?
- Learn from those brands who’s ‘woke’ marketing has backfired. Take Nike, who’s controversial advertisement last year saw a boycott of their goods.
Online marketplaces, such as Amazon, Alibaba, eBay, Zalando, ASOS marketplace and Rakuten, can present both risks and rewards for fashion brands and retailers.
For well-known fashion brands, it can prove a smart step to join one. Almost half of online sales are made on marketplaces, it typically has positive implications for SEO and can help brands reach more consumers.
Smaller fashion brands tend to avoid it due to shipping costs and commissions eating into margins, and their brand getting ‘lost in the crowd’. There’s also an element of loss of exclusivity which stems from the sheer scale and popularity of these platforms.
However, fashion brands that opt out of marketplaces tussle with having to work extra hard to establish and please their customer base.
Indeed, with their huge selections and low prices, the likes of eBay and Amazon have become the ‘default’ online shopping destination for many. Amazon has been a particularly big gamechanger, with 44 percent of shoppers looking for an item there first before searching via Google or going directly to a retailers website.
In order to compete with these big players, there are some things you can do:
- Offer an exceptional, personalised service. Friendly, helpful and knowledgeable staff who can be contacted via phone, email or social channels will gain your fashion brand more of an edge over sophisticated online marketplaces.
- Be flexible and offer a variety of payment/collection models such as ‘click and collect’.
- Make the returns process on your items is as simple as possible. According to Gartner, 92% of customers will buy again if returns are easy.
Ultimately, these online marketplaces have raised the bar in terms of what consumers expect and are the basis by which shoppers judge other online shopping experiences. Therefore, it’s critical for independent fashion retailers to provide an exceptional shopping experience online.
Inadequate SEO Strategy
In April, it was hard not to avoid the news of ASOS’ 87% drop in profits. But what went wrong for the fashion retailer, exactly?
Well, in essence, ASOS launched 200 versions of its website depending on which country the customer was in. This had a negative impact on ASOS’ search engine rankings (and, consequently, the traffic to their site). In addition to this, they made multiple changes to the way users navigate around the website and to the display of new products.
In light of this, you probably read a fair few ‘let’s bash ASOS’ type blog posts regarding their ‘disastrous’ SEO strategy. This isn’t another one of those.
For one, blaming the ASOS digital team entirely is simplistic. Expansion costs and discount campaigns have been cited as additional contributors to the drop in profits, not just SEO instability. Plus, there was likely sound strategic thought and good intentions underlying the digital teams’ decision making process.
That said, industry professionals are right to highlight what ASOS clearly did not do. One thing being that they probably failed to use thorough A/B testing to discover the impact the planned changes would have on user behaviour.
It’s also been pointed out than an experienced SEO should have picked up on the potential problems ahead. This suggests that, while ASOS does have an internal SEO team, they were either not listened to or they were not utilised effectively.
Ultimately, this highlights the threat faced by fashion brands and retailers in the event of failing to implement in-depth testing ahead of mass, site wide changes.
It also drives home the need to actively listen to SEO expertise when it’s provided.
So, there you have it, the top challenges facing fashion brands and retailers in 2019. Do you own, or work for, a fashion brand or retailer? Have you identified any additional challenges to the industry that we’ve missed in this blog post? If you’d like to discuss them with us, or any of the above, please let us know in the comments below, we’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback.
Are you looking for some insight on using influencers for your fashion brand or do you require an in depth, SEO strategy for the year ahead? Get in touch with our team via the form below, we’d love to help out!