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4 ways to rethink fashion retail in mobile

Written by Michelle Fotopoulou, Director of Mobile Marketing, Webloyalty

Before the advent of e-commerce, it was difficult to imagine buying clothing online. Without the feel of the fabric, the visceral experience of the fit of a shirt or trousers, how could a customer make an educated decision on their purchase? That seemed pretty extreme, but when some innovators thought to themselves, why don’t we do this also on mobile – well, the whole enterprise seemed even more futile.

Despite the odds, according to Ampersand’s Mobile Retail Report: 2017 UK Edition, consumer demand for multi-channel, mobile-initiated purchases has increased by 22 percent since 2015 and 56 percent of consumers research products on their mobile with the intent of purchasing in-store at a later date. This trend shows that consumer confidence in mobile-based fashion purchases is surging thanks to clever tactics implemented by top brands to create a new, virtual shopping experience and a risk-free transactional process.

So, how have fashion retailers captured the imagination of shoppers while providing a frictionless shopping experience?

1. UX is the new storefront

Appealing window-dressing used to pull in customers from the streets and into the stores; these days a strong user experience (UX) online is just as important. Through continuous design and testing, top retail apps in the market have created an experience that is not only pleasant, it trumps many a brick and mortar shopping outing. Through images and videos, the customer can get a feel for the items they’re interested in, they can read reviews from ‘users like them’, and complete their purchases with relative ease.

However, despite a handful of standout sites/apps, 41 percent of consumers say that being unable to see products on a small device can put them off completing their transactions, and approximately a third of retailers still don’t offer zoom functionality on their mobile imagery. Based on learnings from our shopper loyalty application, Shop Appi, we’ve seen that by designing around what the customer actually wants to achieve, rather than what we want to push on them, the user increases their engagement and feels more comfortable to do repeat purchases. If a user wants to view an item properly before buying – provide that functionality.

2. Load time – the new ‘I’ll have to check the back’

Everyone’s been there – you find that perfect something in the store, queue up in the line, happy with your great discovery, and you wait. And wait. How long you wait depends on a myriad of factors, but needless to say, everyone has their limits. Doubts creep into your mind – will I ever wear this? Is it practical? Doesn’t so-and-so in accounting actually have the same thing? All that’s clear is that the longer you stand in line, the faster you lose your purchasing ambition. Mobile retail sites have a similar challenge. Load times for so many images can be lengthy and varying network or Wi-Fi quality can drastically impact the user experience.

The real pain-point of mobile shopping is the checkout. With 32 percent of consumers put off by mobile transactions because they find typing information on a small device difficult, their patience with filling out payment details will be limited. Retailers that invest in a simplified checkout process have already discovered the benefits to addressing this reality and have seen their cart abandonment rates drop accordingly.

4 ways to rethink fashion retail in mobile

3. Embrace the power of social

Asos is a leading force when it comes to mobile – it was voted the most popular retail app in the UK by customers in a survey by digital experience experts Applause. And 70 percent of the site’s traffic and 58 percent of all its orders, now come from mobile. One of the reasons it’s earned this accolade is because of its excellent search function. In August it took this one step further and launched a visual search tool which enables shoppers to take a photo or screenshot an outfit they like the look of, and use it to search through Asos’ product lines for a similar item. You know what happened after they introduced these features? People talked about it… massively.

Social media platforms are also becoming a key component in the e-commerce journey. Accenture found that 68 percent of UK shoppers aged 20 and under are interested in buying goods directly through social media channels. And there’s evidence this interest is leading to conversion – Shopify estimates Facebook has the highest conversion rate for all social media ecommerce traffic at 1.85 percent.

Asos announced this year that it has seen a 25 percent increase in its global audience during the six-month period to 21.3 million followers. Whilst it can’t be proven this increase was directly down to its social media engagement, the company believes its efforts were a contributing factor. Retailers should learn from the likes of Asos and its ability to produce engaging social content. After all, this is proving to be increasingly important when it comes to conversion in fashion retail.

4. Don’t App for the sake of it

Retailers shouldn’t create an app because they feel they ‘should’ have one. This isn’t enough of a reason. It needs to make sense as part of the overall business proposition. Innovations should add to a retailers’ overall proposition, enhance the customer experience and increase loyalty. If user experience is bad or if retailers are trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist, word will spread like wildfire and the financial implications can be huge.

M-commerce will only continue to grow, and in the competitive world of retail it is vital that brands take the time to invest in a strategy that nails the basics of UX and complements their long-term vision for the future. Your customers know what they want – listen and develop your business to address their needs, and your bottom line.