The impact Covid-19 is having on the global fashion industry is immense, with international lockdowns forcing physical retail stores to close and more shoppers to look online for their fashion purchases.
With no definite end to the crisis in sight, brands need to adapt to quickly changing shopping behaviours using data-driven insights, according to Jon Maury, EMEA managing director at cloud-based e-commerce solutions platform ChannelAdvisor.
“With such a sudden shift to online, it’s crucial for fashion brands to prioritise investment into their online channels and diversify where they’re selling in line with changing demands and behaviours,” Maury told FashionUnited, noting a particular spike in traffic in online marketplaces. “We’ve seen brands in countries like China embrace it as a way of reaching shoppers and continuing to sell while people are at home and stores are closed.”
Here are four strategies highlighted by ChannelAdvisor for brands to optimise their e-commerce operations during the pandemic:
Keeping up-to-date with shopping behaviour in such an unpredictable and unprecedented situation is vital, and decisions should be based on real-time behaviour. This not only means keeping an eye on changes in terms of which products shoppers are interested in, but also which channels and devices they’re using to shop. “Getting to grips with consumers’ changing demands amid the crisis and their new path to purchase should be the first step in deciding what to do next,” said Maury.
Demand for specific fashion items have already begun to change, and so brands should reconsider which lines to prioritise promoting. While data published by ChannelAdvisor on gross merchandise value (GMV) found that there has been an overall decline in clothing, accessories and shoes category during the pandemic, certain product categories such as athleisure, sportswear, and loungewear have seen an uptick as people look to prioritise comfort and practicality while working from home.
Brands should follow a data-driven approach to advertising and shift ad budgets to platforms and devices that are performing better or reduce ad spend for categories that are underperforming. For example, screen time at home has sky-rocketed since the lockdown, meaning social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram are favourable platforms to focus ads. Additionally, while shoppers may be buying less, the lockdown offers an opportunity to further build a community between brands and consumers. For years brands have focused on building more personal and engaging relationships with their customers – so when is a better time when many are feeling isolated and uncertain? Brands can use the time to share stories and content rather than just advertise products.
As the lockdown brings delays and uncertainty to delivery times, it is essential to provide transparent and real-time information. Provide realistic windows for handling and transit (even if it’s much longer than usual) and consider including a caveat message which sets customers’ expectations for further unexpected delay, said ChannelAdvisor.
“Over the next few weeks, the most in-demand items will continue to change, and we’ll likely see more unpredictable changes in consumer shopping behaviour,” said Maury. “All this presents new and uncharted challenges for brands, but the e-commerce industry is well endowed with data that – if used to navigate a response strategy – will play a key role in helping the industry survive and thrive.”