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Ever-Evolving Ecomm: Keeping Your Foot on the Gas

Reported by Grace Howard on Oct 11, 2017 11:35:24 AM

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In the relentlessly evolving ecommerce space, it’s imperative that ecomm-savvy brands and retailers stay ahead of the game, because nothing’s a given. We take a look at a handful of companies that are owning the online space by finding their USPs, capitalising on personalisation and reinventing the resale market.

Applying the Personalised Touch

Sailthru’s recently released Personalization Index – which assessed 100 companies based on the personalised experiences they offer to their customers – positioned Net-a-Porter in fourth place, making it the best UK retailer in terms of personalisation. For new Net-a-Porter users, the personalisation process begins before the actual shopping does; when signing up, new users are asked about their designer and style preferences. True to form for the data-savvy brand, customer purchases are logged by the YNAP group in order to then offer more personalised suggestions each time the shopper returns.

The company’s focus on investing in digital innovation and mobile tech became clear in June, when it opened its state-of-the-art Tech Hub in London’s White City, designed to bring together all of YNAP’s tech teams under one roof. In a press release, Marchetti described the Tech Hub as “a space created to inspire and facilitate disruptive innovation,” citing “artificial intelligence and new mobile enhancements to the customer experience” as key focus points for the Hub’s 500+ employees. YNAP has also revealed its interest in conversational commerce – namely through Whatsapp – to improve the shopping experience for its ‘EIPs’ (Extremely Important People). It is currently working with Whatsapp to develop systems that will send users everything from product recommendations to order status updates. “Over a year ago our Personal Shopping team realised that their EIPs were constantly on WhatsApp and preferred to receive product suggestions and complete transactions via the app, rather than to check their emails or log in to the service. To date we have made countless sales across WhatsApp,” Gabriele Tazzari, YNAP’s Director of Research & Development, wrote on a company blog.

Finding Your USP

“Where I’ve seen brands succeed today is in more niche areas, like one-of-a-kind sunglasses or one-of-a-kind shoes, where they’re really building a focused brand. Amazon can’t knock off that kind of brand. They’re already a giant brand; they can’t be this niche, cool brand, too,” Stirling Barrett, founder of indie sunglasses label Krewe, told Glossy last month. And he has a point – after all, most successful brands have a USP. It can be difficult to highlight your point of difference, though, in the (fairly) even ecommerce playing field; everyone has a website, and everyone uses the same social media platforms, so how do you stand out?  

For companies like Krewe, one-of-a-kind product serves as a worthy USP. For some, though, the winning formula seems even simpler: keep doing what you do, and ensure you’re doing it well. Budget fashion e-tailer Boohoo has doubled its sales over the last year but, aside from launching a cosmetics range and bringing more celebrities and influencers into its marketing mix, very little has changed in the way the site operates. That is, with low-priced, trend-led clothes, regular flash sales, and cheap, speedy delivery. Boohoo’s operates on a ‘test and repeat’ model, meaning that it produces small quantities of clothes, ‘tests’ them on its website and then, provided they sell well, they’re ‘repeated.’ With such a quick turnaround – one that’s faster than other ‘fast fashion’ names – Boohoo’s able to react to trends with . While one of its key rivals, Missguided, has made a move into bricks-and-mortar retail recently, it seems that Boohoo is quite comfortable with staying online. Why fix what isn’t broken, after all?

The New, Glossier Face of the Second-Hand Market

Despite the unwavering popularity of resale sites like eBay, it’s only recently that ardent luxury fashion buyers have changed their outlook on purchasing second-hand clothes. While once associated with unpredictable internet search results and stuffy consignment stores, buying pre-loved designer fashion is now a decidedly more polished affair. Specialist sites, like The RealReal and Vestiaire Collective, take a luxury angle to e-tail that befits the price of the clothes – which, in the case of luxury goods, is still generally high, even with a hefty discount.

But why the shift to second-hand, apart from the obvious economical benefits? Firstly, there’s the environmental aspect; as consumers are increasingly invested in reducing their impact on the environment, it makes sense that they’d be interested in the sustainable element of buying products second-hand. Secondly, there’s the impact of social media – something that the menswear reseller Grailed has benefitted from. In reaction to the social media-fuelled obsession (particularly among young, male consumers) with ‘copping’ the most-hyped streetwear drops, Grailed appeals to a more distinct group of shoppers: those with a taste for rare, ‘hyped’ or limited-edition product. It curates its offering based on items’ ‘covetability’, making it an easy pull for streetwear enthusiasts, who can buy and sell through the site with ease. One Grailed user explained the company’s niche appeal to Vice: "You can try to buy or sell on eBay or on forums, but Grailed really brings like-minded people together for very specific things.” In addition to this, the company has its ‘Grailed 100’ collections, which see 100 archive pieces put on sale from cult labels like Raf Simons, Helmut Lang and Gosha Rubchinskiy. With rare garments on sale for a limited time only, customers are given more of an incentive to keep returning, just in case they come across the limited-edition piece of their dreams.

Arun Gupta, Founder & CEO, Grailed, Alexis Maule, Director of Strategic Initiatives - Office of the CEO, YOOX NET-A-PORTER GROUP, Maura Smith, SVP Affiliate, Pepperjam and Kristen Sosa, Chief Merchant, Olivela discuss ever evolving ecomm at the Decoded Fashion New York Summit (November 1-2). Book your ticket here.

Image Source: TheRealReal YouTube

Topics: ecommerce, CUSTOMER

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