Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, global retail was increasingly moving online. E-commerce sales hit US$3.5 trillion in 2019 and at the time were expected to exceed US$6.5 trillion by 2022.
Now, lockdowns around the world have accelerated the e-commerce transition for the fashion industry. A combination of shop closures and changing consumer habits have hit clothing sales hard. But companies with an established online presence are in a stronger position to weather the effects.
Moving an existing fashion brand online, or starting a digital-only clothing company, requires careful planning. Below are the key steps to consider.
Building a transactional website that gives customers the best possible user experience is crucial. To achieve this, brands will need to consider adopting and organising systems related to payment processing, warehouse management and fulfilment, customer service portals, data analytics, and integrations with third parties such as courier services.
The overall goal is to create a technology stack that is operationally efficient, easy to manage, and provides a seamless customer experience. As far as the timing, according to McKinsey a relatively large offline brand can create a basic but functional online presence in 10 to 15 weeks.
To support online growth, brands need to build strong relationships with reliable suppliers. In the digital era, platforms provide an essential service for connecting buyers with suppliers and manufacturers, streamlining the process of research and enabling brands to find business partners aligned with their commercial and sustainability goals.
Connections can also be made through referrals, helping to build trust quickly. And by managing multiple suppliers through a single platform, brands are able to improve the visibility of their entire supply chains and take advantage of data-powered tools to make better purchasing decisions.
Finding the right suppliers is also about building a resilient supply chain that strengthens the business ties between both upstream and downstream parties. During times of market volatility, this can mean greater financial security in the event of a liquidity crunch, more flexibility when it comes to minimum order quantities and the maintaining of business confidence.
In the post-COVID environment, where e-commerce is set to play a much larger role in how clothing businesses operate, platforms will be key for buyers and suppliers to form reliable supply chains fit for a digital context.
For most e-commerce businesses, marketing will involve a broad range of channels and strategies, including social media activity, email campaigns, discount codes, pay-per-click advertising and search engine optimisation. For clothing businesses in particular, promotion through social media influencers can be part of the marketing mix too.
It is also important for brands going online to invest in data analytics software to better make use of targeted marketing techniques. Greater customer intelligence can reveal the kinds of capabilities a buyer should look for in suppliers, increasing the value of platforms that profile them. Additionally, B2B platforms that have built-in technology for analysing data can ensure brands make optimal business decisions.
The incentives for establishing an online clothing presence are growing. Consumer preferences in the wake of COVID-19 are increasingly shifting to e-commerce. And digital platforms are allowing clothing businesses to connect with the suppliers best suited to their needs and manage their supply chains efficiently. Serai was created to help apparel industry companies connect and do business in a more reliable and secure manner.
If you are in the process of setting up an online clothing business, join Serai to connect with potential partners.