While some Australian fashion retailers have embraced the online challenge, many have faltered in their attempts to embrace this new chapter in the rag trade’s long and storied history.
Fashion retailers have had to contend with the same basic issues many eCommerce businesses have had, namely back-end operations and logistics, but they’ve also had to adjust to a new mindset among younger consumers or else risk losing customers. To this end, social media and mobile web have emerged as key factors.
In part one of our special look at the Australian fashion industry, SmartCompany spoke to David Briskin, chief executive of fashion label Sass& Bide, and Reece Hobbins, creative director of youth marketing firm Taboo, about the challenges facing the industry.
Here’s part two of our look at how Australian fashion retailers are moving online…
Stephen Foxworthy, eCommerce director at Reactive: Mobile technology innovation
Reactive has worked with a number of Australian fashion retailers – including brands such as Rip Curl, Gazman, Bras and Things and other high street retailers – in devising their digital marketing strategies.
Foxworthy says Australian retailers are now looking to further their digital presence by developing their mobile web presence.
“One of the biggest issues retailers are facing is the rise of mobile internet and the fact most of the retailers in Australia aren’t very heavily optimised. Most of those retailers are in the process of, or looking to upgrade, their online stores to be mobile compatible and developing responsive web technology which is adaptable across mediums seamlessly.
“A lot are also looking at their loyalty and communication platforms, with emails featuring high in this mix. They’re trying to be much smarter about their personalisation and there is a lot of intelligence coming out of their email platforms giving them insight into what they’re customers are clicking on and responding to best,” he says
Foxworthy says some Australian retailers plan to start using iPads in stores, providing customers and staff more information about products, while others are working on ways to use mobile phones to complete in-store transactions and allow users to instantly share on social media what they’ve purchased.
A clever digital strategy can drive sales both in-store and online, and Foxworthy says high-end brands are demonstrating how both realms are necessary for traditional bricks-and-mortar stores.
“Luxury brands and high-end brands have been very good at creating brand experiences online, but poor at doing direct sales. Anyone looking around to buy a high-end product would either be more comfortable going into a boutique, or be a price-conscious customer who wants the best price and is more likely to shop around. There is a gulf between their online sales and their engagement.
“The approach of brands like Burberry is to cement their brand values online through community building and marketing. Through online, they want to maintain their premium position so customers will shop in-store,” he says.
Overall, Foxworthy says Australian fashion brands struggle to provide a “holistic customer experience” and while they are willing to adhere to global standards, they are failing to provide any leadership when it comes to online experience.
“Very few have a well-connected online and in-store experience. You can’t do exchanges efficiently for in-store and online purchases and most retailers don’t have very good systems in place.
“There’s not a lot of leadership coming out of Australia, but we are fast followers. A lot of Australian retailers are ready to accept benchmarks and best practices arising from the US and Europe. Brands are now willing to use overseas examples to catch-up, but we’re pretty poor in investing in it properly,” he says.
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