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Monday, 07 May 2018 01:09

US fashion products consumers shift online, bricks & mortar stores feel the pinch


Consumers purchasing fashion products in the US are increasingly gravitating to online shopping and away from bricks and mortar stores, with ecommerce now making up more than 21%  of US apparel sales, and expected to grow by 10% annually through to 2020.

A newly released survey of 1000 consumers by US-based global digital commerce agency, Astound Insights, found that the US$342 billion US apparel industry is changing rapidly as consumers increasingly flock to digital channels.

“New retail formats and channels are spurring huge changes in the market, and have already caused brands and manufacturers to completely rethink their strategies. The combination of digital and brick and mortar has been a dynamic force in the industry, and given rise to a host of new business models,” says Igor Gorin, chief executive of Astound Insights.

“Younger consumers are behind many of these digital shifts, as they flock to new channels and disruptive companies, placing a huge amount of pressure on traditional players to adapt and innovate to stay competitive.”

According to Astound, stores still play a role in consumers’ buying decisions, but that role is evolving.

Gorin says the increasing popularity of digital shopping has caused concern for many physical store owners, as the report found that 40% of shoppers make more than half of their purchases online.

However, according to Astound, the results prove that physical stores still contribute to many consumers’ shopping decisions:

  • Store environment impacts consumer decisions: 59% of respondents said the physical store experience contributes to their decision to purchase from that retailer, showcasing that the store is still the top purchase factor for consumers;
  • Stores have to be exciting to compete with ecommerce: In fact, 61% of millennials are highly likely to leave the store if they find the experience unexciting;
  • Physical store issues haven’t changed: 76% of fashion shoppers become frustrated when the colour or size they want is out of stock, and 60% of consumers are highly likely to leave the store when confronted with this problem. Internet-conditioned shoppers expect a wide assortment of products in store as well; and
  • Consistent pricing keeps customers: If pricing is different in store than online, 53% of shoppers are highly likely to leave that store, as they expect the same experience across channels.

According to Astound, Amazon, which leads in most categories, is catching up in fashion.

“From a seamless buyer experience to streamlined shipping, Amazon has mastered the digital sphere. But when it comes to fashion, most shoppers turn elsewhere. Over half of respondents make Amazon purchases for convenience and delivery speed, but few care to browse Amazon’s private label fashion products.”

Astound notes that:

  • Amazon is not the fashion leader: Only one out of four shoppers ranked Amazon as “highly fashionable.” And, only 26% of shoppers ranked Amazon’s private label fashion brands as a factor in making purchases on Amazon vs. other retailers.
  • Amazon wins with speed: 57% of respondents said the speed of delivery is the most important factor in their shopping decision, and 55% said Amazon’s competitive prices were the winning variable for their purchase over physical stores and other websites.
  • Shoppers begin their search here: 46% of consumers preferred Amazon over department stores in the beginning of their fashion search due to its broad assortment of apparel and wide range of products carried from their favourite brands.

Astound says that retailers are getting creative with their stores and channel approaches and the retail industry continues to make strides in mobile applications and repurposing of physical stores.

“Online-first companies like Warby Parker are experimenting with physical storefronts where consumers can try on items before making their online orders. Additionally, Amazon sold over 20 million Amazon devices last year, and companies are developing capabilities that make it convenient for consumers to browse and purchase through this new channel,” the Astound report notes.

Astound reports that key findings about new and emerging shopping channels include:

  • Voice is the next emerging platform: Shoppers have been slow to complete purchases through voice devices, but the study shows that the channel has promise – 47% of consumers use voice technology to browse products, and 37% plan to use it to make fashion purchases in the next year.
  • Mobile commerce is still growing: 73% of shoppers have used mobile devices when researching and purchasing fashion apparel. Females were the most active on mobile, with 81% reporting they’ve used the mobile channel within the last six months to search for fashion apparel.
  • New store models show promise: 49% of consumers have shopped at physical stores from online-first retailers like Warby Parker, and 48% of consumers have shopped at physical stores that serve as showrooms (Bonobos), signalling that creative store models entice consumers to shop.
  • Curated shopping services continue to grow: Subscription services have attracted more than 11 million subscribers, and 36% of online shoppers have tried a curated shopping service like Stitch Fix or Trunk Club, with saving time the top reason for use (56%).

“If we understand how consumers shop, we can adjust to their needs,” Gorin says.

“Technology offers a massive opportunity for retailers to optimise the customer experience, but without a detailed understanding of their target market preferences, it can be difficult to decide where to invest time and resources. Providing a seamless shopping experience across every channel is an expectation among fashion shoppers, and is key to maintaining an edge over the competition, and more importantly, Amazon.”

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham - retired in 2020. He is a veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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