New Tools to Combat New-Age Problems in Fashion Retail

Customer service, brand storytelling, and an absolute laser-focus on getting the right product, in front of the right consumer, at the right time continue to be common themes for retailers and brands. It’s fair to say that the retailers who are going places are the ones with a clear vision based on these core fashion principles, but then can combine this approach with an array of new techniques and technologies to gain an edge.

So, what are those new techniques and how do they provide the perfect accessory to the fashion fundamentals?

In this piece for RetailTechNews, Lars Rabe (pictured below), managing director for True Fit Europe, explains the growing importance of technology for the future of fashion retailing.

Doing great things with data

The UK multichannel retail success stories of the last few years stem from data being used to help fuel businesses – but it’s about applying that data to make better business decisions and drive true impact.

It’s a key point in relation to modern fashion retail. Retailers and brands have access to so much transactional, business, and customer data, but they need to have the expertise and support to make sense of it all and use it for real business benefit.

Once processes are in place, new techniques can be used to make the essential fashion business features run better – be it offering up products online that truly match customer preferences, or filtering information from historic purchasing patterns to aid future product design and development.

New tools to combat new-age problems

There are a plethora of tools available that aim to solve retail’s crippling pain points. It’s no secret that modern fashion retail is blighted by the growing number of returns it must process, caused by customers ordering multiple items, keeping one and sending back the rest. It is one of the industry’s burning – and most expensive – challenges right now.

Lars Rabe, MD, True Fit Europe

In fact, research by EY shows 76% of shoppers return clothes because of sizing; and these high return rates are thought to cost UK retailers an estimated £60bn a year.

Retailers are constantly looking to improve, be it with new tools and technology, changing the way their supply chains operate, or by working out ways to better get to know their customers in the first place.

That latter observation is something all retailers say they are trying to achieve, ringing true as much online as it does in the store environment; and technology exists to support such a strategy. Longevity in this industry comes from offering the best products and giving only the best service.

Personalisation – ensuring the right fit for everybody

Everyone’s talking about personalisation in fashion retail; in fact, it’s a wider industry issue, especially as new direct-to-customer communication channels continue to emerge. In fashion, though, the idea of personalisation often revolves around product fit and why fit matters in so many ways. The argument for perfecting fit is very compelling. Shoppers who have a positive fit experience with a brand are 81% more likely to buy from that brand again. There’s also a 150% increase in conversion from page to cart and customers keep approximately 20% more products than before.

Apparel and footwear retailers have not been slow to invest in personalisation tools, and they are quick to talk about personalisation as a way to drive their businesses, but the reality is many don’t really understand what true personalisation is because they don’t have the true customer data; therefore, they are not getting the most out of their investments in this space.

Many retailers are using data points to try and shape their strategies that rely on ‘customer average’ data, which is flawed in the world of fashion, where every piece of a purchased garment generates signals about the preferences and style of a consumer. Retailers need real insights about an individual consumer – and they need them quickly – to ensure their personalisation policy doesn’t lead them down blind alleys.

Personalisation is all about providing the right message, to the right customer, at the right time.

There are three main ways a personalisation strategy can help retailers achieve better results. Firstly, it can help customers feel more confident about their purchase, but it can also help them to locate the right product in the first place and enable businesses to send the most suitable product offers.

Confidence in purchasing apparel and footwear online is low, with digital catering for only 12% of the USD$2tn (£1.57tn) global market. In addition, 98% of those heading to a fashion website are just looking – the alternative to window shopping in the physical retail world – which shows not enough is being done by the sector to drive transactions online.

Additionally, uncertainty around fit and size is the number one reason for consumer hesitancy to purchase clothing and shoes online. But if more work is conducted to get to know shoppers – and that involves analysing data in the appropriate way and getting access to the most up-to-date shopper information – there are ways of bridging this confidence gap.

The important overriding message, whether retailers are trading online, in-store, or both, is that every single person is unique. Every single customer needs to be treated in a personal way; and that can only be achieved by sophisticated data management and analysis.

The bottom line is, fashion and technology must continue to amalgamate to ensure these target statements become more than just platitudes.