Apparel retailers are in for the gold rush. eCommerce has magically
changed the way of conducting business.
commerce, more popularly known as e-Commerce, is used to market goods or
services online. Also referred to as Online commerce, Web commerce, eBusiness,
eRetail, and eTail, the trend is now picking heat.
sites are different from typical web sites in a way, that they have more
features enabled comparatively over a normal website. They include features
like shopping cart, automated inventory system, database, ability to process
credit cards and other non computer technologies such as product warehousing. eCommerce
sites offer cheaper upfront cost to retailers. It is comparatively easier to
set up an online business, and make sales. It creates new business with
potential customers, associates, and manufacturers. As it is easily accessible
by customers from across the globe, it opens a world of opportunities, which
may otherwise not be present.
for Apparel Retailers:
Forrester forecast states that eCommerce business will see a drastic growth
from $176.2 billion in 2010 to reach $250 billion in 2014. This is a whopping
growth, and spotlights a clear-cut trend of online shopping. Computer,
apparels, and consumer electronics make 44% of online sales. Apparels are
bought throughout the year, and with more money spent on apparel shopping, it
is a positive signal for apparel retailers.
Image courtesy: solutionists.com.au
software will enable an apparel retailer to gain competitive advantage in the
marketplace. Though initial costs make the process expensive, the long run
benefits accrued by the retailer make the costs justifiable. Considering
eCommerce options depends upon certain key factors. Mr Frank Gilbert, Managing
Director, Solutionists shares his views with Fibre2Fashion regarding how an
apparel retailer can make his decision. He lists down three key elements for
considering eCommerce solutions.
important is your brand? You will
always need to customize the look and feel of the site, to ensure that the site
matches your brand and any other signage, store fit outs, or marketing
materials. How much you spend, depends on how important and different your
company brand and brand positioning is (vs. your product brands).
unique is your offering? If your
key diffentiator in the marketplace is innovation or a different way of doing
things, then customizing the site is necessary to maintain your competitive
advantage. In this situation, the more you spend, the stronger your advantage.
complete is your ecommerce platform?
If you try and save money by selecting a low cost, limited feature website
platform, you may find it necessary to add expensive customized components
later, to remain competitive. A more advanced platform from a specialist
supplier, will usually have these key features included or as optional modules."
The process of
incorporating eCommerce has several benefits to both retailers, and customers.
From the retailers part, it includes cheaper upfront costs, and gain wide
market access. For the customers, shopping is made easier. Frank points out
that overhead costs will be lower while running an eCommerce store,
comparatively over physical stores. He quotes, "In saying this, we do find
that the retailers who put the most investment into their web stores in terms
of initial build, staffing, upgrading, and general maintenance are the ones
that generate the most impressive profits and general online presence. When
comparing these investments to the costs of rental and store fit outs however
the costs are still significantly lower. A website typically needs to be
"updated" more often than physical stores to keep up with shifts in
buyer behavior, social media and ecommerce trends and developments."
further points out the reach an online store has. "You are quite literally
selling to the world with an online store, and it is important that fashion
retailers capitalize on this by investing in a strong SEO strategy, online
marketing and simple, affordable shipping rates. Shipping costs is the number
one influencer when it comes to online purchasing, and we normally recommend
retailers absorb shipping costs as much as possible when it comes to venturing
into the global marketplace in order to improve brand awareness and conversion
in this world is an unmixed blessing, and eCommerce business is no exception to
this. It has its own benefits and drawbacks. eCommerce business helps to
establish new opportunities, and customers even from remote locations. Unlike a
physical store, websites are accessible 247, giving unlimited store hours.
Contacts can be made through email, phone or fax. It enhances brand awareness,
and increases customer loyalty. Overall, it increases business profits.
elaborates the benefits. "Clothing is the third biggest seller online and
there is no doubt that customers expect to be able to access your product on
all touch points, whether that is on the web, mobile, tablet, iPad etc. With
upwards of 60% of purchases in store been driven by online research your entire
business sets to profit from a strong ecommerce offering. Features such as wish
lists, ratings & reviews, contact forms and customer feedback also provides
you valuable insight into the minds of your customers, and what they like and
don't like about your business or product."
Challenges lie in understanding and using the process of online model. Frank states, "This
normally occurs with things such as user friendly data, i.e. the color ways in
their retail management software may be CH, but customers need to read that as
Charcoal, fulfillment does there need to be an automated process for stores
to fulfill online orders or will it be done out of head office, color display
product images may need to be mapped to color SKUs in order to control the way
the color ways display, and so forth. Solutionists ' extensive experience working with fashion
retailers has fortunately allowed us to develop many website features that
solve these kinds of challenges before a retailer is even aware of them."
chain retail- the challenging aspect of eCommerce:
his professional experience and expertise, Frank further recounts that running
a multi-chain retail is the most challenging aspect of eCommerce project. It
requires a lot of thought process he says. "A lot of thought needs to go
into integrating the product data, matching in-store and online promotional offers,
displaying the right product information, pulling stock levels from multiple
stores, handling returns, hold and laybys, and fulfilling orders. The more
product data a fashion retailer has, the more scenarios you have to consider
when designing the website build, such as products with duplicate codes from
past seasons, different color ways set up as separate products, setting a
buffer to deal with on hold garments and fulfilling an order that has items
spread across multiple branches. Fortunately Solutionists have dealt with so
many fashion chains over the years that we have faced a huge variety of these
challenges, and have created unique software and solutions to solve them."
positively asserts that there is obviously a boom occurring in terms of mobile
commerce, whether that is an app or a mobile website. He confides, "While
this one segment is hugely important for retailers at the moment, Solutionists
believe it provides valuable information about where ecommerce is headed in the
future being accessible from multiple touch points. As technology and the way
customers use it changes, fashion retailers need to be on their toes in
delivering their product in a way customers want to absorb it, whether that is
by using a full ecommerce website on a laptop, comparing products and making
purchases via smartphone, or viewing a new season range on an iPad."
retail business is now booming online due to its convenience, inventory, and
variety. Options and services in online stores, which are not available in many
physical stores, motivate shoppers to go for it.
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