“Alexa, I want some black boots”, “Google, look for a party dress in Zara”, “Siri, look how many Uniqlo stores are nearby”. Amazon, Google, Apple, Facebook or Instagram have transformed traditional fashion sales channels and developed new alternatives on the Web to conquer new generations of customers, especially millennials and Generation Z.
As technology has taken over commercial space and online and offline universes have unified, the sector has fully entered a new era in which there is no turning back. Today digital technology changes the rules of the game.
Many companies in the sector, largely those that operate online, have opted to introduce new alternatives to the purchase process, adapting systems to their offer in order to go beyond the customer’s shopping experience.
In fact, ecommerce is already considered as a traditional channel, according to Deloitte’s Tech Trends 2019 report. Online has ceased to be a disruptive element and has given way to new channels that have transformed the purchase process.
The arrival of new digital tools such as artificial intelligence, big data or the Internet of Things have boosted the creation of new sales channels such as conversational commerce, sales through social networks or robots that make convenience purchases.
One of the new systems postulated as the most disruptive is conversational commerce, defined as an autonomous technology based on artificial intelligence that allows online shoppers to communicate with the brand through a chat or voice interface.
In fact, a Business Insider study reveals that 51% of U.S. consumers use this channel to search for products, so companies are incorporating the possibility of offering the final purchase.
“Innovation is now invisible,” explains Sylvain Jauze, an executive at Cegid, a company specializing in retail management software. “And voice has become the channel for the future of the sector“.
Better Consumer Experience
The dynamics of conversational commerce allows all types of virtual platforms, from social networks such as Facebook or Twitter, to e-commerce, to establish their own personalized interface and make it possible for consumers to go shopping while having a conversation with the brand.
Some companies in the sector have added this possibility to their sales models. This is the case of Asos with the launch of Enki, a loudspeaker that allows people to buy items from up to six categories of men’s and women’s clothing products. However, the pure player has not fully developed this system, which is currently only available in the United Kingdom and the United States.
Another group in the sector that also offers its consumers the possibility of buying through voice is Zalando with the alliance with Google Assistant. Amazon, for its part, was one of the pioneers in the development of this system with the creation of Alexa, which, among other things, allows purchases on the platform of the group through a conversation.
The purpose of the companies with the commitment to conversational commerce is to personalize the customer experience, adapt the offers to their taste and foster the relationship with consumers.
According to most experts, this system provides an opportunity for companies to open a direct channel of communication with customers in real time in order to extend their relationship beyond the purchase itself. However, this channel is still not very developed because “companies have not yet invested enough resources in new technologies,” says Jauze.
Other new sales channels that have appeared in the sector in recent years are social networks. Since last March, for example, it has been possible to purchase products from Zara, H&M, Adidas, Uniqlo, Nike, Dior, Michael Kors, Prada or Mac Cosmetics through Instagram.
This is the first time that the social network allows fashion companies to sell clothes through its platform, since until now users were redirected to the website of the page in question through the functionality Instagram Shoppable, which also allows brands to label products.
Although shopping through Instagram is only possible in the U.S. at the moment, the process is that users can click on the product they are interested in and access a menu to select size and color. Finally, to complete the operation customers have to fill out a form with their address and payment method.
In addition to Instagram, Facebook and Twitter also allow you to make purchases through the social network. Twitter took the step in 2014 through an alliance with Amazon that allowed to buy products of the group through its platform once users have coordinated the respective accounts.
Facebook also gives its users the possibility to make purchases without redirecting to another website. The application, which is preparing to launch its own virtual currency, allows U.S. users to make purchases from companies linked through the social network.
At the same time, WhatsApp, which has more than a billion active users, is also becoming a potential channel for fashion sales. Several companies in the industry, including Zara, give their customers the ability to resolve issues through the application. Most experts agree that the next natural step is for fashion to sell through the application.
The reinvention of the shop with the ‘boom’ of experience
In addition to the new sales channels, the sector is also introducing innovations in the stores themselves, reconverting the channel to a model that suits the needs of consumers and responds to the demand for new experiences.
This is the case of Bonobos, after four years operating on the Net, decided to make the leap to online with an establishment that works as a guideshop, where consumers will try it on and then buy online. Inditex, for its part, set up a system similar to a test mode at its establishment in Stratford (London).
Warby Parker was also one of the companies that revolutionized the traditional sales channel. The company, which specialises in selling glasses online, opened several showrooms where consumers could test their glasses using 3D tools. Along with the points of sale, Warby Parker launched a store bus that toured fifteen cities in the United States to get closer to its customers.
Rent the Runway, which specialises in fashion rental by subscription, has also been one of the companies that has also taken a step further towards the way traditional retail operates. The company has several establishments in the United States equipped with technology such as a personal shopper, Ipads or self-pay screens to help customers.
Beyond the arrival of new brands that revolutionize sales channels, within the stores themselves there have also been innovations that transform the traditional way of buying. The report How Retailers Can Adapt To A.I. And The Future Of Shopping by Forbes points out that the future lies in consumers subcontracting specialized robots to do convenience shopping, such as groceries or staples, and leaving consumers free to focus on experiential shopping.
“The stores will be used as a point of information, or as in the case of Apple stores, as spaces for the customer to tangibilize, experience and be formed in relation to the use of the product,” says Francesc Rufas, Professor at EAE Business School.