Statistics predict that by 2021 global e-commerce sales will hit the threshold of $4.5 trillion. What does this mean for the fashion industry? The size of the U.S. fashion and apparel market has been estimated at $359 billion, while only $80 billion, or less than the quarter of that amount, belongs to e-commerce. Apparently, although it seems that consumers are more than willing to purchase fashion items online, brick-and-mortar stores are still the No. 1 choice for many of them. One of the crucial reasons for this could be put down to the fact that it’s hard to make your decision to buy an expensive dress or a pair of shoes when you can’t try them on, see how they fit you, or physically interact with them. Rich experiences, personalization, and engaging shoppers on a deeper level are other essential factors that can attract more customers to purchase online. Fortunately, with new hi-tech solutions and trends, the future might be bright for fashion e-commerce industry.

Sizing things up

Size charts both for shoes and clothes are extremely unreliable, mainly because they can’t cover another important metric – different body shapes. No wonder that an average return rate for the apparel bought online is 30%, as opposed to only 8.9% for brick-and-mortar stores. Intelligent services such as Shoefitr, recently acquired by Amazon, use 3D imaging to make sure that online shoppers will get a perfect fit. This advanced software obtains internal measurements of shoes by scanning them on the inside, thus allowing customers to compare their current shoes with the exact brand and model they want to purchase and get an accurate size recommendation. Fits Me, a virtual fitting room, uses measurements provided by shoppers to create their avatars and offer them an insight into how a particular garment fits them.

Digital storytelling

Brand storytelling is a surefire way of building customer engagement, and many companies have managed to make their way into consumers’ hearts (and wallets) by tapping into the power of compelling narratives. Fashion e-commerce can benefit from this strategy immensely, as it in a way breaks the fourth wall, blurs the boundaries between physical and online, and increases customers’ emotional involvement. Social media plays an important role here, and if we bear in mind that Facebook has 1.37 billion users daily, it’s not hard to guess how publishing quality content on this network can impact brand visibility and awareness. Visually oriented social media platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest can do wonders for fashion e-commerce stores, but fierce competition in the marketplace means that only superb content can capture their audience’s attention. Hiring a skilled fashion photographer in Sydney gave a tremendous boost to my online store’s social media following and increased my conversions, so IMHO, it could be a worthwhile investment for any aspiring fashion e-commerce store.

Big data analytics

Every time your customer interacts with your online store either by making a purchase, browsing through your latest collection, or simply by providing feedback, you get a valuable piece of information that can be collected, stored, analyzed, and later used to improve customer experience and predict customer behavior. It’s a no-brainer that having all these data sets properly analyzed and organized will give you an opportunity to better know and understand your customers, their preferences, and their needs. Apart from that, since big data analytics processes extremely large quantities of data, it can even be used for predicting fashion trends, and this can help you gain a competitive advantage. Just imagine how much having the information about what will be hot (or not) next season would benefit your business.  

Personal shopper bots

Every respectable website has a chatbot these days, and although these virtual assistants still aren’t sophisticated enough, they are helpful when it comes to sorting out some of the most common issues that customers encounter. But, there’s a new generation of AI-powered bots, that aren’t automated but personalized to assist online shoppers and find them the best and most suitable fashion items, based on their preferences, sizes, latest trends, as well as their existing wardrobe. Basically, with such an app, ordinary people will get their own personal virtual shopper to help them develop and improve their personal fashion style.

Hi-tech will definitely save the day and provide fashion e-commerce with the solutions necessary for overcoming its current obstacles, and it’s safe to say that with AI, machine learning, and big data, this industry will dominate in the future.

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