How connected commerce is revolutionizing fashion shopping
Brands must find novel ways to make sense of all media and customer data to meet the needs of shoppers and win every shoppable moment, wherever and whenever customers decide to make a purchase. This is where connected commerce enters the picture.
By integrating technology such as mobile devices, social media, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things (IoT), connected commerce offers the integration of online and offline shopping experiences and the creation of a seamless customer journey across all channels. It empowers brands to string together different customer touchpoints and gather more data points about their customers.
In this article, we will go over the main concepts underpinning connected commerce.
What is connected commerce?
In its essence, connected commerce allows customers to shop on their own terms by seamlessly blending the online and in-store shopping experiences. In connected commerce, the whole customer journey – the way they discover a product, find the right fit, pay for it, and receive it – is personalized to individual needs, delivering total satisfaction.
From a brand’s perspective, connected commerce requires the adoption of technology that orchestrates and tracks orders across all systems. It is assumed that a single product or SKU can be purchased across multiple marketplaces and digital channels, and product data and inventory should be de-siloed and managed from a single centralized system.
What are examples of connected commerce?
Historically, the fashion industry has implemented various connected commerce technologies to increase customer engagement and improve foot traffic. These technologies have taken various forms, such as:
What is BOPIS and BOSS?
Buy Online, Pickup In-Store (BOPIS) and Buy Online, Ship to Store (BOSS) are variations of the same concept. While BOPIS allows customers to purchase items online and pick them up in-store, while BOSS allows customers to have their online orders shipped to a physical store.
BOPIS and BOSS are retail strategies that mitigate customer’s pain points connected with limited in-store stock and the inconveniences of returning products that don’t fit. Implementing these strategies well involves a seamless integration of online and offline sales channels.
What is BORIS?
BORIS (buy online, return in store) is a retail strategy that allows them to return items to a physical store rather than sending them back to a warehouse. Here's how this process typically works:
Using the retailer's website or mobile app, customers initiate a return request.
A return label and instructions are provided by the retailer for the customer to return the item to a designated store location.
In order to complete the return process, the customer must present the return label and the item at the store.
Virtual fitting rooms, fit guides, and fit finders
Customers can try on clothes virtually using different technology before purchasing – size guides, fit finders, product videos, 360-degree product photography, or virtual fitting rooms.
The denim brand Nudie Jeans offers its shoppers an intuitive fit guide, allowing them to find the right design and fit. In addition to cutting return rates, such an experience keeps customers satisfied – McKinsey reports that over 50% of returns are caused by sizing or fit issues.
Nudie Jeans also offers a virtual fitting solution called Virtusize, which enables online fashion retailers to show consumers how the clothes will fit and look. As a result, choosing the right size is no longer a guessing game for Nudie Jeans shoppers.
Brands use data and AI to provide personalized product recommendations to customers based on their shopping behavior. Personalization isn't just something consumers want – it's something they demand. The importance of getting store and product loyalty right has never been greater, and leading fashion brands achieve better results by tailoring offers to the right individuals at the right time. According to a McKinsey study, companies that excel at personalization generate 40 percent more revenue.
Companies that operate on a data-backed, direct-to-consumer model have made personalization more than just a marketing strategy. It’s the foundation of their business model.
Smart mirrors are interactive devices that resemble traditional mirrors, but are equipped with cameras and screens. This technology allows customers to quickly try on clothes in-store and see how they look from different angles, and even get styling tips.
In the fitting room, smart mirrors can recognize products – along with their size and color – to offer personalized recommendations.
Smart mirrors offer a range of benefits for fashion brands. Thanks to enhanced, more immersive and engaging customer experience and brand differentiation, they can help drive more foot traffic and unlock new ways of data collection and analysis for stores, helping to improve inventory management.
Social commerce is using social media platforms to promote and sell products. This strategy can be implemented via in-app purchases over social media and social networks, organic shoppable posts, shoppable ads, or shoppable influencer content.
Ideal of Sweden is a lifestyle brand that leverages social media for marketing and social proof. Their website includes a feed of Instagram photos from satisfied shoppers featuring their products, tagged #idealofsweden. This is an excellent tactic to build social proof and show the retailer the size of your loyal audience. You deliver a strong message that says, “yes, people love our products.”
Social selling allows you to connect with potential customers on social media and develop relationships with them. The relationship component is important as it increases the chances that when a prospect is ready to make a purchase, yours is the first brand they think of.
Instagram feeds lend especially well to social commerce as they can be integrated into a website and serve as social proof – nothing works as well as photos and reviews from satisfied customers. Alternatively, using a brand’s Instagram Store, shoppers can place orders, which can then be fulfilled through the ecommerce backend like Centra.
What are the reasons to consider social commerce? Here are some stats:
Internet users aged 16-64 spend an average of 2 hours and 29 minutes per day on social media (source: Backlinko)
Social media platforms have massive user bases. Integrating ecommerce into these platforms can help increase brand awareness and reach new customers.
83% of shoppers like when businesses respond to them on social media (source: Sproutsocial)
Social media allows for more direct and personalized interactions with customers, which can help build stronger relationships and increase customer loyalty.
68% of shoppers are more likely to recommend a brand to others if it has responded to them on social media (source: Sproutsocial)
73% of marketers use social media platforms to target specific audiences for their campaigns (source: Hootsuite)
Social media platforms have powerful targeting capabilities that can help businesses deliver more personalized and relevant content and products to their customers.
60% of businesses are already using social commerce or plan to do so in the near future (source: Hootsuite)
By integrating ecommerce into social media platforms, businesses can make it easier for customers to buy products directly from social media posts, which can help increase sales and conversion rates.
51% of customers would share their personal data with brands in exchange for a more personalized shopping experience (source: Bigcommerce)
Social commerce can provide businesses with valuable customer data and insights, such as purchase history, preferences, and feedback, which can help improve marketing and product strategies.
Social commerce can decrease cart abandonment.
It is estimated that cart abandonment for mobile users is 86%. At the same time, most website browsing takes place on a phone. While social media is designed to be consumed on mobile devices, the image-rich Instagram feed lends really well to scrolling and discovering fashion and apparel products. This is a key opportunity for fashion brands. Integrating social commerce by turning social media into sales channels can help boost conversions.
Rather than directing customers to an online store, it’s important to let the customer shop directly through social media. Creating a frictionless shopping experience should enhance customer loyalty while also resulting in increased sales over time.
Why social commerce matters
Platforms such as Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat offer different forms of social commerce. Instagram Shopping integrates with Centra to pull the product catalog and pricing information. Customers visiting a brand’s Instagram profile can click on product tags to view listings of products in photos), browse an Instagram shop with a product listing page, and view a product details page – all without ever leaving Instagram.
To purchase a product, the customer is usually redirected to the ecommerce store, where they finalize their order. Instagram also offers Instagram Checkout, which enables checkout without leaving the app – but this feature is currently only available in the United States.
The power of social marketing
Going viral on social media like TikTok and Instagram is also one of the quickest ways to attract attention and build customer loyalty.
In 2009, Burberry, a luxury British fashion brand, launched an exceptionally effective viral marketing campaign on social media called "Art of the Trench." The campaign centered around their iconic trench coat and aimed to create buzz, engage their target audience, and promote their product.
Burberry's "Art of the Trench" campaign
Burberry encouraged their customers and fans to submit photos of themselves wearing the brand's trench coat in various settings, styles, and poses. These images were then curated and showcased on a dedicated microsite called ArtoftheTrench.com, as well as on Burberry's social media channels like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
To further amplify the campaign, Burberry collaborated with well-known street style photographers, like Scott Schuman of The Sartorialist, to capture images of people wearing the trench coat in fashionable ways. These images were shared on the photographers' blogs and social media platforms, garnering additional attention and engagement.
The Art of the Trench campaign went viral, as fans worldwide started sharing their trench coat photos using the hashtag #ArtoftheTrench. The campaign not only showcased the versatility and timelessness of the iconic Burberry trench coat but also created a sense of community and connection among its fans. As a result, Burberry's brand awareness and sales increased significantly, demonstrating the power of viral marketing in promoting a fashion product.
Connected commerce helps brands create personalized shopping experiences for customers by fulfilling the main tenet of omnichannel: be there when your customers are. And many people look for products on marketplaces first. To increase the chances of a sale, it is important for brands to be there when a purchase is being considered.
Until recently, marketplaces were largely thought of in terms of Amazon and eBay, two giants of the online world. Today, we’re witnessing the emergence of many specialized fashion and sportswear marketplaces like Zalando and Decathlon.
Marketplaces are expected to grow exponentially. There are many large chains with an online marketplace where they sell both their own products as well as those from selected third parties, such as Halfords, Harvey Nicholls, Debenhams, and Decathlon. Brands will get more sales if they are on more marketplaces, but only if they are where their customers' shop.
Marketplace partner programs
With partner programs like Amazon Advertising, Zalando Marketing Services (ZMS), Google Shopping Actions, and Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) or Zalando Fulfillment Solution (ZFS), online marketplaces simplify the marketing process. Furthermore, marketplaces often share customer data (Partner Program portal - zDirect, Zalando Marketing Services ZMS by Zalando) and warehouse space.
Marketplaces and wholesale
Online marketplaces like Amazon or Zalando can offset some of the digital marketing costs of direct sales and help brands compete with pure direct-to-consumer businesses that were built with the expectation of paying higher consumer acquisition costs.
A touchscreen endless aisle kiosk at an Eton Shirts store
For a deep-dive into using marketplaces to boost your DTC sales, head over to another post on our blog.
Brands can use digital displays in-store to showcase their products and provide additional product information and promotions. A good use of digital displays are various implementations of the endless aisle.
Centra's long-term client Eton Shirts launched its first endless aisle in 2020, combining the service of Eton's sales professionals with an unlimited assortment available 24/7. Their endless aisle kiosks serve as a showcase for their products and a place for customers to order custom shirts. Shoppers can find shirts that are unavailable in physical Eton Shirts stores through this service.
For a deep dive on endless aisle and the benefits of implementing this strategy, head over to another post on the Centra blog
Benefits of connected commerce
Connected commerce is an important trend in the fashion industry, as it allows brands to stay competitive in a rapidly evolving retail landscape and meet the changing needs and expectations of their customers.
The benefits of connected commerce for fashion brands include:
Increased sales: By providing customers with a seamless shopping experience, brands can increase their sales and revenue.
Better customer insights: Connected store technologies like IoT solutions, RFID, computer vision, and other technologies combined with offline shopping experiences generate tons of data on customer behavior, which can help brands better understand their customers' preferences and needs.
Improved customer loyalty: By providing a personalized and convenient shopping experience, brands can build stronger relationships with their customers and increase customer loyalty.
Enhanced operational efficiency: Connected commerce can help brands streamline their operations, reduce costs, and improve inventory management.
Increased Sales: By providing customers with a seamless shopping experience, connected commerce can help businesses increase their sales and revenue.
Improved Customer Engagement: Connected commerce enables businesses to engage with customers across multiple touchpoints such as social media, mobile devices, and in-store experiences, creating a more personalized and engaging shopping experience.
Improved Inventory Management: By integrating online and offline sales channels, connected commerce can help businesses optimize their inventory management and reduce the risk of overstocking or understocking.
Increased Flexibility: Connected commerce allows businesses to offer customers more flexible shopping options, such as click-and-collect and buy-online-return-in-store.
Reduced Costs: By automating certain processes and improving inventory management, connected commerce can help businesses reduce costs and improve their bottom line.
How connected commerce supports fashion ecommerce logistics
Research reveals that 20% of customers are unhappy with online delivery and returns, but this can be remedied by micro-fulfillment technologies and systems that integrate stores into the distribution network. An Adobe Analytics report states that BOPIS retail grew 208% during the pandemic. Retailers can benefit from connected store tech, reducing costs up to 90%.
By using micro-fulfillment, businesses can quickly process orders from stores at a lower cost and keep up with the fast-paced commerce realm. The fashion and apparel industry stands to gain the most out of turning stores into hubs for distribution. This is reflective of their goods' complexity when compared to other products: shirts come in various sizes, colors, and styles, as well as specific fit and collar types.
Additionally, jewelry, bras, apparel items, and accessories present much of the same complexity. Consequently, stocking multiple versions is expensive and impractical logistically. To efficiently meet customer demands today, businesses must link all sales channels together to form a fully functioning fulfillment infrastructure where customers order online but pick up goods and manage returns in stores nearby.
Connected commerce is here to stay. Customers love shopping online and offline, so meeting them at the point of purchase makes excellent business sense.
As change is the only constant in commerce, it is difficult to predict what connected commerce will look like in the future. While social commerce is still growing, more digitally native vertical brands (DNVBs) will move into physical retail as a way to differentiate and meet their customers in person. They will offer appointments and experiences, and use staff as brand ambassadors.
Ultimately, brands and retailers need to consider where their customers are. Your path to boosting sales and enhancing your brand is to meet them where they are when they're ready to buy!
Frequently asked questions
What is connected commerce?
Connected commerce refers to the integration of various online and offline channels to create a seamless, unified shopping experience for consumers. This approach aims to provide customers with a consistent experience across different touchpoints, including brick-and-mortar stores, ecommerce websites, mobile applications, and social media platforms.
What are the key components of connected commerce?
The key components of connected commerce include:
Omnichannel retailing: Offering a consistent shopping experience across multiple channels, both online and offline.
Data integration: Collecting and analyzing customer data from various sources to create personalized experiences and targeted marketing campaigns.
Seamless payment solutions: Providing customers with a variety of secure and convenient payment options across different channels.
Inventory management: Ensuring real-time visibility and accurate inventory management across all retail locations and online platforms.
Customer service: Providing consistent and high-quality customer support through various touchpoints, such as chatbots, phone support, and social media.
How does connected commerce benefit retailers?
Connected commerce offers several benefits for retailers, including:
Enhanced customer experience: Providing a seamless and consistent shopping experience across various touchpoints can lead to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Increased sales: By integrating online and offline channels, retailers can reach a broader audience and boost sales opportunities.
Personalized marketing: Leveraging customer data to create targeted marketing campaigns can lead to higher conversion rates and better customer engagement.
Improved inventory management: Real-time inventory visibility allows for better stock management, reducing the risk of stockouts or overstocking.
Streamlined operations: Integrating various systems and processes can lead to increased operational efficiency and cost savings.
How can retailers implement connected commerce?
Retailers can implement connected commerce by:
Adopting an omnichannel retail strategy that integrates physical stores with ecommerce platforms and mobile applications.
Investing in technologies and tools that enable data integration, inventory management, and seamless payment solutions.
Developing personalized marketing campaigns based on customer behavior and preferences.
Training staff to provide consistent customer service across various touchpoints.
Continuously monitoring and optimizing the connected commerce strategy based on customer feedback and performance metrics.
What are the challenges associated with connected commerce?
Some common challenges associated with connected commerce include:
Integration of different systems and platforms, which may require significant investments in technology and infrastructure.
Ensuring data privacy and security, as connected commerce relies on the collection and analysis of customer information.
Maintaining a consistent brand identity and customer experience across various channels.
Adapting to rapidly changing consumer preferences and emerging technologies.
Training staff to handle new technologies and provide a seamless customer experience.
How does connected commerce impact customer expectations?
Connected commerce has raised customer expectations by providing a seamless, consistent, and personalized shopping experience across multiple channels. Today's customers expect:
Instant access to product information, pricing, and availability.
Convenient and secure payment options.
Personalized product recommendations and promotions.
Real-time customer support through various touchpoints.
Fast and flexible delivery and return options.
Retailers need to adapt to these evolving expectations to stay competitive in the connected commerce landscape.