Fashion ecommerce marketing report: How fashion brands utilize digital marketing channels to drive growth

Fashion brands strive for customer attention dispersed across channels and devices. With the advancement of technology and customers increasingly relying on smartphones, traditional marketing channels no longer cut it.

Karolina Matuszewska

28 minutes

Forward-thinking brands embrace digital channels. But, instead of ditching the old-school methods such as billboards, TV commercials, and magazines, brands use them to support social media, search engines, online ads, and emails. This blended approach helps maximize visibility and recognition, drive website traffic, enhance customer engagement, and increase sales.

This report delves into the digital marketing strategies employed by fashion brands to fuel their ecommerce growth. To create this report, we’ve looked at 400 Centra’s clients from various fashion verticals such as apparel, footwear, and jewelry. We analyzed the data to find correlations between specific marketing channels and the success of fashion brands, providing insights and ideas on how to enhance your performance. 

We hope that our report will equip you with the knowledge and strategies necessary to succeed in fashion ecommerce. Happy reading!

Highlights from our report: 

  • Having a strong direct channel reflects the power of the brand.

  • A winning multi-channel marketing strategy requires brands to grasp the ROPO effect.

  • Strong organic search traffic is influenced by brand awareness and recognition.

  • Social media is widely cited as a key driver of fashion sales, but our data shows that SEO (29%) and paid search (20%) are the most effective.

  • Google Shopping ads is the leading paid search channel for fashion brands.

  • Brands running on Centra most commonly use Facebook as a social media channel. 

  • Reddit allows fashion brands to reach niche audiences.

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Chapter 1. Report methodology 

To most accurately portray the data in this report, we used medians instead of averages. We made this decision based on the inherent characteristics of these two measures. Specific metrics in ecommerce can be skewed by outliers, i.e., values that are significantly higher or lower than others. 

We’ve noticed that medians are not affected by such outliers, making them a stable and reliable measure of central tendency, even when outliers are present. Since the median is the middle value of a data set, it is more representative of "typical" companies in our sample, which makes it the most suitable for our analysis. 

This report is based on an analysis of 400 Centra customers across several fashion verticals, including clothing, footwear, accessories, and jewelry. The data comes from Similarweb and Semrush Traffic Analytics. To analyze the marketplaces, we gathered data by manually browsing each one.

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Chapter 2. Spotlight on key marketing channels

With multiple digital marketing channels, ecommerce brands have plenty of growth opportunities to choose from. However, finding the one that brings the most valuable traffic to your store and maximizes your recognition is no easy feat. 

In this report we focus on the key marketing channels such as 

Those are the marketing channels that Semrush and Similarweb classify. 

In our report, we excluded email because Semrush and Similarweb don't give us reliable data on the volume of email traffic. In general, email traffic is hard to quantify.
On the whole, the direct channel leads among the top five online channels in the ecommerce sector, as the Digital Global Statshot report finds. Direct traffic refers to customers who access your website without intermediaries like other websites or ads. This can happen through typing the URL in the browser, clicking on a link embedded in an email, or using bookmarks. What follows are organic SEO (search), paid search, social media, and email.

Marketing channels in fashion ecommerceMain marketing channels [Source:]

Chapter 3. Direct channel: A reflection of brand power

Direct traffic is one of the most important channels for any brand. It’s usually an indicator of customer loyalty and strong brand recognition. Let’s dive into the details of how it impacts your brand.

Key findings and insights: 

  • Direct traffic represents customer loyalty and trust.

  • The amount of direct traffic you receive will tell you the size of your fan base.

  • Fashion brands' direct channels dominate other channels.

  • A direct channel remains strong for fashion brands because it allows them to control the customer experience from landing pages to checkout.

Customer loyalty 

It is common for direct traffic to come from people who are aware of your brand or have an affinity for your site. Direct visitors are likely to be among your website's most engaged and loyal users. This brand loyalty often translates into repeat purchases, higher customer lifetime value, and brand recommendations. That’s why, measuring this kind of traffic lets you assess your brand’s strength in terms of brand recognition and demand.

Data from Journal of Research in Interactive Marketing links direct traffic to great online experience, brand awareness and customer loyalty. The study finds that direct traffic – and ultimately sales – result from happy customers visiting the website repeatedly.  

Another paper, titled The impact of brand loyalty on website usage, suggests that loyal customers visit brand sites more often, although they might spend less time on them – possibly because they're already familiar with the content. 

A measure of your fan base size

The volume of direct traffic can tell a lot about the size of your fan base. A high rate indicates that the brand has built a community of engaged followers. This is particularly important for fashion and lifestyle brands where trends come and go, but a solid community can ensure a stable revenue stream. 

The role of direct traffic in leveraging the ROPO effect

A brand’s appearance in a brick-and-mortar store, whether it’s an own store or one operated by retailers, is critical to leverage the ROPO effect. Research online, purchase offline, the so-called ROPO effect, happens when people browse products through the internet, read reviews, and compare prices online but buy items in physical stores. It highlights the tight synergy between the offline and online realm, which is again visible in the direct and branded traffic.  

Direct traffic is a vital component in the ROPO effect. Online shoppers may discover your fashion brand but prefer to buy in-store. These 'direct’ online visits show that the brand can offer a smooth omnichannel experience, bridging the online-offline gap. A report by the DigitasLBi agency found that 89% of Americans do online research before making a purchase in store. Another study, by Deloitte, highlights that 56% of offline sales originate online.

This shows how crucial it is for fashion brands to understand the ROPO effect to help them plan an effective multi-channel marketing strategy. Navigating this effect can provide brands with a new marketing advantage. For example, brands can adjust their messaging, and encourage shoppers to buy by giving discounts or promoting in-stock items nearby. 

The impact of offline activities on online sales

Offline marketing efforts such as TV commercials, billboards, and presence in large shopping malls and retail chains can boost direct traffic. These traditional marketing channels contribute to brand recognition and customer loyalty. It is particularly important in fashion ecommerce, which thrives on brand image and customer experience.

Moreover, consumers exposed to your brand through these channels are more likely to directly visit your site bypassing search engines. This can be highly beneficial during product launches or seasonal campaigns, where capturing immediate consumer interest is a must. 

Offline activities and online marketing complement each other, positively impacting brands’ bottom lines. A study from Journal of Business Research showed that direct conversations or interactions with people in an offline setting, such as face-to-face discussions or phone calls, can encourage online shopping. 

In another study, Direct Marketing Association found that direct mail received a response rate of 4.4%, compared to 0.12% for email. The results of these studies indicate that offline marketing efforts, such as TV commercials and shopping mall presence, impact direct traffic and brand recognition.

The direct channel takes the lead among Centra customers 

Ecommerce report social channels by popularity

Our report proves that for fashion brands the direct channel is the most important. This reflects the effectiveness and strength of branding because high direct traffic usually signals solid brand recognition. Especially in fashion ecommerce, brand identity and loyalty are generally the main motivators of customer shopping behavior. 

This high position of a direct channel in our ranking also signals the brand's reputation and credibility. Shoppers who come directly to your online store most likely know and trust your brand giving you an edge. 

Fashion, more than other ecommerce verticals, seeks creativity and uniqueness – which are reflected through brands’ storefronts. Direct channel stays strong for those brands because it grants them control over customer experience, from landing pages to the checkout. Without the involvement of third-party ads or content to interrupt customers, brands can achieve a smooth and effective sales funnel.

Our data indicates that most fashion brands don’t rely on a referral channel. They don't use affiliate networks, comparison shopping engines or price comparison pages. The reason behind this is that brands prefer channels that give them more freedom to craft the desired experience for their customers. And if they want to grant discounts or run loyalty programs, they do so via their branded sites. 

Fashion brands rarely work with affiliate programs where they have less control over their on-brand experience. These brands prefer to engage with the audience directly via social media, email or their own website – without a middleman.  

What’s more, avoiding reliance on referral channels is cost-efficient. Instead, brands can allocate their budget to other profitable marketing initiatives.

Brand recognition is key to ecommerce success. Organic search is the backbone of brand visibility and credibility. It ensures that when shoppers search for your brand, they find you, not your competitors. It also allows you to attract non-branded traffic – potential customers who look for products from your portfolio, but don’t have any specific brand in mind.

Key findings: 

  • The foundation of any fashion brand's success is not new but returning customers.

  • Brand awareness and recognition contribute to strong branded traffic in organic search.

  • Brands that embrace the ROPO effect can use it as leverage in a winning multi-channel marketing strategy. 

  • Branded traffic acts as a barometer for measuring the impact of various marketing channels, both online and offline.

However, attracting organic traffic to your store requires both a sound strategy and investment. According to Marketing Sherpa, the average ecommerce brand spends 10-24% of its budget on SEO and 29-57% on paid search. The study also found that businesses generating around $1 million in revenue allocate the biggest chunk (81%) of their advertising funds to both SEO and PPC (pay-per-click) together. In contrast, bigger brands with an average revenue of $100 million dedicate over one third (39%) of their total marketing dollars to both SEO and PPC.

Chart showing branded vs non-branded traffic

Our data reflect that the backbone of a brand's success is its loyal fan base, the returning customers. 

In the previous chapter, our first chart indicated that brands get 29% of their traffic from direct sources, on average. This direct traffic is the best indicator of brand awareness and loyalty. However, as the chart above shows, brand power attracts even more customers. The 45% of traffic, originally attributed to search engines, should also be attributed to brand traffic – just like direct traffic. In other words, the overall branded traffic to the webstore covers direct visitors and those who are coming from organic search queries specifically for the brand. Those returning customers translate into direct traffic and branded queries in search engines. 

Branded traffic reflects brand awareness and loyalty 

Branded traffic in search results indicates a brand’s overall health and influence. When users type a brand's name into search engines, it signifies brand awareness. Rather than stumbling upon a brand when searching for a product, they are specifically looking for its products. 

You can treat the volume of branded traffic as a reliable meter of brand loyalty and fan base size. Repeated searches for a brand often mean they have a loyal following. It's especially true with ecommerce, where consumers have easy access to multiple brands, yet they still search for a specific brand.

Expanding brand visibility through offline channels

SEO and paid ad campaigns alone aren’t enough to build a strong business. Fashion brands need to invest in initiatives that go beyond the online ecosystem. 

To strengthen their brand visibility, brands also rely on offline marketing strategies, such as TV commercials, print ads, billboards, industry events, and partnerships with influencers. On top of that, fashion brands need to allocate their resources to run their stores and build a presence in retail through shopping malls. 

The ROPO effect as a strategic asset

Similar to its impact on direct traffic, the ROPO effect – research online, and purchase offline –  also contributes to organic traffic for fashion brands. This phenomenon of shoppers browsing products online only to eventually buy in a physical store underscores the tight connection between online and offline channels. Understanding and taking advantage of this effect gives fashion brands an edge in multi-channel marketing efforts, letting them fine-tune messaging, run targeted campaigns, and entice customers to buy more effectively. 

Chapter 5. Paid search: A cornerstone of ecommerce sale

Key findings: 

  • Fashion brands use Google Shopping ads as their primary paid search channel, as they tend to have higher conversion rates and ROAD (return on ad spend).

  • Social media is often credited with driving fashion sales, but our data shows that it is paid search and SEO that generate sales just behind the direct channel. 

  • With paid and organic search, fashion brands can target specific keywords and consumer segments, which translates into more conversion-ready traffic.

In ecommerce, social platforms typically rank highly among marketing channels. In 2021, in the U.S. alone, social channels generated $37 billion in sales. According to Statista, that figure will hit $80 billion by 2025, or 5% of total US ecommerce.

chaty of distribution of marketing channels -  brands on Centra

Yet, despite the buzz surrounding social media's importance in fashion, our data shows that apart from direct traffic, it’s SEO (with 29%) and paid search (20%) that drive sales. There are several reasons for this:

  • Targeted traffic. SEO and paid search let fashion brands target specific keywords and consumer segments, resulting in more conversion-ready traffic.

  • User intent and behavior. Shoppers use search engines with a specific purpose – looking for particular fashion items or brands, often with a greater intent to buy, compared to casually browsing Instagram or Facebook.

  • Cost efficiency. Even though paid search involves cost, with a well-designed SEO strategy, brands can drive more traffic at a lower price than social media advertising. 

  • Long-term strategy. SEO is a long-term strategy that, if done well, can help brands bring quality traffic and sales. On the other hand, social platforms can spark significant interest in your brand but that does not necessarily translate into sales. 

Attribution. It might be easier for brands to track and attribute traffic to SEO and paid search efforts compared to social media, where the customer journey is usually more complex and harder to track accurately.

Paid search is a flexible strategy that allows your fashion brand to gain prominent placement among competitor products. It lets you maintain your space in search results by running paid campaigns on your brand terms. You can reach new customers by bidding on non-branded terms related to your products and making ads show up when potential customers are looking for products like yours.

Why Google Shopping is fashion brands’ go-to form of paid search channel

Google dominates online marketing. Globally, it holds 29% of digital ad spending. For ecommerce, Shopping ads generate 76.4% of search ad spend translating to 85.3% of all clicks, as Adthena reports. This shows that ecommerce brands invest heavily in advertisement. 

An average advertiser spends $770 a month on Google Search ads. On average, Google Ads campaigns cost small businesses between $1,000 and $10,000 per month. But the average CPC (cost per click) is lower in ecommerce than in other industries – $1.16 for the search network and $0.45 for the display network. These numbers suggest that the cost efficiency in ecommerce is relatively better due to lower CPC rates. 

Fashion ecommerce brands commonly rely on paid search as part of their digital marketing strategy. 

Search engines such as Google and Bing let brands display ads on their search engine results pages (SERP). Paid search can serve as a powerful tool for getting results quickly and efficiently, giving brands advantages such as:

  • A better visibility for branded and non-branded terms

  • Targeted customer acquisition 

  • Flexibility and scalability

  • Controlled messaging 

Google Shopping vs search ads

To get the most out of their paid channel, the majority of Centra clients use search ads and Google Shopping ads. However, these tools work differently and yield different results.   
As for text-based search ads, their main job is to direct traffic to your webstore. Most search ads don't have images, but some offer extensions that include images. By showing more content, the advertiser will be able to highlight potential promotions and unique sales points. When people click on search ads, they're usually looking for information or researching, so they may not necessarily have a desire to buy. Unlike Google Shopping ads, which are focused on direct sales, search ads give you success metrics like store visits, page views, along sales. 

Example Google search ads for fashion products1Example Google search ads for fashion products2Example Google search ads for fashion products

Example Google Shopping ads for fashion products2Example Google Shopping ads for fashion products2Nudie Jeans shopping adExample Google Shopping ads for fashion products

However, branded search ads can present certain challenges, especially when brands compete with marketplaces or multi-brand stores that sell their products.

Why do fashion brands invest in Google Shopping? Google Shopping is a marketplace driven by Google Ads and Merchant Center. It fosters trust as brands need to be verified by Google to sell through it. Moreover, as the Shopping users are actively looking to buy, there is a greater chance that they will buy from you. 

Google Shopping ads display three elements that customers usually consider when buying –

what the product is (title), what it looks like (image), and price. These ads may have higher click-through rates since they’re more visually appealing, which is paramount to fashion and lifestyle products. Google Shopping ads tend to have higher conversion rates and ROAD (return on ad spend) because they bring in more people who are ready to buy. 

Chapter 6. Navigating the social media landscape

Key findings: 

  • Brands on Centra most commonly use Facebook as a social media channel. 

  • Fashion brands have a unique opportunity to reach niche audiences on Reddit.

  • Pinterest ranks second among brands running on Centra in terms of popularity, offering fashion brands a space to showcase their product portfolio. 

The proliferation of smartphones and the growing popularity of social media channels allow fashion brands to build rapport with potential customers, engage them, catch their interest, and eventually sell to them without leaving their social media sites. 

The expanding social media landscape plays a significant role in impacting customers' decisions. According to a Deloitte survey, 60% of Gen Z shoppers and 56% of millennials said they would navigate social media to shop for holiday gifts in 2022, and 35% said they followed influencers. The Insider Intelligence report shows that consumers consider YouTube the most trusted source for finding and buying products.  

Over the past year alone, social commerce sales grew by 34.4%, reaching and eye-watering $53.10 billion, opening doors to innovative marketing methods and a smoother path to purchase. Brands can target niche audiences, use shoppable posts and live videos to make an enjoyable shopping experience, and team up with influencers to reach more people. 

chart of most popular platforms for social media shopping

Building on this momentum, social platforms are continually evolving to offer new shopping features. From Instagram’s Live Shopping, Pinterest’s Shopping List, TikTok Shopping, YouTube Shopping, and Twitter Shop. Additionally, Instagram and TikTok went one step further by launching creator marketplaces – a space where brands can collaborate with content creators. 

TikTok is leading the charge in this transformative landscape heralded as a driving force in pushing social commerce forward in 2023. In the U.S. only, consumers using TikTok have risen by 72.3% this year, beating Pinterest, as the company evolves from being a discovery tool to a shopping platform.

This shift aligns with insights from McKinsey experts. They highlight that by processing transactions, these tech-enhanced features let platforms collect first-party customer data and provide advertisers more bang for their buck. The ability to track advertising impressions and confirmed sales is more direct now than just awareness campaigns.

The value of influencer marketing 

As fashion ecommerce continues to thrive, influencers are emerging as valuable players in shaping consumer choices and encouraging purchases. They act like brand ambassadors and style advisors across social media networks. 

Influencers help fashion brands broaden their reach by bringing their fans and attracting new ones. Influencers can directly improve sales using shoppable links, promo codes, and exclusive offers. Partnerships with them let brands inspire trust with the audience, and gain credibility and authenticity through influencers’ endorsement. 

Studies by the Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management and the University of Economics in Bratislava demonstrate that fashion influencers’ credibility and expertise make people more inclined to like a brand and buy its products. At the same time, buying intentions are also affected by how consumers feel about sponsored posts – quality content and a sense of connection with influencers encourages consumers to buy.

Matilda Djerf exemplifies the power of influencer marketing with her fashion brand Djerf Avenue, a fast-growing business she co-founded. With over 3 million Instagram followers and 1.2 million on TikTok, Matilda's personal brand is largely responsible for Djerf Avenue's success. The fashion brand has a strong, active community that creates style boards and shares experiences with the brand across various social platforms. 

As a successful influencer, Matilda acts as an ambassador for other brands.

screenshot of pinterest and matilda Djerf promoting jedora

Facebook sets the pace

Despite TikTok’s popularity, Facebook leads the way for Centra customers. This dominant position is unsurprising, considering Facebook recorded 2.9 billion monthly active users this year, making it the world's most engaged social media network. 

chart of social media channels by popularity
What makes Facebook such a dominant player? For fashion brands, Facebook's marketplace is most relevant since it provides you with a means to expand your business more affordably. We’ll dive deeper into this subject in a separate chapter. 

Apart from its enormous user base, the platform includes features such as pages, groups, and ads, which businesses can embrace for marketing, customer service, and sales. The platform enables users to build groups and communities that are instrumental for fashion brands. Communities facilitate building emotional bonds, fostering brand loyalty. Having a solid community makes customers more likely to recommend your brand and so you gain devoted ambassadors. 

With Facebook's advanced advertising platform, brands can run targeted ads tailored to individual users. Given Facebook’s accessibility and global reach, this lets brands employ marketing initiatives worldwide that appeal to a wider audience. Plus, the platform provides features that encourage engagement and extend user time on the platform, such as news feeds, stories, and notifications. 

Reddit: The unexpected ecommerce star 

What’s striking in our report is the popularity of Reddit. A notable 15% of Centra customers utilize Reddit, which is barely 1% less than Instagram users. The platform sets itself apart from its social media competitors by merging discussion forums, message boards, and content aggregation. The platform brings fashion brands unexplored potential to reach active niche audiences. 

Reddit is structured around subreddits – smaller, topically themed forums. Each one has strict rules and protocols for publishing content. For instance, some allow posting images, while others ban links to commercial sites or advertising specific products or merchandise. It is critical to follow those rules – otherwise, you can be blocked from posting. 

The following are several examples of how fashion brands leverage Reddit to their advantage:

  • Driving high engagement. The Reddit community is known for its authentic and in-depth discussions, allowing brands active on the platform to build trust and credibility around the brand and its products. 

  • Community management. You can keep an eye on Reddit for brand mentions and reply to them. For your customers, Reddit can be an excellent space for discussing possible buys and expressing grievances. By monitoring those, you can act and make informed decisions about improving product or service quality. 

  • Brand ambassadors. As consumers discuss their experiences with your brand products and share pictures and videos, you might gain brand advocates who will naturally promote you. According to Reddit’s research, its users have a 12% higher after-purchase net promoter score (NPS) and are 13% more likely to recommend a brand.  

  • Advertising. Reddit runs its ads so you can promote your product without breaking any rules of individual subreddits. You can target individuals based on the subreddits they follow, allowing you to reach specific and enthusiastic fans.

  • Market research. Brands use Reddit to gain insights about their fan base, and identify its needs, preferences, wish lists, and pain points. This allows fashion brands to enrich their offering and design new collections. 

Screenshot form Nudie Jeans community on RedditNudie Jeans’ content on Reddit

Unlocking the visual magic of YouTube 

With 2.68 billion monthly active users, YouTube is the second-biggest social media platform behind Facebook, as reported by Statista. The ad revenue from YouTube in 2022 was over $29 billion. Besides Google, YouTube is the second most popular search engine in the world. All that makes this platform a social media powerhouse that’s a valuable asset in a fashion brand’s marketing arsenal. 

When it comes to popularity among brands using Centra, our research reveals that YouTube holds a third position. Brands employing YouTube in their strategies can gain better brand exposure, establish themselves as an authority, and broaden the scope of their marketing strategies. For instance, some Centra customers, such as Djerf Avenue, Holzweiler, Eton, Miss Mary, have already established their presence on YouTube by displaying their new collections, sharing sneak peeks from runway shows, product tutorials, and stylistic advice. 

Fashion brands employ YouTube in their marketing efforts because they can:

  • Establish authority. Using videos, brands share success stories and customer reviews to build authority and trust. Indeed, YouTube is the platform consumers rely on the most for discovering and buying products.

  • Showcase your products. You can upload videos to promote your new collections and creative lookbooks that present your entire product portfolio and inspire customers on what to buy and how to style branded pieces of clothing. 

  • Invite customers behind the scenes of brand operations. Video is an ideal medium to introduce your brand, promote your values, and present the production process. Sharing real-life content with your fans can be an enjoyable experience that strengthens your brand community. 

  • Elevate engagement. Your brand can share fashion tips, care instructions and how-to guides for styling. You can also engage with their audience by taking part in fashion-related Q&A sessions. 

  • Promote a brand. With YouTube's advertising options, brands can run short ads before relevant videos. A good option would be to arrange sponsored videos by partnering with a popular fashion YouTuber.  

One of the major benefits of YouTube that makes it stand out from the rest of social channels is that its videos are long-lasting, not buried at the bottom of the news feed like the new content. Additionally, the video format is the most shareable content type. This is a vital factor for brands that want to improve exposure and recognition. 

Tapping into Pinterest’s visual potential

The visual nature of Pinterest and its ability to inspire users makes it a perfect choice for fashion brands. No wonder it ranks second place in popularity among Centra customers, such as Djerf Avenue, Holzweiler, Eton Shirts, Gina Tricot, and Nudie Jeans. 

The big plus of Pinterest is a very low barrier to entry – you don't have to hire another community manager to take full advantage of the platform.

Fashion brands can turn to Pinterest for many things, like:

  • Driving traffic and sales. Brands can use shoppable pins to link directly to their ecommerce sites, making shopping easier.

  • Enhancing brand awareness. By creating mood boards that showcase collections, specific themes, and seasonal trends and deals, brands can enhance their recognition. Brands can also use paid advertising, such as promoted pins, which help them reach wider audiences.  

  • Improving SEO effectiveness. You can take advantage of Pinterest’s search engine, and optimize pins with relevant keywords to boost organic traffic.

  • Storytelling. You can design a creative board that tells your brand history, and feature iconic designs or milestone moments. 

  • Sustainability efforts. The boards give you space to share your approach to sustainable fashion, inform about ethical practices in your brand, and offer care instructions to prolong product life. 

  • Style guides. Pinterest gives you an excellent tool to feature their product portfolio and present items that go well together. This can assist brands with up- and cross-selling. 

  • Community building. Fashion brands can build their fan base by inviting customers to share their stories with a brand and post original content on how they wear and style their products.

screenshot of Gina Tricot on PinterestGina Tricot on Pinterest

Chapter 7. Winning the mobile marketing game

Key findings: 

  • Mobile users account for 75% of traffic, far outpacing the desktop, which contributes only 25%. 

  • Headless architecture is fashion brands’ strategic ally in supporting the mobile-first approach. 

  • Investing in “mobile SEO” is a must for fashion brands. 

As more and more people visit ecommerce sites and buy products using their smartphones and 

tablets, optimizing online stores to be mobile friendly is a must. Shopping via mobile devices has become so ubiquitous that it now goes by the name mcommerce. 

Insider Intelligence forecasts that in 2023, retail sales via mobile commerce will make up 43.4% of all ecommerce sales, marking a jump from 41.8% in the previous year, 2022.

However, our analysis presents even more striking results – mobile users bring in up to 80% of traffic, and leave desktop usage in the dust with only 25% of traffic. Those numbers underscore why being mobile-first should be a top priority for fashion brands. 

chart of mobile (75%) vs desktop (25) traffic

Mobile shopping is getting more convenient with all the new tech advances. But how exactly does technology assist you in making your brand’s online store mobile-friendly? Here enters headless architecture which, by separating the front from the back end, gives you more freedom and flexibility. You can update content and design independently from the back end. By cherry-picking all possible components, brands can tailor their ecommerce stores to meet specific needs, including optimizing for mobile responsiveness. 

In other words, headless technology enables:

  • Faster load times. Since the front end is decoupled from the back end, it’s simpler for developers to optimize the front end independently, resulting in faster loading times. Also, headless front ends are possible to build using JavaScript frameworks such as React, Vue, Remix, and Angular, elevating the customer experience. 

  • Progressive web app (PWA) capability. Headless architecture is great for building PWAs – the web applications that deliver a mobile app-like experience without downloading any app. PWAs are fast, reliable, and can work offline. Since they are web-based, they are indexed by search engines, helping you optimize the site’s SEO, so new customers can easily find your brand.

  • Responsive design. With headless technology, developers can pick the most optimal option to create a responsive design that adapts to different screens and devices, including mobiles. 

  • API-first approach. Headless systems rely on APIs to exchange data efficiently between the front and back ends. This improved communication is lightweight and fast, making it ideal for mobile devices.

  • Different experiences for iOS and Android. You can create an entirely different experience for Android and iOS. This allows you to tackle challenges separately and focus on what's most needed. 

  • Minimal page size. Although mobile connections are slower, mobile users expect websites to load as quickly as on desktops. Headless platforms often come with tools that automatically compress and resize images and videos to fit the mobile screen dimensions, reducing the overall page size.

  • Integrations with AMPs (Accelerated Mobile Pages). Google's AMP framework enables the creation of standalone pages that load immediately (in just 500 milliseconds). AMP simplifies the HTML and limits CSS and JavaScript, focusing on speed and readability. Plus, with AMPs, content is pre-rendered on Google's servers and served from their cache, speeding up loading.

  • Regular updates without downtime. Because the front end can be updated without affecting the back end, upgrades to mobile performance can be rolled out frequently without causing any downtime.

  • Focus on HTML. Thanks to the front end decoupled from the back end, you can optimize the visual layer of your store separately. This is particularly important for browsers, which rely on well-structured HTML to properly display web pages. By providing such HTML from the start, you can make your website faster and easier for search engines to understand. 

  • Global content delivery. Headless systems integrate well with CDNs (content delivery networks), which send content to servers around the globe. As a result, mobile users get data from the nearest server, which elevates load times and reliability.

The pivotal role of mobile SEO 

Considering how many people buy their apparel using smartphones, fashion brands must fine-tune their ecommerce sites for mobile search engines – so-called mobile SEO. By making your site crawlable, you help search engines find your site and strengthen its visibility in search results. 

First, make your site fast to load. Using headless architecture, you’re covered as it allows for a more efficient front end, which can be optimized for speed. You can also implement your best SEO practices and strategically apply your keywords. 

Additionally, with a headless platform, it is easier to set up dynamic rendering, which serves different content to users and search engine crawlers. It's useful for mobile SEO since it ensures that search engines index mobile-friendly content. Finally, headless technology facilitates structured data, which is essential for rich snippets.

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Chapter 8. From Amazon to Zalando: Marketplaces that matter in fashion ecommerce

Key findings: 

  • Apart from Amazon, fashion and lifestyle brands prefer marketplaces dedicated to their niche, such as Zalando or Farfetch. 

  • Sports brands on Centra prefer Amazon as their marketplace of choice. 

  • 22% of brands on Centra sell on both Amazon and Zalando, suggesting that these platforms complement each other.

  • Almost every jewelry brand on Centra sells on Farfetch.

Online marketplaces are on the rise – and this trend will most likely continue. A report by OC&C Strategy Consultants highlights that U.S. ecommerce sales passed $1 trillion in 2022, and marketplaces are expected to take 45-50% of U.S. ecommerce spending by 2025. 

Consumers benefit from convenience, variety, and quality ensured by marketplaces. For brands, they are another avenue to reach broader audiences, spur sales, and gain wider brand exposure. They also offer brands faster launch times at low cost, simplify processes, and work as low-risk testing grounds for new products. Many leading online marketplaces launch partnership programs to streamline marketing efforts, assist brands with sales and order fulfillment, and provide warehouse space. 

Forrester research finds that in the US, ecommerce accounts for one-third of all business, and 63% of that is marketplaces. In addition to this, Insider Intelligence predicts that over the next four years, sales from these marketplaces will surpass overall ecommerce sales. When it comes to the popularity of those platforms, Amazon, eBay, Rakuten, Shopee, and AliExpress close out the top five, Statista says. But these are generic sites that sell a wide variety of products, from clothes to garden tools and dog food. 


Amazon Marketplace is the most popular online marketplace worldwide. The platform gives third-party sellers access to its global customer base. The market giant offers built-in features allowing fashion brands to boost visibility and expedite their shipping with Prime, Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA), and Amazon Advertising. 

Apart from that, brands can take advantage of Amazon's Luxury Stores, a specialized shopping platform within the Amazon mobile app. Prime members can access this platform by invitation only. It offers curated collections of luxury goods, usually exclusive to Amazon or limited editions. There's a whole section on Amazon dedicated to luxury brands like Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Yves St. Laurent, Prada, etc.

In a nutshell, fashion and lifestyle brands feature their products on Amazon because it helps:

  • Gain exceptional reach. With more than 310 million active users worldwide, Amazon brings an unparalleled audience for fashion and lifestyle brands. 

  • Run marketing campaigns. Fashion brands can run sponsored ads, give discounts on subscription products, or carry out A/B tests for some product categories to determine which content works best. With Amazon, brands get guidelines for optimizing their product listings for their search algorithm, known as A9, to maximize their product visibility.

  • Build customer trust. ​​Brands selling on Amazon can benefit from the marketplace’s reputation as a reliable retailer. Registered brands get tools for extra protection against counterfeiting and more control over product listings. 

  • Measure attribution. Amazon gives you insights into how each marketing channel and activity shapes customer purchase decisions, including a detailed analysis of sales impact.


With 50.2 million active customers, Zalando is a top online fashion retailer in Europe. The platform focuses on selling apparel, shoes, accessories, and beauty items from top brands and designer labels to private labels at affordable prices. 

With Zalando, fashion and lifestyle brands gain considerable advantages such as:

  • Access to a large customer base. Zalando's millions of active customers make it possible for brands to reach a large market.

  • Brand exposure. Being listed on Zalando can elevate your visibility in your home country and across Europe. 

  • Detailed insights. Zalando grants brands advanced analytics and customer data, letting brands get to know their audience and tailor their offerings accordingly. 

  • Logistical support. Zalando's well-established, scalable logistics network simplifies shipping and returns for both the brand and the customer.

  • Marketing support. Fashion brands get support in their marketing campaigns, such as seasonal promotions, email marketing, and even through their mobile app.

  • Consumer trust. Zalando has an excellent reputation for customer service, thanks to its easy returns and reliable shipping, allowing brands to build trust. 

  • High-quality control. Because of Zalando's strict quality control, consumers often view being listed on their platform as a sign of quality and reliability.

  • Competitive edge. Operating on the marketplace, fashion brands get tools and services to gain competitive advantage, such as pricing insights to set prices based on consumer behavior and market trends. Third parties can use Zalando's logistics network, market their products in the Fashion Store, or get marketing advice from Zalando.


Launched in 2007, the retail platform of luxury fashion Farfetch is now the most popular ecommerce marketplace for designer clothes and accessories, attracting consumers worldwide. It houses a variety of brands from the most prestigious boutiques across the globe.

Due to its business model, Farfetch connects buyers and sellers but does not hold inventory itself. This allows the platform to sell items from a wide range of luxury brands while maintaining a low overhead.

Farfetch is an attractive platform for fashion and lifestyle brands because it offers them several benefits:

  • Global reach. Farfetch serves a global customer base across 190 countries. It means that brands selling on Farfetch can tap into markets they might not otherwise have access to.

  • Luxury focus. Since the platform specializes in luxury fashion, it is an ideal choice for high-end brands seeking consumers who share their interests.

  • Innovative approach. Farfetch invests in technology to assist brands in delivering a smooth and engaging customer experience. Brands on Farfetch can use data analytics to learn about consumer behavior and preferences to offer a personalized shopping experience.

  • Curated experience. This marketplace helps fashion and lifestyle brands offer curated experience by letting them showcase fashion products in a way that resonates with the target audience's tastes and preferences.

  • Partnership opportunity. Farfetch tends to work with brands on exclusive launches and collections, which give brands a powerful platform for brand promotion.

  • A focus on sustainable fashion. The marketplace supports brands in their sustainability initiatives – they can resale luxury items and promote eco-friendly practices within their industry.

Original fashion brands choose marketplaces that meet their specific needs

Selecting the right marketplace is an important decision for fashion brands that aim to expand their reach and boost sales. The most suitable choice should offer brands better visibility and align with the brand’s unique needs and customer base. 

Chart showing the most popular marketplaces:1 Amazon & Zalando, 2 Farfetch

Among Centra’s customers, 22% have tapped into Amazon, another 22% are capitalizing on Zalando's fashion audience, and 14% sell via Farfetch. Let’s dive into what motivates fashion and lifestyle brands to operate on a particular marketplace. 

Sportswear brands choose Amazon 

Amazon holds a high position as it’s a favored marketplace among sports brands using Centra. These brands want to target a broader audience, so Amazon’s prominent global position and a large customer base interested in sports and activewear make it a good fit.

Amazon sells a wide selection of products, like sports equipment and accessories, which can be complementary to those offered by sports brands, which means you can increase the average order value. 

Amazon's popularity among sports brands suggests that it complements their other sales channels, rather than replacing them, ensuring a more diversified sales strategy.

Image of Tobe Outerwear on AmazonTobe Outerwear on Amazon

Zalando and Amazon work hand in hand

Our analysis found that 22% of Centra clients sell via both Amazon and Zalando, which suggests that these platforms are seen as complementary rather than mutually exclusive. Each platform brings unique advantages that brands can harness in tandem for a more comprehensive market reach. Most likely brands sell on both to maximize reach and diversify their revenue streams. Our research results align with broader market trends indicating the rising power and relevance of marketplaces in ecommerce. 

Screenshot of Nudie Jeans on ZalandoNudie Jeans on Zalando

Farfetch: the exclusive marketplace choice for fashion brands

Of the brands running on Centra, 14% are making waves in the luxury sector through Farfetch. Selling through Farfetch, a platform designed for high-end fashion, indicates that those brands target a specific audience of a more affluent fan base. Moreover, brands that opt for Farfetch often use it as the only marketplace. This suggests the worth of exclusivity and reaching niche clients rather than a broad audience. 

Screenshot of Holzweiler on FarfetchHolzweiler on Farfetch

Our analysis also reveals that almost every jewelry brand chooses to sell on Farfetch as their sole marketplace, rather than on Amazon. The platform is especially suited for high-value, luxury items. Farfetch's customer base appears more inclined to make such premium purchases online.

The popularity of jewelry brands on Farfetch also suggests that the platform's upscale positioning aligns well with jewelry's luxury and uniqueness. Farfetch's reputation for offering curated, high-end products may make it an ideal marketplace for jewelry brands. 

Key findings

  • A brand's direct traffic is an indicator of customer loyalty and brand recognition.

  • As multi-channel marketing becomes increasingly complex, brands should comprehend and leverage the ROPO effect.

  • Fashion brands need to intertwine offline marketing into their overall strategies to strengthen their brand recognition and attract valuable traffic to their online stores. 

  • Strong branded traffic in organic search is fueled by brand recognition and awareness. 

  • Investing in paid search is essential to ecommerce success. 

  • Fashion brands should look for untapped marketing opportunities such as e.g., Reddit, and make the most of the channels with visual potential like Pinterest or YouTube. 

  • Investing in modern headless architecture is the best way forward for modern original brands that want to adopt a mobile-first approach. 

  • Marketplaces offer consumers convenience, variety, and quality. For brands, they serve as another means to reach a broader audience, stimulate sales, and gain more exposure.


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