Fashion ecommerce platform: A modern brand's secret to maximize profits and scale fast

As the digital world continues to evolve, ecommerce platforms have become the foundation of the world of fashion retail. Among the multitude of options available today, most of them aspire to become be-all, catch-all solutions that check most of the boxes of the average online retailer.

Michal Wlosik

15 minutes

But modern fashion and lifestyle brands have unique needs – for best results, the platforms they use must be able to handle fashion products well and support the unique logic of the fashion distribution model. And that’s not a given.

In this blog post, we will unpack the concept of a fashion ecommerce platform: what it is, what it does, and what should set it apart from other off-the-shelf ecommerce solutions. We will dive deep into the key benefits and features of a fashion ecommerce platform, and use Centra as an example of a platform that could be a better choice for ambitious fashion brands than popular monolithic alternatives.

What is a fashion ecommerce platform?

Most modern ecommerce platforms available today are not built with fashion and lifestyle products in mind. This has created a gap in the market and prompted the rise of fashion ecommerce platforms like Centra. Unlike traditional, monolithic catch-all platforms, such platforms are flexible by design and adaptable to the ever-changing needs of modern fashion and lifestyle brands. 

A fashion ecommerce platform is one that comes with a set of features and functionalities that modern fashion brands need to scale internationally, manage D2C and wholesale operations, and market their products. Ideally it is a composable, headless platform capable of handling the complexity of fashion and lifestyle brands – multiple product variants, sizes, and colors – and the distribution model of fashion products. 

With a laser focus on the needs of fashion and lifestyle brands, Centra meets all these demands and positions itself as one of the leading platforms in this ecommerce niche. Centra provides a variety of modules catering to both wholesale and direct-to-consumer sales, all manageable from a single backend. This unique feature saves time and resources for businesses, as they can manage all their sales channels in one place.

What are the most complex fashion and lifestyle product categories?

Several fashion and lifestyle products tend to be quite complex due to the myriad of variants, size options, colors, and other attributes. Selling such products typically necessitates using a dedicated fashion ecommerce platform. Here are a few examples:

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Common challenges
ClothingClothing, especially women's clothing, is characterized by high complexity. A single style of dress, for example, might come in multiple sizes, colors, and patterns. Moreover, there could be variations in materials, lengths, and fits. For men's suits, there are complexities in suit types, fabric types, sizes, and styles (single-breasted, double-breasted, etc.).
FootwearShoes can also be highly complex. There are many sizes, widths, colors, and styles for each model. There can also be variations in materials (leather, synthetic, fabric) and types of soles.
JewelryJewelry, especially customizable pieces, can be quite complex. For example, a particular design of a ring can have variations in metal type (gold, silver, platinum), metal purity (14K, 18K), stone type, stone color, stone size, and ring size.
Luxury watchesLuxury watches, in particular, can have many variants. This can include different materials (stainless steel, gold, ceramic), types of movements (automatic, quartz, manual winding), dial colors, strap materials, and optional features like chronographs or moon phase indicators.
CosmeticsProducts like makeup can have an extensive array of options. A single product line may have many shades to accommodate different skin tones. Additionally, there could be formula variations for different skin types (oily, dry, combination, sensitive), finishes (matte, shiny, natural), and packaging.
FurnitureFurniture pieces, particularly customizable ones, can come in many sizes, colors, materials, and styles. A sofa, for example, can have options for size, fabric, color, cushion type, leg style, and more.
EyewearGlasses and sunglasses offer a variety of frames in different shapes, sizes, colors, and materials. Then, there are options for lens types (single vision, bifocal, progressive), lens materials, lens treatments (anti-reflective, blue light filtering), and prescription values.

Why do fashion products need dedicated ecommerce platforms?

The product categories listed in the table above present a challenge for many popular ecommerce platforms. Handling such products, given their diverse range of options, poses challenges to inventory management, production, shipping, and returns management. These challenges, as well as the management of multiple online and offline channels, require additional development, plugins, and manual administrative work.

So let’s now look at the typical challenges associated with handling complex fashion and lifestyle products across popular ecommerce platforms.

When it comes to handling complex products with many variants, not all ecommerce platforms are created equal. Some might struggle to support a large number of product variants, while others might lack the flexibility to handle complex product options. 

For more information and analysis of the suitability of individual ecommerce platforms for fashion products, head over to our comparisons.

What features to look for in an ecommerce platform for fashion?

A considerable number of young fashion brands usually launch on a basic ecommerce solution first – this is understandable, as the primary focus when launching is to keep costs down. But as the business begins to expand, a fashion brand is likely to start kicking the wheels of various headless ecommerce platforms. A transition is inevitable – traditional, serve-all monolithic ecommerce platforms are notorious for their poor scalability. The building and scaling on these platforms hinges on a fixed, all-encompassing feature set that is frequently unwieldy, and often expensive to personalize and maintain.

An ambitious fashion brand will look for features that not only better cater to their unique needs but also streamline their operations, string together sales across online and offline channels, and offer customers a superior shopping experience. 

Below are some features that a fashion brand should expect from an ecommerce platform.

Headless architecture for complete design freedom

Fashion is a visually driven industry, so the platform must support high-quality images and videos. Features like zoom-in capability, 360-degree views, and video support can greatly enhance product presentations. But fashion and lifestyle brands also want to be unique – they don’t want generic-looking templates and visuals. They want the store to be brand-authentic and offer a great user experience. 

A fashion ecommerce platform should allow brands to freely customize the look and feel of their online store to align with their brand's aesthetic and personality – without relying on cookie-cutter templates and tons of third-party plugins to integrate key functionalities.

The best way to achieve this is through switching to headless architecture, meaning decoupling the front-end presentation layer from the back-end logic. This provides brands with unparalleled flexibility to design and implement unique, brand-specific user interfaces without compromising on powerful ecommerce functionalities. This architecture gives brands the power to offer a seamless shopping experience across multiple channels, including web, mobile, social media, and even in-store kiosks.

In summary, headless back ends unlock many opportunities for fashion brands, including:

  • Brand-centric shopping experiences: With the use of a headless back end, fashion brands can provide a seamless and visually cohesive shopping experience that mirrors their unique style. There's no longer a need for templates or extensions that clash with the brand's aesthetic.

  • Shorter time to market: Implementing a headless back end considerably decreases the development cycle for new features. Fashion brands can roll out or enhance store features independently of the ecommerce platform's capabilities or reliance on third-party plugins. This accelerates the process of focusing on the core business and expanding into new markets.

  • Fit-for-purpose approach: Headless systems empower fashion brands to construct their ecommerce frameworks using top-tier technologies. With the separation of the back end from the front end, these systems offer enhanced flexibility and scalability. Brands can tailor their ecommerce frameworks using tools that enable them to meet specific goals, from managing intricate fashion products and accessories efficiently to delivering these products to their customers.

  • Modular design: Headless back-end systems provide fashion brands the capability to link up with any third-party systems, which could include Payment Service Providers (PSP), Content Management Systems (CMS), order management, and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) platforms.

  • Future-proofing the tech stack: Thanks to the extensibility of cloud-based headless architectures, fashion ecommerce platforms can be readily upgraded. Integrations can be freely switched out to stay in tune with current trends and market needs, thereby avoiding the need for cumbersome workarounds or excessive development.

Integrated wholesale capabilities

Online-only retailers have replaced department stores as the primary wholesale accounts, chain stores still play an important role. Eventually, numerous fashion brands reach a stage where they shift from direct-to-consumer (DTC) sales to wholesale, resulting in the majority or a significant portion of their sales being generated through department stores and other retail outlets.

Integrating wholesale and direct-to-consumer (D2C) sales in an ecommerce platform can yield multiple benefits for modern fashion brands. Centra is a unique ecommerce platform that, alongside being a B2C platform, offers a native wholesale module with features like customer groups, price lists, tiered pricing/volume pricing, advanced discount management, credit limits, payment terms, customer group and customer-level product availability, purchasing roles/levels, quotations, and advanced shipment management. 

A solution like this offers a fast route for adding a clean, optimized wholesale store and can be used independently – without even needing to use the B2C platform​ (which may benefit some brands).

Here are some of the benefits of running wholesale operations alongside the D2C channel for fashion brands:

  • Flexibility and control
    Unlike relying solely on third-party retailers or distributors, selling D2C allows businesses to have more control over pricing, marketing, and customer interactions. At the same time, maintaining wholesale relationships can provide stability and volume sales.

  • Increased sales opportunities
    Offering both D2C and wholesale sales can broaden a brand's potential customer base. It allows the business to serve individual customers as well as large retailers or businesses, increasing potential revenue streams.

  • Customer insights
    Direct interactions with retail customers can yield valuable insights into customer preferences, behavior, and feedback. These insights can inform product development, marketing strategies, and customer service improvements, benefiting both D2C and wholesale operations.

Integrating wholesale and D2C sales offers many potential benefits, but it also requires a platform that enables the management of the two channels to balance the differing needs and expectations of wholesale and retail customers.

Support for multi-store and internationalization

Centra supports a native multi-store architecture, allowing for the management of core data locally and globally across different stores. This is beneficial for brands with a global reach as well as those aspiring to enter new markets. It allows for things like product management at a store level, a language level, or globally. This feature is useful in settings where descriptions might vary based on language, but images can be used globally.

Centra's price lists feature strengthens the international side, allowing for multi-currency with separate price lists per territory or currency, which is a common requirement for businesses with international wholesale relationships​.

Seamless inventory management

A fashion ecommerce platform should integrate with state-of-the-art inventory management tools that can handle stock levels across a variety of product sizes, colors, styles, and other variations.

The majority of challenges associated with managing ecommerce inventories stem from outdated methods and human mistakes. By automating most processes and ensuring consistency throughout the company, inventory management software tackles these challenges. When properly implemented, it maintains a centralized record of every asset and item, leading to significant improvements in the productivity and efficiency of your ecommerce store.

Implementing inventory management software (IMS) effectively reduces costly issues, including:

  • Excess slow-moving inventory that occupies valuable storage space and impacts profits

  • Unforeseen shortages of crucial inventory items, causing disruptions in the supply chain

  • Manual documentation errors such as incorrect part numbers and inaccurate inventory counts, leading to unreliable records

  • Wasted time spent on searching for items stored in incorrect locations

Centra connects to a variety of inventory management software (IMS) solutions.  

Merchandising and catalog management

A fashion ecommerce platform should offer comprehensive product and catalog management features. This includes native support for different product types (simple, configurable, bundled), advanced pricing options, full support for different price lists, an advanced promotions and discounts engine, and the ability to manage product data locally or globally across different stores. The platform’s merchandising features should also provide advanced size guide management and support for pre-ordering​.

To thrive as an ecommerce business, it is crucial to establish a robust merchandising strategy that presents your products in the most favorable way and appeals to your target audience. Adopting impactful techniques and strategies in merchandising enables you to elevate your sales and profits while ensuring a positive shopping experience for your customers. Effective merchandising enhances the visibility and desirability of your products, thereby enticing potential customers to make purchases.

Utilizing merchandising techniques allows for upselling higher-priced items or encouraging customers to buy additional products. Furthermore, by enhancing the attractiveness of your products, you can gain the opportunity to set slightly higher prices while still maintaining strong sales levels.

Mobile optimization

As a large number of consumers shop from mobile devices, the platform should deliver a seamless shopping experience on smartphones and tablets.

Seamless checkout experience

A streamlined and secure checkout process can reduce cart abandonment rates and improve conversions.

SEO and marketing tools

The platform should come equipped with SEO tools to improve the brand's online visibility and drive traffic. Additionally, integrated marketing tools can help the brand engage with its audience and promote its products.

For more on the topic, read our detailed guide to SEO techniques in fashion ecommerce.

Integration capabilities

The platform should seamlessly integrate with other systems and tools such as ERP, CRM, payment gateways, and shipping providers.

For the complete list of Centra API integrations, go to our Integrations page.

Analytics and reporting

Brands need access to detailed analytics to understand their performance and make data-driven decisions. This includes sales reports, customer behavior data, marketing campaign performance, etc.

Technology partner ecosystem

In ecommerce, the only constant is change. With the emergence of AI tools and new solution partners cropping up every day, sticking with and maintaining an outdated third-party integration is a no-go for ambitious fashion brands. Fashion brands want a composable platform that gives them the freedom to integrate solutions – and swap them when needed. This includes PSPs, shipping and delivery partners, and vendors for specific features of the platform like merchandising, search, personalization, and email automation. 

Scalability and flexibility

As the brand grows, the platform should be able to scale and handle increased traffic and sales without any performance issues. Brands wanting to scale globally expect the ecommerce platform to offer scalability and flexibility to localize content, deliver products to any destination, and let consumers choose currencies and payment options – without having to spend time on development and babysitting the platform.

Centra: a platform with fashion lineage

The ecommerce platform landscape is rife with options, but solutions that truly cater to fashion brands are few and far between. Centra is an exception – it’s a prime example of an ecommerce platform built from the ground up for fashion and lifestyle products. The platform’s origins are firmly grounded in the fashion industry, as Centra was conceived and developed by people who understand the unique demands and intricate nuances of this sector. Co-founders Piotr Zaleski and Frans Rosen, with their experience running the high-fashion jeans brand Julian Red, recognized the absence of ecommerce platforms that catered specifically to the needs of fashion brands and their clientele. 

They were inspired to create Centra –  an ecommerce platform designed from the ground up to support and streamline the online presence of original fashion brands. Centra was thus not simply created for the fashion industry; it was born out of it, embodying a deep understanding of the business of fashion and its unique requirements in the digital age.

From a fashion brand's perspective, the benefits of using an ecommerce platform like Centra include the following:

1. Composable design

Centra's composable structure offers significant advantages for businesses. With traditional ecommerce platforms, businesses are often stuck with a one-size-fits-all solution. However, Centra allows businesses to pick and choose the modules they need, creating a tailored ecommerce solution that fits their unique requirements. This composability ensures that brands aren't paying for features they don't need and are not left wanting for features they value.

2. Out-of-the-box suitability for fashion and lifestyle products

Unlike generic ecommerce platforms, Centra is purpose-built for fashion and lifestyle brands. It understands the unique needs and challenges of these industries, such as managing seasonal collections, handling different sizes and color variants, and dealing with high-velocity sales during peak seasons.

3. Native coexistence of wholesale and direct-to-consumer sales modules

Modern brands must have efficient solutions allowing them to sell through both the DTC and wholesale channels. Centra's ability to cater to each of these channels from the same back end sets it apart from many of its competitors. This means that brands can manage all their sales channels, inventories, and customer interactions in one place, improving efficiency and reducing the chances of error.

Does your brand need a fashion-centric ecommerce platform?

Most monolithic platforms like Shopify Plus come with a limited set of features out of the box and a predefined structure. While this approach offers brands robust functionalities they need to start selling, it also limits the flexibility and adaptability of a composable, headless platform. Customizing Shopify Plus to meet specific brand needs can be a complicated process, often requiring additional plugins and development resources.

While platforms like Shopify Plus are a popular choice among many ecommerce businesses, fashion-centric headless ecommerce platforms like Centra offer several unique advantages that deliver a more attractive option for ambitious fashion and lifestyle brands. In pursuit of complete flexibility and control over every detail of the store, they find the advantages (e.g. scalability, flexibility, stability, performance) worth the initial cost of the build.


  • Handling complex fashion and lifestyle products across popular ecommerce platforms can be difficult and require additional development, plugins, and manual administrative work.

  • Modern fashion and lifestyle brands have unique needs when it comes to ecommerce platforms. Most modern ecommerce platforms are not built with fashion and lifestyle products in mind, which prompted the rise of fashion ecommerce platforms like Centra, which is a platform that might be a better choice for ambitious fashion brands than many popular monolithic solutions.

  • Headless architecture provides brands with unparalleled flexibility to design and implement unique, brand-specific user interfaces without compromising on powerful ecommerce functionalities. This allows brands to provide a seamless shopping experience across multiple channels.

  • Centra is an ecommerce platform built from the ground up for fashion and lifestyle products. Its composable design allows businesses to pick and choose the modules they need, creating a tailored ecommerce solution that fits their unique needs.



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