The next battlefield in fashion e-commerce is content
By Maurits Teunissen, CEO of StyleShoots
The e-commerce competitive playing field has shifted over the years. Up until recently, there have been 4 essential elements that gave e-commerce brands competitive advantage at different stages in time. There were, of course, other ones that gave companies the cutting edge factor over the last couple of decades, yet for the purpose of this article, I'll focus on the following 4:
Acceptance of payment methods
Next day delivery
Transparent, competitive pricing
Acceptance of payment methods
Back in the 90s, in the early days of the internet, people were scared to use their credit cards online and understandably so. This became a great opportunity for e-commerce brands to improve the user journey and become more trustworthy for visitors turning into potential customers.
The brands that assured secured payments for their clients had the competitive advantage. Making it easy and secure for people to purchase online, set the early adopter companies ahead of the curve.
Eventually, using your credit card to shop online was nothing new anymore. Once that became the standard, fashion e-commerce companies honed in on their service practices, specifically return policies. Whoever was able to offer the most time to return an item, made a significant advancement on the market.
About ten years ago, an up-and-coming player that nobody have heard of at the time, called Zalando, disrupted the industry by offering its clients 100 day return policies. No one had done that until that point. Zalando were ahead of the game. It didn’t matter if the majority of their customers didn’t use most of the 100 days to return a piece of clothing. The idea that clients could do that, however, attracted the attention of customers and put Zalando on the map.
The market caught up in in the next 2-3 years and soon enough this “perk” was no longer a differentiator. Brands were looking to continuously advance and offer something to customers that others couldn’t. That’s how “next day delivery” was born. When this concept first appeared, spearheaded by Amazon, it became difficult for many brands to catch up, simply because of logistical challenges and costs.
Amazon now offers delivery right at your doorstep within 2 hours of making the order in select areas. Now, “same day” delivery is becoming the new standard. These new developments are all occurring because of rising consumer expectations. Standards are high and companies either have to catch up or they fall behind.
Transparent, competitive pricing
With speedy deliveries in place, transparent, competitive pricing became the next frontier. Companies one-upped each other in the hopes of attracting customers by offering better prices. Less than a decade ago, price tiering used to be a significant vehicle for market positioning for the retail apparel industry.
That pushed some brands ahead of others for a while, yet soon enough it became more or less irrelevant. With existing technologies, like competitive price monitoring software, this strategy is not what makes a company stand out anymore.
Nowadays, customers increasingly tend to shop from certain companies because they relate to a brand and its story, not because they’re hunting for the best possible deal. The consumer spending habits and buying power of people have changed worldwide over the last few years due to positive global economic changes. In return, this shift enhanced brand loyalty and gave consumer masses the opportunity to choose their fashion based on story rather than price.
A fashion e-commerce retailer missing any of these four pillars will have difficulties surviving on the market, let alone compete with the big players. Customers expect the e-commerce vendor to offer all of the above. These four elements have become the standard and they are not competitive advantages anymore.
"Nowadays, customers increasingly tend to shop from certain companies because they relate to a brand and its story, not because they’re hunting for the best possible deal."
So, where is the next battlefield in e-commerce?
Content. Content in the form of engaging and brand-coherent photography and videos. We live in an attention economy. Content converts - it’s what defines your brand. It’s what will set you apart from everyone else. It’s what makes Nike, Nike.
Content is all about the following: lifestyle (values), imagery, videos, copy, heritage communication and customer journey.
One of the most powerful ways to attract customers to your fashion e-commerce website is the quality of your imagery. Product photography is essential for success - low quality photos communicate low quality clothes. People assign value to what they see based on it’s representation - if it looks good, it must be good. As an example, Inditex has managed to position their low/mid cost Zara brand as a luxury brand through use of stunning imagery.
And photos alone are not enough anymore. 73% more visitors who watch videos of your products will buy them. Also, 58% of shoppers think companies with video content are more trustworthy.
Why high quality imagery and video online will give you competitive advantage
Product communication increases online: Compared to brick-and-mortar stores, you can tell a visual story for each exhibited product online. That's because online you have more opportunities to showcase your products than one or two shop windows.
Unlimited space to communicate lifestyle and brand: You can tell your brand’s story and communicate your values with images and video to create the biggest impact.
Establish credibility: Quality content online = Trustworthy vendor. Period. Your brand’s lifespan depends on the quality of the content you put out.
This is your next playing field. Putting out quality visual content will position you ahead of your competitors. The beauty of content is that unlike the other 4 elements mentioned above, when other brands start producing quality content of their own, that doesn’t take away your competitive advantage, since each brand pursues a different look.
At StyleShoots, we’ve helped numerous companies solidify their brand and stay ahead of the curve by teaching them how to create high quality imagery and video, how to communicate their brand in their visuals and how to share that with the world in order to gain that competitive edge.
We entered the fashion retail world almost a decade ago and since then, we’ve worked with photographers, stylists, studio and e-commerce managers, and along the way we’ve gained an incredible amount of know-how in both the photography and fashion industries.
We’ve been around for a while to witness and experience firsthand how the market changed and developed in the previous decade and understood what it takes to stay competitive for fashion e-commerce retailers.
We can help you gain that competitive edge, too.
Maurits has decades of experience in the fashion retail e-commerce industry. In the early 90's, he founded RunTime BV - a successful software company operating in the apparel market. He later founded Visual Retailing, a company that focuses on visual planning and merchandising technology to fashion brands and retailers. In 2012, Maurits co-founded StyleShoots and has attracted customers like Zalando, Marks & Spencer, Nike.