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COVID-19 is devastating fashion

Nick Shaw, chief revenue officer at Brightpearl

The pandemic has had a devastating effect on the fashion industry, with global profit expected to fall by a staggering 93% in 2020.

Almost all other areas of the fashion world—online and offline—have been hard hit by the effects of the pandemic, particularly the global personal luxury goods market, which has lost $79 billion in sales over the last 12 months—a 23% decline.

Interest in casualwear is up because of working from home, but overall spending on clothes is likely to decline further this year. . Apparel industry predictions suggest that shoppers will spend less because they will have less disposable money in a post-pandemic world.

Millions of people have lost their jobs and must tighten belts to survive. When that happens, luxury items, like fashionable clothes, are the first to go.

In 2021, the fashion industry faces many challenges, but those operating online have several new opportunities. What follows are five survival strategies for this challenging terrain.

Offer a personalized online experience

As the fashion industry adapts to social distancing and store closures, we can expect to see growth in the personal shopping experience, particularly at the premium fashion end. This will allow brands to connect with their customers personally and understand customers’ needs while the user benefits from having a great personalized experience.

Luxury brands Burberry and Gucci are betting on personalized video consultations spurring sales by launching video services. This approach retains the exclusivity, excitement and individuality of the personalized service one receives in-store and we expect it will become standardized in the online space.

Promote purpose and trust 

Jessica Young | Feb 25, 2021

Consumers today expect higher levels of authenticity, seeking out brands they can trust will deliver on promises and align with their values. 52% of respondents from Euromonitor’s Lifestyle Survey in 2020 agreed that they only buy from brands they completely trust.

Fashion brands should follow the lead set by brands like Rêve En Vert and Pineapple Island, building a following around core values centered on thoughtful and transparent messaging that connects with their audience. However, brands will waste all that effort if they fail to deliver on promises—it’s the quickest way to break the bond of trust with your customer.

Today’s ecommerce market is fraught with fulfillment issues. A recent survey revealed that a third of shoppers are experiencing problems with delivery since the pandemic, something that’s leading to greater levels of disappointment and mistrust in online shopping. To cultivate strong bonds with customers that will carry them through this crisis, brands need to revisit their post-buy-button touch points in 2021—particularly their ecommerce delivery strategy to see if it’s still up to grade.

Fashion retailers should prioritize agility 

If there is one lesson to be learned from the ever-changing status of shutdowns, tiers and restrictions, it’s that brands must prioritize agility. The status quo can change in the blink of an eye. Many fashion brands found themselves caught out by an overreliance on a singular channel or a complete inability to sell direct-to-consumer.

With the likelihood that restrictions, in some form, will persist, brands must have the operational agility to pivot to different channels—and markets—at a moment’s notice. They also must have the flexibility to support cross channel execution, like buy online pick up in store (BOPIS), which will continue to increase in demand. Retailers also must have automated workflows, like order management shipping, to ensure orders keep flowing out the door in a timely and accurate manner.

Win repeat fashion business  

 According to Euromonitor’s Voice of the Industry survey, respondents expect ecommerce sales to grow by 24% over the next year. Many fashion brands will be chasing growth and offering new services, with 44% of fashion retailers planning to offer free delivery and a third implementing free returns this year to entice shoppers to convert.

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Apr 28, 2021, 2:00 pm ET

However, one of the most damaging things they can do is promise a service they can’t deliver. So brands must balance chasing growth and introducing creative technologies—like virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and live streaming technologies—with ensuring they have the proper infrastructure to deliver an optimal shopping experience at all ends of the buying journey.

To succeed, fashion brands must focus on winning repeat purchases. Customers will remember brands who excelled on the operational end of the spectrum and provided stellar service during these challenging times. Even when things return to normal, the experience brands deliver today will heavily influence future buying decisions.

Investment in collaboration 

Fashion businesses will need to collaborate more effectively to address the unusual issues and complications arising from COVID-19. This could be an effective way for brands to run events, launch joint initiatives, or new ranges in the year ahead. For example, British designers Halpern, Julien Macdonald, Liam Hodges, Mulberry, RAEBURN and RIXO joined forces in June 2020 with the launch of non-medical charity face masks.

Online only DTC brands may also find value in widening their collaborative partnerships with brick and mortar to include locally-based independents to take advantage of the strong expected demand for local shopping and BOPIS in 2021.

Brightpearl provides omnichannel retail management software for orders, inventory, financials, point of sale and customer relationship management.



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