Are fashion retailers delivering on their omnichannel vision?
Retail is one of the great seasonal industries, with peaks and troughs at many different times across the year. We are currently in the midst of ‘Christmas in July’, where retailers showcase some of their key products and offers for the Christmas season, taking in food, fashion, gifts and much more.
Christmas is the biggest and most obvious example but there are numerous other spikes in the retail calendar. Summer is a time that is traditionally a busy period for children’s clothing retailers, who rely on the back-to-school season to boost their sales. But the way people shop has changed dramatically over the last five years, and the emergence of omnichannel is having a major impact on such seasonal spikes.
Consultancy firm Deloitte recently conducted research with US parents and found that nearly four in 10 parents think back-to-school shopping is less important to their families than it was last year. More than three in 10 will finish their back-to-school shopping after the school year starts, suggesting that consumers are taking advantage of the different channels available to them. They are buying when and where it is most convenient for them, rather than being shoe-horned into going in-store during a fixed tie period.
So does this mean that seasonal campaigns will be less prevalent in future? And how are fashion retailers progressing on delivering their omnichannel vision?
Omnichannel and shopping
There can be no argument that shopping has been impacted greatly by the rise of digital, particular mobile. Deloitte's survey further showed that 80 percent of consumers plan to use their digital devices in the 2015 back-to-school shopping process, an increase from 2014. Consumers are also using mobile more frequently than laptops, PCs, tablets and other digital devices for back-to-school shopping, according to Deloitte.
In retail, it is increasingly the case, that it is all about mobile. If consumers aren’t buying via mobile they are using mobile to compare products, and locate the information needed to make a purchase later on. This is true of most sectors in retail, but it is especially so when it comes to fashion and clothing.
Another new report, by consultancy Transform, reviewed the multichannel propositions of 58 clothing retailers across the following areas – site speed, mobile speed, checkout, customer service, fulfilment, international, mobile, product detail, returns, search, and social. John Lewis came top overall, but in terms of mobile offering, JD Sports was the best. With JD Sports’ core demographic much younger than many fashion retailers, shoppers at that store are also generally more mobile-savvy so the mobile proposition has developed to reflect that.
Mobile – the future of retail
The Transform report also showed that on average, 40% of sales come from mobile. Which would suggest that other retailers would be wise to follow the example shown by JD Sports, and deliver a memorable and effective mobile offering for their customers.
Of course, omnichannel is a much more developed and nuanced proposition than multichannel, providing a greater continuity of user experience, retention of a customer’s context across channels and ultimately the Single Digital Channel (SDC).
It offers a much richer interaction for consumers and is something that all retailers should aspire to. Mobile is a critical element to omnichannel, with content delivered to mobile, multi-channel access to information and better informed agents. Omnichannel does mean though, that seasonal spikes are less pronounced. We have already seen traditional sales periods eroded and become as much about online as in-store, although I’d say Christmas campaigns will remain a key period in the retail calendar for a long while yet!
Mike Hughes is MD at PeopleTECH and one of the UK’s foremost customer experience experts, having worked for and consulted companies such Thomas Cook, BskyB and France Telecom on how best to deliver a first-class experience to their customers.