Many fashion retailers are seeing offline sales slide or stagnate, matching the long-term trend of the High Street. That in turn has put pressure on the online side of the business to continue to deliver growth. While many have been successful in delivering impressive year-on-year percentage growth, the field is growing exponentially more competitive, as more and more brands get up-to-date with their ecommerce strategies.
eCommerce teams across fashion retail need to understand where their current limiting factors are, so that they can sustain and scale ecommerce growth well into the next decade. Here are 5 primary obstacles that hold back growth.
1. Massive manual workload
For an ecommerce team to deliver growth to a fashion brand requires an ability to look forward and deliver strategic change over time to better match customer expectations and needs. Unfortunately, the day-to-day reality is that teams are under huge pressure to get product content up to par in time to release new lines on channels.
That pressure comes from the amount of manual work entailed by creating, enriching and mapping quality product content. This work takes up the vast majority of time for teams, and the limitations of human performance make it impossible for them to achieve high quality listings every time, for each channel.
The missing attributes and incorrect mappings that inevitably occur result in missed revenues, higher CPAs, reduced impressions and worse customer experiences. Worse, these fixable issues are often uncorrected because of the constant need to get more products out quickly.
2. Not knowing what to do next
Part of the problem for these teams is that the amount of time they have spare to investigate in reporting and analytics – it’s minimal. On top of that, reporting tools lack the clarity and actionable insight they need. Finding usable intel from analytics suites requires digging through unfriendly user interfaces and piles of data to get to a tangible, actionable decision.
This means it’s hard for the team to know where they should focus on optimising, and where the mistakes are. To at least some extent, they’re working in the dark.
3. Customer connection
At a higher strategic level, the same is unfortunately true. Fashion retailers don’t have the right insight into their customers’ behaviours, especially not in real-time. This doesn’t just affect the listing team. It’s true in digital marketing and advertising too, as campaigns are created, tailored or based on incomplete, time-lagged data.
Part of the problem is that relevant data is siloed into different systems, in a CRM, in analytics platforms, in social channel data, et cetera. The bigger issue is that there is too much data for a human team to reasonably parse and appropriately base decisions on.
4. Measuring the wrong things
When brands and retailers are able to connect the dots and track customer metrics, they’re often not focused on entirely the right areas. One key metric for fashion ecommerce teams is often Return on Advertising Spend (RoAS). Teams can boast high RoAS, but in reality find it hard to prove that this really translates into meaningful margin.
Think about it: you spend £100 to buy 100 clicks through to a product page for a £50 dress, and convert 10% of those clicks - enough to sell £500 worth of product. RoAS calls that a 5x return. If the profit margin on the dress is £20, you’ve actually generated £200 of profit, but paid £100 to do so. Sure, a 2x return on investment is better than none, but could it have been better spent on a higher margin product?
Similarly, without comparing sales velocity between products, it’s hard to tell whether the £50 dress could have sold well without the advertising spend anyway, and whether another product would have seen a bigger uplift as a result of advertising.
All of this assumes that the information about relative margins and sales velocities is available for teams to access. In practice it's rare for this to occur. Challenges like these are part and parcel of ecommerce marketing, but they aren’t getting any simpler to manage. Unfortunately, old-school technologies have not kept up with the complexity and cannot incorporate enough of this information to help marketers and ecommerce teams make the right decision.
5. Using the wrong technology for the job
One of the things hampering fashion retailers is that they have been using essentially the same set of technologies for decades – technologies which were not designed from the ground up with ecommerce in mind, let alone socially-driven, content-led, channel-agnostic commerce.
This feeds fully into the issues above – the massive amount of data presented without tangible use; the huge volume of manual work; the inability to effectively process large data sets and properly measure outcomes.
Fashion brands need to look closely at their existing technology solutions and understand how they can make the flow of product content simpler, and implement processes to improve the product content before it goes out to channels.